I left my house and tumbled into the bright August day around one in the afternoon. To my right the stunted apple trees waft a chemical scent, the residue of the spraying that woke me early this morning. “Danger – Peligro – Pesticides Pesticidas – Keep Out!” warn signs along the road. The fruit is still tiny and bitter green. On the left, a tiger swallowtail butterfly enjoys the giant purple thistles that bloom along the edge of the road, under the shadow of the weeping willows. I turn left onto Hurds road, and slightly uphill. The sun is warm. If I turn around, I can see the Mohonk Mountain house’s tower atop the hazy blue mountain ridge.
I see crates of apples, more “No Trespassing” signs, and always the tiny apple trees. Short school buses and trucks buzz by me as I examine the houses up here. Most are large, prosperous facades. Down in the valley trailers hide around a stone-walled corner, laundry flapping in the breeze. I cross a dammed pond and come to the top of another hill. Back to a bit of civilization, here I find the intersection of Hurds Road and South St. If I hadn’t just eaten lunch I’d stop here at the “Gunks Haus Restaurant.” The patrons leaving as I walk by say, “Come back, the food’s delicious!”
Lured by the blue mountains in the distance, I continued on, left down South St. More apple orchards are on both sides until I get to the bottom of the hill and enter a forest. Here I find a large dead cicada, one less voice in the myriad around me. I pass signs for “Crow Hill Road” and continue through another hilly meadow. I come to another intersection, and turn left onto Station Road.
I’m captivated by the purple wildflowers and yellow goldenrod here. A dog barks from his yard and I jump – I can’t help looking back over my shoulder as he rambles toward me. A grayhaired man sitting in front of his house says, “He can’t leave the yard, he’s got one of those chips under the skin.” Then he offers me a ride. I continue on, my heels beginning to hurt from my flat sandals. I told him I had a long walk, and it was true, but I wonder where exactly I will end up. There — at the end of Station road I see familiar territory, and I’m on S. Ohioville again. I am exhausted now, plodding along in the heat.
Walking on the road is an interesting experience. I’m always amazed by how many people either stare or offer me a ride. I’m sure I stare when I see someone walking down a paved road too, but I wonder why? Is the sight of someone walking so strange? Is it because we are kind and hope to help our neighbors? Or because we’re curious what event took place to make them walk — a car breaking down, a ride not showing up, a family feud? I am sure that most people are well intentioned, and I might be grateful if I truly did need help. But for some reason it irritates me. They are reminding me: I am out of place. This isn’t a hiking path — why are you walking here? I’m not jogging; I don’t have ipod headphones stuffed into my ear; I’m not dressed in spandex or lycra. If I were some exercise freak or flabby mom, sweaty ponytail bouncing, I doubt anyone would ever ask if I needed a ride. But I would never “enjoy” the outdoors that way, plugged in and turned off, sneakers pounding the pavement.