A Final Walk In The Woods

Woods 5

Nidan isn’t the materialistic type. Don’t get me wrong, he enjoys nice things like everyone else, but he has never wanted or needed to have the latest toys or gadgets.  What he thrives on is nature and being outdoors. From the youngest age he’d spend hours on his swings, and it didn’t matter what time of day it was, what season it was, or if it was sunny, raining or snowing. He’d also create an obstacle course that covered the perimeter of the back yard and required him to navigate fences and a host of objects without his feet ever touching the ground. During summers, we’d often go to a large field near the high school during and hunt Carolina Grasshoppers. After catching as many as we could find, he’d take the large zippered net we loaded his stash into up to his bedroom and close the door. Taking one grasshopper, he’d toss it in the air, let it fly all over his room, pick it up when it landed, and repeat the process until the poor thing was too tuckered out to fly anymore. Then he’d put the bug back, take out another one and repeat the process.

When he was older and received his drivers license, he discovered the joys of the woods by hiking on trails in the nearby forest with a friend. It was during this time that he discovered a love for rocks, quartz in particular. This love of the outdoors and nature has served him well during the Covid months because it allows him to do something he loves without having people around.

Two years ago he persuaded me to join him on one of his explorations, eager to show me his stomping grounds. It was a wonderful experience, primarily because I spent a lot of time in the woods when I was a kid and it brought back memories of a simpler time. At the time I wasn’t sure I could handle the trek physically, but was happy to discover those fears were unfounded. I spent an entire fall afternoon following him around, watching him with fascination as he’d scour the terrain in front of him, exhume a rock of interest and take it to a nearby stream to clean it and determine if the item was worth keeping. It made such an impression I wrote about it in a walk in the woods.

Nidan had been asking me me to join him on another adventure so he could show me the latest place he discovered. He had shown me pictures of a waterfall he had taken that was at the end of his route. Describing the area in detail, it sounded like a neat place and piqued my curiosity, but my main concern was the terrain. My physical process had certainly diminished in the two years since that first adventure, so I asked him about hills, and protruding roots, among other things. He he said there were a few, but no more than the last place he went to. “You can do this,” he insisted. Who am I to say no?

So a few weeks ago we drove to a secluded spot on a town road on a hot and humid afternoon and parked off to the side, near a gate that led to a paved walk. At the top of that paved walk was another gate, and beyond that a gravel trail. Each side of the gravel trail had an abundance of wild bushes, and wild raspberry bushes were predominant among them. Nidan took great pleasure in picking the fruit and sharing the tasty treats. berries

After walking the trail for about ten minutes he veered off to the left into a mass of greenery that had no discernable path. When I asked where he was going, he said the path started once we got through that tangled mess. So using my cane and free arm, I carefully picked my way through the morass of vegetation and came to an opening that led into the woods and saw a clear trail head of us. My initial thought was this wasn’t going to be too difficult because the path was clearer and wider than the one we explored two years prior. Then, after about ten minutes, we got to this hill.

Woods 1

This picture doesn’t do the length and steepness of the route justice, but this one, which I took on the return trip, does.

Hill

“You’re joking, right?” I said to Nidan, “I thought there weren’t any bad hills. What do you call this thing?”

“Do you need me to help you?” he asked. I thought about it and decided it would be better if I flew solo, and after shaking my head no he nimbly made his way down the steep and narrow clearing to the gravel path next to a meandering brook that lay below, seemingly unconcerned about my fate. “Don’t get too far ahead of me just in case,” I said. He didn’t listen.

With my balance, going downhill is harder than going uphill, primarily because the inertia of gravity feels like an invisible force is trying to suck me downwards. Taking a deep breath, I took that first careful step and gingerly made my way down that hill, using my cane for stability, all the while thinking that K was going to kill me if I fell and broke something.

Once I reached the bottom, my welcoming committee simply said “See?” before walking along the brook and heading down another trail that was mostly flat, but was studded with fallen trees and protruding roots. Path

Nidan made several stops along the way and veered off the path wherever he found a tree that fell because that supposedly unearthed the crystals he like so much to discover. I wanted to keep going, and asked him where the waterfall was. He pointed straight ahead and said I would run into it towards the end of that path, but couldn’t tell me how long it would take before I got there. I explained would keep going until I found the waterfall then return. He assured me he’d either meet up with me or be off to the side of the trail somewhere if he saw something that interested him.

It took another twenty minutes of walking before I found what I was looking for, the waterfall that opened this post. I couldn’t get super close to it because the trek to it was littered with obstacles that I didn’t feel like negotiating. My leg was cooked and I could hardly lift it, which would have been necessary had I wanted to get closer. I was content with the view and listened to the sounds of the cascading water.

It was an idyllic scene. I was under a shaded canopy on a miserably hot day, sitting on a fallen tree, taking in the sounds of and beauty nature. I marveled at how Nidan had a knack for finding these kinds of places, and his fearlessness in venturing alone into the deep woods like this. I could see paw prints of various animals in the dried mud on some parts of the trail, not knowing what they belonged to, and not wanting to find out. He had told me once before that he had heard the screams of Fisher Cats on a couple of occasions, which had scared him. I also knew that sightings of bears and bobcats had been on the rise in our area, and I couldn’t help but think Nidan had some serious stones to venture out to places like this by himself. Of course, when I was 22 years old I never worried about things like that either.

Nidan was where he said he’d be when I returned, rummaging around the root ball of some large tree that had fallen. He had a couple of crystals in his hand that he brought to a nearby brook to wash off, but discarded them once they were deemed unacceptable. Fortunately, I wasn’t around the following day in that same area because he made this discovery, which he took great joy in showing his Mom via pictures and videos because he knows it freaks her out. He told her he found a rattler, which are common around here, but I know this isn’t one of them. Boys….!

snake

He veered in the direction of another root ball to resume his search but by then I was ready to go. I said I would start heading back because it would take me a lot longer to get to the car than it would him, and that he needed to start heading back soon, knowing that for him this could mean five minutes or a half hour. It didn’t matter in the end because he caught up with me before I was half way back to the car.

When we buckled into our seats, my leg felt like rubber, and I knew I had stretched my abilities to the max on this adventure. Sadly, I also understood that this was probably the last time I’d be able to do something like this with him.

As hard as it was making that trek, and in hindsight that trail on average wasn’t much different or difficult than the one we were on two years ago, I was glad I made the effort. As he has aged and my condition has regressed, we haven’t done as many things together as we once did. That’s only natural, but it made me a sad nonetheless. Those experiences and memories are priceless.  My darling little boy had grown into a fine young adult, closing one chapter of our lives and  opening another. I am going to miss those times. I already do.

Here are a few more pics from our adventure.

Ethan

Woods 3

Woods 6