I abandoned my household chores yesterday in favor of a stroll at Lake Katherine State Nature Preserve.
I hiked the Salt Creek Trail and a short section of another trail. Starting down the path to the Salt Creek trail makes you feel like you’re about to do something truly special. I always have the sensation that I’m walking into a storybook.
It starts out wide, gradually becoming a bit more narrow as you begin a gradual descent. It’s still wide enough to walk beside someone but the trees appear to be leaning in to see who is coming down the path.
Then a sharp turn sends you further down where you glimpse a concourse of these incredible boulders on which hemlock grow.
In this spot, you will have the feeling that you are the first to discover it and the only one to hold the secret of its mystique. It feels like a place where you might encounter elves or trolls or maybe a centaur.
This time of year, leaves release their grasp on the limbs overhead, floating down to return to the earth from which they came.
If you are paying attention at all, as you reluctantly leave this spot, you will turn and look back. I promise.
Down, down, down you will go, enjoying a slight decrease in the temperature while catching glimpses of Salt Creek along the way.
You’ll follow a rock face and, in one particularly spectacular place, go under an outcropping of rock. The leaves fell in earnest here yesterday. I saw a butterfly here, heard the insistent buzz of a bee, listened to a distant woodpecker, and enjoyed the cry of a far off train whistle. If I have to hear civilization in nature, the mighty whistle of a train is pretty nice.
I always marvel at how nature bends to the will of its surroundings and you’ll see a lot of that along this trail. Trees grow from meager patches of soil on a rock, not as strong as some of the neighbors but, with a will to live that cannot be denied. Others will grow in ample earth in the shadow of that same rock, leaning to follow the contours of the stone while reaching skyward.
Others will stand alone in a place with no cover, growing increasingly twisted and gnarled by the wind. But they’re still trying and I admire that about them.
It is on a short spur off this trail that you will arrive at a flood plain filled with Paw Paw, Maple and Sycamore trees.
In this space, you will begin to feel very small – in the best possible way.
When you find a place in nature that makes you feel small, you will realize that your life and problems, your joys and mere existence in this grandly designed Universe are minuscule.
If you have never experienced this, I suggest you stop reading now and go find a place like Lake Katherine. You need to know what it is to be both alone and accompanied, at the same time, through the wilderness we call life.
Remember Michelangelo’s painting The Creation of Adam?
This is nature’s rendition.
It looks like they are reaching toward each other. Can you see it? You won’t find this kind of amazement in any manmade place.
Remember, a hike isn’t a footrace. Get the exercise, enjoy your quickened pulse but stop and look around – look up, down and behind you. There are untold joys and blessings to be found along the journey.