Tag Archive 'forest'

Jul 09 2018

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Cool Brook Afternoon

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After months of not feeling so great, Judy finally came to me and said she wanted to go into the woods. In particular, she wanted to spend a little time sitting on a mountain brook with no one else around – just her, me, and our dog Matika. No problem, I told her, so we headed out yesterday late morning for a place that fit the bill.

It was a short, easy hike to the brook, mainly because Matika can’t handle much. Old dog on her last leg. The slightest obstacle, like a downed tree, is a major challenge to her these days.

When we reached the brook, Judy found a nice spot on a large rock to sit and groove on both flowing water and the surrounding forest. She took off her shoes and dipped her feet into a crystal clear pool. It was colder than expected – a pleasant sensation on a warm day in July.

Matika rested on a gravel bar next to the brook. I sat a few feet away, propped against another large rock. The stream rushed by incessantly, clearing our heads of all urban workaday noise. A slight breeze wafted up the brook occasionally, rustling the leaves in the green canopy overhead ever so gently. We eased into dreamtime.

When leaving the brook, we were surprised by how hot the afternoon had become, and by how much time had passed. Before reaching the car, Judy said she wanted to get into the woods again soon. Next weekend if at all possible. We’re both looking forward to the backwoods retreat we have planned next month. That can’t come fast enough, even though each of these long days of summer should be cherished.

 

 

 

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Jun 07 2018

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A Woodsy Walk

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After three days building shelves to expand my book biz, I figured it was time to treat myself. So I loaded Matika into the car and headed for a patch of nearby woods for an easy hike.

It was more of a walk, really, since I had my old dog in tow. I don’t break a sweat any more when I’m with her. That’s okay. I’ve started hiking without her whenever I want to get some real exercise. But this morning it was all about the two of us just being in the woods together, grooving on the wild.

We’re in the cusp between spring and summer now. The dames rocket flowering in ditches along the highway are proof of that, as is the sudden appearance of Canada mayflower and dewberry in the woods. “Days of heaven” is what I call this time of year, because it doesn’t get any better than this: ideal temps, vernal green, flowers blooming, and all the delights of summer directly ahead.

I love a woodsy walk. I love the play of shadow and light in the cool, green understory, along with the rich smell of forest growth and decay, and the sound of leaves rustling in the canopy overhead. I stopped by a beaver pond long enough to listen to veerys, thrushes, and other songbirds while basking in the joy of simply being alive. Oh sure, I have my concerns – doesn’t everyone? – but they didn’t phase me in that moment. And that’s the great thing about a walk in the woods. One draws quiet strength from it.

Matika was panting heavily by the time we finished our walk. All the same, I know she enjoyed being in the woods as much as I did. It doesn’t take much to make her happy. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, either. A patch of nearby woods does the trick.

 

 

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Sep 28 2017

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First Autumnal Walk

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A long bout of unseasonably warm weather broke last night, with a cold front ushering in autumn. Never mind that the Autumnal Equinox took place nearly a week ago. For all practical purposes, the season began today.

The trees started turning weeks ago, of course. But the real color won’t come out until we get a few frosty nights. That should happen soon.

I went for a walk in the woods this afternoon, trying to get my bearings after a ten-day road trip back to Ohio to see my dying mother. A dysfunctional health care system, rude drivers on the highway, credit card fraud, and the madness of civilization in general – there was plenty to keep me off balance during the trip. But all that dissipated during my short walk on the trail. Then there was only sadness.

The first fallen leaves scattered across the trail. Acorns dropped as a gentle breeze whispered through the trees. A touch of color. What usually brings me joy this time of year, brought only sadness.

I might see my mother again before she dies; I might not. If I could have a wish granted right now, it would be to walk through the woods with her one last time, enjoying the early autumnal color together. But there comes a time when one must simply let go. So I walked in sadness.

No matter the season, the forest is always beautiful. And always there are fallen trees on the ground even as others reach towards the sky. The forest, in all its beauty, is full of living and dying. So it goes.

Hard to say when exactly the first frost will come. But it will come. I look forward to the colorful display that will follow. Then I will go for another walk. Perhaps the sadness won’t be weighing so heavily on me by then. Perhaps it will be worse. The autumn forest will be beautiful regardless.

 

 

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Feb 07 2016

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Midwinter Hike

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Feb LT with MatikaMy dog Matika was all excited when I pulled out my daypack the other day. She knew what it meant. I’ve been so busy working lately that I haven’t gotten outside much. She has been feeling as cooped up as I have.

I drove to Johnson, parked my car along a logging road, and hiked up the frozen mud track until it became a skidder trail. Then patches of ice transformed into a few inches of hard-packed snow. I passed one fellow checking maple sugar lines and another eating lunch in a pickup truck parked next to a skidder. Aside from them, I had the forest all to myself.

The rush of open streams and a solitary chickadee were the only sounds that broke the silence. Not until later, on the way out, did I hear a chainsaw in the distance. The running water and thin snowpack gave the surrounding landscape the look of early spring. A bone-chilling wind blowing through the woods told me otherwise.  A mild winter this year but, at 1800 feet, winter all the same.

When I left the skidder trail, following Long Trail blazes across the crusty snow, mine became the only human tracks. Matika found plenty of animal tracks, though. As empty as the woods seemed, we were not alone.

Reaching French Hill Brook, I stopped long enough to feed Matika lunch and scratch a few lines in my field journal. When I started to chill in my own sweat, I turned around and hiked out. No rush. The expression on my dog’s face mirrored my own mood: happy to be tramping through snowy woods and thinking about nothing but the elements and wildness for a while. The beautiful simplicity of these quiet, forested mountains keeps me coming back to them time and time again.

 

 

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Jun 03 2015

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A Good Hike

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lush forest2I awaken undaunted to the wet, overcast day. After being trapped indoors by two days of steady rain, I’m going out no matter what. A couple hours of work early in the morning then I grab my rucksack and go. My dog Matika is all for it, of course.

An hour later I am tramping a rare section of the Long Trail that passes through a farmer’s field. The wet grass completely soaks my pants. No matter. I press forward. Then the trail markers follow an old railway bed before reaching a logging road that goes deeper into the mountains. Better than staying home and staring at a computer screen, that’s for certain.

I am dressed more for early May than early June. That’s why I don’t mind the cool dampness of the forest. I break a sweat, in fact, while pressing uphill. That’s fine. Sometimes sweating is a good way to relax.

My thoughts are a jumble of memories of previous hikes mixed with the sights, sounds and smells of the lush forest all around me. It keeps me from thinking about all the work I do on a regular basis. I dig my hiking stick into the ground and keep going.

A mountain brook winds into the trail. After crossing the stream a couple times, I sit down next to it to groove on rushing water for a while. No bloodsucking insects, surprisingly enough. Foamflower blooms across the brook. It’s easy to miss. A waterthrush sings in the distance. A thin drizzle commences.

During the gradual descent back down to the trailhead, I veer off the LT, following a new snowmobile trail for a while. It winds through the kind of ultra-green forest that I dreamt about during the frigid days of February. Eventually I tag the LT again. Then back across the wet field, thus completing my hike to nowhere. A good hike, actually. Just what the doctor ordered.

 

 

 

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Feb 11 2015

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Cutting Tracks

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snowshoeing in mtnsThere comes a day every winter when I have to drop everything I’m doing and head for the hills. That day came yesterday. I loaded my dog Matika into the car and drove an hour to my favorite place to snowshoe: a mountain brook where few people go.

I hiked half a mile up a packed logging road before putting on my snowshoes. Two feet of pristine powder lay before me. I figured it would be tough cutting tracks through it but didn’t realize how tough until I got going. My snowshoes sank 6-8 inches with each step. Matika stayed on my heels for the most part. Smart dog. I pushed forward, trying to set a steady pace, but was unable to go more than fifty yards without stopping to catch my breath.

I tramped for a little over an hour that way, following a mountain brook that barely murmured beneath the snow. I marveled at the silent forest – no birds, no trees creaking in the wind, nothing but my own heavy breathing. “This is why I come out here,” I kept thinking. Silence and a beautiful stillness.

When the going got really tough, I stripped down to shirtsleeves. I sweated profusely anyway. I was tiring but with temps in the teens and my thermal undershirt soaked with sweat I didn’t dare stop. Instead I pushed up a steep, narrow ravine, groping slowly back towards the logging road. Fallen trees blocked the way. At one point I passed beneath one. It showered me with snow in the process. Matika scrambled up the slippery sides of the ravine without success. Then she fell in behind me as I plodded forward, one carefully placed step after another.

What a relief it was to get back to the packed logging road! I took off my snowshoes then strapped them onto my pack. I stopped long enough to feed my dog some kibble and wolf down an energy bar with a half-liter of water. The walk out was as pleasant as it was easy.

Completely exhausted, I went to bed early last night. Tough outing but well worth the effort. I flushed a lot of gunk out of my system in the process and am now in a better frame of mind to resume literary work. No surprise there.

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