Editor's Note, October 2014: Hit the Trail!
I spotted the skunk after a bend in the Glidewell Trail, a winding path that skirts Brookville Lake, in the hills rising toward Ohio. The little guy scampered happily between an oak and the underbrush not three feet away, until he, too, spotted me. We both froze. There was a stare-down. I had almost reached the 2,000-year-old tribal burial mounds the trail was known for, and I wasn’t turning back now. I sprinted past him, his black-and-white tail springing alert, bristly as a chimney brush. He actually chased me for a few feet. He may have even shaken a tiny fist.
When I made it downwind enough to feel safe, I burst out laughing. Before this summer, the only hike I took regularly, I am sorry to report, was up the two flights of stairs between my office and the IM art department. I had therefore filled my backpack like I was prepping to ride out the apocalypse instead of spending a few hours in nature: three granola bars, a Clif bar, a tall bottled water, a lemon Vitaminwater, an extra pair of socks, bug spray, a folding knife, a pen, a notepad, my iPhone (for the compass app—no Internet connection required!), sunblock, a sandwich, a beach towel, maps and tips printed out from the Hoosier Hikers Council site, and pants, which I wasted no time donning over my shorts after spying poison oak. I was never a Scout, but my cautious, list-making mother taught me to “always be prepared” anyway. Back out along Glidewell, I realized the encounter with my furry foe was just part of hiking’s appeal—braving (and, in my case, escaping) the unexpected.
The geographic features revealed on the Indiana trails highlighted in this issue were also, frankly, surprising—from the prehistoric bog by the dunes to a sandstone canyon—making hiking and biking them all the more entertaining. Still, I was nervous about my lack of experience. In Wild, Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of trekking the Pacific Coast Trail, Strayed gears herself up by repeating “what is hiking but walking, after all.” And I found that walking to be therapeutic, as my ramble around the reservoir seesawed between soothing solitude and adrenaline rush. The trails became an antidote for my earthly concerns of sick grandparents and looming deadlines: the deer I ran across, the warblers in the trees—my problems meant nothing to them. For a moment, I found relief.
Amanda Heckert is the editor-in-chief of Indianapolis Monthly.