The parking lot is empty when I take to the trails. The nearest people are in their vehicles on the opposite side of a fence flying by on the Suncoast Parkway, oblivious to the sole girl exploring the land on foot. There is something so peaceful and yet exhilarating knowing that I and I alone occupy the surrounding few thousand acres. Six thousand? At least. Eight thousand? Probably. It's hard to wrap my mind around sometimes.
Today, I traveled further into Serenova's eastern portion than I ever have before. Countless trails meandered through the scrub and the cypress trees. Occasionally I wish I had a horse or faster mode of transportation so that I could see more, experience more in one outing. Then, I remember that there is no better way to connect with the land than on foot. In a way, it is like painting or drawing. My hand makes the mark and has contact with the surface. With running, every step I take makes that contact, and especially after being inured, I am thankful for each time my foot touches the earth. For the first time in almost a year, I am not severely limited by my body. I am able to push through the most overgrown paths, sprint through flowing waters, and stumble upon the remnants of a summertime prescribed fire.
Just over an hour later, when I return to the parking lot, a car pulls up and two clean hikers hop out. They look at me as if to say I hope I don't come back looking like that. I smile and say good morning. This dirt, sweat, and exhaustion is seven and a half miles of happiness.