There are times when one wanders down a trail and a certain spirit seems to swirl about in the silence of the wilderness. Such was the feeling today as my friend, Joan, and I joined two other friends to explore their land in South Chatham, New Hampshire.
Before we ventured forth, however, we sat upon their deck and enjoyed the view of my hometown mountain–the ridge of Pleasant Mountain, this being a backside view.
And then we paused by one of the wildflower gardens they have created with seeds of unknowns sown at abandon.
Based on its seed pods that split open on both sides, we knew it was in the pea family, but didn’t know its name. Upon arriving home and keying it out, I discovered it’s a sensitive partridge pea, also know as a wild sensitive plant, the perfect tribute to the trail. Notice the pinnately-divided leaves–they fold up when touched, thus the name “sensitive.”
Soon after getting acquainted with the sensitive pea, we continued onto the trail that Pam and Bob (the couple on the left; Joan on the right) have carved out of the land, with the help of their nephew for whom they constantly uttered words of praise. One of his artistic offerings to them was an archway formed from beech saplings.
Another offering–steps created from stones found nearby. But where exactly did he find the stones? That remains a secret for so good is his work. It seemed as if the trail had been there all along as it wound its way up and over, down and around, passing by landmarks worth pausing by.
We saw so much, including bark on young trees that we desperately wanted to be black birch (aka sweet or cherry birch), but was really black cherry. Nearby where pin cherry trees that we easily recognized, but this one seemed a wee bit different and we thought maybe, just maybe it was a black birch. But maybe it wasn’t when I opened Michael Wojtech’s BARK later.
And further along the trail we spied a mature black cherry, its bark we knew for the curled chunks that remind us of burnt potato chips.
The curls of an old yellow birch also intrigued us and we noted many, many young and a few old members of this family throughout the property.
It’s a mixed forest and we had fun searching for the big tooth aspen trees, their bark deceptive with a northern red oak look below and birch look above.
Other landmarks included a hemlock kissing a boulder and . . .
another with the longest, thickest root we’d ever seen that arched across the land, creating an opportunity for the fairies that live in such an enchanted forest a chance to do the limbo.
We discovered what Pam and Bob already knew–it’s more than fairies that inhabit their place. In the middle of the trail, coyote scat presented itself.
We found lots of deer scrapes, where in previous years they’ve scraped the bark upward to feed on it. But this was a recent visit with tags at both ends of the action, indicating a rub. Deer rub a tree to clean their antlers of velvet–that soft, vascular skin that grows on their antlers. They also rub trees to mark their territory.
And our wildest sighting of all–a garter snake enjoying some late afternoon sun. It never moved as we gawked and finally passed by, so really it wasn’t so wild after all. But Pam and Bob shared stories of other sounds and sightings, for this really is a wild land that abuts the National Forest.
It’s also bounded by Province Brook, where the water’s flow soothed our souls.
We were embraced by its reflective color . . .
and life-giving cadence.
And it was there that the water spirit . . .
rose and embraced us.
We found it wherever we went and recognized it in various forms . . .
as it wandered beside us.
Just as we ended our journey, we noticed the sign–Wild Willy Wandering Wilderness Trail. Pam and Bob had told us its name, in honor of their nephew Willis and his hard and creative work in carving out the trail, but they kept the sign a secret until we finished. Hats off to all three of them and their love of the land and for each other. Joan and I were envious of it all and thankful for the opportunity to be embraced by the spirit of this place and these people.
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