Mentally, when hiking, I can feel order coming back into the scattering of pandelirium that is my brain these days. It sounds strange to say, but walking and being in nature is like a good housecleaning for my head. One of the theories behind while humans need sleep is the consolidation of memory, and when I walk and don't force my mind to concentrate on any single task (which is, admittedly, most of my day when not hiking, eating, driving, or watching an hour of a movie each night--and sometimes I work while eating too), I can feel something like that happening. I can almost feel the short-term memories clicking into place and connections forming between things. This is helpful for tasks both logical and creative. And it helps to put stressful things into perspective too. Of course, endorphins don't hurt either, no pun intended. (Okay, yes, that was a very bad biopsych pun. My apologies.)
The walks/hikes we've done so far:
The Shorties (about 1 mile/1.6 km)
Patapsco Valley McKeldin--Ole Ranger Loop (three times)
Patapsco Valley--unmaintained off Mariottsville Road (two times)
Patapsco Valley--Liberty Dam
Patuxent River State Park (about 3 miles/4.8 km)
Soldier's Delight Environmental Area (about 3.5 miles/5.6 km)
Calvert Cliffs State Park (about 4 miles/6.4 km)
When we did Soldier's Delight, we discovered that the second trail has now been reopened. Soldier's Delight is a perennial favorite of ours: It winds through the rare and delicate serpentine grassland, which is so odd that it's possible to believe we're not even in Maryland anymore. (Honestly, of all the places we've hiked, it reminds me the most of the Guánica Dry Forest in Puerto Rico, sans cacti.) But because the serpentine is so delicate and the park service is trying to save it from the invasive Virginia pine, the second trail has been closed for as long as I have known of the park's existence. It reopened this year, so we've already got plans to go back and walk the second trail, which will be new for both of us. I'd like to try it this week, but we've got appointments to look at houses on Thursday, so we'll have to see how the rest of the week plays out.
Last Wednesday, we took off to work and made the hour-long drive to Calvert County to go to Calvert Cliffs State Park. It was worth the drive. It was an amazing park, not quite like any we'd yet been to. It began as an ordinary Maryland deciduous forest (and Maryland deciduous forest is beautiful unto itself) with meandering creeks and a few tiny falls. It then opened up into a wetland that spilled out into the Chesapeake Bay. There was a tiny beach and, of course, the famous Calvert Cliffs. The Cliffs are known for their fossils, and Bobby and I found several. We've decided that it is essential to return (without Alex this time) and pack a lunch and spend the day.
I've also been taking my camera along and practicing; I have two rolls of film to be developed and will probably drop them off tomorrow.