The trail winds up a steep bank now, where wildflowers covered the ground each spring.
Thirteen years ago, we walked here, on Hall's Creek State Nature Preserve, before any paths had been laid out for public access.
When the tumble of rocks in the creek bed carving its way between two large tracts, was the only entrance for its study.
Mapping our findings, recording all we could, for some day, a trail to be woven for others.
Up the switchbacks we climbed this gray afternoon, soon shedding gloves too much for the heart-thumping hike, rising sharply to the ridge. It was as we had remembered from years ago—the tall oaks (Quercus sp.) all around, now casting this summer’s leaves to the thick, brown pile kicked along by our feet.
Three times, as we walked on, a large, low-flying form disappeared from feet ahead--into a mix of cedars and young Sugar Maples, just out of view. Perhaps a Barred Owl, choosing this quiet place, back beyond the oaks, above the din of passing cars from the road below.
A box turtle, barely peeking from beneath the oak-leaf blanket, sheltered close to the broken remnants of a log, years old. Though the front of his shell told of a history that involved an unpleasant encounter with the traffic beyond these woods, he is here now, safe within the boundaries. Preparing for colder days ahead.
On top of the world.
And with our hands full of leaves, of all shapes and sizes, we left him there.
To live many more seasons.
While we learn all that we still do not know
of what covers these hillsides—
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