On Thursday, I reached the end of a road. The gate barring further travel was blazoned with a bright sign designating it as the "END OF ROAD". It fell off into nonexistence amid a whole bundle of nice neighborhoods nestled like pampered children in the foothills of the South Mountains in Phoenix. People were biking and hiking and living carefree, healthy lives on every sidewalk that I passed.
I made the decision after dropping off my oldest kids at school to drive west until the road ran out, and I knew it would run out near my Beloved Behemoth, South Mountain - that rambling, broad, carefree soul who, while lacking in majestic sky-splitting spires, oozes friendliness from its ridgeline to its foothills. And it was a thrill when I approached it, traveled beside it, and then journeyed beyond it. Behind it to the south, more mountains loomed, and these had more blue in their profiles, being farther away, and among them was one quite impressive peak that beckoned to me. When the road ended, there was a little marker with an arrow pointing to the ground: "Trail Here". I was struck with the romance of it: abandon the minivan, yank on hiking boots and thick socks, heave a backpack onto my shoulders, head out down that trail with my toddler and preschooler beside me or in arms, and see, just see, if we could reach those beautiful blue mountains before the sun broke against the western horizon, bleeding color on their summits.
I think few people think about it in a large city. You travel in the city where you need to go, always making those right or left turns and perpetually surrounded by shops and golf courses, schools and medical centers. You travel out of the city to find nature or the small town way of life you vaguely remember from years gone. But you don't just pick a city street and pursue it to its dusty end. What a shame. There might yet be something there that hearkens back to a time before rampant human habitation, and if so, it will likely be quite pretty and pretty wild. If you're really lucky, there'll be a trail, another phase of the journey, leading into mountains or woods or down a narrow river. If you've remembered your hiking boots, you'll be able to abandon civilization for a while, leave it packed away behind you in streets laid north to south, east to west.