My father passed away five years ago. I remember the week before he died my sister and I did a big trail run in Trione-Annadel State Park. Neither one of us were really in that kind of running shape at the time, but I think the pain and tiredness we felt from running was actually a welcome comfort from the emotional stress were facing seeing our dad in his final stages of life. We ran and chatted, talking about what the next week would look like and how we might help my mom make some big decisions. Five days later he died. I remember a lot of that week, but that trail run holds a special memory. It shows the healing that can occur in our open spaces, parks, and general outdoors. Because, though we knew something terrible was looming, we just ran through the trees on the soft dirt trails and it felt pretty good.

Over this past weekend I also did a long run in Trione-Annadel, and though I was not in the emotional space I was then, I realized that I could still feel those things that pushed me along five years earlier. I then began to think of the different places that hold our memories, know our secrets, and bring us back to places and times in our life. For me so many of those places are parks, open spaces, mountain ranges, lakes, and outdoor spaces in general. They are the places we go when we’re sad, happy, excited, dealing with life stresses, or just need a break from the everyday hustle we so easily find ourselves in.

Upon moving to Calistoga the Oat Hill Mine Trail has easily become one of my spots. As many know, I absolutely love it up there. My friends often ask if I ever get bored running/hiking it. My short answer is: no. But, what they might not understand that as I spend more time there that place isn’t just a trail that goes out and back the same way. It’s a place I’ve been when I am feeling all sorts of different feelings. Geographically, it’s always the same but, psychologically it’s always different because I am never the same on any given day I choose to go out there.

Working in Parks and Recreation I am a huge proponent of finding those spaces, parks, trails, or outdoor areas that know you better than any person can. They’ve seen you at your best, your worst, and your normal and they keep showing up. I challenge everyone to identify a place or get to know a place that you can tell your secrets. Always remember “Parks Make Life Better”.

Rachel Melick is the Calistoga Recreation Manager. She contributes the Recreation Reader column on a weekly basis. Melick can be reached at 942-2844 or rmelick@ci.calistoga.ca.us.

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