I am so obsessed with walking two miles every day, I probably would make a good mail carrier, because neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night prevents me from taking my daily walk.
Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. I must confess that the recent heat wave has caused me to skip a few of my walks.
Last week, however, on one of the days that was so hot, my car’s tires practically were fused to the driveway, I decided, in a momentary lapse of good judgment, that hiking on a nice shady trail in Bear Brook State Park might be fun. I also decided to bring along my dog, Eden, who loves the heat so much, she follows the sun around the yard and lies down wherever it’s beating down the hottest.
I was well-prepared for the hike. I wore my anti-tick/anti-mosquito outfit: long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a wide-brimmed hat, and knee-high stockings into which I tucked my pants. I spritzed some diluted rose-geranium oil onto Eden’s legs and my shoes (ticks hate the smell of the stuff), grabbed a bottle of water, hopped into the car, and off we went.
I parked near a shady trail in the state park and Eden and I began what I thought, because of the heat, would be an abbreviated version of our usual two-mile trek.
At first, walking was easy. Eden and I moved along at a pretty good clip and neither one of us was panting, which I figured was a good sign. A recent thunderstorm had left quite a few big puddles on the trail. I was tempted to walk right through them, but the thought of having to complete my walk with squishy shoes and wet socks that would all but promise me a bad case of athlete’s foot, made me detour around them. Eden, however, made a point of taking a flying leap into every puddle she came to.
Twenty minutes into our walk, the heat seemed to suddenly viciously attack me. My tongue felt as if it had been rolled in sawdust. My hat was so soaked with sweat, the brim began to droop into my face. And my tucked-in pants felt as if they were swelling into giant water balloons. I needed something to drink…badly. I reached into my pants pocket for my bottle of water.
That’s when I discovered I’d left it back in the car.
As I watched Eden lazily drinking from a crystal-clear puddle, I was tempted to kneel down next to her and stick my tongue into the puddle, too. The only thing that stopped me was the thought of other animals’ feet (or something even worse) having been in there before we arrived.
I hate to admit it, but knowing that I didn’t have my water with me made me feel panicky. How, I wondered, was I going to make it all the way back to the car when I already was so parched? What if I got woozy and passed out in a big patch of poison ivy or an anthill? What if my body temperature got so high, I self-combusted?
Eden, who had decided to lie down in the puddle, just stared at me.
The problem was, the trail thus far had been mostly downhill. That meant that going back (brilliant deduction here) was going to be mostly uphill. Taking a deep breath, I made a U-turn and headed back in the direction of the car. I stopped at the bottom of the first hill and looked up. Through my dried-up eyeballs, it resembled Mount Everest.
As I plodded along, certain that every step was going to be my last, Eden seemed to have renewed energy, probably from all of the puddle water she’d just guzzled and splashed in. She tugged on her leash so hard, she nearly dragged me up the hill…which, in retrospect, probably was a good thing.
I don’t know if it was because I’d convinced myself it was going to happen, but I began to feel lightheaded. I stopped walking and looked up at the sun, hoping to see a giant rain cloud heading toward it. There, in a cluster of tall, dead-looking pine trees, I spotted what looked like an American flag hanging from a branch.
I blinked my eyes. The flag was gone.
“Oh, no!” I said to Eden. “I’m a goner! I’m hallucinating!”
I looked back up at the trees and noticed that the branches formed a stripe-like pattern, and with the sun shining reddish behind them, they kind of looked like a flag, but that still didn’t convince me I wasn’t on death’s doorstep.
I started to walk again, and up ahead, standing near a puddle in the middle of the trail, was a big, beautiful doe. That did it. If the imaginary flag hadn’t convinced me that my brain cells were being fried, the doe pretty much sealed the deal. I half expected to see a ballet-dancing pink gopher around the next bend.
Eden stopped dead and barked at the imaginary doe. It bolted off into the woods.
I breathed a sigh of relief. The doe was real.
When I finally spotted the car, I knew how a dying explorer felt when he came across an oasis in the desert. A bottle of cool spring water sat in that car waiting for me…beckoning to me.
With what little remaining strength I could muster, I headed toward the car. When I finally reached it, I was so excited, I wanted to give it a hug…but I was afraid my sweaty armpits would erode the paint.
With trembling hands, I picked up the bottle of refreshing, lifesaving water and started to chug it down.
The water was so hot, my tonsils still have blisters.
I think the next hike I take will be in December.
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