Okay, new trail this week. My running partner and I—plus our three dogs—explored Mud Pond Loop, which is a single track mountain bike trail that climbs and curves and descends through forest and river and, yes, a mucky, muddy pond. It is right off a main road, but you would never know it, it only appears just as you reach it.
A short wooden bridge serves as its welcome. You cross it and enter another world. Truly. Think Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia. The trail winds through dense deciduous trees. So many of them that even at this time of year, when the leaves have fallen and cover the dirt like one enormous quilt, the sun still gets trapped on the other side of their tall, thick branches. Only a few lucky rays sneak through the trees, spotlighting a crimson section of the quilt, or a shiny rock, or a spider web. One stretch of the trail is carpeted in pine needles. It is especially hushed there, and I had an overwhelming desire to stop in the middle of this part of the trail and…I’m not sure what. Wait for a minister, or a church choir, or heck, I was in another world, so maybe even an angel to materialize in front of me.
Or maybe a magical birch tree creature?
As we finished our run, Kara—my most excellent running partner who also happens to be a most excellent forester—pointed to a yellow birch that looked somewhat like a strange, sinewy giraffe standing on three legs. The legs, Kara told me, were its roots. Yellow birch seeds sprout on moss covered logs and stumps, and even rocks. Their roots grow on and around these objects, like they are hugging them, until they finally find the dirt and dig down. Many years later, the logs, stumps, and rocks disintegrate, leaving the roots standing partially above the ground.
What should be under, is above. A little magic in the forest.