Just two falls ago my wife took up hiking. Her knees were bothering her from bicycling a little too much but she still wanted to get “out there.” We had driven by a sign south of town many times. It said Ash Creek Community Forrest. She planned to go hiking there in the near future.
Barb likes planning things and preparing for her adventures. This adventure was not going to be spur of the moment thing. Boots needed to be researched and so did walking staffs. Tick repellent and the proper hats for the seasons were purchased. A nice pair of light weight waterproof hiking boots was laced up and she was ready.
I went on her first expedition. The fall colors were breathtaking on this day and both Barb and I enjoyed the hike immensely. I tired quickly because of my knees and went back to the car to wait for her. I got a little nervous because she was gone so long and night was approaching quickly. Two hours later she came back to the vehicle.
I was totally amazed she stayed out so long. In the past she was afraid of the woods and anything outdoor related. I had tried to take her with me in the past and she always had an excuse for not going. I was actually jealous she had gone into the woods without me and enjoyed it so much. All of my attempts in the past when my knees were sound and we could have shared the adventure flashed before me. I decided I was going to hike vicariously through my wife. It wasn’t quite the same but I was going to make do.
Barb mapped out every trail in the Community Forrest. She knows every nook and cranny intimately now. She has taken many pictures during her trailblazing.
She spoke of old foundations of long abandoned homesteads she found with a twinkle in her eye. There is a big spring up there near the western most border of the forest. She described the water cress and the water bubbling up in the ice cold spring. She told me about her favorite discovery during her hikes. I was truly jealous.
Looking at the photos made it seem like I was there with her on her adventures. I finally could not take it anymore and decided to accompany her there and take a less steep trail and see the beauty of “her” forest. She has grown very fond of the 389 acre wonderland and calls it her forest now.
We stayed down low in the valley alongside the stream. It was quite flat and I could manage hiking with frequent breaks. She was pointing every couple minutes and was giddy with excitement explaining what was up that draw or at the top of that hill or in that stand of pines in her favorite spot.
I had shared her photos of the foundations with a couple people and they were metal detector folks. One wanted to know where they were because he described the ruins as very old from the picture I had shown him because of the way the foundation was made and it was well over 100 years old.
We sat down on the foundation and talked a while. I asked her why she had never gone with me ages ago when I was able to scale hills like these easily. She told me that work and motherhood had gotten in her way.
She also said as she got older she became less timid and hiking was liberating and gave her a sense of achievement. I had her describe her favorite place there. She got out her camera and showed me the photos she had taken there. I could see in her eyes that this place was truly wondrous and magical for her.
Our hike was wonderful and I got to actually see what my wife was so enamored with. I did not get to see her favorite place. It was way back in and at the top of a ridge. I decided to save that wandering for another day.
Last weekend we talked about her forest and her favorite place there. She has gone there numerous times in the last couple years. Each time she went she made a point of going way back on that ridge top to her favorite place. She showed me all the photos of her nirvana in differing seasons. I was not jealous anymore. I was happy for her that she found such a magical place.
Her eyes began to twinkle when she talked about her bench she had discovered. A large smile was painted on her face. It obviously had magical qualities to Barb. Each time she went there she sat down and listened to nature. She took it all in. She described listening to the winds whipping through her pines and the birds chattering as she sat there. The leaves dancing on her forest’s floor in fall took on a special meaning while she sat there on her bench. Life’s stress melted away.
Barb described her winter excursions to the bench. The bench was blanketed in snow and yearned for her to clear the snow and sit down a spell. The world was quiet and she heard not a sound. She told me that the quiet was deafening and gave her goose bumps. That moment was when she saw why I loved the outdoors so much.
Barb told about her first discovery of the bench that first early fall and sitting there and almost feeling like it was a time machine. She thought about many things during her much needed visits there. The woods and her bench gave such solace. Each time there she took another trip in time.
She went forwards and backwards in time. Each journey ended in a smile. She visited our wedding day and our daughter's birth. She thought about her Grandma Pearl’s love of the outdoors. Pearl had just left the earth at age 101 and Barb felt her there in her forest sitting on the bench with her. Find your forest and take a hike.