Monday, April 11, 2016

Into the woods

Beautiful green ferns
Sunday afternoon was supposed to be a fishing trip for my husband, one of my daughters and her boyfriend. We'd planned it and were looking forward to it but things didn't go as planned. Things shifted and what would have been a relaxing day on the water, turned out to be a blessing in the woods.

Wood Violets
We drove to a nearby state park and stopped by the visitor's center to get a park map then drove straight to the day use area which butted right up to the Chattahoochee River. It was crowded but we wanted to make the best of the day and unloaded the gear and headed toward the lake. After a few minutes, on the bank of the river, we realized this wasn't going to be a good spot. It was much too noisy. We decided to head toward a beaver pond nearby but first we needed to stop for a potty break. As we were heading toward the pond, my daughter said she'd like to try geocaching. We'd picked up a map from the park service. Everyone agreed. We were in no hurry to do anything. It was a lazy, Sunday afternoon and we had plenty of time. With map in hand, we drove to the top of a trail head and began to follow the map to the first cache near that area.
A fern unfurls

Native Azalea
We were all surprised to find that none of our cell phones had service. It's hard to find a cache without GPS coordinates, so we had to use the map and do the best we could. We started off down an old forest service road and then veered off toward the woods. Up a hill and through the brush we went. None of had any water with us. We hadn't planned to be out for any length of time on this hunt so we didn't think we needed it. Only one of us had on hiking daughter's boyfriend. He's an avid hunter and keeps his boots with him most of the time. The woodland floor was deep in fallen and crushed dry leaves. All I could think as we ducked under limbs and over logs is please Lord, don't any of us step on a snake. The weather had warmed up and I knew they were out. I certainly didn't want us to have a medical emergency deep in the woods with no phone service! We continued our trek in hopes of finding the geocache but never could find it. We did run across a Georgia Orienteering club cache but that was for a training exercise they were doing and we didn't want to disturb it. As we walked on, we began to see what looked like a trail and then we began to see blue blazes on the trees. We glanced at the park map and sure enough, we were on one of their marked trails. It was good to be out of the thick undergrowth and away from the perfect camouflaged material for copperheads and rattlers.

Beautiful foliage
The trail started out nice and easy. It was open and smooth. We had no idea where would take us but we were in no hurry. The air was crisp, the sun was out and we were in the mood for adventure. One behind the other, we continued on the trail. It meandered deeper and deeper into the woods and soon, we found ourselves in what my daughter's boyfriend called "perfect hunting territory." All around us were canopies of Oak, Pine, and Maple trees. The glorious green was so beautiful against the contrast of the deep blue sky. All along the path were tiny dots of color. Wildflowers in various shades of whites, pinks, lavenders, and yellows were everywhere. I was so thankful I'd thought to grab my 35mm camera before we started out. My husband and I sauntered along the trail so I could take photos of the various plant life while the younger ones in our group forged ahead. We forded a few small creeks and traveled through mushy, marshy areas but I didn't mind one bit. I was just so happy to outside in the forest. When I'm in the woods, I don't think about anything except the blessing of God's beauty. I don't worry. I don't ruminate. I don't really think about anything other than seeing what I can see. I love to look for interesting plants or animals and when I find something unique, I photograph it. It doesn't take much to make me happy! We continued on for a few more miles and as we were walking, I listened intently. The sounds of the forest were so pleasant and peaceful. A gentle wind was blowing through the tree tops. I could hear the soft call of Chickadees and Mockingbirds. Every now and then a small rustle rumbled through the leaves and I tried to catch a glimpse of the small animal making the noise. Chipmunks and squirrels scurried up tree trunks. The woods were alive with movement but they were filled with peace. I stood at the base of a large hill and stared out at the wonderment before me. At any moment I expected a deer to bound across the path in front of me but we didn't see a single deer while hiking. I wouldn't have been surprised to have seen a black bear. We were so deep in the woods. Bear were indigenous to that area. Thankfully, we didn't see one. As I kept on walking, I started praying and thanking God for allowing me to have the strength to hike.

Blossoms were everywhere
The trail twisted and began to take a sharp curve upward. At one point, I could see a road and I knew we must be coming to the end of the blue blazed trail we were on. As the trail inclined, I began to struggle a little to breathe. While I was going through radiation for my breast cancer, part of my right lung was damaged. Anytime I exert myself physically, I can tell I'm not being able to get enough air into my lungs and I have to slow down. I've learned my physical boundaries and although I don't like them, I have to listen to my body. I stopped at the midpoint of the large hill and rested. While I was standing there, I noticed a cluster of beautiful pink native azaleas off to the left. I grabbed my camera and took the shot. Since our hike was almost over, I wanted to make sure I captured as many plants as possible. We were getting thirsty as the trail came to an end. We were also very hungry! An opening ahead of us led us to the park visitor's center. We were thankful to see it and know that restrooms were just about 50 yards away.
Lovely flowering shrub

The youngun's offered to go get the car. It was another mile up the road and they knew our strength was waning. We'd just hiked about 4 or 5 miles and we were tired. We agreed to let them keep on walking and we headed for the visitor center steps. After using the facilities, we enjoyed an ice cold soda and a comfy seat in their big porch rocking chairs. It was so pleasant sitting on that big porch and resting. When the kids got back with the car, we drove into town to find a good place to eat. We'd put in a good day of exercise and needed to refuel.

As we left the park, my heart skipped a beat. I didn't want to leave even though I was tired and hungry. I wished I could have stayed in the woods forever. The sacred quiet ministered to my soul and I was so very grateful. What a great medicine for an ailing spirit. If only they could bottle and sell that type of peace for those struggling with the daily stresses of life, but I'm thankful they don't. If they did, there would be no need to have trees and woods around and I couldn't live without them.

© bonnie annis all rights reserved.

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