In the days after the bombings at the Boston Marathon I needed the woods. Walking in the forest relaxes and quiets me. The spring is starting late this year but the hope of finding wildflowers made me lace my boots faster than usual. On Sunday I walked the Woods and Swale Trail, one of the CATS trails that will eventually link Westport to Coon Mountain, Split Rock Wild Forest and Essex.
The inconspicuous trailhead is at the corner of the Lakeshore Road and the Sherman Road in Westport, just up the hill from the NYS Boat Launch. On Sunday birds were calling all around me. There were peeps, beeps, caws, trills, whistles and squawks. I heard a barred owl's "who-who-who-cooks-for-you," a grouse's loud drumming-for-love and several woodpeckers knocking on tree trunks to attract mates or let every other bird in the vicinity know I was there.
The "Swale" of the trail's name still shows where the land was once a field. The skinny, tall white pines with dead branches up to thin crowns tell without a doubt that the trees grew quickly, competing for sunlight. Wind has already begun to knock down the weaker ones into piles of pick-up-sticks. There's a thick layer of moss and signs of deer beds.
After crossing a wet logging road and emerging at an opening where tops of logged trees have been left, you begin to rise gently into hardwood. The trail has been swept clear of debris by volunteers from Mountain Lake Services. Following trail signs becomes important as skid trails from the logging work diverge in several directions. The trail follows a shoulder of the hillside and eventually comes to the still-raw landing of a bigger logging job done by a landowner to the north.
The Woods and Swale Trail is not dramatic and doesn't lead to a special view but it renewed me. I know the adults who were once youngsters playing in the woods here and adventuring out to see the cows when the swale was a pasture. Now the trail is shaped by a forester's plan to rejuvenate the timber stand and by the landowners' conservation values. I miss the big oaks that have been harvested but it feels good to know they could be the lumber that rebuilds a home damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
On Sunday I felt the pressure to keep moving. But frightening, violent events make me want the security of tall, powerful trees. Here there are trees that have lived a hundred years and still have so much grace, so I stand still. The birds insist that it is in fact springtime when everyone must restart the week, the season and the year.
Interestingly I did see flowers, but not any native ones yet. I found a pretty plant that is an escape from old farmhouses, a Daphne with beautiful fragrance and color—nice connection to loop me back to faith in human legacies.