Favorite Trees And Fading Sunset

We have enjoyed a long run of gorgeous fall days. That all ends today when it turns rainy and cooler. Tomorrow will be rainy and cold, ushering in what appears to be a long patch of cooler days and cold nights.

The rain isn’t so thrilling but it’s hard to get excited about the impending holidays when it’s 68 degrees and sunny. So I’m kind of excited to see the mercury drop and maybe stop being such a grinch. All the same, I took advantage of yesterday’s sunshine with a short walk after work at Kinnikinnick Fen near Chillicothe. I have favorite trees everywhere I go and the picture above shows one of them at the Fen.

When I came home last night, the western sky was aglow with the remnants of sunset. You can see in the silhouette that the trees have lost their leaves. These are some of my favorite trees here at home – with or without their foliage.

It was a remarkable end to the day and to this streak of fine fall days. Better pack your umbrella and put on those galoshes if you’re out and about today. You will need them!

Hiking Days Are Numbered

The time changes this weekend so it will soon be too dark to hike after work. Long hikes will be relegated to the weekends and I’ll have to find new ways to work in some exercise during the week.

So I went for a real quick hike last night at Old Man’s Cave in the Hocking Hills State Park. It was foggy till lunchtime yesterday but turned out to be a nice fall afternoon and evening. Plus, I almost had the place to myself.

I always think this tree, and others like it, is trying to walk away.

And this bridge is a favorite spot on a quiet day.

There are a lot of stairs on this particular trail, providing plenty of opportunities to give your heart a little jolt. This picture represents a fraction of the steps you climb to leave the gorge and head back to the parking lot. Stairs are fine but that curved wood and metal staircase agitates my fear of heights in the worst way.

The fresh air was good for me and I was grateful. This is your gentle reminder to grab at those opportunities to do what you enjoy as often as you can.

Seasons

Ohioans are fortunate because we have four distinct seasons. Of these, spring is gentle and delicate. Winter is a harsh time of hibernation. Summer’s humidity and heat are brutally oppressive. I hibernate a lot then too.

But fall, oh fall! It’s deliciously beautiful. It’s cinnamon rolls, wood smoke, denim jackets and fresh apples. It’s pumpkin carving, long hikes and picnics under the maple trees.

Fresh air, blue skies and vibrant leaves in unexpected colors are hallmarks of this amazing season.

It’s the best season. It’s also ridiculously short.

Since it will soon be dark at 4:30 p.m. and the cold will soon move in, I have decided to make hay while the sun shines. I have been out for hikes and quick walks as much as possible this month and am grateful for each and every day this was possible.

Soon, I’ll have to work a little harder to be outdoors and keep thinking I need to buy better hiking clothes to make winter adventures more comfortable.

Fall is fleeting but so is life. As in nature, we all experience seasons in life. They aren’t always happy or beautiful times. It often feels like the happy moments pass in the blink of an eye while challenging periods seem to drag on forever.

Enjoy those beautiful, happy days to their fullest. Take the hike, pick the apples, breathe that crisp autumn air. And when the skies turn dark as winter settles in, look for ways to enjoy those days too.

These pictures are from my hike at Buzzard’s Roost after work last night. It was a quick 2.25 miles for exercise rather than for the near spiritual outdoor experience I described earlier this week.

Yet, I found myself occasionally coming around a bend to stop dead in my tracks. It was just that beautiful.

Someday, I’m going to pack a picnic and a book and linger on this bench. doesn’t that sound like a great way to enjoy a season?

Today is supposed to be gorgeous here in southern Ohio and I intend to enjoy every minute. Wherever you are, please go do the same.

Musings On A Hike

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.

The Small Things

I once read that anyone can love a rose but that it takes someone special to love a leaf.

A friend recently lost her son, a toddler who left this life far too soon. He was quite the little adventurer who delighted in exploration and treasures big and small. He embodied the thing I preach most here which is to enjoy the journey and look for the interesting things around you – no matter where you go.

On my walk last night I collected a fistful of leaves, nuts and tiny flowers as a quiet way to remember him. It’s a small gesture but one that brought me joy.

There’s wisdom in finding beauty in the ordinary and joy in the everyday. In general, you’ll be more satisfied with life and live a bigger life if you can fully embrace your surroundings.

On this walk I embraced the day like a toddler with a fistful of colorful leaves and pinecones from the ground. I need to do that more.

Blackwater Falls State Park

When we discovered the road closure that kept us out of Dolly Sods, we were just a few miles from Davis, West Virginia and Blackwater Falls State Park.

I had been there before and really loved it so returning was not a sacrifice at all. In fact, I was excited to find the parking lot at the Falls trailhead completely empty.

It was just the three of us as we made our way down the hill and down the large system of steps and boardwalks to view the falls.

Lack of rain meant that it wasn’t raging but the falls were powerful enough and just as pretty as I remembered.

We took our time, posing for selfies, making some videos and drinking in the peaceful September morning. Just a couple of hours later, the place would swarm with tourists but we had a lovely private screening.

Our next stop at this park was a fishing area where there’s a rustic trail through the woods that gives you access to the river as it meanders under a bridge.

I stumbled upon it by accident a few years ago and it’s a special place that I always visit when there.

It was still early and the sky was white as the sun fought to burn through the clouds. All the same, it was a soft, quiet moment where we could appreciate the rocks and water and the aroma of fall.

Come back for another special memory from this place.