May 18, 2021

Proof the trail markers do exist!


To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.

-Helen Keller


Phyllis and I decide to walk the next leg of the BCT from Boxford to a parking lot in the Harold Parker State Forest — about 12 miles.  Waldo heartily concurs.  Christine can’t make it, but we decide to go anyway.  If our recent treks in this part of the state are any indication, it should be a nice walk in the woods.  We’ll probably rewalk it when Christine can come.  Our only reason to hesitate is that it rained, and snowed, quite a bit yesterday.  The rain came after the snow, so there shouldn’t be much of it left lying around, but it might make the going a little muddy.  That’s something we can dress for.

The temperature is in the forties when we start out, and there is a little sprinkle thing going on.  We’re dressed in parkas, raincoats, water resistant pants and mud boots, so the weather doesn’t bother us at all.  The ground is mostly dry-ish and covered with a thick blanket of leaves, but there are spots, in the low places, where we have to negotiate a few ponds.   There, we have to tiptoe on small rocks sunk in water and cautiously dance along steep, muddy, slippery shores to keep our feet out of the water, but it’s doable.  There’s no snow or ice.

After about an hour or so, the rain stops and both Phyllis and I are too warm for our rain shells and coats.  So, we shed them, tying them onto our daypacks.  The temperature is still in the high forties, but we are working pretty hard, going up and down hills.  After a bit, a wind picks up and we put on our raincoats, which keep us warm enough without being too warm.  Waldo has it so easy — he just wears his birthday suit through all weather.

The forest is welcoming, even when it rains, and it’s nice to leave tarmac behind and just walk through Mother Nature on the dirt, pine needles and leaves.  Waldo seems to really enjoy it.  He’s up ahead, as usual, but there’s something about his OCD-like focus on what’s in front of him that says he’s enjoying this even more than the rail-trails.  There are plenty of sticks around, for sure.  In the tricky spots, Phyllis finds and uses a couple of sticks big enough to serve as poles to help keep her balance where it’s slick.  Waldo, of course, just wades through the water where it’s shallow and has no trouble staying up ahead.  But as soon as Phyllis gets onto dry ground, Waldo charges back and takes the sticks from her, as if to say, “All sticks are mine.”  He is kind enough to let her borrow them when she needs them, though.  Waldo is thoughtful, if somewhat possessive.

The trails are pretty well marked by small, about two-inches in diameter, circles bearing the BCT logo.  Even when our path morphs onto residential streets and highways, they can be found if you look for them.  In the woods, it’s easy.  When we come to a spot where our trail intersects another, we carefully look around until we see the marker.  On the streets, though, the trail sometimes branches off into the woods without obvious warning.  We walk along a highway for about a mile before we realize we are off-trail and have to backtrack until we can find where the trail branches off into the forest.  That makes our trek an additional two miles longer than it needs to be, but hey, we’ve walked farther.  I gotta stop following Waldo.  He doesn’t know where he’s going.

Because of the rough walking and hills, it takes us a good eight hours to complete the trek.  I’m amazed by the fact that we find plenty to talk about as we walk along.  There are dead spots in our conversation, but they don’t last long.  We always find some subject to toss around.  I suppose that comes from having lived seven decades or so.  One tends to accumulate a lot of stuff during all those years.  Now that we’re older, it all seems to spill out over whoever else might be around.  We talk about family, Covid, science, vegan diets, Buddhism, politics, international travel, nature, what’s wrong with the world, what’s right with it — the list is endless.

We finally get back to the car we left at the end of our trail and head for home.  We’re pleasantly exhausted as we sit our weary bodies in the car.  Even Waldo has his eyes closed as he naps in the seat next to me.

Of course, I don’t expect that to last very long.


Walking in the woods with Phyllis and Waldo.

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