Under the Bridge

The Indianapolis Zoo’s Zoobilation fundraiser was last Friday, June 9. They shut down the pedestrian bridge and the common pathways in front of the zoo for the day of the event and the day prior. This was a little inconvenient for me because my path home normally goes over the bridge and through the promenade that I’ve mentioned so many times before.

Walking home Thursday evening, I came to the closed-off pedestrian bridge, zagged out of the park and to Washington Street, headed west, and then bent back into the park area on the walking path that runs along the west side of the river. Confronted with the closed-off area in front of the zoo, clearly indicating that there was no obvious way for me to take my promenade shortcut, and not quite willing to turn back and take the long way, I decided to experiment a little bit.

The area around the walking paths is open, with somewhat terraced sidewalks and stone that give way to rolling green slopes down to the water’s edge, which is studded with trees. The rolling grassy slopes arc away underneath the pedestrian bridge. But I had never thought to go under. There was no pedestrian path. What little insight I had into what lay underneath suggested that it eventually gave way to water pressed against the stone wall that formed one side of the promenade pathway.

Thursday I was stubborn, though. I had free time in the evening–really, for the first time all week–and I figured I might as well find out what it was like under the bridge and beyond.

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Once I crossed through, it was quick enough to confirm that there was no way that there were any steps or ladders leading up along the stone wall back to the promenade. But I wondered how far this strip of lightly wooded land went on. Could I actually walk all the way along the promenade, emerging back on grassy slopes once the wall receded?

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I pushed on.

20170608_174939.jpgIt was truly a fairly short distance, but winding between trees and carefully hopping on and over washed-up detritus and stacks of fallen branches while stopping frequently for pictures (many, many, many pictures) added considerably to the time. I felt unobserved and alone (but not lonely) down there; I had fun. “Frolicking” would probably be an apt word to describe me at the time. I felt twenty years younger, playing adventure in this little strip of riverside trees, somewhat hidden, but never really separated, from the city.

At last, I came to the end of the world.

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Well, it was the end of this strip of land, anyway. Beyond was only the White River. Nonetheless, I could see a big tree reaching out into the water just slightly down the curve of wall and water before me.

Normally, I would have just given up then. But normally I wouldn’t have gone under the bridge at all; normally I wouldn’t have walked this strip of land to reach this spot. I knew the river’s bad reputation with pollution, but I figured I’d be okay to walk out a little bit and wash off later. Frankly, I was just willing to accept the risk. I stripped off my shoes and socks, rolled up my pants legs, and put my phone into my breast pocket to keep the electronic device a little higher up.

Then I stepped out into the murk, first nervously, then with some excitement. I enjoyed the squishing ooze of the mud beneath my feet, the quickly radiating earthen cloud that obscured the waters even further with every step. I crept past leafy shoots and a submerged tire, and I stumblingly lurched over fallen stone and cement blocks. The water rose higher and higher, above my shins, over my knees, up my thighs. I realized it would reach my groin, my waist, higher still if I kept going, even half-clinging to the wall at my side. It had been a fun adventure, but I was simply ill-prepared to go onward, especially with keys and wallet and phone loose in my pockets and with my sock-stuffed shoes dangling from one hand.

I turned about, and very carefully fished my phone out to snap a picture marking my distance from the shore.

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Then I scuttered back to dry land. My feet were washed clean as I reached the shoreline and then muddied even worse as I stomped through the soggy beach back up the rise.

My jeans, I realized, were soaked, having drooped back down over the course of my water-walking. I wouldn’t risk walking barefoot over the trash and dried wood and through the thick grasses, and I didn’t want to jam my mud-caked feet back into my socks. My jeans already thoroughly in need of a wash, I simply scraped my feet across the pant legs as I sat upon a tree root, then reapplied my footwear and headed back, quicker than I had set out.

The rest of my “adventure” is not quite as interesting, even to me; however, I did seem to get a sort of reward for my troubles (if the experience alone wasn’t enough). On the way home, I found beautiful yellow birds fluttering about some trees–American goldfinches, I believe, and certainly something new to add to my collection of bird photos.

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I had my adventure and received my gold at the end.

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