It was late in the evening when we reached the trailhead for Big Beech Woods, a 1.59 mile loop that runs along the ridge of the creek and into the woods. I was a little concerned about it getting dark quickly but I wanted to explore this trail and so we trekked on with the understanding that we may have to turn back before we could hike the whole thing.
We crossed a narrow stream of water, where Molly Bassett Hound stopped for a quick drink, and continued up a moderate incline until we were walking parallel with Floyd’s Fork. The woods were still very green and open, with tall, thin trees and great views of the ambling creek below. The view from the ridge line also showcased the hills of woods that stretched out in all directions, draped in a reddish tint by the setting sun and early fall color. I imagine in the winter when the trees are bare, the view will be much less impeded and even more breathtaking. It’s awesome to ponder this stretch of undeveloped land just outside the city.
We didn’t get too far before we turned back, but before we did Boy Wonder spotted a tiny black frog blending in with the trail and we watched him spastically jump into the groundcover until we lost sight of him. I also pointed out an unusual growth on the side of one of the trees which Boy Wonder enthusiastically and mock-scientifically termed a “tree butt.”
In our spirit of exploration we decided to take a gravel path back to the fields, rather than the path by which we arrived, and even though this section wasn’t necessarily in the woods, it had the same sense of remoteness that so many of the Parkland’s walking paths achieve. I had the sense that we were walking a path on a beautiful land that belonged to no one, and we were the only souls around for miles and miles. Boy Wonder spotted a white stick that he at first thought was a bone. Upon further investigation he discovered it was a tree root, but it prompted the following conversation the entire way back:
“I really want to start a club where we go digging for dinosaur bones. I can use the book I have to figure out where we need to dig and we can just go and discover bones different places.”
“Well how do you plan on getting there buddy?”
“Maybe you could get a van or an RV or something like that and you can take us. You know you can drive me and some people in my class and my friends. The only thing is, would you be the leader or would I be the leader?”
“Who do you want to be the leader?”
“Well I think I should because I’m the one with the big dinosaur book and I’ll do all the research. I’ll probably be a paleongeologist when I get older but I’d like to go ahead and get some experience while I’m a kid. You know maybe when I’m 10 or 12 or something like that.” Another of my favorite aspects of a long, slow walk in nature: you get a little peak at what’s going on in the imagination of kids. This conversation went on and on until Boy Wonder suddenly discovered an ancient farm tool sitting off to the side of the path, tangled up in grass and weeds. So our conversation was then diverted to what this might have been used for and how it worked. As I’ve mentioned before, exploring equals unequivocal time for teaching and learning.
Just as we were leaving this special world shared only by me, Boy Wonder, and Molly Bassett Hound, we got to experience the greatest awe of our exploration so far as we came upon a deer family just on the edge of the brush. We all stood quietly as Molly Bassett Hound perked up and stared, and Boy Wonder and I whispered and stared, and the six deer froze and stared back. It was a perfect moment, just before walking back into civilization. It was a reminder of the beauty that lies just beyond the hustle of everyday life, if you’re willing to go explore.