Being both a busy woman and a lover of the outdoors, I seriously appreciate public green spaces. City parks and trails can be an excellent way to fit spending time with nature into a hectic lifestyle, balancing the effects of the urban hustle and bustle.
According to proponents of environmental psychology, spending time in nature has at least three positive effects:
- Reduced stress
- Improved mood
- Improved cognitive performance
My favorite place to meet nature during my busy five years as a resident of Spokane was the Mirabeau access point of the Centennial Trail. This was a quick drive from my home and from my work in our downtown tasting room, but the river running along the valley floor and the tall trees lining the pathway shielded me from the urban noise and made it feel like I was a world away.
This section of the Centennial Trail holds many memories for me, so I paid a visit to offer my gratitude before saying so long to Washington and continuing my journey east.
I took up running when I moved to Washington, and this was my top choice for logging in my miles. Not only was it a beautiful natural area, but the trail was well-maintained and relatively flat. I felt more like a wild animal than a chunky human here, and I could work on my breathing and my form without over-taxing my body and my psyche.
It was here that I first broke the ten minute mile threshold in a 5k race, completing the run in less than thirty minutes. The race was part of Valleyfest, and it was a huge accomplishment for me.
It was here that I made my decision to run my first half marathon. I had been invited to join a friend in running the Bridge of the Gods, but I had never run that far, and I was wavering in my resolve. I took to the trail that day and found many other women out for a run. One group of three was exiting the trail as I was entering, and they asked me to take a photograph of them, so they could prove to their trainer that they had logged in their miles. “What race are you training for?” I asked.
“The Spokane Negative Split,” the brunette in the pink shorts and ponytail replied. “Are you training for a race?”
“I am thinking about running the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks,” I said.
“Oh, wow! I think that race is sold out,” she said.
My stomach dropped and burned.
“You might want to check on that right away,” she said. “And good luck!”
“You too,” I said. And in that instant I made my choice. I drove home from the trail, logged onto the website and paid my entry fee.
I did some of my best thinking here, so I also used the trail for walking. There were times I spread my blanket on the shoreline of the river and wrote in my journal or just stared into the sparkling water. It was here that I came to brainstorm new business ideas. It was here that I came after the shocking death of a close friend.
It was here that I labored over my life’s purpose on New Year’s Day. I had been feeling unfulfilled in my work and was reading Napoleon Hill’s thoughts on the concept of drifting. The park was a dazzling winter wonderland, and the trail was covered in snow. I enjoyed complete solitude and clarity as I plodded through my dilemma one footprint at a time.
Today I come to say farewell to what feels like a dear friend. I took off my shoes and did some rock scrambling with Justice down by the water. I brought my journal and my camera to capture some last memories. I rolled up my jeans and slid my feet into the cool water, listening for the calling birds. I watched a critter sunning itself a few feet from me and a family in kayaks floating by with eyes closed and faces upturned.
I am passionate about helping more women experience the benefits of being out in natural places. Being too busy is simply not an acceptable excuse. The more hectic your life is, the more important it is for you to spend time alone with nature. You owe it to yourself first, and when we care enough for ourselves we have more to give to those we love. Need help with this? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Centennial Trail runs 37 miles one-way from Spokane, Washington to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It has numerous access points, each offering a new adventure. The trail is pet-friendly and popular with runners, walkers, bicyclists, tourists and locals alike. Several city parks and serene water features are accessible from the trail. It truly is a gem and worth a trek.