January 26, 2015
by David Ryan
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Wandering Into Great Silence

A few years ago I saw the movie Into Great Silence. It was about a monastery in the French Alps where the monks only speak when they take their weekly walks outside the walls of the monastery. The movie had no voiceover narrative or soundtrack. It just followed the monks as they moved through the day picking up the sounds of doors creaking and of soft footsteps walking through the cloister. It was a remarkable display of peacefulness.

This past Sunday, the dogs and I drove out to the backcountry about 50 miles southwest of Albuquerque to walk through a tract of BLM land. Our plan was to check out a specific area, but when we started walking it was so quiet and wonderful that we ditched the plan and just walked.

The only sounds were the cheep, cheep, cheeps of small birds, the occasional flapping of wings, and the once in a while scurrying of a startled rabbit. There was some snow on the ground and a bit of mud. But not so muddy that it would suck your boots off. There was just enough moisture on the ground to soften the soil so that the sound of our footsteps was muffled.

We walked to a mesa top, and there we could walk for miles without interruption. The only motorized access to the mesa top is through a locked gate. And with no cattle running on top, there was no reason for a rancher to be there. And with the locked gate there was no way for gun enthusiasts, hunters, or off road vehicles to come on top to disturb the quiet.

Looking northwest from the mesa top toward Mount Taylor.

Looking northwest from the mesa top toward Mount Taylor.

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January 13, 2015
by David Ryan
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Wandering into a Surprise in Albuquerque

Last week the dogs and I drove a little over three miles to the other side of the Rio Grande to check out an acequia ditch in the “Pat Hurley” neighborhood of Albuquerque. We found a place to park near the ditch and started walking. Five minutes into our walk, it became very obvious to us that walking along this ditch was not going to work. The ditch path was full of goat heads.

We had hoped to wander along this ditch.

We had hoped to wander along this ditch.

If you are not familiar with goat heads, they are a seed from a spreading ground vine and are about the size of dried pea. The problem is that they have a vicious thorn. They are the only thing in the entire world that can stop a dog from walking.

I spent so much time pulling goat heads out of the dogs’ paws that it took us ten minutes to walk less than two hundred feet.

We bailed out of the ditch trail as soon as we could. Ironically, we found a small stairway leading to a nearby street where we bailed out. At the time, I thought that it was probably the best that Albuquerque could offer us in the form of a public stairway.

This small stairway and footbridge allowed us to escape the goat heads on the ditch path.

This small stairway and footbridge allowed us to escape the goat heads on the ditch path.

We continued walking along a series of residential streets at the base of an escarpment on the west side of the Rio Grande. I kept thinking that if Albuquerque were an older city, this would be a perfect place to find a public stairway.

When we reached Pat Hurley Park at the base of the escarpment, I had to rub my eyes. I thought that I had spotted some stairs. And when I looked again, there were stairs!

I thought I was seeing things when I spotted these flights of stairs scattered on the hillside.

I thought I was seeing things when I spotted these flights of stairs scattered on the hillside.

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After the stream leaves the wetlands it flows to the Willamette River.

December 27, 2014
by David Ryan
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A Wandering Surprise in Portland

Earlier in the month I flew out to Portland, Oregon to visit my daughter’s family. If you have followed this blog or have read The Gentle Art of Wandering, you know that Portland is a great place to wander. In fact, the book’s cover photo was taken on Portland’s 4T Trail.

While in Portland, my daughter, grandson, and I happened to walk the 4T Trail again. And again the combination of trail, tram, trolley, and train was a great way to spend the better part of the day. We even topped off the hike by having lunch at one of Portland’s many ubiquitous food carts. As an added bonus, our trip was delayed a bit by a protest march streaming through downtown Portland.

You can find a food cart for everything cuisine imaginable. It's like going through a cafeteria with several choices except that you're outside. You can find them all over Portland.

You can find a food cart for everything cuisine imaginable. It’s like going through a cafeteria with several choices except that you’re outside. You can find food carts all over Portland.

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