A Ten-Mile Stroll to the Library

Sunday the library was closed for New Year’s. On Monday again it was closed for New Year’s (observed). But Tuesday the libraries opened at ten o’clock, and I was ready at eight to start my new year’s resolution of hiking the circuit of Austin Public Library branches. My maps and supplies were on hand to assist me in this awesome journey. And the weather was absolutely beautiful.

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Overall route

Why would I walk ten miles just to go to the library? you may ask. Well, it’s simple. I love walking and I love libraries. I’d like to walk more and to visit more of the libraries in Austin. Plus, as a non-driver this is a great opportunity for me to explore ways of getting around the area independently. As a non-consumer, it’s a fulfilling activity that doesn’t require spending a dime. And as someone that doesn’t always get out enough, it’s designed to bring out a bit more of the explorer in me.

Little Walnut Creek branch library

Well… I stopped at this library before it opened, but the lights were on inside so I’m counting it! Don’t worry, I’ll be back many times this year.

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Kicking off my hike at the Little Walnut Creek branch library

The route took me through a part of the neighborhood I had never explored before. Sadly, it was full of litter and I quickly had my fill of picking up trash. Next time I go out I’ll need to take a bag with me for collecting¬†it. ūüė¶

(It turns out the litter is most prevalent in my neighborhood. An hour into my walk, I stopped seeing so much trash everywhere.)

It was cool to see more of the area though. All the little creek and railroad crossings were my favorite. There were areas widely paved for pedestrian traffic and areas with no sidewalk at all. Winter really is the best time for walking in such places because the shrubs and other unruly growth (or worse, poison ivy) aren’t¬†pushing you into the middle of the street with the cars.

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Walnut Creek trail–once a dirt path and now a huge concrete slab complete with an amazing quantity of signs and a dashed yellow line in the middle.
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Crossing MoPac safely via underpass
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The area once known as Waters Park. This old railway transported in the granite used to construct the state capitol building in the 1880’s and a town built up around it but is long gone now.

Milwood branch library

Two hours after heading out, the Milwood library was finally in my sights.¬†It was an area that I¬†never visit. The bus doesn’t stop close by and I’ve always considered it to be in the middle of nowhere. How amazing that I was able to¬†walk there!

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Metal sculptures in front of the Milwood branch library

I quickly gobbled down a couple of rolls before going in, grabbed a few editions of Texas Gardener magazine, and enjoyed an hour of replenishing relaxation.

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Entry to Milwood branch library

The seating didn’t look that plentiful. Fortunately, it wasn’t at all crowded during my visit.

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One seating area at Milwood branch

I marveled at the checkout center for electronic devices to use in the library. Next time I’ll have to try it out instead of just getting a quick glance.

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Laptop / tablet kiosk!

Soon my hour was up and it was time to head out on the second part of my walk if I wanted to get home at a normal hour.

The strangest thing about this trip was that I was sure I’d be tempted as afternoon approached¬†to make a quick stop at the Krispy Kreme or Rudy’s barbeque or some other delicious food place, but I wasn’t. The few snacks I had with me kept me satisfied throughout the day. I’ve experienced this before too. Just by getting out and doing something active, I’m less tempted to overindulge. Then again, maybe it was due to that dead raccoon I saw by the side of the road.

Spicewood Springs branch library

Less than two hours after setting out again, I made it to my final circuit stop for the day.

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I made it to Spicewood Springs!

I’d been to the Spicewood Springs branch before, but it seemed way out there even when travelling on the bus. No wonder my feet were starting to hurt a bit. I quickly grabbed a couple more books and a comfy seat and sat down to read.

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Kicking back and reading Lynda Barry’s “One Hundred Demons” at the library.

After some relaxing easy reading, I had to walk just a few blocks to hop on the bus back home. There was a transfer towards the end involving a fifteen minute wait.

But no, I had a crazy idea. It wasn’t that far from the transfer stop to my home. I could walk that too! This may not have been the best idea. I could feel a¬†few little blisters forming on the bottom of my feet and the first several blocks¬†felt like the longest of all. Good thing it was only a half hour distance on foot from my house….

Home Base

Woohoo! I made it back in one piece. I was just in time to catch the episode of MacGyver with the robots that look like Daleks, while I made and then ate delicious fideo. My husband was really lucky he got home in time to eat some of it too.

Hike #1 of the Austin Public Library circuit was a resounding success. It was thrilling to realize the huge area that I could now consider “walking distance” and I immediately started dreaming about the next hike. Will I do another long trek all the way downtown to the central library (still shorter than this one)? Will I explore one I’ve never been to before? Every option sounds good right now.

Preparing for my first Urban Hike

 

Today is the first hike of my new year’s resolution to walk the Austin Public Library circuit. At 10.5 miles it’s also the longest urban hike that I’ve planned for the year.¬†And with my lazy December, I figured I had better do some kind of prep.

Last week I did a virtual walk using Google Street View and made a few modifications to familiarize myself a bit with the route, reduce the amount of time spent walking along¬†streets without sidewalks, and choose the best way to cross major highways. I ended up adding about a mile to the trip overall, but it’s safer and therefore totally worth it.

My kit (free of disposable items) is ready and waiting:

  • Light jacket for the cool morning
  • Baseball cap for the sunny afternoon
  • Phone, fully charged, and with the map saved as an image for guaranteed offline viewing
  • Reusable water bottle, pre-chilled
  • Various snacks: rolls, pecans, and a tangerine
  • $20 in case I need other sustenance (in my wallet)
  • Cloth napkin
  • Dry deodorant to freshen up at the stop points if needed
  • Library card (on my keychain)
  • Bag to hold everything
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Zero waste supplies for my urban hike

In addition to supplies for the walk itself, I also have my bus pass ready in order to get back home in a more timely manner and a plan for an easy and replenishing dinner. Based on my previous walk, it’s probably best if I don’t eat much in the morning or on the hike so I’ll definitely be ready for a good meal after.

I even went on the library website and¬†have a couple of books picked to check out from each branch. Good thing my new year’s resolution wasn’t to be more sponanteous!

A Walk in the Harvested Woods

This week at Talk Green to Me book club, we were discussing Bill Bryon’s A Walk in the Woods. It’s a hilarious tale about the adventures of the author and an acquaintance walking the Appalachian Trail. The stories of beautiful scenery and the sense of accomplishment after braving tough weather conditions and still going forwards–well, it inspired me and I was ready for a hike of my own after reading this book.

Of course I’m not going to travel halfway across the country¬†for a hike, no matter how epic. There are just so many parts of Austin that I haven’t even seen yet. I had an idea, though. And to test it out, I decided to walk to book club at Recycled Reads from my office. It’s not the Appalachian trail, but at 5.7 miles it’s¬†a decent trek. Google Maps predicted just¬†under two hours to make this journey on foot. (And fortunately we are just far enough removed from the summer heat that being outdoors that long isn’t arduous in itself.)

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A lovely wide walking trail along North Burnet Road ūüėõ

This definitely was not the most scenic hike. Since almost my whole route was alongside Burnet Road, I had a great view of traffic and there were all kinds of shopping centers. Fortunately, crossing 183 was easy (I expected more of a mess of traffic lanes like at Lamar Boulevard and 183) and there were a variety of scattered trees and plants that I was able to stop and view more closely at my leisure. I arrived at my destination just a few minutes later than Google predicted and barely breaking a sweat.

Since that two-hour walk didn’t kill me, I was reassured that my more insane plan would work. A couple of months ago, I came up with the idea of a new years resolution to visit every Austin Public Library branch in 2017. Nearly a couple dozen of them. It doesn’t involve buying anything, which makes it a near perfect resolution for me, although not¬†that much of a challenge.

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Map of Austin libraries

Well, you can probably see where I’m going with this. For 2017 it would be awesome if I walked to every libary branch! No, I’m not going to walk from the northernmost Spicewood Springs Branch to the southernmost Southeast Austing Community branch in one¬†go. My idea is to start from my home to the nearest library constituting a single trip. The next trip would be from that library to any other library. And so on, accumulating a new potential starting point with each new destination achieved. For some sense of scale, the distance between North Village Branch and Yarborough Branch is about an hour walking, so none of the branches¬†are more than a two-hour walk from another (although I have the option of making non-optimal trips).

Do you think I can do it? I think I can. The library is closed on January 1 & 2 next year, but I’m already planning my January 3 walk up north to Spicewood Springs branch–a happy 7.6 miles from my neighborhood branch.¬†Worst case scenario, next year December I’ll hop on the bus¬†to quickly visit any branch locations that I didn’t make it to¬†on foot. ūüôā