For the Pursuit of Happiness on the Fourth

We weren’t in the mood for parades or fireworks but instead sought out a quieter, more contemplative celebration of the national holiday by immersing ourselves in the majesty of one of our premier local places of refuge. We headed across town to McLane Nature Trail on Delphi Road, to walk—and linger—on the boardwalk that brought us to lookouts on the pond and McLane creek, and a woodland trail that wound among giant trees shaggy with moss. It was just what we needed.

On our way to the first lookout where we hoped to glimpse beavers busy with their own business, or at least newts, I stopped to admire this wildflower tucked snugly into place, a reminder that a forest walk is also all about the small exquisite sights that refresh our spirits if we but notice them.

The lily-pad covered waters were shy of beavers but we were delighted to observe some juvenile wood ducks poking about unconcerned by our presence. Dragonflies zoomed, distant birds called, the clouds had lifted and fleeced across the warm blue sky. We could feel all cares melting in the summer air.

As we entered on the forest path, the woods had a soft feeling, quiet, padded with years of drifted leaves, shed fir debris, deep moss, and the slow ticking of time as trees stretched and grew, fell, and nursed other trees to take their place. We slowed our walk to bask in the hushed atmosphere; even the trickle of stream water over gravel hardly made a sound. Yet the world felt very alive!

Here and there were signs of past disruption: some open, straight lines passing through the forest that marked where old logging railroads had once chugged their loads of felled trees towards millponds and mills. And giant stumps. Where once the kings of the forest had stood, the stumps had turned into stunning sculptures; with bark shed and only almost-abstract forms remaining, we marveled at their beauty and strange dignity. Somehow the violence of their demise was transformed into images of endurance and wonder. After more than a century, they were still there, a vital part of the forest.

Just one of the regal stumps. The McLane area was logged before the turn of the century, probably in the 1890s, and again in the 1920s or 1930s. It is part of Capitol Forest, maintained by the State Department of Natural Resources. Would Margaret have walked or hunted mushrooms in this area? It’s possible, but like any veteran mushroom hunter, her special places would remain a secret. There would have been, of course, no trails then but the traces of logging would have been more pronounced. Time has softened the impact of the industrial-scale enterprises that shaped this forest but in her day, logging was ubiquitous and the mainstay of the local economy. It may have felt quite differently to her.

The trail winds through the trees, giving peek-a-boo sights of the creek but keeping its gravel beds inviolate for salmon spawning in the fall. We skirted the pond—still no beavers—and found ourselves back at the beginning of the loop. We were completely satisfied with our walk. We had seen young wood ducks, their future extravagant markings just hinted at, we had breathed deeply the forest air and shed our preoccupations, we had felt the warm sun and slight breeze of a perfect day. And there was the white flower, aha! We had everything we had hoped for.

One thought on “For the Pursuit of Happiness on the Fourth

  1. Your texts are always a pleasure to read; this post’s graphics have definitely risen to the challenge for excellence of your words.


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