Lessons from a hike
Karl is a local boy — you can hardly call him boy, though, not at his age — who saw the neighbourhood change before his eyes: the dense forests split by wide interstates, and smaller roads cutting through what were in effect a part of his playground.
There aren’t many like him around in Bethesda.
Karl knows the area better than anyone I know. Every hiking trail — and there are many here — filed away with every little turn and elevation. He knows them as if they were a part of his backyard.
So when we got an invitation to go hiking with him and his family, we jumped. In our enthusiasm, however, we overlooked to prepare for it. Actually, we didn’t think the hike would last longer 45 minutes to an hour so it never occurred to us we should carry some water and snacks.
When we met Karl at his house, his backpack thick with stuff for the hike, we realized we were not only underprepared but ran the risk of starvation.
The trail, not very far from where we live, runs along the Potomac River that divides Washington DC from neighbouring Maryland and Virginia.
We followed Karl to a roadside parking lot, and we were off.
The first stretch was called a towpath. It ran along the river, at a distance and got its name from the mules that walked on it, once upon a time, pulling boats and steamers into the river to set them rolling through. After a mile we crossed over to the other side of a canal and walked some more.
How adventurous were we feeling, they asked us.
I wasn’t sure what they meant. The trail forked into two here: a tough, rocky climb hugging the river and an easy, not-so-rocky largely flat hike that was considered safer for those not aware of what lay ahead.
Karl’s children were feeling adventurous, and, therefore, so were ours. We didn’t have a choice and the tough, adventurous hike it was for us. The first mile seemed easy — hopping over boulders, watching out only for loose rocks and pebbles.
And then suddenly a rock face loomed int front. It looked perilously straight. But there were people climbing and descending — so there, obviously, existed some breaks in the wall.
Returning from here was not an option, not with the children having raced ahead, already out of earshot. Children can make everything look easy.
So, we were up — climbing the rock face. We managed fine.
The entire trail was about 6 miles and it took us couple of hours, helped along by snacks from Karl’s backpack — me and my wife kept telling each other how badly prepared we were — never again will we venture out so under-equipped.
It was a great hike, but we couldn’t help comparing.
The Aravallis around Delhi have thousands of trails, some of which we explored while growing up in Delhi University — on the Ridge. But back then we didn’t many people on those trails, and still don’t many people talk about them. A few serious hikers we knew were forever pushing off to the Himachal or Uttarakhand mountains.
The Ridge has many trails for weekend hiking.
Some portions of the rocky terrain have been, in fact, turned into pretty parks, but there is wilderness all around, most of it visually striking. These forests are teeming with an amazing variety of birds, but perhaps no wildlife — except peacocks and some pigs/wild boars. The Potomac trail, I am told, has bears. The hilly rocky terrain around JNU in south Delhi is again awesome.
The Ridge has potential, but are we inclined to tap it?