Thursday, August 20, 2009
Green Mountain Park
It's been easily 20 years since I've been to Green Mountain Park. What used to be a favorite weekend activity got usurped over time by new adventures, new places, life changes, forgetfulness. When friends invited us to go for a Sunday morning hike we jumped at the chance. This park is not 10 minutes from our front door. Looping up a sharply steep mountain road, curvy and shaded with old growth trees, memories were flooding back with every new scene. The parking lot hadn't changed much, but the park had been cleared out more with pine straw added for mulch. Strolling through the quiet, we passed the entrance and started down the path past a little waterfall and native azaleas in late bloom decline. The path widened into a short gravel road for the Rangers which lead to a rustic covered bridge over the waterway.
The waters beneath are calm and still. In autumn we'll see geese, ducks and mergansers our host told me, but today the only thing that rippled the waters were a nice breeze and an occasional turtle head. Far below in the water we spied some small minnows. Buttonbush was beginning to bloom along the water's edge, so I'll have to go back soon to get some shots.
Passing through the bridge we entered the woods on a nicely maintained trail. Many wildflowers were in bloom, which will be the topic of another post while I try to identify them. The filtering sunlight was ethereal in places, casting spotlights on plants and areas of interest much like a play or concert. This sassafras was the lucky recipient of a bit of sunshine during our time there.
Strolling deeper and higher we encountered mountain streams that feed the lake. Sturdy, wide boardwalks safely took us over what would be wet zones during rainy times then to bridges crossing boulder-edged stream beds. Multiple varieties of mosses and lichens decorated rocks and woods. The water was clear and cold.
Explore still further we came across unearthly wood formations along oddly colored streams that made me feel as though we were traveling through Narnia or Middle Earth. An elf or hobbit sighting would not have surprised me in the least.
This color of this particular stream is caused by iron leaching out of the rocks along the stream bed, our host tells us. It is a healthy stream, housing multiple frog eggs and tiny fishes. Its color is exquisite and other-worldly, making the emerald green of mosses and understory plants pop out in stark relief.
I found a giraffe head tree! This multi-trunked beauty looks like a prehistoric herbivore wandering through ancient woods grabbing a snack high above. The shimmering white veil was constructed by an industrious spider, back-lit by sunlight streaming through a green canopy.
The other side of our imaginary prehistoric herbivore, decorated by blue-green lichens and knobby skin.
Nearing the end of our hike we came across a mountain chapel built of Eastern Red Cedar. Weddings and various ceremonies are held her often, and it is a popular place to propose marriage. It is quite small, but the area where we were standing was cleared and mulched, with lovely wooden benches upon which to sit for reflection or to view a ceremony.
Walking within the chapel I spy lying upon the front wooden pew a Ziploc bag with a note inside, sealed for protection from the elements. Atop the Ziploc bag is a bright red rose. In awe, I shoot the photo with shaky hands. This is private and important. I'll never know its purpose. We left it completely as we found it without trespassing on their privacy. This moment will stay with me.
Reaching the end of our hike we settle on a picnic bench and take in the silence and peace. Across the small lake the covered bridge keeps us company, accompanied by wind song in the trees.