I like to go for walks on the Nebraska Cowboy Trail. It’s a very long area of real estate that used to be railroad right of way. The actual trail stretches through several counties, so people rarely go for regular walks or bicycle rides along the entire trail.
The part of the Cowboy Trail I regularly use is the eastern terminus that begins at “Ta Ha Zouka” city park just south of Norfolk. Here is where the Elkhorn River meanders from West to East alongside the trail. It’s a beautiful hiking-biking stretch that has been paved in concrete. Using the trail is pleasurable through all four seasons.
Because this segment has been paved, people who must use wheelchairs sometimes take advantage of the trail. It’s common to see photographers taking serious pictures of the flora and fauna and the river itself. This is a popular place for families on weekend outings. The trail is often used by fitness oriented runners and bicyclists.
If you’re observant, you’ll even notice that some of us use the Cowboy Trail for sauntering. Count me among this group of walkers. Once in awhile, I put away the camera and just go for a slow, peaceful walk in the Northeast Nebraska environment.
Even though I’m retired from the traditional workforce, I’ve noticed that it’s very easy to get into a daily routine. It’s still very easy to get caught up in the daily round of news. Blame the Internet for that. So an occasional saunter is welcome respite for the mind.
Unlike speed walking, jogging, or fitness cycling, sauntering is pointless and free. The mindset is not productivity, it’s simple presence. A person could set out to walk the 190 miles from Norfolk to Valentine on the Cowboy Trail. The journey would be a planned hike, not a saunter. A person doesn’t pack provisions and severe weather gear to go sauntering.
Sauntering through a park or wilderness is more like meditation. Sauntering is a soul-nourishing, peaceful activity that takes a person out of the toxic, modern, 21st century cult of constant productivity.
Sauntering is not a vacation nor an ocean cruise. There are no airline, train, or ship schedules to meet. There are no hotel or campground reservations to make. The beauty of sauntering is that it can be done during a vacation when you want to get away from the act of vacationing.
While it’s lovely to saunter on a trail at Yosemite, it’s just as wonderful to saunter through a city park, or an undeveloped parcel of land out of town. It’s more difficult to get into the spirit of sauntering in a busy city, but it can be done by experienced saunterers.
Still, sauntering is best enjoyed where the pace of life is still.
Anyone who is weary of the conformity of our civilization filled with pre-packaged entertainment and diversions can take a break from it all. Sauntering costs little or nothing. All one has to do is find a peaceful path and let go.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Henry David Thoreau. “If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again–if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man–then you are ready for a walk.”