April 3, 2015

Good Friday

My wife and I were planning on starting out our spring break with, you guessed it, a hike. However, life got in the way. Whether it was spring cleaning, vacation planning, and/or enjoying the illustrious world of paperwork organization and filing, our plans for a family hike evaporated quicker than the chilly sprinkles that fell this morning.

But the day was not wasted. Those other "things" needed to get done, and with a week-long trip to the Great Smoky Mountains mere hours away, it was advantageous to avoid the less than spring-like weather and complete the assorted chores that would have been pushed aside if we went through with our morning hike.

Still, once the tasks were done, the need for nature took over. Maybe it was because of my aspirations from earlier in the day or memories of the most recently read chapter from a marvelous book on instilling a love and appreciation of nature with kids. Either way, the gloomy skies and below-average temperatures wouldn't stop my daughter and I from taking in our daily dose of the environment. 

Our trip today was close. Very close. Just down the block from our house is beautiful snake preserve. Really. Currently groomed with trails trampled by other people and their canine friends, this land is a set apart open space landlocked between residential neighborhoods, businesses, and the Bug Line recreational trail. Besides using the outermost trail to take a shortcut to the movie theater for a flick or Applebee’s for trivia, my wife and I occasionally explored these trails in our pre-parenthood days. The remaining maze of trails take you through a meadow, forests, and within a stone's throw of a marshy pond. I honestly have only explored a fraction of all the land that is there.  And, despite my love for nature and exploration and my goal of helping my daughter gain that similar love, I have barely taken her back there.  

Until today.

I planned on sticking to the same trail I usually trek, letting Embry grab sticks, pet rocks, and stomp leaves along the way. She is also quite into singing with the birdies at the moment. That plan changed as my ears were drawn to an overwhelming chorus of frogs emanating from the marsh off the beaten path.

Avoiding low branches and rocks littering the way to the marsh, Embry and I were able to use a fallen tree as a seat and soaked in the sights, sounds and smells of nature. My decision to leave the path was a wise one. At the marsh, we were given a special treat. Actually, two. 

Nature can be cruel, so coming across a nearly intact (and not yet decomposed) deer carcass was interesting and oddly intriguing. My mind wandered as to how the animal died and who might have been enjoying the feast of the fallen creature. While I pondered, a flash of light hit the corner of my eye as both Embry and I saw the second special treat. Directly across the wetland, a large owl (I'm guessing a barred owl) that must have been perched overlooking the water, swooped down a bit and showed off a beautiful wingspan before disappearing into a stand of pines. I got a chill when I saw it and just got another while typing up this experience.
Deer carcass was near lower right corner. Owl was perched in tree across the water, just right of center.

We continued our way back to the trail and began heading for home. I look forward to taking Embry out there on a much more regular basis and hope she connects with this space in the same way I connected to and still cherish the creek that flows down the block from my childhood home.

Today wasn't a good Friday. It was a Great Friday!

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