A woodland walk

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.”

—Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

I stood at the edge of the wood near the bottom of the rise, leaning against my walking stick. Directly ahead the trail continued to ascend the rocky slope along the ridge, while below, off to the left, branches and debris from last October’s winter storm blocked the leaf-strewn path.  After a moment’s reflection I took up the walking stick in hand and tramped down through the leaves.

At the bottom I found the blue blaze marks and proceeded west along the path parallel to the ridge trail. Many of the fallen limbs had been cut up and kicked off to the side. In a few spots new trail had been blazed around extensive clusters of debris. Eventually, I stepped out of the woods onto the dirt road at the power line cut.

Here I had another decision to make: continue on into the woods or follow the dirt road to the crest. Moments later I stepped into the woods again and continued along the path.

At the bottom of the hollow I found the remnant of a trail that crossed the stream and led directly up the rise. Many times I had followed this straight stretch of trail, striding up the natural stone steps. It soon became apparent that the former trail was impassable: a jungle of fallen trunks and contorted branches blocked the way.

I turned right and followed an improvised path across the slope to where it doubled back through the forest. Back and forth I followed the switchbacks, crisscrossing the old straight trail.

Near the top of the rise, off to the right, a vernal pool lay frozen in the forest. I paused at its edge and stared down into the black ice. Patches of blue sky silhouetted the wispy tops of stark trees in this cracked icy mirror.

It was a short ascent to the ridge. I stood on the rocky outcropping and looked out over the expansive valley at my feet, shading my eyes from the intense afternoon sun. A cold wind cut my cheek.

Shortly, I turned and disappeared back into the forest.

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