Contentment

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Have you ever had a weekend where you’re still smiling about it a few days later when you’re back in the office?  Where you look a little goofy bouncing down the hall to the copier with a dreamy look on your face?  It’s happened to me twice recently!  Once after doing trail work at Caesar Creek and the second after biking two days in a row.

Caesar Creek is about 45 minutes from my house and has some great hiking trails, camping, waterways and the famous Pioneer Village.  One of the trails in Caesar Creek is a 22-mile segment  that is part of the Buckeye Trail, which is an approximately 1,400-mile loop around Ohio.  Part of the 22-mile segment had become so rutted that horses were apparently falling and twisting ankles.  I was immediately terrified that these horses who fell had to be put down, like in the movies, but thankfully, none of them died.   9 of the 22 miles are being bulldozed and re-built by the ODNR. Volunteers, like my friend Joel, are handling the other 13 miles.  Joel is going to host about 7 workdays over the next year and a half, culminating in a celebratory grand re-opening of the trail in the Fall of 2017.   The first workday was two Saturday’s ago and it was a total blast.  I hadn’t been in the woods for about 4 weekends, which made me very grumpy, so when I woke up on Saturday, it truly felt like Christmas morning.  I packed up my car and headed north, meeting the gang around 10 a.m.  Although I had packed my backpack full of water and delish snacks, I hadn’t brought any tools besides some cute pink garden gloves.  But thankfully, one of the guys loaned me his spare hedge clippers.  Off we plodded into the woods with Joel’s chainsaw, Ethan’s clippers and Lew’s hatchet.  For the next several hours, we joked, laughed and worked to widen a mile of the trail to about 4 feet, so that there was plenty of room for it to grow this summer without covering the foot path.  We all made fun of each other, told crazy stories, and then flopped in the middle of the trail covered in twigs, dirt and sweat, finally declaring that it was time to go to Stone House Tavern in Waynesville for some cold beers and fried food.  On our way out of the woods, we befriended an Army veteran named Matt, who had spent a year in Afghanistan, and is currently training to do the entire 1,400 miles of the Buckeye Trail.  We invited him to join us at the Tavern, which he did after finishing the last 3 miles of his 20 mile hike.  There were 10 of us and at the end of our meal, Matt absolutely insisted on paying for everyone’s meal and drinks.  He wouldn’t take no for an answer.  It was so incredibly kind.

After that, 4 of us camped out at Hickory Overlook, next to the lake.  The sunset was magnificent and then we had a roaring campfire and I made us some “special” S’mores, which consist of graham crackers, a thin layer of Reese’s chocolate peanut butter spread and jumbo marshmallows.  A Park Officer hung out with us for about an hour until he was called to find an unresponsive officer and someone else.  The next morning, everyone left, but I decided to sit by the lake a read my new book, I Had to Survive, which is by one of the Uruguayans whose plane crashed in the Andes mountains in the 70s (you may have seen the movie, Alive, which is about them).   I had purchased it moments after reading a NatGeo interview that my friend Clay had posted and I highly recommend it so far (only half way through). I found a little clearing in the woods and sat there reading for an hour, overlooking the lake and watching the mid-morning kayakers and paddle-boarders going past.  And that’s when I realized another reason that I love backpacking/camping.  When I’m in the woods, I’m totally and completely content with my surroundings. I don’t want to change a thing.  I simply enjoy whatever is there and make the most of whatever Earth’s living room has to offer.  I might be hungry, thirsty, tired, sore, cold or rain-soaked, but I can’t think of any spot in the woods that I’ve wanted to change or regretted visiting.  Of course, I’m not staying in places like those on Naked & Afraid, Lost and Survivor.  And of course, I always like to upgrade my gear, but all in all, I feel very content out there.   And that contentment totally spilled over into my workweek.

Last weekend was also extremely fulfilling.  On Saturday, I joined the 50 West Cycling “Ladies Ride” which I found through meetup.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely loyal to my LBS, BioWheels (more on their awesomeness at a later date!), but the 50 West ride was fabulous.  The weather was cool and sunny and most of the trees and flowers were in full bloom.  I’m terrified of biking on roads, but we ended up jumping off the bike path and cruising down the roads of Indian Hill, doing some of the biggest hills in my biking career.  My thighs burned on the uphills and I literally felt like a speeding bullet on the downhills–it was a total blast!  That afternoon, I went home and flopped on a blanket in the park.  The next morning, we had gorgeous weather again, so I biked the path from Newtown to Loveland.  Afterwards, I flopped in the park again, exhausted.  That night, I took my “little” bro (he’s 15 but 6 feet tall) out for dinner at the Silver Spring House, which was yummy and fun!  He’s the best.  Come Monday morning, I was still grinning ear to ear after such a fulfilling weekend.  Here’s to true contentment!  Now if only I can practice it in all aspects of life…