A few months ago, the city finally agreed to start restoring part of the washed out sections on the Rails to Trails on McQueen's Island in front of Fort Pulaski.
The city trucked in tons of gravel and rock and a few places have been patched near the center portion of the trails.
There are two entry points to the trails which used to be the site of an old railway that led from Savannah to Tybee Island. One of those entries marks the three mile mark from the midpoint to either end. The other starts near the bridge at Fort Pulaski and takes a six mile path to the end of the trail where the prayer flags are strung between live oak trees and picnic tables form a bridge network that connect to several tree swings and prayer flags containing messages to loved ones.
The trail is a favorite among locals and is used primarily for biking and running. It's a hot trail in the summer and almost impossible to carry enough water unless you have a back pack or are willing to haul a half gallon jug along with you on your hike.
It is Sunday, April 13th, one week before Easter and about a dozen people are scattered along the three mile route to the prayer flags. It is in the lower 80s and barely a cloud in the deep blue sky.
A part of the trail has been overlaid with rough hewn white/clay stained rocks just smaller than golf balls and make running and biking a bit hazardous as it crunches and shifts under feet and wheels.
A group that has come from cleaning up the beach for the first wave of Orange Crush (an unofficial Spring Break for Savannah State University and other historical black colleges), which has caused some safety and moral issues in the past, but the crowds were relatively tame and while there was sporadic trash and plenty of nearby empty trash cans to put it in, the beach is not in bad shape.
A cargo ship passes so close to the north end of the beach that it looks like the people on the beach could swim over and board the ship and head on into the Savannah ports.
There is a wedding about to happen near the huge rock jetties. The white veil-like material woven on bamboo polls undulates in the wind. A lone fisherman sets his lines as an older couple strolls by and three young girls brave the chilly waters waste deep in their colorful bikinis.
A group of royal terns, with the black capped heads look like rock stars on the beach sand in front of the Tybee lighthouse and it is hard to leave the place to check out the trails, but as a runner who has not run more than two miles in over eight days, it is time to get in some mileage, so I head back to the parking lot at Fort Screven, wishing for a toilet and surprising the waiting meter maid who thinks I will not arrive back in the five minutes I have left on the paid parking ticket in the driver side window... Foo on you, meter maid. You will have to get by on my four dollars for two hours today and be satisfied with it.
I laugh as I recall accidentally taking a right hand rubber coated glove from the Coast Guard's box, thinking they were for our group that was picking up trash earlier. Our leader, Victoria tells me not to worry, that I have paid enough taxes to cover one glove. I think I have paid enough Tybee parking meters to pay a month's worth of salary for the ticket givers. I would come here more often if not for that, but I have enjoyed my two hours, so should not complain.
There are about seven cars at the trails. One belongs to friends Mary Jo and Gregg Geiger who decided to stop after the clean up to take their dogs Chance and Max for a longer walk without stopping to pick up cigarette butts and beer cans and cups.
We say a quick hello/goodbye, and water bottle in hand I head to the latchless port-o-let and then down the trail at a medium jog. It is hot and the bumble bees are buzzing in mass. At first I think they are after the flowering trees with the short green leaves and gray bark, which I have yet to look up in the tree book. Are they yaupon holly? The flowers have no smell.
I think maybe they might be sweat bees or guard bees. We used to see them as kids. They would hover near a sweaty horse or human and dive bomb the flies that were attracted to the sweat. They have shiny fat black pointy bottoms and brownish yellow wings and dart about three to four at a time with great speed and noise, sometimes hovering a foot away staring, if bees stare, as if daring you to back down.
I ignore them and they ignore me, though their constant presence and inspection are a curiosity. Again, I will have to pull out the insect guide book and see what I can discover more about them.
There are flies out too. They keep getting stuck in my windblown hair which feels and looks like straw and catches on limbs, sticking straight up despite repeated pat downs.
I am wearing my bug-eye lens sun glasses with the blue mirrored lens. They are too big for my face and make me look like a space alien and they fog up when I sweat, but it is better than squinting.
The sun is at my back as I walk toward the prayer flags. It seems further than I imagined and I quit running after about mile two and walk fast, taking pictures of the sunken in places.
By the time I reach the warning phase and the make-shift bridge across the road divide to prevent people from traveling any further, I am ready to call it quits, but the shady area with the prayer flags is right around the corner and worth the trip.
There is no one there but me so I rearrange the rocks on the picnic table with the message, "Christ is Risen". I doubt it will stay there long, replaced perhaps with "Bob was here" or "party hearty" but it seems the right thing to do with Easter only a week away and me not attending church this morning in order to do the clean up and converse with God along the trail.
I do some of my best thinking on long runs and trails. It helps me to work out a lot of issues and to redefine who I want to be verses who I have become. I talk to God. He rarely talks back, but sometimes gives me insight. He mostly just strings me along. I guess when you are God you can do as you like no matter what some silly human thinks you should do.
Since no one is there to see me, I walk on the tables that are set just close enough where you can walk from one to the other without touching the ground. I feel like Robinson Crusoe. I said this the last time I went camping with Bren and Dan, and Bren's two children had no clue who Robinson Crusoe was. I still need to find the video for them. Everyone should know about the Swiss Family Robinson and Robinson Crusoe.
As I walk about on my mini tree fort tables I grab the blue swing and fly out over the ground, but get chicken and let go, then reprimand myself and get back up and go for a spinning ride, bruising the inside of my thigh and nearly banging back into the wooden picnic table... and this is why we do not go about reliving our childhood as an adult...but still it was fun.
I dread the three miles back face into the sun. I meet several people along the way and smile and say hello, but they ignore me (must be Yankees I surmise, though maybe it is just the generation they grew up in). Maybe it is the reflective glasses or the wild hair that makes them think it is better not to make eye contact with me.
I finally find an older couple who says hello, then run into Victoria, who hosted the clean up earlier and we chat for a while about how ridiculous people are and how they don't have good manners or care about the environment. Were they not taught that is wrong to throw their trash on the ground or expect others to clean up their messes?
I have two miles to go and only three swallows of water left. I start jogging again trying to sing Christian songs to keep from being bored. The only two I can think of is: Take my Heart, and Be thou my vision and I don't even know all the words to those or even if those are the right titles. I never remember things despite repeating them hundreds of times. it worries me, but I have always been that way. It is the main reason why I never became a teacher. I was afraid I would forget everything and the students would make fun of me for knowing less than they did.
I am feeling deja vu and don't know why, but it is pretty powerful. I am angry with myself for being bored with my surroundings and wanting to get home to play on the computer. I want to see what my pictures will look like, especially the ones of the light house and the wedding pavilion with the white gauze and the seagull eating the fish head.
Finally I arrive at the truck and drink about half of the watered down Powerade I left in the cab. It is nearly noon, but I am not hungry, just thirsty and want to go home. It has been a long weekend; a fun weekend, but long and I have gotten no housework done and still have not finished doing my taxes.
I have a love/hate relationship with the Rails to Trails. I love that it forces me to go out and back rather than wimp out and only do one lap. I always imagine I will find a treasure like a note in a bottle or a gold doubloon; maybe a civil war artifact or a shark's tooth, even a rabbit or raccoon, something other than insects and rough pebbles that jump in my shoes and poke holes in my feet.
I would like to come back with friends one day, maybe just walking or maybe riding the bike. Maybe we can picnic under the trees and rest and relax without having to rush back as if we had somewhere more important to be..
I still need to read my Bible and study that passage in I Peter 1: 10-12 about the angels longing to know what the Holy Spirit teaches men. I love a good mystery, but only if it is solvable.
I feel very blessed. I have spent a weekend at the beach with friends, got to visit the Fresh Air Home, set off the alarm, which wasn't supposed to be armed, seen unique artwork, seen the generosity of people who care about others and the environment. I have done yoga to aid Venezuela. I have picked up trash off the beach and I have had fun doing it!
I even shopped for Easter dresses, but that was uneventful mostly and way too stressful to be relaxing.
It seems that all good things need restoration, whether they be trails or the souls of men and women to be politically correct.
Like the city, we often try to patch the rough spots in our lives with big boulders that stick out like giant ant mounds made by boulder eating insects. We patch up and shore up the washed out spots, hoping it will be enough and filling the holes in our lives with rubble covered up with dirt. We patch and hope it holds and when it doesn't we build new trails around the old ones, even though it is rough going and takes an effort to get through.
Yes, sometimes God talks to you, on the trails, on the beach, on the ride home and even when you have to pee and hope you can find a port-o-let before you burst. The trick is to actually listen to what God says; to learn from what he teaches and to actively seek out answers and solutions and sometimes just let loose and be a kid and take risks within reason and never forget that it is okay to have fun.
If you have been feeling like you need some restoration yourself, take a break and get out into nature. Go to the beach, walk the trails, invite a group to go with you and take a break to eat lunch or hang a flag at the end of the trail and stop and be thankful and give something back to the community where you live and the people whom you love.