It was still. So still. We stopped and listened, which seems a bit contradictory. Listen to the silence. But it was amazing and breath taking and we had to stop and appreciate it.
It was Saturday afternoon and with a chunk of free time before work called, Scott took me to one of his favorite spots — Beaver Meadow Audubon Center. Tucked in the back roads of North Java, N.Y., the nature preserve has ponds, wetlands, old growth, hiking trails. It’s a little curious I had never been here before what with all the wonders that fit the things I love. But there’s something amazing about going with a person to a spot they love. There’s a reverence to it. There’s a knowledge that goes deeper than the maps and guide books. It’s special when someone shares that with you.
Our first stop was the vistor’s center to pick up a basic trail map then we headed out. The temperatures were mild for early March, the mid30s, there was no wind with a mix of sun and clouds. Both Scott and I thought the trails would be muddy. We were a bit surprised to find them still holding on to snowpack in most areas with some spots pretty icy. There were numerous near-falls. That just added to the challenge.
Once into the woods, we came to a trail junction and Scott showed me the map. We took the Long Trail and pretty much followed that out to the main road. It was beautiful and still. The trail itself was fairly easy walking, although the snow and ice added a layer of interest. We walked along, drinking in the day. We both needed refreshment. Though we arrived a bit tired, once on the trail we found our second wind, not to rush through the hike but to be awake and aware.
We saw a number of animal tracks, camera phones at the ready so we could later look up what they were. (Ruffled Grouse) Once we finished Long Trail, Scott took me to the start of another trail where an old cabin stood. We signed the log book and we’re ready to return to the road when Scott looked as the trail map. We could walk into the woods from here and make our way over to the Old Growth trees. Score.
As we followed the trail marked “old woods” my anticipation grew. I went through the list in my head of how to identify an old growth tree. Buttressed roots. That’s the one I rememebered first. And that branches are high, starting six or seven feet up the trunk. (Hence bad for tree climbing.) We walked along the trail when all of a sudden: Whoa.
The woods opened up and the trees grew tall. In an instant I felt small, not in an insignificant way but as if I was standing among greatness. And in truth I was. I stood in awe for a few minutes. Scott pointed out some holes in the trees where he had previously seen animals, lazing in the summertime. It also was a keen spot for owls and Scott began making his own owl call. After a few minutes of nothing we started to walk back. Then, wait for it, there it was. An owl called back, surely trying to scare away “Owl Scott” from its territory.
As we finished the trail and began the walk back to the vistor’s center, I almost wanted to skip. This was such a fantastic walk. I didn’t want to leave the woods. I didn’t want the day to end. I couldn’t wait to plan a return trip to see other trails and new parts of the preserve.
I could understand why this was one of Scott’s favorite places. I felt privilege that he shared it with me. And I can’t wait to go back.
Date: March 5
Location: Beaver Meadow
Trail: Various, Primarily on Long Trail
Total distance: 3.02 miles
Elevation: 110 feed
Duration: 1 hour, 51 minutes
Weather: 36 degrees, no wind
Hiked with: Scott