Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
Spring is my favorite time to hike. I return to the same trails to witness the woods wake up from their slumber. My eyes can easily find new life as the landscape is brown and gray. The first flowers, braving the cold hand of winter’s grip, seem too frail to take such a bold stand.
I find myself daily on a trail somewhere during these early weeks and on into late spring.
I regularly visit a trail located behind our house that skirts the top of the mountain ridge overlooking a stream deep in a ravine. We found this trail soon after purchasing our land twelve years ago. Jack and I began hiking on it regularly ever since.
Within a few months of hiking it, I met an elderly woman on the trail. She had a couple of dogs walking along side her. One was a large white furry dog. I recognized him from the long white strands of hair found trailing on briars along the trail. Most encounters, I’d walk along side her for a spell visiting about what was blooming or about a newly fallen tree across the trail. She told me the trail was built for a boy who was a cross-country runner years ago.
Every spring, she swept the trail with a broom, completing a long section every day. I asked her why and she said to make the woods quiet again. Each year I saw her less and less and then the trail was swept no more. I never knew her name.
This trail, although not ours, has become part of our life. We found it connected to another trail that led to a large rock shelter and a few waterfalls. It was a place we had hiked to while we were dating. Kevin and the boys clean up the trail of fallen trees each year, while I snip away briars and limbs. We all use the trail, the boys taking friends and Kevin and I taking Jack. We never see anyone.
In March, Robert and Susan Kuehlthau donated this property to the Land Trust of North Alabama. 120 acres. This gift is for me and for you, and for our children and our children’s children. This land will be preserved forever! I get a lump in my throat even now. It impacts us in such a way as it borders our property on two sides. As we see the mountain closing in around us, this gift restores us.
As the dedication ceremony creeped closer, I took more hikes along these familiar trails. I took Jack on slow walks with my big camera. Taking it all in again. I reminisced at the base of the big tree, its arms lean out and welcomed the boys to climb and they did with each passing until one day they were “too old” to want to climb. I stopped extra long at the old fire ring that overlooks the cairn I built 8 years ago, my praying spot. I’ve prayed over much here. I walked down to the ledge where we found freshly cut firewood stacked in wait for another fire that never was built. That was 10 years ago. It’s still there.
I looked at the ledges where long icicles hung that the boys broke off and used as light sabers. I rock hopped down the streams looking for native azaleas blooming and picnicked at the falls.
I came across a sandy bank with little paw prints of deer and raccoon and bird and it struck me… my footprints won’t be the only ones here anymore. And I was sad. If just for a minute. A long selfish minute.
I was able to personally thank the Kuehlthaus at the ceremony and joined them along with other residents, Land Trust Board members, employees and volunteers to hike the new property, now called Alum Hollow. Although different, seeing so many in a line, I was very happy and satisfied.
The Land Trust improved the trail and added much to it. I see the trees being cut down the street for a new subdivision and I am grateful. Grateful to the Kuehlthaus for giving up this land. Grateful to the Land Trust for maintaining and preserving beauty.
Since then, I’ve continued to hike it and didn’t waste any time putting geocaches on it! I see hiker’s cars parked and I think, I bet they just love this “new” trail. I know I do!
I decided to make a photo book of this beautiful property and give to the givers, the Kuehlthaus. I wanted to do something to show our appreciation for their gift. I used photographs I took this spring and added some of my favorite quotes from John Muir, a perfect combination. I wrapped it up and added a twig of a blooming azaleas to the ribbon and took it to their house. As I approached their sidewalk, I really did catch my breath, when sitting on their rock column by the sidewalk was a frog carved by Mr. Tom! I got the biggest grin on my face and heart. (see last post)
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. John Muir
And thanks to these, we have such a place.