Archive for July, 2014

Jul 30 2014

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Brook Walk

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BlackFallsBrookAfter helping a friend move some stuff, I weighed my options for the rest of the day: do some work, sit and read in the backyard, or go fishing? I asked my dog Matika for her input. She made it clear that heading for the hills was the best choice. So off we went.

I parked my car along a dirt road then slipped into the woods. It was a short hike to the stream. With cool temps and a clear sky overhead, I expected the fishing to be half decent. But the brook roiled with runoff from two days of steady rain. The first few casts yielded nothing. No matter. I walked the brook anyway, casting into promising pools along the way.

Matika was in her glory. She ran through the woods, sniffed around, and negotiated the rock-strewn stream with surprising agility. I stumbled along feeling every one of my 58 years, thinking how much easier it was to brook walk back when I was in my 30s. No rises to my fly but I didn’t care. While grumbling to myself that fishing this brook was a waste of time, I listened to the tumbling water and inhaled the dank smell of the wet forest. My eyes feasted on the green foliage all around me.

Philosophers make lousy fishermen, I kept thinking. If I was serious about catching fish, I would have come out later on when the aquatic flies were hatching. But all I really wanted to do was walk the brook on a late summer day and contemplate the intricacies of wild nature.

The hours passed quickly. As I made my way back to the car empty-handed, it occurred to me that this would have been a great outing had I not been carrying a rod. Then, for a moment, I was almost as happy as my dog.


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Jul 18 2014

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Beginning Backpackers

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boysbkpkgThis week I took two of my grandsons, Hunter and Mason, backpacking for the very first time. I’ve been meaning to do it for years. They live in southern New Hampshire, nearly 200 miles away, so I dreaded all the driving. But sometimes, in order to make something truly worthwhile happen, the driving has to be done.

I took my dog Matika with me, of course. Wouldn’t dream of going in the woods without her.

I picked up the boys and took them to Pilsbury State Park where we hiked to a remote campsite. I parked the car in the main campground, just shy of the gate. Beyond the gate we had the woods all to ourselves.

We had a sweet campsite on North Pond, which has occupied only by ducks, geese, and other wildlife. The boys found wood frogs in an ephemeral pool and red efts along the trail. At dusk a barred owl called out. They thought that was pretty cool.

We were busy for three days. We did a lot of hiking and fishing. I taught them how to build a fire, purify drinking water, and sling a food bag in the trees to keep it away from bears. I taught them simple things, like how to stay relatively dry despite the rain. They knew nothing about how to be in the woods. Was I ever that much of a tenderfoot? I must have been, when I was their age.

Their favorite part of the outing, they told me later, was our short hike up to Balanced Rock. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe they liked negotiating such a twisty, narrow path. Maybe they liked the effort it took. Or maybe the reason is a lot harder to articulate. The wild worked its magic on us during the walk – that much is certain. That’s something I have come to expect. But it was new to them.

While driving back to Vermont by myself, I marveled at how quickly the outing went. Such a whirlwind of activity! By the time I caught my breath it was over. Some powerful memories were created in young minds, no doubt.

Next month, Judy and I will take all six of our grandkids camping. I can only imagine how intense that’s going to be.


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Jul 05 2014

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Rain Rumination

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forest gladeAfter spending the better part of the morning reading a book about natural theology, I went for a short hike. My dog Matika needed the exercise. So did I. Besides, Vermont’s warm season is short. It’s best to get outside when one can.

I took a cigar with me. I had something to celebrate. For a week or so I had a dull yet persistent pain in my abdomen. It worried me. When tests showed it was only an ulcer, I breathed easy again.

A mile into local woods, I reached a fallen tree upon which I often sit and think. I did just that as a warm summer rain commenced. Had no raingear with me but didn’t care. It’s good to groove with the elements every once in a while. The rain kept the mosquitoes at bay, anyhow.

I stared into a small forest glade as the sky darkened and the rain intensified. Matika nudged me with her nose hoping to get us going again. I ignored her.

I pondered the definitions of God that I’d read about earlier and how they measure up to the natural world. Immersed in green, I puffed my cigar. The only God-talk that makes any sense to me is that which is perfectly in sync with wildness. The rest is just talk.

The rain kept falling. Eventually, I got up and continued my woods walk. Matika was happy to be on the move again. I was happy to be alive and well in such a magnificent world. I snuffed out the cigar then returned home to spend the rest of the day with my loving and beautiful wife.



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