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When Four Miles Become Five...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I went for a walk this morning on the Gateway Trail, which is a 2-mile section of paved trail that then connects with Hines Drive, which goes on for another 17.5 miles.

I like the Gateway Trail because there's a parking lot at one end and it goes through two sections of woods, over two branches of the Rouge River, past the Henry Ford estate, past a community garden, and through the backside of two college campuses. There are several sections with decent inclines to get my heart rate up and and there are always plenty of things to look at as you walk. And I love listening to the various bird calls.

Because the trail isn't a loop, I always want to make sure I don't walk farther away from my car than I can walk back. When I first started walking the trail a few years ago I wasn't able to do the entire 2-mile length at first. The path is marked every quarter-mile and I remember making it all the way to the one-mile mark that first time and then turning back around to go back to my car. At that point I had made it to the far edge of the first campus. After a few more times I decided to go a little bit further and made it to the community garden, between the two campuses, before turning back around.

The rest of the trail was unknown territory, but each time I walked I went a little further. First I made it through the back edge of the second campus, then into the section of woods, and then to the second river crossing. And then came the day I finally made it all the way to the end at Hines Drive. I remember taking a picture of the sign as "proof" before turning back to head to the car.

Since then, I have walked the trail fairly regularly and just walk to the end, turn around, and head back to my car. The entire length of the trail is familiar to me now, so it doesn't seem quite as long as it used to in the early days. I often time myself and have been thrilled to see my time improve as I have walked more and gotten healthier.

So this morning I was planning my usual four-mile walk on the trail - two miles to the Hines Drive entrance and then the two miles back to my car. But today I paused when I got to the Hines Drive sign and looked across the road at where the trail picked up again on the other side. Two cars went zooming by, and then there was no sign of traffic and before I knew it I was crossing the road to see what was on the other side. Yep, just like that proverbial chicken!

Once again I was in unchartered territory and didn't know how much further I would actually walk, since I still had to walk back to my car. I rounded a bend and saw a bridge up ahead, so I figured I'd go that far before turning around. Well, when I got to the bridge I spotted something else, and kept going. And then I saw a huge pine tree and decided that would be my "marker" and I'd go that far (and come back later with the car to measure the distance). And when I got to the pine tree, I noticed a little green marker up ahead, so I decided to walk that far and see if it was a mileage marker. And it was - it said I had walked 0.5 miles on Hines Drive.

I decided to turn around at that point since I still had a 2.5 mile walk back to my car, but it felt good to have walked one more mile than I had planned on. After getting home I looked the trail up on-line and learned that it was only another half-mile until Hines Drive crossed a road. So now I think I'll have to venture that far some day, just to say I did it, and that will make it a nice six-mile walk round trip. Hmm.... isn't that about the distance in a 10K?

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