Coal Creek Bike Path

Sunday was the first warm, sunny day in a very long time around here, so I decided to take a walk in the sunshine. Adriana, my 8yr-old, came along with me to the Coal Creek bike path, about a mile from our house.

The path is surfaced with crushed red limestone - the big chunks are sharp, and when they are strewn across a hard-packed surface, they seem even sharper. My foot is still in the toughening stage after being in a cast for many weeks, so I decided to keep my slip-on shoes on.

Walking along the path was idyllic. The creek is very high, higher than I've ever seen it, although it had been even higher, as I found out later in our walk. It rumbled along beside us, rather than gurgling as it usually does. The birds were chirping away, bugs were buzzing and clicking, and Adriana chattering. Tall cottonwood trees line the path intermittently - out here on the plains, the only natural trees are the cottonwoods along creeks - and some grass crop, wheat maybe, or rye, is growing lushly just beyond the trees.

We wandered down the red path, enjoying the day and watching for animals. I was hoping to find frogs enjoying the unusual amount of water standing around, but didn't see any. There were plenty of birds, though, one gopher, and three gopher snakes, all close to four feet long, sunning themselves on the path.

The path is shaded in parts, sunny in others, and follows the creek bank closely. The bank itself is high in spots (about 6 feet above the creek) and very low in others. Throughout our walk, we came across low spots in the path that had been flooded a few days before. Most, if not all, of the limestone had been washed away, leaving a cloth runner (for stablilizing the path?) laying on the surface of the natural clay soil.

One particularly low spot, which also happened to be in the shade, was still very wet, with pools of water and deep sloggy mud. I started to pick my way around the mud (didn't want to get the shoes dirty) when I stopped, thought "this is silly!" and took my shoes off. Adriana did, too, and we sloshed through the mud and puddles happily. There were brief patches of sunshine, where the mud was warm and slippery. In the shade, the mud was cool and silky, and just right for oozing between our toes. The crushed-limestone surface had been totally washed away, as had the cloth runner, and most of the soil around the tree roots. It was fascinating to see the meshwork of roots, most pencil-thin, in the path.

Past the muddy spot, the gravelly surface was still missing, and the path was sandy. We kept our shoes off, Adriana running ahead and bouncing back, me picking my way carefully along the uneven ground. Our feet soon dried, and the mud brushed off, but we kept our shoes off. The path rose up above the creek again, so the limestone was sharp again. I stuck it out for as long as I could, but eventually put my shoes back on for the walk to the end of the path and the backtrack to the muddy spot. (Construction of a new highway cuts across the path so we had to turn back.)

Back at the muddy stretch, I again shed my shoes (Adriana had kept hers off), enjoyed the soft mud, and paused to admire a snake in the sunshine in the dry patch while my feet dried. Shoes on again, for me and Adriana, we walked back to the car and went home.

I hope to have my foot toughened up again soon, so that I can walk the whole path barefoot. I walk down to the mailbox barefoot every day (at the end of the block) and the rough asphalt is good for getting my foot used to prickly surfaces.

Barefoot at work, lucky me!

Amanda Marmie

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