Sunday, May 28, 2006

May 19th


This morning I got it stuck in my head that I would explore the lower trail system of Glen Park, returning to the fork where I had turned back last time. This time I remembered my camera, to help me with my recollection as much as for documenting my travels. I retraced my familiar route to Glen Park, crossing the bridge over Lake George and past the first falls, then crossed the swinging bridge into Glen Park proper. While crossing the swinging bridge, I looked down to see if there were any easy paths that would allow me to walk upstream towards the college, but I couldn't see any. Nevertheless, I thought, I would one day try to make my way up that part of the river.

I got down below the second falls as quick as I could, half jogging and half sliding down the step gravelly trail. I avoided all of the side trails and soon made it to the pole bridge. During all of my previous walking I was single mindedly focused on crossing that bridge, but as I finally arrived there, a bit of curiosity gnawed at me and I instead took a path to my left, the ran upstream along the smaller eastern branch of the river. I walked along the path worn by trout fishermen, heading eastwith the river on my right and the big cliff on my left. I eyed the cliff, looking to see if I could find a relatively safe way to scale it, but it was nearly shear and, beinng made of sandstone, I wouldn't really be able to trust and footholds I maight find.

A little further down the river, as the shear cliff melted into a steep hillside, I saw a large fire pit, filled with grey ashes. I noticed with some impatience that the area around the firepit wasn't cleared, and tall prairie gasses grew up right along its border. Most likely, I reasoned, the idea of drunken teenagers. I looked past the firepit and saw what looked like it might be a small alcove cut into the face of the cliff, right at the base, but there was no path that led there, and the way was strewn with thorny vegetation. Besdies, it was difficult to tell if it was a small cave or just the result of shadows, so I decided to look at it some other time, when I had on junkier shoes and wore pants instead of shorts.

I continued down the path until it stopped. A small path that was probably used by small animals went on from there, but it was clearly not a path suitable for humans. Looking across the river, I noticed that the path continued on the other side of the river, which was easily crossable as it was less than a foot deep at that art of the river. But I did not wish to continue slogging through the woods all day in soggy shoes, so I turned back towards the pole bridge. On my walk back, I was entertained by two small white butterflies chasing each other. They started up out of the grass on my side of th river, then crossed and entered the woods, only to return out in the open a few moments later, riding and dancing along on the breeze. They then turned and chased each other back upstream and out of my sight.

I once again tested the strength of the bridge with my foot before I put my whole weight on it. I suppose I never will entirely trust that bridge. Once on the other side, I again took a small detour, taking the middle path rather than the main path on the left that led directly to the fork I sought.

The midle path lead into the trees abd then to a clearing. In the clearing there was a makeshift campsight set up, with a bench fashioned out of fallen trees and a small fire pit. I looked around the sight for any marijuana growing, as I thought that surely some kids had been there at some point, and surely they left some seeds behind which may have grown...then shook my head, trying to scatter the thought away. I continued immediately down the path, back into the woods.

The path bent through the woods, and over to my right I could hear the muffled sound of water. I ducked a little ways down an animal trail, and saw the little stream that ran by the peninsula on which I had stood a few days before. Funny, from the other side, where I stood now had appeared to be unexplored wilderness. I left the animal trail and continued down the path, traveling north now, consciusly stepping as silently as I could so I could enjoy the sound of the water.

My every movement stopped as I crested a small hill and caught glimpse of a fisherman. He stood serenely in the stream, and I kept still until he turned his head away, at which point I slowly and silently turned around and made my way back to the pole bridge. As I walked past the campsite, my eyes scanned the ground for weed but my pace never slowed...until I spied a small trail at the back of the clearing. I went over to investigate.

Only about the first five feet or so of the trail were clear, and just barely at that. It lead from the clearing into somewhat denser vegatation and then into thick woods where, if not for my experience in the woods, I might have completely lost the trail.

The animal trail would sometimes end when a tree had fallen across its path, and then pick up again several feet away. Often it was difficult to tell if I was indeed on a pth or if I was just on a random patch of forest floor that happened to have nothing growing on it. There were even times when I began to wonder where the heck I was, and began to feel a kernel of panic begin to grow inside me, but my faith in my instincts in the woods quieted the fear. I kept moving in a south easten direction, towards where the main path must be, and eventually I caught sight of it.

AS I got up onto the main path, I found some flat sandstrone and stacked them to mark the animal trail. The trail was nearly impossible to see from the main path, I had walked by it twice last time I was here and completely missed it. Finishing my stack, I walked up the incline of the path towards the fork. My eyes scanned the edge of the path for the rock stack I had made a few days ago, and I paused breifly to admire my handiwork once I spotted it. Moving on, I soon came to the fork in the path.

I took the right path, which lead down the hillside for a short ways before going back up again. This part of the woods was mostly made up of birch and ferns. Many of the ferns were truly giant, nearly as tall as me, and a fair number of the birch had fallen and lay rotting on the ground, sprouting moss and mushrooms.

A woodpeckers drilling filled the woods as I walked along. The whole atmosphere seemed almost out of a fairie tale, and then I saw this tree and smiled...

I imagine that in the right light and frame of mind this sight might scare the bejeesus out of you.

The path, which while going up and down quite a bit, remained quite straight for about a mile or so. Then it began to curve and swerve more and more as I entered a different part of the woods, with more hardwood trees, less groundcover and less sunlight getting through than the birchy part. Although the noise was more dampened down in this part of the woods, I would occassionally hear noises, like the rustling of leaves, the creaking of trees in the wind, and the scurrying of critters in my surroundings. Had I seen that old tree in this part of the woods, it might have struck me differently.

Along this part of the path, I came to a bench that seemed to be perched to look out over part of the river valley, but the view was obscured by foliage. I stood up on the bench to see if maybe that might get me a glimpse, but it was no use. Looking down, I saw "River Falls Coed Naked Club" carved into the bench.

Hopping down off the bench, I tried to land soft on my feet, but made a bit of noise anyway. I'd been trying to be quiet in this part of the woods, again more out of instinct than for any rational reason. I stood where I landed for about a minute, listening intently, hearing only the woodpeckers and the creaking of the windswept trees before I moved on.

I walkd along, admiring the large mushrooms along the path, when I heard a stick break. Again, I froze in my tracks, scanning the woods, trying to localize the sound or pick out any movement. Suddenly, I spied a deer sauntering through the trees less than twenty feet away. She was so close I could hear her every footstep with breathtaking clarity. I was amazed that I saw her before she saw me. She meandered through the trees seemingly aimlessly, stopping now and again to eat a few leaves or just to look around.

I stood still and watched her wander along what I assumed must have been an indetectible animal path until she disappeared in the trees. Then I slowly crept along, careful to remain silent, continuing along the path.

The path soon took a sharp left turn, and rounding it, I again saw the deer. This time she was standing right on the path, with her back to be, eating plants along the path's edge. Once again, I remained perfectly still as she continued down the path, around the bend and out of my sight. At that point, I decided to turn back, leaving the deer to her privacy.

On my way back, I stopped and tried to pick out the trail that the deer had followed, but there didn't seem to be one. The ground was relatively clear of lower growing vegetation, allowing her to wander where she felt like. I tried to follow the general direction she had taken, and that lead me to a great clearing. There was ahill in the middle of the clearing, with a long gradual slope and thick with barberry prickers, so I decided to stay on the path along the edge of the clearing rather than trudge up the hill to see what was on the other side. I thought I could hear the faint sound of traffic, but I couldn't tell, and seeing as it was getting late, I turned for home, leaving this clearing for later exploration.

I retraced my path briskly, jogging at times, trying to get home in time for lunch. I reached the pole bridge just after the noon whistle went off, and paused once again to test it before I crossed it and jogged along on my way. I ran all the way to the clearing before the narrow path along the cliff near the base of the lower falls.

I pulled up suddenly as I saw the heron, standing on a rock that stuck out of the river at the bottom of the falls. I slowly proceeded, readying my camera, trying to get close for a good picture, and trying not to scare him. He was very weary of me, though, and he took to the air before I was anywhere near where I wanted to be. I stabbed my camera into the air, trying deperately to get some sort of photo of him. The results were disappointing. He casually flew off, laboriously slow yet still graceful, following the river upstream and out of my view.


Post a Comment

<< Home