I grew up in metropolitan Atlanta, a vast urban area that contained 2 million people in the 1970s and 80s (and now well over 5 million). For many, the buzzing energy of a city this size is a siren song. But not for me. From an early age, I knew that I was not meant for the big city. While others revel in the hustle and bustle, I seek out the quiet places.
As a child, I spent most of my play time in the "wilderness" behind our condominium complex. It was nothing more than a patch of woods between two residential developments, but I loved it. I have such fond memories of creating trails, building forts, and playing along the creek there with my friends. Hours would pass unnoticed, until finally the daylight began to wane and we would hear the familiar whistle. Both my dad and my best friend's dad whistled for us when it was time to come home. Presumably because the whistle was louder and more likely to be heard than a shout, and not because we bore any similarity to dogs.
This love of wild places is with me still. I feel at home in the mountains where I live now, and treasure the open spaces - dwindling though they often seem to be. There is nothing I enjoy more than getting out on a trail, listening to the crunch of leaves underfoot as the sounds of civilization recede with each passing step.
And of course, the dogs love this too. Heading out for a hike recently, I watched through the rear view mirror as Lucky's tail began to wag enthusiastically as the truck turned toward a familiar trailhead. It's fun to watch him. He knows that adventure is just around the bend. I don't believe Katie had ever been hiking with her previous family, but she's a trail veteran now.
As in every other setting and circumstance however, her favorite part of any hike is when we stop for a snack. Meek and mild mannered most of the time, Katie pushes her way to the front of the pack when food is involved. "Me first, please!"
After a short rest, snacks and water, we'll be on our way again. The dogs are all business, ears pricked to catch the sounds, noses working overtime at each rough side trail. Some are small, perhaps raccoon sized. Others are larger. Who or what passed through here last night? They know. I can see it in their faces, and I wish they could tell me. But we move on; the other side of the mountain awaits.
On this afternoon, for just a little while, we're in our element among the trees and the breeze, the sky and the brightly colored leaves. Two-legged and four-legged creatures of nature, we follow the trail knowing the truth in our hearts. We were born to be wild.