Story and photos by Gabe Chatman • Special to the Curry Coastal Pilot
In previous segments, I mentioned my physical reason for hiking — endorphins; the mental reason — clarity. I come out here for a third, more potent reason: spiritual centering.
I can let go of all the little pieces of self: I am a son, brother, uncle, cousin. A friend. A lover. I am a writer. I am a dreamer. I am a piece of creation, creating. When I let go of all these self-definitions and fade into the scenery, what is left? A tiny speck of light in a myriad matrix. Whole. Perfect. Exactly as and where I should be. This is my communion. This is how I feed back into the larger whole. I am happy and blessed to be able to share this with you.
I close my eyes. I focus on each sound. The highway traffic. The sea. The wind in the foliage. My own breathing. I let them go one at a time until it is just my breath. In and out. In-between each in-breath and out-breath is a momentary pause. Almost imperceptible. Infinitely short. Infinitely long. This moment is vital. Real. I am only able to touch it out here in nature.
If this whole approach is too much for you, take it with a grain of sea-salt and get out to the woods because you want your body to feel good and your mind to clear up. That is enough, is it not?
Every single time I tell myself it is OK to stay home instead of venturing outside my door, I regret it later. Every single time I hit the trail, I say to myself, “why don’t I do this more often?”
Whatever the reason, get outdoors.
The perfect trail
The trail I’m on today is very flat, wide and free of roots and debris. Between 2- and 4-feet wide, it’s the perfect trail for joggers-in-tandem or joggers-with-pets or even non-joggers with a large party. Either way, it is one of my favorite jogging trails.
The trailhead begins at the secret lot just north of Whaleshead Beach. When the lefthand guardrail ends, turn left. Trust me. The road drops away, so be careful not to scrape bottom. A dirt road leads up about 20 feet or so to the trailhead marker — ample parking space.
Though the trail is short, plan to make a day of it: Indian Sands is approximately 15 minutes walk from the secret lot. I could easily spend a whole day out there exploring. I am going to write about Indian Sands in the next trail segment, so back to the trail under foot.
I can easily stretch this 15-minute walk into a half-hour-plus adventure — mainly because of the stops along the way. There is a foreshadow of Indian Sands a short walk down the trail on the left-hand side. The dirt becomes sand. Lots of people have stopped and signed their names. Forest graffiti.
Also, I always stop at my favorite trail feature: a stream that runs right alongside the trail for about 50 yards with a small footbridge at the end. When I hike with my nieces, nephews and little cousins, the stream is perfect for having boat races with sticks and leaves and fir cones. And sometimes when I’m not with them. I like stickboats.
Being a kid again
Realistically, that is another huge reason for me to come to the coastal trails and the woods in general: to be a kid again (or maybe I should say to continue being a kid). To remember bygone times out adventuring in the forest. I played in the woods a lot as a kid. It reminds of being free. Feeling good. Simple times. Times when I had limitless energy from sunup to sundown.
My brother and I used to go out “trailing.” We’d take our canteens and some food out into the woods, armed with sticks for machetes. It was like being in another world. Adventuring all across the land, only to find we had only traveled to our neighbor’s property, or the next road over.
We climbed a lot of trees making tree forts, which led to a lot of pitch (sap) in our hair, which led to a lot of funny haircuts. Honestly, that wasn’t the only reason for funny haircuts. My mom loved giving “awesome” haircuts as much as she loves bringing out the old photos this time of year, so I recently saw evidence of my mullets-of-vast-variety. My brother had them too, so I had a partner in fashion crime.
I’m cracking myself up while writing this. Especially because that was quite a tangent. My mind wanders more directions out here than the trails have offshoots. It’s a time travel of sorts, coming out here. So no matter how much time elapses between visits, I always find myself back here. “Back here” being Brookings and back here on these trails.
I’m sitting in the sand near the end of the trail. I feel especially good today, doing things I love: hiking with my girlfriend, Jessica; sitting quietly; writing. I love writing. When I sit and write, I exercise my brain. Body, mind, spirit tri-fecta today. I couldn’t ask for a better way to spend my time.
The end is a beginning
The sandy patches signify the end of the trail. The trees become thick. As they recede, the vast sandy earth formations take their place. I won’t spoil the next section in case you have never had the opportunity or occasion to make it to Indian Sands.
Though most of this trail is densely wooded, sheltering you from the wind and rain, keep in mind that the wide-open spaces at the end of the trail make for lots of wind. Don’t forget your water, snack and a jacket.