Ode to My Battered Hiking Shoes

IMG_20171110_115424233[1]Every afternoon, an hour or so after the dog starts picketing my office, sighing in the doorway and nudging my hand off the computer mouse, I put on my walking shoes. It drives her crazy how long I take getting ready. I’ve got to put on the shoes and sweatshirt, find my glasses, lock the doors, get my keys, my phone, my handkerchief, two poop bags, and her leash. Hesitate. Do I have it all? Have I left something plugged in or turned on? By then, she’s howling at me and jumping up and down. I hook on her leash. She grabs it, shakes it as if to kill it, and runs to the door. Extending the anguish, I insist she sit and chill for a minute. Then . . . okay, let’s go!

We walk on paved and graveled roads and grassy trails through the woods here in South Beach. Sun, rain or snow, we go. It’s hard on the feet, hard on the shoes. I have just worn out another pair. In gratitude, I wrote this poem.


Drying on the hearth, these twenty-dollar

boots from Big 5 Sporting Goods

have holes among the waffle treads

that let my socks get wet.

The rubber toes are falling off.

Worn brown laces won’t stay tied.

They sacrificed themselves to guard

my tender white and helpless feet.

My puppy has her leather pads,

soft fur thick between the toes,

nails that grip the graveled earth.

Puzzled, she watches me grab my shoes

to walk through rocks and branches, mud,

newts and salamander guts

Oh, praise these battered hiking boots.

We’ve got a couple miles left.


Text and photos copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017

We Meet the Monster in the Forest

The bushes rustled and shook. Something big was in there. And it was coming our way. Annie froze. I looked around. Nothing but trees, shrubs, birds and field mice for a half mile in any direction. Newport Airport to the north, trees to the east, more trees to the south, houses too far away to the west. No humans close enough to save me from whatever it was. It might be a deer, an elk, a cougar or a bear. All have been seen in the area, although not usually in mid-afternoon. We hikers are instructed to remain calm, keep talking, and fluff ourselves up as big as possible to convince the animal that we are more scary than they are. If that doesn’t work, duck and cover and hope to survive. Having an unpredictable dog with you does not help.
I tugged on Annie’s leash. “Come on. Come on. We have to get out of here.” She moved an inch at a time, too scared to walk. The creature was coming closer. Sweating under my tee shirt and hoodie, my heart pounding, I continued trying to drag my dog toward the safety of the road. But we weren’t fast enough. The creature was coming out, coming out, here it was.
Oh. “I thought you were a bear!” I exclaimed to the Mexican man with a giant bouquet of salal leaves balanced on his shoulders. I don’t think he understood a word. I tried to form a sentence in Spanish. I knew “oso” was bear, but I couldn’t figure out the verb tenses to say I was afraid.
Annie stared, her tail between her legs, still afraid. To her, he looked like a man with no head, just a bunch of leaves. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” I told her as Leaf-Man went by us, soon followed by a leaf woman with another big bunch of greenery. The two work for the company near our home that sells greens to florists to put in bouquets with roses, carnations and other flowers. Several times a week, a giant truck backs up to the dock at 98th and 101 to be filled up with bundles of leaves they gather from the wilderness areas around South Beach.
Yesterday, when I saw the bushes moving again in the same general area, it occurred to me that THIS might be a bear, but I doubted it. Sure enough, another man emerged with a big bundle of leaves. He was wearing hip-high rubber boots. Annie didn’t like the looks of it at all, especially when he hefted the leaves up over his head and walked by us. But I had my camera this time, so I snuck a picture of the fabled Leaf-Man.
Someday the rustling in the bushes might be a bear, especially when all those blackberry vines full of flowers start producing fruit. If so, I hope Leaf-Man is nearby. That ought to scare any old bear.

Bulldozed, part 2

Muddy tire tracks stretched all the way from Highway 101 east to the clearing where Annie and I had walked the other day. Now it was smooth, all the little stumps and shrubs cleared, making a nice long road straight to the edge of the canyon. We walked easily through, and I took pictures of the view spread before us. As we turned toward Cedar Street, I saw the yellow bulldozer and the red cherry-picker were still there. I heard voices. Annie had started digging in the soft dirt. Then she paused, left front paw raised, stilled by an intriguing smell. “Come on,” I whispered. We were about to get caught trespassing where I assumed we were not supposed to go.

Here the mud was chunky, dotted with rocks and sticks. Skinned logs from the felled trees rose in two tall piles.  As the street came into view, so did a woman, blonde with curly hair and black-framed glasses. “Did you come up the road behind the house?” she asked.

Busted. “Yes.”

She smiled. “Isn’t it great?”


It turns out the clearing is not for a new house, and it’s okay to walk there. The woman, whose name is Patty, said the airport owns the land and is raising money by logging it. The new walking area and open view are welcome bonuses, she said. Her house gets more light now, and the loggers took down some trees on her property that she had been wanting to get rid of. “Doesn’t it smell wonderful?” she said. It smelled like Christmas.

I’m torn. I love the new trail and the view of the canyon, but I love the trees, too.  I wonder what will happen next.

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