This photo of the South Branch Root River was taken Tuesday, Feb. 18, from the trail in Preston near the west bridge. LISA BRAINARD/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
This photo of the South Branch Root River was taken Tuesday, Feb. 18, from the trail in Preston near the west bridge. LISA BRAINARD/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
It was a tale of two cities...

No, wait - that's not right, although to be sure the Dickens' novel was great, classic reading faced by many of us back in high school.

It was a tale of two walks that I recently faced.

The first was on a Sunday when the weather was decent and the wind not too bad. A friend called and said, "Hey, I was just cross-country skiing out by Isinours. It was great. Do you want to get out?"

I had asked her before about the possibility of one day trying some of my former winter activities like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing or Super G. (Haha - just threw that last one in to see if you're really paying attention and/or watching the Olympics. I've never skied downhill in my life.)

It didn't take much arm-twisting to convince me to give it a go, but I had a few questions. Did she mean snowshoeing or even seeing if I could miraculously glide on cross-country skis? On the one hand, I'd almost like to try the skis, dreaming they might somehow restore my balance and fluid mobility from before my accident.

Then again, I figured that was crazy. While I wouldn't mind falling in deep, cushy snow, I realized there was as great a chance of becoming impaled on a ski pole. That wouldn't do.

"No," she said. "How about you just try walking in the packed snow along the groomed ski trail?"

I agreed, then went about finding and layering on clothes for outdoor winter activities. As I finished putting them on (and needed to get out outside fast to avoid a heat stroke), she arrived, helping me finish suiting up by aiding in the putting on and tying of my boots.

"Should I bring my (rollator) walker?" I asked. She replied it wouldn't go easily through packed and uneven snow. We grabbed my trekking poles, which I haven't used much due to problems with my left hand's grasping abilities.

She drove to the Isinours forest unit between Preston and Lanesboro. We parked and got ready to head to the Root River Trail. She hoped I could walk as far as the first bridge (heading toward Fountain) and back.

Leave it to my old left ankle injury to interfere. I didn't turn the weak ankle this time. No, as I stepped on the edge of a packed area, it gave way. Normally you wouldn't even notice that. But for me, it kind of put force on my ankle joint as I stepped (something that can happen to that aggravating joint at any time). It hurt.

Dare I tell the truth? I started crying. It's awful that such an old injury rears its head to make my current exercise and rehabilitation efforts tougher than they already are. I was demoralized.

But there was a kernel of good in all this. In addition to my good friend helping me and cheering me on, I got to try out my ski goggles. They are huge and keep my eyes and cheeks covered. Additionally, the little fan with two speeds kept the goggles pretty fog-free - at least until the tears came.

That was on a Sunday. Fast forward through a long day of Mayo appointments on Monday... and get fired up for a taste-of-spring Tuesday.

I knew I had to get outside with the warm weather, this time to try my usual walk along the Preston "in-town" trail from my place to the west bridge and back. While the Root River Trail is left snow-covered and groomed for skiing, the Preston trail is cleared by the city.

I found it to have a pretty clear path running up the center, with slushy snow along the sides. There was little ice, but plenty of puddles as the temperatures rose to near 40. (I made sure to get back home before any refreezing might occur.)

Getting to the trail - and back - included walking down a slushy alley with ice/water puddles to be navigated. The trek was possible on my own with the rollator walker. It did a good job in slush and slushy ice, the wheels cutting right through this mess. I hesitantly tested each stride and ground support as I moved ahead.

The trail... the sunshine... and the day were all wonderful. You'd have thought it was a perfect 70-degree day with the number of people out, their happy conversations and big, easy smiles. I imagine we were all dreaming of days to come when the abundance of white disappears and green once more turns dominant.

My Tuesday walk was a triumph of sorts. It made me think of all I want to accomplish physically this year in my recovery - to continue moving beyond occasional tears and bad days. They only serve to make a person want to be all you can.

So I'll keep walking, recumbent triking, exercising and getting stronger. After all, tomorrow brings a new day and a new walk.