Armed with my new pedometer, a gift from hubby, we set out to clock 10,000 steps by hiking the restored Forest Hill Lake trail and the Buttermilk Trail to end up on Belle Isle in downtown Richmond.
The renovated Forest Hill Lake blew me away, starting with a marker to name the new pedestrian bridge for the Harvey Family, who were killed on Jan. 1, 2006. Their smiling faces etched in the bronze plaque saddened me. My spirit lifted as we passed the gussied up lake, with its cute gazebo and benches. Blessed with a glorious sky that occasionally hinted at dumping much needed rain, we trekked down a path into a world I never visited before in the decades I have called Virginia home.
The temperature dropped at least 10 degrees as we moved under a canopy of trees. What a loss when we fail to explore our own backyard, I thought. I felt otherworldly as we stepped gingerly over rock- and bark-studded trails that often snaked up and downhill. Having sprained my ankle a few weeks ago, I walked carefully in the steep woodlands. We were alone, except for a few mountain bikers and joggers whizzing by. Several times I glanced back, realizing this was a perfect opportunity for the trail demons to do away with us just like in horror movies. When hubby found a hefty branch for a walking stick, I exhaled.
Three miles later, we approached the fast-flowing river. I suggested we climb onto the boulders jutting from the James River and enjoy the view. Hubby wanted to head back to beat the rain. I reminded him he loved the water and we’d stay briefly. Mesmerized, we sat for 30 minutes. A perfect breeze whispered for me to stretch out and enjoy a nap just like a couple sleeping on their bellies several rocks away. But the gurgling dance of the river cascading through the Fall Line hypnotized me. Serenity among the skyscrapers. Where had I been?
I shifted into kid-mode and pestered hubby with questions about the James River. Where did the river start? (Blue Ridge Mountains.) When the river was high, did it cover the boulder we sat on? (Yes.) Why didn’t we come to the river more often? (I didn’t know you wanted to.) I shut my trap as we gleefully watched a duck bobbing along in the current. Suddenly, he paused, his hind parts greeting the sky, as he dived for dinner.
We nodded with satisfaction at the diversity of the rock dwellers. And we made a promise: same place next week. But we’ll be better prepared to enjoy this 410-mile long river’s charms with a picnic on a boulder and a beach towel for a daylight doze. When walking 16,321 steps (8 miles) in a matter of hours, chillaxing makes sense. When you have the majestic James River in your backyard to embrace, doing so is a gift.