Saturday we went hiking in a nearby national forest on a six-something-mile-long trail. We ended up walking much, much farther because we decided to take a shortcut…
Sunday I decided to go again, this time by myself and this time with plenty of water in case I got lost, which I was confident wouldn’t happen because I was going to be good and follow the signs. But I got lost anyway. I got distracted by something mysterious in a pond and missed a turn, which added a considerable amount of distance to my hike.
I found my way back to the trail, and as the sun went down I double-timed it through deep sand, over massive roots, climbing and descending, like I was racing on a dad-gum two-mile obstacle course. I was worried about being in the woods in the dark with no flashlight, but I laughed through the whole thing because, really, what else could I do. I felt the alligators ogle me from below the creek waters. I could tell that they were laughing too, but in a more sinister sort of way. In a here-comes-dinner sort of way. I slowed down a couple of times toward the end of the hike to take everything in because I was surrounded top to bottom by the most beautiful part of the trail (the part we bypassed the day before) and because the progressing darkness and mild (huh) accompanying fear was exhilarating. I was too wrapped up in those moments to take any photos, which is how it should be.
Do you ever wonder how much life you’ve missed while watching it from behind a camera? I do lately. Especially after I made it home and thought back to standing in that dimly lit forest.
That hike intoxicated me with serenity and excitement, the sounds of things scurrying in the brush, attacking junglesque vines, and the sweet smell of pine. At times it felt like being in the mountains again except 40+ degrees hotter. There was something about feeling completely alone in all that forest that gave a sense that the forest was joining me for the hike. As if I weren’t walking through it but with it (and no, I didn’t sample the wild mushrooms). So even when I was trying desperately to get out of there at sunset, a peace came over me each time I looked up from the trail.
As the scene fell dark, this stopped me in my tracks. I amply took in the moment before grabbing my phone to snap a picture. Thankfully, the sun was patient and stayed up just long enough for me to keep this one particular image tangibly while I made it out of that place alive.
. . . .
I’ll go one more time to make sure I have that trail down, and then I plan to tackle a 10-mile trail in another part of the forest, one rated “hard,” which makes it all the more luring.
My legs are in recovery mode, especially after today’s misadventure on a horse, a short but fantastic story I’ll share soon. So that next hike won’t happen for several days.