I could easily call this post my Top 10, for there’s much that I’m thankful for when I walk (this list is in no particular order, by the way). Though I refer to “the path” or “my path” quite often, it’d be more accurate to call it a trail system, for it has many branches that connect to downtown, the university, and other locations. Most of it is paved, but there are places where it’s gravel. There are also more than half-a-dozen bridges and two tunnels.
Please note that all the pictures I’m about to share with you were taken from the trail system, one of its bridges, or a park the path passes through. The only cheating I’ve done here is sometimes using the meager zoom on my camera or phone.
*To view any of the following pictures at full-size please click on the thumbnail!
(1) City Workers. It seems only right to begin with the people who do such an outstanding job maintaining and improving the path I use so often. They swiftly plow it after each snowstorm and spread gravel, sweep it each spring, and continually maintain the landscaping. In the year I’ve lived here I’ve watched them add more benches and lights. Though I don’t walk at night the light posts are attractive.
(2) The Old Railroad Bridge. I’ve taken countless pictures of the old structure, which is still operational, though I’ve only seen a locomotive pass over it once. It oozes rustic personality and every angle and season brings more inspiration.
(3) Wildlife. Animals abound along the path, especially during the warmer months, and many of them aren’t domesticated. Most are usually skittish (except for one, but they’ll get their own place on this list), but once-in-awhile I get lucky when the camera is handy. From deer venturing close to spying an osprey, the list is surprisingly long for a path through a city.
(4) Amenities. This is related to the city and its workers, but is separate in the sense that these are the result of their labor. For someone with chronic lung disease and who likes to sit once in awhile to write, the benches and structures are always welcome, as are the small boulders. Sadly, my favorite seat, which is located along the river’s edge (I call it “Writing Rock”), I’ve never photographed. I have, on the other hand, taken pictures from Writing Rock.
(5) Flora. This is especially important to me having moved here from a location where the number and variety of trees were few. Though we get little rain, there’s an abundance of water owing to all the rivers (3 within the city and 2 more close by). Too, this fertile valley was once a glacial lake.
(6) Crows. Yup, crows. They’re the only birds who’ll consistently come near. In fact, it often feels as though they’re posing for me. I think of them as my walking buddies. They’re present year round and numerous, their distinctive cry a staple on every walk I take. My walks wouldn’t be the same without them…and they’re huge here.
(7) Mountain Views. I can’t say enough about the mountains in Western Montana, for the number of ranges are too vast for me to remember. This city is situated where five valleys meet so there are mountains attached to various ranges all within view. It’s a treat and one I never tire of indulging in.
(8) Missoula. The city that doesn’t feel like a city. I probably should work for the Chamber of Commerce as often as I (gladly) plug this city’s virtues. It has everything I need, but especially a small town feel in a medium size city. From spectacular views to the university to Victorian charm it makes me feel at home, for I am home. Although I’m sharing pictures of downtown from the walking path for this place on the list, please remember that all 40 pictures were taken from within the city limits!
(9) Clark Fork River. My beloved river is named for William Clark who was one of the leaders of the Lewis & Clark Expedition in the early 1800s. I dearly love its energy, channels, islands, and changing moods that vary with the weather each season as it makes its way to the enormous Columbia to the west. Like the ocean, it’s a delight for the ears as well as the eyes.
(10) Health. My walking path, most of which is made up of the Milwaukee Trail, gives so much to me. As if all the above images weren’t enough to be grateful for, there’s also my physical health, mental health, and more inspiration than I can measure. I’ve worked on fiction, blog posts, poetry, photography, and mindful walking while biking or hiking its many miles and for that there aren’t enough words of thanks.
Please note that two pictures here (me crouching, me with the river/city in the background) were taken upon Writing Rock.
Thanks for joining me for this look back at all I’ve been thankful for on the walking path over the last year. The trail system and all that’s attached to it are all gifts to me from the city and nature, but the gift to myself via self-compassion is taking the time to experience its wonders and joys. There are many things you can do for yourself, but walking and spending time in nature are among the best. Give yourself that gift today.