Though at first glance this may sound like a reference to the Bill Bryson book about hiking the Appalachian Trail (and if you haven’t read it, you should), it isn’t. I have never done a formal hike in my life, and while I’m pretty sure I have the stamina I do not have the footwear. That aside, a friend and I tackled a local hike today. Since I’m not quite sure what defines a “hike”, I choose to simply call this a walk in the woods.
It was a couple miles around this small pond. The afternoon was nearing 80 degrees, but under the trees it was cooler. The trail began in a wet area and continued on through pine, maple, beech and oak trees; we sidestepped the muddy areas and navigated mossy rocks along the path.
I had trouble with the multitasking – paying attention to the trail, marked by blue blazes on trees, and looking for the details along the way: strange little flowers and funguses, delicately patterned moss, mushrooms of all shapes, sizes and colors. The trail was alternately easy and challenging – in some places it went straight up, in others places it crossed small streams via stones. I kept forgetting to look for the blue blazes. Sometimes the trail opened up to the pond, which offered a mirror image with clouds reflected in the water. The only sounds you could hear were birds and the rustle of the breeze.
Eventually the landscape changed and we came upon a beaver dam. Evidence of beaver activity was all around, and there was a small wooden bridge across the marsh (it bounced a bit when you walked across it, but still seemed sturdy enough…) We found blueberry bushes and watched an animal swimming across the pond – maybe a beaver but more likely a muskrat. The terrain was alternately open, pine-needle forest and thick undergrowth on both sides. None of it was difficult to navigate.
The terrain changed again on this side of the pond; we came upon an area that, compared to the rest of the walk, looked like an alien landscape. Glacial erratics – boulders to you and me – were deposited here centuries ago and still remain. Some were the size of cars! They were everywhere, spilling down the hill toward the water, and the trail meandered around and through them. (This IS the granite state, after all.) We even saw some pink granite, usually reserved for the Maine coast, and we wondered how many little critters found homes under the overhangs in the winter.
The landscape changed again and the trail hugged the shore. We saw woodpeckers in the trees and crossed bridges made of flat stones. More mushrooms. Views of the pond with sparkles on the water that looked like stars. A tree that had fallen into the pond with its bare branches sticking up reminded me of ship carcasses I’d seen on the Maine coast. When we finally came to a small sandy beach, which was the end point of the hike, I was a little disappointed. I guess I wanted to keep discovering.