Confession is good for the soul.

Fairly rotten for the backside, if you’re being raised in a spanking-type house, but still, it feels good to get it off your chest so to speak.

I haven’t seen the inside of my gym for a month and a half.

I think it’s the longest I’ve ever gone AWOL and my soul, backside, chest and other random anatomy bits are all the slightly worse for it.

My new fasting diet at work is helpful, of course, but there came a day this week when I simply had to get off my nantucket and move. And not indoors, I wanted sunshine and fresh air.

I came home from work, tossed on my tennies, and headed for the trails. Five minutes into the run walk, I was on the phone with a girlfriend, because I’ve also been a little AWOL with my peeps. Then the Hubby called. I may have some catching up to do in my life. My poor mom probably thinks I’m dead.

But hey, we all went for a run walk together, so there’s a start.

Every once in a while, I noticed tracks in the dusty trail:

Everyone in SoCal knows what this means, and as I jogged chatted I began scanning the immediate area with growing concern.

There was another one every quarter mile or so.

A couple thin, erratic tracks could have been baby hypodermics; every twig was suspect. “Babe,” I said into the phone, “I gotta go. Need to do some jumping jacks.”

Somewhere in the last month and a half, I must have blinked because summer was here and with it, snakes.

These tracks were made by grand-daddies. Recently. Like maybe five minutes ago.

I was nearing the end of my route when I came around a bend in the road and stopped cold had a cardio event. The western diamondback wasn’t crossing the trail in a leisurely loopy way. He was motivated. He was hunting. And I was suddenly between him and his destiny. He came toward me for a moment or two, but sensing that I was one with Nature  about to play Run and Scream, he continued across and up the bank.


Can you see him? I was almost three feet away before I realized the dead grass/dirt combo was slithering. That is some serious camo. I whimpered while waiting for a chance to go home and hide under the bed. He made me writhe, tolerate, endure his superiority for-agonizing-ever.

The minute his business end went into the chain link fence, I started edging my way past.


He stopped and gave me a withering, backwards glance. “Coward,” he seemed to say, “had you been running instead of posing, we would have had a different encounter altogether.”

“Yes, yes,” I babbled to him in my head, “don’t I know it. I’ll go back to the gym and stay there! 20 push-ups yoga stretches and a Zumba class cooking channel hour, honest! I don’t even like fresh air!”

Realizing how close I’d come to death by exercise, I covered the last of my 5K like a wary ninja, scanning the trails, peering into brush, startling at every rustle, my cell phone weapon ready.

This little guy popped out and I almost karate-chopped a dead pine tree in my haste to defend myself not be physically touching the ground. When I climbed back down, he was still there, pretending to be part of the shrubbery.

Nope. Sorry little dude. You are definitely in plain sight, and the rattler is definitely going to swallow you up whole. I tried to carry him home with me, but hares aren’t known for their brains in the way that keeps them from being way down low on the food chain.

This was the last track I found before completing my workout with a final sprint finally kissing the civilized asphalt:

I want to believe the gopher plugged up his hole when he saw doom slithering his way, and the snake was stuck eating salad for dinner. And I don’t even like gophers.

Please. Let’s none of us tell my mother about this.

The Hike

Fresh Air, Exercise, and Family Time. What better way to kill three resolutions with one stone than a hike in the great outdoors?

Everyone has a great outdoors they can walk in, even if it’s the local mall.

The criteria: A, you must actually leave your house and B, you have to drag a family member along, even if you have to borrow one from a neighbor. You don’t need any special equipment or fitness level.

If you can walk, you win.

Hubby and I enjoy hiking and it’s usually our Saturday morning workout of choice. We made it a habit years ago and it never fails to bring a nice balance to our week, our marriage, and our attitudes.

We bring many things along with us on our walks: anger, frustrations, worries, sadness, hopes, ambitions. Depending on how our week went, we apply hills or plains to the matter. Sometimes a long discussion is called for and others demand an hour of silent thought as we pass small lakes or valleys full of oak trees.

As we climb the steep path heading east, we are temporarily blinded by the sunrise. Once we have summited, the view is of mountain range after purple mountain range. Breathing deeply the tangy scent of California sagebrush, we slowly turn west and catch a glimpse of the distant Pacific.

The perspective puts everything in our minds into a manageable place.

But this is also about spending quality family time.

If only my family thought so.

The kids come along when their schedules permit but it should be noted that they are more eager to join the hike if there is a Starbucks at the end of it. That is usually a Sunday morning jaunt.

Daughter B will be whining at all uphills. Son C is guaranteed to run all downhills. Son A will be trailblazing through the brush, ignoring all public warning signs. Son B is scaling a boulder the size of a Buick, defying gravity and his mother. Very likely, someone will be bleeding by the time we head home.

Daughter A just makes sure her schedule is too full to join us. We walk too fast for her photographic talents anyway.

I imagine we make as much noise as a community garage sale as we walk along the dusty trails, trying to bond over blisters. Once in a while we see coyotes or foxes or mule deer or rabbits. Tarantulas. Quail. A rattlesnake here and there.

But for the most part, the wildlife, sensing imminent doom, vanishes and leaves us to it.

A lot of people bring along their dog. They may be on to something. The dogs are always enthusiastic, encouraging, and obedient. Sure, they may be relieving themselves on every square inch of great outdoors, but let’s hear it for an A+ attitude.

I’ve found it’s the little things that make a family hike memorable. Forgetting water in August. Not wearing gloves in February. The wardrobe miscalculation that results in walking five miles with a grand mal wedgie.

But you are creating memories out of a day that will never come again. You are getting some exercise and fresh air and sharing it with people you love.

You are headed for the nearest Starbucks like cattle stampeding to the watering hole.

But at least you got there on your own two feet.