Another Sunday Hike
Last Sunday I went on another hike with a different group than my usual cadre of forest trompers. This group was way more organized and focused a bit more on education than simply the sheer fun of playing in the forest. On the bus ride to the drop off point, I actually felt like I was in grade school again, getting lectured on drinking water and the importance of a balanced diet. Several times throughout the day I got this field trip feeling – maybe a casualty of such an organized, pedagogic group where very little is left to chance.
Originally the group planned a hike of Mount Ararat but had to cancel it for some reason. Instead, they took a group of mostly beginner hikers to nearly the same area that I was in last week. Amazingly, just a few miles away from the redwood hotsprings area we were in a sort of dry valley that reminded me of the hills outside of Yosemite in California, “Steinbeck country” as my friend Sara calls it.
We actually started the hike on the road, which as a Turkish hiker is now a foreign concept to me. Of course, after a mile or so we trekked up a dirt hill and started the normal bushwacking routine. A guy insisted on my taking one of his walking sticks. At first I was apprehensive – I’ve been hiking sans sticks for my whole life with no problems! Still, it’s difficult to refuse a Turk, and I agreed to try one out. For the easy parts of the hike, it was an encumbering accessory that I had to maneuver with when pulling water out of my pack or trying to take a picture of something. During straight downcliff or uphill climbs, however, I have to admit that the stick actually helped me not fall on my butt! So I’m thinking about purchasing a set.
After taking a few of these hikes, my favorite part is eating. As I write this, I realize that’s probably my favorite part of most travels. On Sunday we found the usual wild mountain strawberries, as well as wild raspberries and blackberries, and pears. The pears were still a little hard, but all of the berries were amazing. The guide talked a lot about one tree then put it’s berry in his mouth and started chewing. Although I didn’t really understand his Turkish description of the plant I followed his lead, and chewed on a juniper berry for a while! Even as I feel my Turkish is improving dramatically each day, it’s amazing how much there is to learn. I think the hikes should help with botany.
Occasionally we’d stomp over oregano growing like weeds in the fields. These varieties are pretty strong and acidic but release a great scent. Throughout the hike our guides would wonder off the to take pictures of butterflies, insects, and other flowers. I included a few of my shots in this slideshow. The red and blue bug is from Africa, but I couldn’t really decipher much more information about it from the guide’s description.
When we were nearly done with the hike, we stopped at a creek, took off our shoes, and cooled our feet in the water for a while. It was a great way to wind down and really refreshing.
For a language learner, these hikes are ideal. In general there are few English speakers, so if I want to talk to people I’m forced to use Turkish. It’s also a great way to meet all kinds of people outside of my normal circle in Ankara. They hike year-round – we’ll see how deep the snow gets before I start hike-hibernation!