Hiking with Strangers and Throwing Rocks

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Last weekend, I had the opportunity to lead a hike through one of the Columbus Metro Parks. It was a balmy 60 degrees and the scent of spring things infiltrated the woods that our group entered just before dusk. Some of the forty-some people came alone, some came or met up with friends, and they all came to be outside in the woods under the warm, winter sky. One hiker remarked that she came from another part of town and didn’t recognize any of the other hikers. “It hits you how big this town is when you go somewhere and you don’t know a soul”. Her voice revealed a sense of adventure when she said it, the same sense when you travel a road you’ve never been on before, not certain where it will take you.

Another hiker came quite a bit further, from a town about 45 minutes away. Her friends had bailed on her at the last minute, but she persisted in the drive solo and arrived without them. The freshness of a recent divorce carried some boldness with it as she talked about leaving the town she had lived in for the past 22 years. “Once my youngest graduates, I’m not sure where I’ll go. Maybe someplace other than Ohio.” The words hung in the warm whip of air that lingered in the ravine we were crossing.

The front cover of the Columbus Metro Parks Spring program guide has an image of a toddler holding a rock and I can’t look at it without anticipating the throw that is sure to come next. Because that’s what little kids do if we let them – they throw rocks. Testing their strength, testing their impact, getting to know how nature and the cause and effect of the world works. These are things you can’t learn from a video game or in a classroom.

After the hike, we shared some marshmallows around the campfire and gazed up at the stars. Got to know one another a bit. One guy offered up free hot dogs to share. No one took him up on his offer. I don’t think we had reached that level of comfort with one another yet.

We were still just throwing rocks, watching where they would land.

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