Saturday, October 22, 2022


This was not a dream, although it seemed a bit like one at the time. On a beautiful fall afternoon I drove a few miles to one of my favorite haunts, a preserve of some 600 or so acres of woodland dotted with rocks and a couple of little ponds and streams. I brought my camera along as I usually do on my hikes, but there wasn't much to see except fallen leaves. I walked a couple of miles without meeting anyone else, then, having climbed a hill to the highest point in the preserve and briefly rested on a bench, I got set to head back.

I came to a place where the trail bends to the left and descends to what on the map is called a lake but is really just a modest pond. Just at the bend, though, I saw something that had never been there on my previous visits: a trail off to the right, clearly marked with red blazes on trees and carefully bordered with lengths of pruned branches. Intrigued, I started down the trail and followed it up to the top of a ridge, figuring that it couldn't take me very far out of my way. I continued along as it wound through the woods, crossed old stone walls, and wove around ancient outcroppings of rock. At one point I passed the remains of some kind of structure, though it would be hard to say just what it had been.
And the trail went on and on. I kept expecting it to loop back to the main trail, or if not, just to come to a dead end. But I started to think: What if it doesn't? What if it never comes back? What if it just keeps going?

I lost the trail once or twice because I was paying attention to the contours of the terrain instead of the blazes, but quickly found the right course again. Eventually I got a bead on where I was in relation to the rest of the preserve, and descended a series of what looked like old stone steps at the top of a long slope that, sure enough, met up with the main trail at an intersection that, like the first, had never been there before. I had detoured about a mile. An improvised sign posted at the intersection noted the opening of the trail, and the recent purchase of a new parcel of land that made it possible, but when I got back to the main kiosk at the parking lot the map there hadn't been updated and there was no notice posted about any extension of the trail system. I almost wonder whether that trail will be there the next time I visit.

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