The magic of entering a destination into my phone and it telling me step-by-step directions means never getting lost. While I might not exactly be lost, neither can I claim to really know where I am. I pack my schedule so full, going from one place to another, trusting my phone to tell me that I’ve arrived at my destination.

In a moment of existential crisis, I wonder if I can truly know who I am if I don’t know where I stand in this world or how I arrived there. When my neighbor (who just so happens to be one of my favorite people ever) asks if I want to ride bikes from our houses to DuPont State Forest, before I know the mileage or the steepness of the roads, I answer yes.

Photo: Brenda Ernst

For the past two years since I bought my house, I’ve heard rumors that as the crow flies I live close to DuPont, that gravel roads inaccessible to cars connected to the forest.

Our packs full of nuts, apples, and water, we pedal up the first road before turning off onto a gravel path. She’s ridden the route before so I follow her down a mountain road that continues for over two miles, making a mental note that we’ll have to climb back up it when my legs are tired.

We turn onto a gravel road and I gasp at the Little River cascading over a dam. Foliage overtaking long-abandoned homesteads, and we wonder who once lived there. A feeling of coziness overcomes me, of finally acquainting myself to the roads right around my house.

Photo: Brenda Ernst

The forest is dense. I can’t claim that we’re riding through wilderness, but we glimpse wildness out there, mountain lakes, waterfalls and dense groves of forests. The gravel road ends and we find ourselves at a crossroad with a paved road to our left and a paved road in front of us.

“Do you know where we are now?” she asks.

“We’re in the middle of DuPont. Wow, I’ve always wondered where this road went.” If we turn left we will ride to Hooker Falls and if we go straight to Big Rock.

We eat a snack and look at the map to plan the rest of our ride. I imagine the roads we took to get here, that connect me to home. I feel a new intimacy with the park, in a way it’s an extension of where I live.

I know exactly where I am, and knowing where I stand helps me know who I am –

a woman who’s used her two legs to get her this far, who has a greater appreciation for going slow and piecing the way together.