An Old-Fashioned Hike

I spent several hours hiking from the house to the forestland of brooks, the big hill calling me despite its foot-deep snow, my feet complaining for the lack of skis or snowshoes, the chill of March protesting winter’s age and still no sign of spring. I bushwhacked into silence and a maze of animal tracks– the two-legged neighbors and the four-legged friends unseen, except for deer and a small band of sparrows. I heard no sounds other than my labored breath, my boots crunching through ice, the brook babbling under whiteness, the muted call of a distant nuthatch and a raven.

Dryden Hill calling…

a woodland dance…

Old man in a forest of the young…

My bushwhack tour held no significance, no reason to be told, no question to be answered. It was just too cold for fishing in the brook or river, yet I needed to be out. I loved it when the sun appeared briefly from the bruised world and the cloudy dome above. Life was simplified for a moment or two, made sweet and stupid like a memory of youth, the hope for a brighter day ahead. I walked off the trail, among the twist and mess of winter changes, and indeed it seemed that the power of the world still works in circles (as Black Elk said), and that everything labors to be round.

the student of natural history plays his hand…

a pine tree veteran at rest…

Lyman Run, PA

I believe there are spirits in each place that we inhabit. I can feel them in the streams and foothills where I fish and hike. These spirits are unlike small-winged humanoids (please!) living under bridges or flying around in Halloween garments.  Instead, they seem to be natural energies, forms of life– a storied villager, a native trout, a tree sparrow, a raven, or a first spring wildflower. These particular lives inhabit our souls, forgotten maybe, but always there. Such lives will attract me forever, and for no great reason I go wandering and find them where I can.

Time waits for no one…

what was the sculptor thinking…

Baby it’s cold outside… skunk cabbage flowers peeking from a very warm den….

Genesee River flowing north across the PA/NY border…

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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20 Responses to An Old-Fashioned Hike

  1. Leigh says:

    Spring is not far away my friend. I feel it.

  2. Brent says:

    All sorts of snow-bound spirits to be found in a late winter wonderland, just waiting to be released for another spring. I like the contrast of the skunk cabbage emerging hopefully from the snow, while the skeletons of the farm machinery and the pine tree just lay beneath it, resigned to the past.

  3. Bob Stanton says:

    Oh Walt, your RR installments uncannily seem to tap into whatever I’m feeling at any given time. For the last five months, nearly everyday has found me in the woods walking, or on skis when possible, laboring through this winter of discontent. Movent is the only antidote I’ve found, and the natural world the only panacea. Still desperately waiting for spring and it’s promise of “the new.”

    • Winter of discontent, it is, Bob, but I’m glad we’re on the same page, the same good trail thru the woods, and I’m looking forward to crossing our tracks next season!

  4. JZ says:

    Great post for those who wish to get lost and escape. The pictures of a frozen landscape deafened by the still of silence is haunting. Plunging through deep snow and seeking assurance for all that lives under the forest canopy brings a smile to this angler. Seek and you will find they say, but what was found is just life’s beautiful realization that circles are a constant continuation. Sure glad you shared this experience with us Walt. I look forward to see it up-close myself soon and I’ll be sure to look-up and thank our creator for all that he has blessed upon us. The only thing better is wetting a line through some of those brooks..

    • Thanks JZ, and much appreciated! If all goes well, it’ll be one sweet season, for sure. It’s great to have green Nature to look forward to, the rounding of the year. Be well, and stay in touch.

  5. plaidcamper says:

    Thanks, Walt, for sharing your winter wandering here. Bushwhacking into silence, meandering through a spirited winter wonderland, reaching into the past and spying signs of the future seems an excellent way to negotiate present currents.
    Great stuff!

  6. Dale says:

    Hi Walt
    Great post as always!

  7. loydtruss says:

    Gorgeous images of a winter that knows no end——-thanks for sharing

  8. David Hutchison says:

    Walt, looks like you were on the WAG trail, my wife &I and grand kids built the rock cairn in your photo.

    • David,
      Great to hear it! My world gets smaller all the time. Rock cairns such as what you made always put me in a meditative frame, especially when they’re carefully designed and not disruptive of environment. Some of them seem to serve a purpose other than providing a direction for a hiker. In this case I feel a little closer to all you guys. Cool!

  9. Ross says:

    Walt, loved the verbal journey in your post. The silence and purity of the white winter landscape allows one to reflect deep inside; but as the season approaches its end, we all yearn for the rebirth of the land. Nice picture/description of the woodland dance, liked it. Looking forward to the greening of spring and the free flowing of the streams.

    • Ross, Thank you, my friend, I’m glad you liked this little journey, and I appreciate the comments. I, too, look forward to our meeting once again as the woods begin to come alive with the free-flowing of the streams.

  10. Jet Eliot says:

    Truly a joy and honor to walk with you through the winter woods, Walt. Thank you for these warm thoughts, eloquent words, and picturesque photos. Although I liked every word here, here is my favorite passage: “I loved it when the sun appeared briefly from the bruised world and the cloudy dome above. Life was simplified for a moment or two, made sweet and stupid like a memory of youth, the hope for a brighter day ahead.”

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