The day is a cold, 38 degrees with a light rain falling at 9:00 a.m. as I exit my car at the Sidewalk Trail. As my wife had told me when she arrived home about 8:30 a.m. from her walk on the park, it was extra windy on the lake side of Presque Isle. Autumn is the time of year that a season can come and go in a single day. A morning storm such as this can mean an afternoon of sunshine, and those afternoon sunbeams can just as quickly turn to a furious evening gale. That is Presque Isle.
Cold, wind and the slow rain that is dipping its way across the woods are not a good signs for my planned fall leaf walk at noon with a group of seniors from Lifeworks . Nevertheless, I had to check out the conditions and see if it was even possible. After all, on Presque Isle, conditions can and do change very quickly. The sun is darting in and out of the grey cloud cover and fall leaves dance and play in the wind and the constantly changing sunlight. This changing soft morning light offers a continual feast for my eyes.
As I walk down the trail, the rain stops and the sun now begins to rule the day. As I get a bit deeper into the woods, the wind just disappears. I am not sure if it stopped entirely or if the woods are just providing a protective barrier. It really does not matter; the morning is turning purely wonderful. I have found that when rain ceases and the sun returns, the light effects a complete transformation of mood and color both in nature and in people. Ask a painter and he or she will tell you that after a rainstorm color is immensely hesitant in giving away its secret qualities unless the sunlight slowly teases them out.
It is still a bit cool, yet I can tell the temperature is creeping up. I know from past experience that many seniors are perpetual pessimists, and cold, wind and rain will keep our attendance on the low side. That is ok with me because I have my camera and can make a trip out of just one other person. Today, as luck would have it, is near the peak of leaf color in the area I have chosen to walk. We will go down the Sidewalk Trail to its junction with Dead Pond, Fox and Marsh Trails, and from there take the easy walk along Marsh Trail. This is an easy and colorful trail at this time of year. I also happen to know that the oak, maple and birch trees at its junction with the Ridge Trail will be spectacular.
As I turn to go onto the Marsh Trail, I hear some noise farther down the Sidewalk Trail. Stopping and edging into the bush at the trail’s junction I peer down the wide sidewalk. Walking straight toward me is a huge Tom Turkey and five females. The females are all grazing the plants and weeds alongside the path as big Mr, Tom is positively strutting around in front of them. It’s almost like he has a harem and he is protecting them. They are too far away to get a good picture so my camera stays safely in its case.
I am now sure that by noon, walking this route will be fine, so I return to the road and wait for my brave Lifeworks Leaf Walk group to arrive. By the time I get here, I am carrying all manner of seed hooked onto my coat, pants and now piercing my cotton socks. Even my shoelaces are not immune to these hanger-ons. I will let them ride until this walk is over and then try to pick most of them off before going home. If I didn’t at least try to get most of them off, my wife wouldn’t let me in the house.
As many of you know, we have been seeing a number of coyotes near here, and as I sit on the fence at the trailhead, a head pops up across the road next to a sand dune near the Lighthouse. She, at least I think it was a she, pays me no attention and goes about her business of looking for food of some sort in the dune area. She wanders this area for about five minutes before she just disappears. These coyotes are beautiful animals and from the thick coat of fur I have seen on our park coyotes, I think we are in for a cold winter.
My small group of walkers arrive and we head out right at noon. I warn them to watch their footing as some of the trail we are walking is covered with moss and exposed tree roots and I have no desire to find out if I could carry any of them out of the woods. As we walk I tell them about the turkeys and coyotes I saw earlier and try to explain why leaves change color in the fall. They are full of questions about the various colors they saw on their drive from the Presque Isle hill to here.
As we walk I point out various trees, bushes and deer runs hat border the Marsh Trail. When we get into the marsh area on the path, I show them where the many beaver travel over the trail from pond to pond. Right near this point, we stop to look at a huge Chokeberry Bush with its bright red berries in full display. Later a bit further down the path, I show the a Black Chokeberry Bush. By this time they are beginning to see the oaks and maples that are in full color on the edges of the Ridge Trail. The timing of this walk is almost perfect as the colors are vivid and most trees have almost all their leaves yet.
One of the women asks if it is always this quiet in the interior of Presque Isle and I explain to her that I love this wonderful part of walking the trails on the park. This overarching silence has a strange yet beautiful indefinable quality. As we continue on, a high-pitched noise escapes a bird on high and drifts down. I explain that we are in the middle of a mass bird migration traveling through Presque Isle on their way to their winter homes in the south.
When we reach the junction of Marsh and Ridge Trail, they decide to take the southern and less traveled route, which runs along the highest elevations on Presque Isle. This is a route none of these walkers even knew existed, and after over an hour on it all agreed they would be back again to see this area again in the future. I suggested that they come in the spring and bring a notebook and camera and find an old log and just sit quietly for 20 minutes or more and let nature open its arms and pull them in. I told the that they can experience the park in entirely new ways by just trying this little used trick to see a whole new side of Presque Isle.
By 1:45 we have completed our walk and the weather has been really quite nice. Once they have all left, I sit on the fence by the trail entrance and begin my job of picking off all the burrs and seeds now attempting to make a permanent home on my clothing. While doing this, two couples from Warren, Pa. arrive and I explain the leaf route walk to them. They go back to their car to change into more comfortable shoes. About 5 minutes later, they are back to begin their own personal adventure on the park.
Today’s experiences with people who do not spend much time in nature reinforces my view that nature is truly an unending circle that can and does touch every one of our lives. Over the years, I have noted that many people turn to nature to allow their hopes, dreams and wishes to flow onto life’s blank canvas. I know because it has surely colored my life and the lives of all within my family.
See you on the park!!
This post was written by admin