hike blog

among the halls of malls

You have to go through the falling down in order to learn to walk. It helps to know that you can survive it. That’s an education in itself.

Carol Burnett
"Training" to walk the Continental Divide Trail this summer begins on terrazzo.
“Training” to walk the Continental Divide Trail this summer begins on terrazzo.

It’s been almost four weeks since I had my second hip replaced. What a drama! I inherited my mother’s laugh and my father’s wanderlust, but also a disposition for osteoarthritis. By the time my surgeon cut out the bad joint, there wasn’t any cartilage left!

When I asked Dr. S if I could walk the Continental Divide Trail this summer, he seemed pretty unfazed. I guess it’s not really up to him, but up to my body and how fast and thoroughly it heals.

Since my surgery used the anterior approach, no muscles were cut and my recovery – while not pleasant – was relatively short. The Physical Therapist gave me a set of exercises at the surgery center to strengthen the muscles then told me, after a few weeks, just walk.

The surgeon told me that simple walking is the best therapy as the bone grows into the prosthetic.
Har Mar Mall in Roseville, Minnesota hosts a whole subculture of mall walkers.
Har Mar Mall in Roseville, Minnesota hosts a whole subculture of mall walkers.

That was music to my ears, of course, but I live in Minnesota and the sidewalks are icy and dangerous. So, it was off to the halls of malls for my rehabilitation. Safe and full of eye candy, I enjoyed my time “thru-hiking” a variety of indoor locations using my trusty Leki trekking poles for balance, but also to strengthen my droopy arms.

I visited Har Mar Mall in Roseville sporting wide halls for an entire subculture of indoor walkers jazzed to move by the adult rock playing over the sound system. At the Saint Paul Skyway, magic doors would spring open as I arrived with a whoosh or a ka-bong. It’s a bit sketch downtown and most people were sadly maskless, but I never felt unsafe. I was approached by a couple of dudes wondering if I was skiing with my poles.

Mall walking is safe and always has lots of eye-candy.
Mall walking is safe and always has lots of eye-candy.
I timed my walks near sunset so the winter darkness didn't compound my feeling of isolation.
I timed my walks near sunset so the winter darkness didn’t compound my feeling of isolation.

Maplewood Mall has a lovely carousel and a carpeted second floor. That’s where I started to take long strides, no hands. Rosedale is the home to the glowing moose and fantastic eats from local restaurants. It’s all about history at Southdale with wall text and photographs telling the story of a time forgotten when people dressed up to go to the mall. They also have wide halls and a 3,000 pound floor-to-ceiling bronze sculpture.

The Twin Cities’ signature mall is the Mall of America or MOA. I have special affection for this monstrous temple to capitalism because it was the first place I walked after surgery. No stores were open when we headed over, but the halls were available to put one foot in front of the other.

Today, nearly four weeks after my second hip replacement, I'm ready to risk a bit of ice.
Today, nearly four weeks after my second hip replacement, I’m ready to risk a bit of ice.
Blissful Hiker on day 100 of the Te Araroa, Mount Cook shyly peaking out behind the clouds.
hike blog

how do you nourish your body and soul?

Walking is how the body measures itself against the earth.

Rebecca Solnit
Blissful Hiker on day 100 of the Te Araroa, Mount Cook shyly peaking out behind the clouds.
Blissful Hiker on day 100 of the Te Araroa, Mount Cook shyly peaking out behind the clouds.

I was asked earlier this week to participate in the Minnesota Women’s Press August “Body” issue by answering this question in 500 words or less, “How do you nourishes your body and soul?” Here’s a preview of my answer and I look forward to those of my fellow Minnesotan sisters!


There’s really no trail from Royal Hut to Stag Saddle. Instead, in typical Kiwi fashion, it’s a pick-your-way between orange markers on soggy, tussocky humps of grass, back and forth across a boulder-strewn stream, and straight up from one false summit to the next. The sun is hot in a bluebird sky and the route is steep. I’m glad I have hiking poles.

Yesterday, the trail got the best of me. I sat down to rest and immediately started crying, ready to quit and go home. Today is day 100 of a thru-hike of New Zealand. I put life on pause to walk this, a risk I was willing to take before my arthritic feet impeded my “full time pedestrian” status.

I’m known as the Blissful Hiker and one would assume it’s walking that nourishes my body and soul. That’s true, of course, but it’s only part of the story.

My earliest memory is of looking down at my feet in wonder as they moved me up to the back door of our church where my father was the minister. Up there, was nursery school! I can still see the dappled light on the sidewalk, roly-poly caterpillars in brown and black, my arms swinging, propelling me along. The moment is indelible because it was the first time I felt in charge of my being, drunk on the power of the simple act of moving myself forward with my legs.

guest post

GUEST POST: “walks everywhere” by Ann Juergens

We are here on the planet only once, and might as well get a feel for the place.

Annie Dillard


Ann Juergens and I serve on the board of the Schubert Club, a classical concert presenting organization in Saint Paul. At our last meeting, before social distancing when it was still safe to share a glass of wine and small talk in close quarters, Ann shared with me how she walks every day and everywhere, too. Ann is a model for how we can all become #blissfulhikers even during a Pandemic.


From my front porch I watch people I’ve never seen before walking past my home. On the last day of March it is 55 degrees, and they walk down the middle of this residential street, on the sidewalks or on the grass, with dogs or with one other person, or, if in a group of 3 or 4, they walk with social distance between them. Dozens and dozens of people, they walk briskly with ear buds and babies and beverages or slowly with limp, walker or cane.

The pandemic and its shelter-at-home mandates are pushing people to walk as never before in memory. When the four walls of our domestic cells become too much, we no longer hop into the car and head to another place. At least we’ve been instructed not to do that unless for an essential errand.  So every day after some hours of work or schooling, when my St. Paul neighbors and I need to get out of our homes, we rely on our itchy feet.  

And walk we do.

The pandemic and its shelter-at-home mandates are pushing people to walk as never before in memory. 

guest post

GUEST POST: Every Journey Starts with a First Step by Vicky Duran

The one thing you learn is when you can step out of your comfort zone and be uncomfortable, you see what you’re made of and who you are.

Sue Bird

Walking heals anywhere including on a treadmill

I met Vicky Duran at a rehearsal for the Greater Twin Cities Youth Orchestra. I was narrating a new piece and her daughter, Charity, was playing violin. We hit it off immediately, sharing a love for her beautiful home state, Washington, as well as how the simple act of lacing up our shoes and taking a walk with intention can change our lives.


There’s something to be said about personal body image and the fear of losing it. 

Hi, my name is Vicky Duran and I’m 52 years old. I was a more athletic person than not in my younger days; basketball, racquetball, skiing, softball; you could find me in the middle of any of these games. I rode horses, wrangled kids, bucked bails of hay in my teenage years, and did a lot of swimming in college.

Then I married and started a family. I taught in the classroom for a few years before turning my sights to homeschooling and shuttling kids around to their various activities. Slowly age and inactivity took a toll on my body and how I saw myself.

audio narrative

…at the speed of Andante

Walking is also an ambulation of mind.

Gretel Ehrlich
A wee little sample from the presentation I’ll give this afternoon.

Today I’ll present my first talk about my epic hikes. I was requested by a resident at The Wellington Senior Living in Saint Paul. My big fan over there must know me from the radio as she – and the director who hired me – are most interested in the intersection of music with walking, particularly composers who found their creative spirit enlivened by nature and the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other.

As I pulled together photos and thought of which stories and experiences resonate best with particular pieces of music, I realized that my walking pace is more of a saunter than anything resembling hiking. In musical parlance, the tempo would be marked andante. Let’s face it, I’m slow. Steady, but slow. Surprise, surprise, folks, I’m no spring chicken, but I feel sauntering, rather than conquering, affords me the time I require to study and really delve into the essence of everything I encounter.

Or maybe it’s just an excuse for the inevitable midlife downshifting into low gear.

Walking slowly is the way to see deeply into the essence of all that surrounds us, big and small.
Walking slowly is the way to see deeply into the essence of all that surrounds us, big and small.

I’m not all “solo hiker” though when it comes to the rhythm of my days. The great nature writer and environmental activist Edward Abbey is in agreement with my philosophy, writing, “Life is already too short to waste on speed.”

Walking is good for you.
hike blog

TA walking hand-in-hand with Beethoven

How happy I am to be able to wander among bushes and herbs, under trees and over rocks; no one can love the country as I love it. Woods, trees and rocks send back the echo that people desire.

Ludwig van Beethoven

It’s finally here, one week until I leave to walk in the footsteps – at least metaphorically – of Beethoven and commune with nature, hoping to decipher her secrets and find inspiration.