Tuesday, January 15, 2013

If She Leaves I Will Follow Her Home

Yesterday, husband and I took a break and a hike, wandering for many miles by the water, over hills and in the woods. I can't even remember the last time we did this. 
This is one of my favorite places on the Island, a little bit of a local secret. Anyone can find it, yet, thankfully, most people don't. On a winter day, it's possible to go for miles without seeing another person.
When we first got together, this was a lot of what we did, walk around and hang out and now, so many years later (this is a kind of euphemism for the fact that I can't do the math right now on how long we've been together...) we do this maybe once a month.

I don't know exactly what happened...chores, home, art...But I do think it's high time we change it. And, actually we now have a small, but extremely important goal to work towards. This spring we hope to hike a very special mountain together. If you know me well enough you may guess which one it is. Anyway, we're excited to get some packs, take more hikes and work up to it.

It was cold and windy on the shore, but so pleasant.
A little ways into the woods there's a gnarled old giant. Who knows how old this tree is, but based on its size and location maybe at least three, four hundred years. There's a new small tree sprouting out of its arm, indication maybe, the next stage in its life. On this walk we discussed when exactly trees die, the moment they fall, or a few days after. If flowers can artificially life in a vase for days, if provided water, then surely a tree is still alive for a while after its fall?
We often have weird conversations about life and death when we go rambling.
Speaking of rambling, one of the things about America that I really can't get used to, is the concept of private property being off-limits to hikers and gatherers. I just find it so absurd that there's a line on even the loneliest of hillsides denoting yours, mine and ours.

In Scandinavia, we have something that loosely translates to "every man's right", a law pertaining, literally, to everyone's right to use, enjoy and walk the land. Just because someone owns a piece of land doesn't mean others can't go onto it. Of course, certain rules govern such use, to make sure that the owners still have their safety and privacy. You are allowed to harvest wild foods, but not hunt without permission. You are allowed to walk the land, but not camp without permission, or go within a certain distance of someone's house. You must close all gates. You must be respectful.
I understand of course, that rules that apply to and work in a country of five million, may not work in a country of two-hundred-and-fifty million, but as America's public lands seem to be in an eternal decrease, it makes me wonder how a country that used (and still does at least so far a national branding goes) pride itself in being wild and free, has gotten to a point where nature is either fenced into parks, logging company leased clear-cuts, or someone's private backyard?

Parks are great. I know, because I'm lucky enough to live in one, but often they are only accessible by car, and in these tight times, cost money, if you're lucky enough to live somewhere where local and state governments haven't outright closed them. Meanwhile, there might be a forest right next door to you, that no one uses, or who's owners can't even see to the far edges of their land. What would be the harm in you walking it?
"This land is your land, this land is my land." Not. Rant over.
I will say though, whenever you get the chance, Go Trespassing. See if anyone cares. Be respectful. But walk where you want to if you feel like it. It's the small every day acts of rebellion that often empower us the most.
We found a new-to-us trail leading from this rocky outcropping to one of our favorite beaches.
We found treasure and left it where it lay.
We skimmed stones and admired the fog, the rain, the birds. We walked.
We went home to make Lauren's chili and corn bread. It was delicious in spite small additions and subtractions. I used squash instead of meatless ground beef, left out the sugar and replaced the Guinness I forgot to buy, with some sweet PNW IPA.  I've never made cornbread before and was super stoked it worked out. Next time I'm going to replace the spelt flour I used with rye and see if it still holds together. Cooking in the winter is one of my greatest pleasures and indulgences.
Where do you like to walk/hike the most? 


  1. We don't hike much at all - I seem to get caught up in the "what if" and I feel frightened out further than I am acquainted with, but this post (and so many others) make me yearn for a long walk along the countryside, where ever it may be. And, I love "every man's right"

    Oh, and now I'm fiercely craving cornbread.


  2. Hello Milla,

    Your post struck a chord! I am English and visited the San Juan Islands last summer. My one complaint about this really lovely place was that we seemed to be hemmed in by private property! In England, like Scandinavia, the rights of walkers are protected so I wasn't expecting it. On the islands, the only way to get to the remoter hiking trails seemed to be along roads rather than footpaths and, as we don't drive, we ended up taking a mini bus (and once even a taxi, which seemed a bit ridiculous!) to get to our hikes. It was nice to talk to people on the bus and in the taxi but it did feel odd to reach the hikes in that way and it made me feel sad/frustrated that the land couldn't be enjoyed by everyone. We could see tantalising glimpses of pretty places, which were all out of bounds. Still, that grumble aside, hiking on the islands was overwhelmingly beautiful.

    Your photos of the countryside are lovely - thanks for sharing them! They definitely make me want to get outside and go for a long walk.

  3. this happens to be something i think about often. living in the foothills/mountains...i am sadly hard pressed to find a free place to walk. i have to go down to the river and "parks" which of course includes a drive when there is forest just a stone's throw down my road. i think i will take you up on your trespassing idea.

    i am reading your post from ade's house where i am helping with the recuperation process. across from her kitchen window is a city maintained beautiful trail through the forest. luckily this town knows how to do its walking trails right. lucy and i took a nice jaunt to town today and the roads are small and untraveled enough and cross through such lovely forests that it felt almost like a hike. also, i just consumed a big bowl of hunks of cornbread drizzled with butter and honey. leftovers from my mom's dinner she prepared on saturday. there are leftovers galore of good good foods; i am eating better than ever here during this post partum stay. i wish i could say the same for addie, her recovery is so difficult that she has hardly an appetite, even as her milk comes in and her wee babe needs to nurse often!

    i send you warm wintry hugs, some for charlie too. and gratitude for this uplifting little walk through such a beautiful place as yours.

  4. Thanks for posting these pictures - they look so relaxing even just as pictures. We really rarely get to walk in non-urban areas but last weekend we were in Massachusetts and got to walk along the rocky shore for a bit and also a little path through this place:


    It's funny that you mention the issue of property because, conversely, I thought how strange it was that this property (with a farm at the entrance and wooded paths behind) let people walk through their property without so much as saying boo to the people coming in.

  5. The place you live looks so beautiful. I live in Ohio and it might as well be another world. The terrain here is one of my favorite things about where I live, and when I get down on the city it's the main redeeming factor. I hike a few times a week and it's my favorite thing to do. I'm lucky to live near quite a few Metroparks. One of my favorite urban places to walk is a hilly Victorian cemetery where all my relatives are buried

  6. so, so beautiful! we live right next to a nature preserve so that is where i walk the most. there is also a paved bike trail, which isn't very pleasing to the eye, that leads to the beach. it's only a mile and a half but we don't make it all the way there very often because of the little ones. i actually took some pictures of the kiddos there last weekend, maybe i'll post them so you can see :D

  7. Kuulostaa ihanalta! Omakin suhteeni ainakin alunperin pohjautuu yhteisille metsäretkille,tosin meilläkin niitä nykyään ehkä vähemmän. koko perheellä tehdään retkiä omien sukujemme metsiin,Nuuksioon,Sipoonkorpeen ja Repovedelle ja Hertan kanssa kaksin pieniä pyrähdyksiä bussimatkojen päässä oleviin rantoihin ja metsiin. Keskustassa asuessa minulle tulee ihan häkkieläin olo,ellen ainakin kerran kuussa pääse jonnekin kunnon metsään.

  8. I haven't even thought about it before, I'm so used to the All Man's Right here in Scandinavia that I would probably freak out all over the place if I wasn't allowed to pass through every field or forest I felt like walking in. Unfortunately, non-Scandinavians take advantage of this right (or simply misinterpret it; the kind version) and park their ugly camper vans right by the prettiest sites and beaches.

    Also, the trees where you live are HUGE! And such beautiful nature. I enjoy your blog so much!

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I hope your dream does indeed come to fruition dear girl and you climb that mountain. We have many walks here, the latest one was pretty, up to a now, non-used dam-waterfall. It used to be the water source for where we live - we just found out that in the 40s the main city complained about poor water pressure - so they cut our village off from the water! I'm not sure about private land and right of way walks.....i know that we had to put a gold coin in a box on some Farmland when we went walking on our holiday - and i know there are some tracks that have been marked "Crown land" even though they may be on private property. Crown land, means owned by the public (well government).
    take care

  11. I know just what you mean about not walking with my husband as much now that we have been together for this long while... maybe a hiking goal is a good idea. There are lots of mountains to climb around here too!
    We live in Scotland, where there is a right of access like the one you describe in your post. Here you can even camp overnight, as long as you pack everything up early in the morning and don't leave any trace (though it would be considered right to ask permission if the land is not public land). It is a wonderful contrast to the treatment of land in Canada, where I grew up. My mother lives surrounded by lovey walking places, but it is all privately owned. It is necessary to walk a long while down paved roads, then dirt roads to find a little walking path where it is legal to walk through the woods. That has always depressed me a lot. I wish every place had a right of access code.
    Good luck on your hiking plans. I know I am really looking forward to the longer days to go off vagabonding into the woods and mountains!

  12. ah, thank you for bringing us along on this walk! my face and fingers almost feel the cold, and i am remembering times of rejuvenation and enlivenment from traipsing where wilderness meets the wild sea. also, you manage to look cute even while hiking. i see what you did there with the pinky orange on your bag and skirt.

    alas, its actually not a good idea to trespass, at least not around most mountainous places in california. in shasta and siskiyou county, you'll get a gun pointed at you, more often than not. however, my dear hotsprings are on private land, and the owners just gave up trying to control it after the native locals showed up on his doorstep and told him to get over it. i am homesick and need to go walking there asap. in the meantime, fern and i have been loving strolling around farms and exploring the wild corners of the lower haight.

    RIGHTEOUS on climbing the mountain (although i actually don't know which one!). hope to hear more about it.

    p.s. can we talk shoes at some point? i know, so deep and important, right? but all mine have crapped out on me and i have been scouring ebay and etsy for months. yours are kinda along the lines of what i'm looking for. anyway, i know you understand the fashion/spiritual nature of good shoes! love you milla.

  13. twice a week i drive an hour each way from my big city to the woodlands i crave, the forest of my youth. my trails are taken in on horseback and i live for my peaceful time out there. the further up the ridge, the better.

  14. So much love for this post. I was super happy to see that you're wearing my mitts. Wear them in grace and joy, my sweet.

    Yeah, land rights mean very little here. People come through the forested bit of our property all the time, which irks me, because they pick a lot of the mushrooms and bits of wild asparagus that grow in the woods. Thankfully, the property is full of the latter, so it's not a huge loss. I just wish people would ask first, you know? I don't mind their presence, just show some respect...

    Instead of telling you were I like to hike, I'll have to show you. ;)


  15. It can be galling to find you need permission to wander in the landscape where you live. Roaming with respect when I was growing up, helped to shape the person I grew into, but now I feel like a hamster running around her wheel, corralled and herded along roads and lanes or short designated " walks". And I live in a rural Ireland!!! So I can relate to your impatience with the restrictions of the great American outdoors. Have really enjoyed visiting your site for a little while now, I always find it thought provoking, thoughtful of the important things in life. Thank you Milla

  16. My favorite, or one of my favorites, is a place called Soberanes Canyon. It is a three mile loop stretching back from the Pacific into a Bay Laurel/Redwood forest, up a grassy ridge, to overlook the ocean and vast expanse of the central coast of California up to the Monterey Peninsula and down to Big Sur. On foggy days at the top, all one can see is a sea of fog and "islands" of other nearby peaks. It's beautiful day or night and in any season but especially when the wildflowers are going off! Robinson Jeffers wrote about Soberanes beautifully. I also love Pt. Lobos south of Carmel. Inspiration for Treasure Island for RL Stevenson.