I came prepared without a map, but with my compass on a lanyard around my neck - the antithesis of a boat anchor.
There are trails here, but no signs to direct me to them, so I walk up the hill into an open deciduous forest that has already dropped its leaves - an orange mat punctuated by the countless grey boulders that define the close-up view of the woods in this region. I figure that I will eventually cross a trail and I do, although it is the pawings and scat of white tailed deer and old stone fences from when this was a farm. The newest and the oldest of goings.
I find a trail and it heads to my left and to my right, either of which is as good for me as the other. The trail becomes an old farm road. It leaves the forest for a patchwork of old farm fields defined by more stone fences. And then, it becomes a trail again, just as the rain begins. The rain in a bare tree forest where the leaves are on the ground creates noise that is out of proportion with the rainfall. It reminds me of the loafing shed at Smoke Farm and how the tin roof made a light sprinkle sound like a midwestern thunderstorm in full roar. As I near the stone foundation of a house, I hear a branch crack. I pause. Then, I take a step or two and a very large white-tailed deer, a doe, bounds out of the brush and down the trail ahead of me with its very long white flag held high. It is that out-of-proportion rain sound that enabled me to get so close, the rain on leaves hiding the sound of my feet, which to a deer make noise that is out of proportion to the size of the animal.
|The vine does not always win|
The trail ends at a road and I backtrack until I am bored with retracing my steps - something like 50 yards. I go cross country again finding and following deer trails, because deer trails are usually the path of least resistance when going off trail. It goes well until I near those farm fields. The brush grows dense and I find myself greatly relieved to know that the Pacific Northwest does not have a monopoly on plants with large sharp thorns.
I come out into a field to find a man walking slowly in a big circle. He is my size. When he sees me he puts out his hand and we shake. I have large hands, but not compared to him. "I'm Yugo," he says in deep voice with a heavy accent from somewhere in the place formerly called Yugoslavia. He is the assistant gardener at the community plot that lies some hundred yards distance. We talk briefly and I head off into the forest again. I suspect that I will see him again.
The trail follows a ridge and then drops down to a pond. There is a picnic shelter with a group of men warming themselves at the fireplace. One comes over and we talk about deer. He slept nearby last night and they heard deer moving about all night. It starts to rain again and I continue and a couple hundred yards further on I surprise two more does, who eye me cautiously rather than run off.