It’s Friday December 23rd. No work today and holiday shopping and wrapping done. I decide to go for a short walk on the park once the fine mist that has been falling since 7 a.m. stops. I recognize I will not melt; however, when I walk in hilly wooded areas, I prefer it to be a bit drier so that I do not slip and fall on the leaf-covered trails. From experience, I have learned that wet leaves can be somewhat like a ski slope.
By early afternoon, warmer temperatures move in and drive the rain out into the lake. It’s in late November, so the woods have an uncanny hush about them. I plan to walk down the Sidewalk Trail, which is across from the lighthouse, for about one mile or so and then take a hidden path through the bush and ascend to the Ridge Trail for the return trip. All in all, this is about a two and ½ mile round trip. It is a great walk during the fall and early winter.
Just, a few weeks ago, the color in these woods was magnificent. The Presque Isle woods were showing a splendid glory of the red colors, from the oak and maple trees plus the cheerful yellow and light bronze colors from the cottonwood and birch trees. Now all the leaves are strewn on the ground. The air is rich with the aroma of downed leaves. It seems God has been busy preparing Presque Isle for the long winter season.
As I turn onto the small hidden path that connects the two trails, a woodpecker begins hammering on a snag or log just ahead. It is so loud that you might think it is a pneumatic drill at work on concrete. When he stops hammering, a deep hush returns to the woods. Then, almost like magic, an afternoon sun breaks through the grey clouds. Within a few minutes, I reach the Ridge Trail, and looking ahead, cannot help but notice the Presque Isle Lagoons about 100 yards to the west just over the rise. The perfectly still water is deep blue and the brilliant fall sun gives it a nearly mystic quality. It is a majestic scene with the blue water, a few green pines and the fall/winter browns of the cattails lining the water’s edge. At times like this, I wish I were a painter and could paint panoramas like this in watercolors.
After I walk a bit further down the trail, I find an old fallen tree about 20 feet off in the woods. The ground here is covered with a mixture of acorns, red oak leaves, maple leaves and pine needles and cones. I sit down on the log. Within a minute or two of sitting down, I’m startled as a little field mouse runs out from under the log, jumps over my foot onto my leg and scurries back down my leg to the ground. He stops and looks back at me and then runs like a flash under another nearby log.
It is not long after that when I become aware of a low and quiet rustling coming virtually from all around me. It is not loud at first, but keeps growing louder as time goes on. I also become conscious that it is not only getting louder; it is coming closer. Suddenly, I can identify what the rustling is. Just, two feet from me standing-up on his rear legs is a little rascal with about six of his closest friends nearby. Red Squirrels. I soon begin to hear and see many more of them all over the forest floor. It seems that I have interrupted their final rush to stow away pine seeds and acorns for the winter. Nevertheless, they seem now to have learned to tolerate my company. I know they are getting into a panic mode as the days grow shorter and cooler. They’re inborn instincts tell them winter is now surely not far away. I stay for about an hour and after a bit they seem to accept me as a buddy, and do not even look my way when I move around.
As I finish the walk, I think about how it would have been neat to have Steven, my grandson, along on this little afternoon trip. Steven is becoming a little fisherman and nature lover. Hopefully, he will take after his granddad and get out in nature as much as he can. Experiencing the natural world opens new realms to children. We all should encourage and join them in their exploration of our natural surroundings.
This post was written by admin