Our Blog: Thoughts from the Path

A Walk at Pierce Point Ranch

Many folks call it Pierce Point Ranch, named after the largest of four ranches in the 1800s, which made use of the Point Reyes peninsula. Prior to the ranching settlements, the Miwoks were stewards of this land, although this particular stretch was far too windy for villages. Some just call it the Point, which is as visceral a name as one could acquire. The land cuts north, flanked by the Pacific and Tomales Bay; it’s as if you’re walking on a land bridge carved by time, whale songs and sky. I can’t help but think of it as the Tulle Elk Reserve, and indeed this is one of the only places that you can see these great beasts that were the region’s dominant grazers until the ranchers came in and nearly wiped them out. Sensibility and 1970’s environmentalism won out, and eventually they were reintroduced and protected.

When you first see a Tulle Elk,

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The Details of Landscape

West County Regional Trail

Maybe it’s the slanted light cutting through the willows of the Atascadero Marsh Ecological Reserve, or perhaps it’s the call of geese fading across the spring evening sky, but there is something inherently nostalgic about this four-mile long rail-to-trail stretch of the West County Regional Trail.

We use this particular trail when we want to go easy and be transported by sweetness of cutting through farmlands and open space. We always begin our walk across from the Post Office in downtown Graton, an easy meeting place.  If we walk from Graton to Forestville, we’ll cover four miles.

We’ll pass through farms, vineyards, and open spaces. Our first jump off the trail happens when we walk west less than a quarter of a mile along Green Valley Road, but once we drop back on the trail, we cross the bridge and enter the wetlands.

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A New Sense of Belonging

I am your average woman in her early fifties. I work full time and love what I do, but not how much I do it. I have been on the same street in my peaceful neighborhood for more than 15 years, I know my neighbors well.  I have a comfortable home that even feels spacious now that my children have moved out, but there is a silence some days that I don’t easily recognize. Over the years, my friends have married, had children, some divorced, some widowed, all at different times. None of us stayed in sync with our life stages like we once thought we would. I never thought that I would one day be faced with a common yet unspoken dilemma for women my age- I was lonely and to be honest, I was feeling a little trapped.

And it wasn’t the type of lonely or trapped feelings that would compel me towards romantic relationship. On the contrary, I missed feminine camaraderie that seemed so easy to come by in my younger years. I have friends, lots of them, I just don’t get to see them very much due to demanding schedules. When I saw WomenWalking on Facebook, it suddenly clicked. I wanted to be outside, with women, walking. I wanted to take in new sites and sounds and places, I just didn’t have friends who could do this with me.

Really, the premise is brilliant.

Spring is here. Discover it all on a walk with a friend.

Each day we humans rise in the morning to what can feel like a deluge of thoughts and experiences from others. Whether it’s our family, the news, the people on the road as we drive out into the world, busy co-workers, social media, school, television shows, books we read. We spend a huge portion of our day wondering what and how others are doing and often thinking about why they’re doing it.

What about the me in you? Where are you in all that other?

Walking outdoors slows down all the crazy nervous stressful energy. Walking brings you to pace with the whole wide world, bringing the you into focus, bridging the connection with self, others and community.

“Studies have shown the health benefits of nature range from more rapid healing to stress reduction to improved mental performance and vitality. We’ve found nature brings out more social feeling, more value for community and close relationships.” –Richard Ryan, University of Sheffield, UK

When you take a walk outside, what others are doing, thinking, feeling or saying, drops away. It all fades into the background and the delightful You comes into focus.

No matter where or how far you walk. Take a moment to stop and allow yourself to be entranced by the small things.

It could be as tiny as a bug waddling across the sidewalk or as cool as a hawk treading water in mid-air, intent on its next meal. Or walking past a gopher hole just as the little critter scampers back into its home, hiding away from you.