We're lucky to have Pine Grove Furnace and the Appalachian Trail running through our community; it's such a simple, pleasurable resource, with wildflowers, birds, insects, trees to try to identify, a sparkling cold creek to wade in or try to coax out the elusive brown trout. It's always a good 10 degrees cooler on the creek than it is in town, and all manner of hikers can be found passing through.
One Autumn we were approached by a Japanese family, the father asking if they were on the Appalachian Trail. When we said they were, a look of satisfied wondered crossed his face, as he translated for his young son. Thank you, thank you, bowing, bowing, they went on their way, as if in a wonderland...which of course it is! I just forget sometimes, because it is so easily accessible to me, and I take for granted the sounds of the forest, the mystery of all those dark places where fern fronds unfurl and dragonflies dart almost unseen.
Another time, my husband and I were walking late in the evening, during the middle of the week, a time when one is guarantteed solitude that is deep and slightly unhinging. As we walked, we frightened an enormous Great Blue Heron from the stream that ran beside the trail. He had been hunting frogs, and we were almost upon him when he startled and rose into the air like a dinosaur, like some invention from Da Vinci's sketchbook.
The heron could barely rise, but managed to gain some air and then find a low branch several yards down the trail on which to light.
Finally, knowing his dinner had been
irrevocably interupted, the heron flew on,
once more learning that he could!
On this trip we watched a fly catcher weave
up and down over the creek, feeding. We
found the sharp green caterpiller on the rocks and threw sticks for the dog.
Later, the perfect end, we had ice creams from the park concession stand and watched as children struggled back to the parking lot loaded down with beach toys after a day at the pond, parents urging them on.