Part of living in Duluth is having access to miles and miles of trails. Another part of living in Duluth is not fighting traffic when the urge to hit a trail comes at 6pm. That's what I did today. After a long day of not getting everything done that I wanted to, my dog seemed to know what I needed before I did. So, I looked into his pleading, bored eyes and we hopped in the car and drove to Hartley Park.
When I got to Hartley I was wound so tight that I was sure my head was going to snap off. But nature. That's what I needed and I knew it. So did my dog.
First, I stopped to admire the pond. The view was breathtaking with the sun setting behind the hill, shimmering upon the calm waters. The kind of calm that only seems to come at dusk. Ducks were quietly drifting about, their impending long journey south not even entering their little duck minds.
I followed the trails to the right of the pond. For a nervous moment, I thought I was lost. Being this was my first time to Hartley, that was completely possible. But, despite my horrific sense of direction, I found the pond again. I happily disposed of a full dog poop bag and grabbed another for insurance. That's what I love most about Duluth parks - an abundance of poop bags and plenty of places to dispose of said poop. One less reason to choose "plastic" at the grocery store.
I took the bridge over the pond and ran into a volunteer taking surveys of park users. I told him that I blog for Destination Duluth and he kindly asked that I say "hello" to a few people that he knew for him. I took a quick survey, he marked me down as "one woman hiker and a dog" and Jim (my four-legged buddy) and I were on our way.
From there I went right again and I quickly felt like I was in the wilderness. So much that after about 30 minutes, I was officially not on the right track anymore. Convinced that I was on a mountain bike specific trail, I stepped to the side as I began to take out my map. By this time I was getting hungry, so imagine my delight when I encountered 3 mountain bikers.
"When you get to the pine trees, take a left."
I apologized for being on their trail and they were quick to inform me that the trails were for any sort of use. The woman in their group asked if I was lost and I pointed in the direction I thought I should be headed. The male let me know that direction would be another 45 minutes, and so the woman told me to head back the way I came from and said, "when you get to the pine trees, take a left." Not interested in exploring new terrain at this point, I obliged and gave them a big thank you.
I smiled to myself and felt myself swell with gratefulness as I pondered this friendly encounter. On my way back to the parking lot, I said "hello" to a couple of women walking a massive, but friendly black lab and stepped to the side as some teenagers sped past me on their mountain bikes. Actually, I have no idea how old they were. Everyone younger than me looks 12. But what I loved about them is that every single one of them thanked me for stepping aside and wished me a good evening. That made me happy.
Hartley is such a beautiful place. I found nature, friendliness, community, and evidence of kids playing in the woods. Most of all, I found peace - even though I still didn't get everything done that I needed to. But that's okay.