“Sometimes the best things are right in front of you; it just takes some time to see them.”
– Gladys Knight

Every year, my wife and I look forward to our big international trip. Couldn’t we just save money and travel locally? Of course we could. The place where we live, California, is a beautiful state, ripe for exploration. And of course, the United States is a vast, diverse, fascinating country, with endless nooks and crannies. Why not just hop in the car and drive somewhere? And yet…when vacation time rolls around (usually December for us, with our work schedules), what do we do but crack open the international guide books and dream about a foreign excursion. Exotic scenery, exotic food, exotic culture. The more exotic the better. But is exotic always better? If you eat spicy Indian food one night, then Thai the next, and Moroccan the next, aren’t you putting yourself at risk of burning out on all that spice? From time to time, you just need a little down-home comfort food.

The Spring Creek trail in my hometown, Santa Rosa, CA, is my favorite part of Annadel State Park. For me, it’s the equivalent of comfort food or perhaps, a warm blanket on my favorite couch, sipping a steaming mug of hot chocolate. As I walk up the trail, I’m struck by green-ness of it all. Trees and rocks are clothed in soft, earthy moss. Leafy ferns and majestic redwoods abound. A gentle creeks burbles through a narrow canyon, while a waterfall here and there tumbles beside a field of bright-red mushrooms. As the sun is challenged to penetrate the dense tree-covering of the trail, the area is cool, misty and somehow mystical. Hobbits could definitely walk these woods, or nymphs or satyrs. If it’s possible for nature to swaddle you, this is the place.

The Spring Creek trail is short—maybe 1.5 miles tops. Split into two parts, there’s the relatively flat, dreamy lower section, and then a more open, steep, aerobic portion starting about half way up to lovely Lake Ilsanjo. If I’m feeling gung ho, I’ll make the chest-expanding climb up to the lake. But more often than not, I’m content to simply wander the lower part of the trail, enjoying the simple pleasures of the warm, homey atmosphere and reminding myself that some of the most Wow places in the world are right there in front of you.

(What have you been overlooking in your life as you cast your attention further and further afield? It’s important, of course, to have long term goals, to think big. By all means, change the world! Take that trip to Timbuktu! But don’t forget to notice what’s under your nose. A homey trail. A great relationship. The carrots growing in your garden. To adapt a phrase from Patrick Geddes, “Think globally, appreciate locally.”)