Improvised Trails

I ventured off the paved path today, into the thick brush of the park. Off to the right of the walkway, a slight parting of the trees revealed a narrow dirt trail. Where did it go?

A few footprints were pressed into the damp mud ahead of me, so I wasn’t the first to follow my curiosity. I wondered who else had been here before me; maybe the trail was already familiar to them, or maybe they had set off exploring the unknown, like me.

I made my way forward, ducking under limbs, pushing branches out of the way, navigating around vines with thorns. A few paces in, I stopped, surveying the scene—a thick, wild wood had engulfed me: the scent of evergreens, fresh and new; trees with the first hints of green leaves; tall brown grass.

Looking around, I was reminded of being a kid, exploring the woods in front of our house. Maybe it was because there was something mysterious and enchanted about the interior of the park, like a secret garden, long overgrown and forgotten.

Looking around, I was reminded of being a kid, exploring the woods in front of our house. Maybe it was because there something mysterious and enchanted about the interior of the park, like a secret garden, long overgrown and forgotten.

I continued on my way, stepping, climbing, exhilarated. I wasn’t sure where I was going, exactly, and maybe that was the thrill.

Up ahead, the trail forked and I considered my options. On one side, a tree had fallen over the path, most likely during the ice storm last fall. On the other, the trail seemed to fade into thick brush.

I chose the fallen tree, mainly because I wanted to climb over it. And just as I crested the trunk, a knobby branch caught my pants and ripped a hole in them.

I leaned down to inspect the damage—it was a jagged tear, about 3 inches wide, on my upper thigh. The fabric was tattered and irreparable.

I laughed to myself, thinking this is what I get. I get a hole in my favorite pants because I needed an “adventure.”

I heard voices up ahead and I could make out the outline of two women walking on the other side of a line of trees. I could see the black pavement of the walkway—I’d made it from one side of the park to the other, I just needed to navigate the last bit of brush.

When I finally emerged out of the woods, it was to an open clearing in the more habitable part of the park, right in front of one of the more popular playgrounds. I tried to act casual, like it was a very normal thing to have done—duck out from behind a few branches, off an improvised trail, looking only slightly disheveled, with torn clothes.

I rejoined the pavement, walking on. From behind my sunglasses, I glanced over at the people sitting where they were supposed to sit, at picnic tables or under the pavilions, or swinging their children on swings, enjoying a sunny afternoon in the park.

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