Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Walk in the Woods

Last week I received an email from Carol, a Mathews resident who lives below the Court House near where I sometimes go for a jog.

She asked if I'd be interested in taking some photos at her house, which backs up against a very dense woods.  Although she talked of the possibility of poison ivy; dangerous, half-fallen trees; sinkholes,  and muddy conditions, I gladly leapt at the opportunity and headed to her house on Friday.

Poison ivy?  No worries.  Half-fallen trees, hidden tripping hazards, and muddy conditions?  Bring it on! These are necessary ingredients for any misadventure adventure of mine.

Dense woods.

Carol hadn't been back in these woods for a couple of years due to the conditions (such as the aforementioned holes and half-fallen trees) but also because she has had knee problems.

My fearless enthusiasm for the woods combined with her need for a walking companion meant we were a well-matched team.

She and I set out on our adventure, she armed with pruners for the briars, and I with my camera.

By the way, this particular day was so cold my hands would have been numb if they were submerged in a flaming fire.  For the first time this winter I actually donned a hat (without claws) and a scarf in addition to my usual gloves and coat.

It was bitterfreezingcold.

Off into the woods we dashed.

About midway through was a clearing (of sorts) where sunlight sparkled on some brilliantly green moss.

Look!  Green!  

Excited at this discovery I quickly became distracted at what else there was to see and soon lost all track of Carol. She had told me that if I came to a very deep ditch, that was where her property line ended.  So off I trotted in search of this ditch.

So focused was I on my mission that I completely forgot about Carol, who was focused on pruning briars and inspecting trees and other plants she hadn't visited in a while.

All this is an excruciating long a long way of saying we became separated.

Way back in the woods.

On the coldest possible day of the year.

And she has bad knees.

And there are holes and tripping hazards and trees hanging precariously.


Around each tree there was another surprise.  Green moss; interesting tree stumps, drainage ditches, and lots of loblolly pines swaying in the occasional gusts of very strong wind, gusts capable of dislodging tree limbs and half-fallen trees onto unsuspecting passersby.

For example.

Sure, this ditch water looks calm, but way up in the canopy of these woods were wind gusts.  Trust me.
 The pine trees were creakin'.

As a side note to this story which does actually have a happy ending, Carol is doing some research into the history of the various drainage systems and ditches in our fair county, and when I told her about my favorite document, the Mathews County Soil Survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (circa 1962), she shocked me by informing me she already had a copy! You could have knocked me over with a feather. I've never met anyone who was familiar with the soil survey!

(It's a wealth of information.  Click here or here or here for previous posts relating to the Soil Survey. They may just make you laugh.  Or cry, depending on how tired you are of hearing about my favorite document.)

Anyway, there came a point in time where I realized I couldn't hear Carol behind me any more.  After I reached the end of her property, I turned around and went back, expecting to find her somewhere along the way.

Except I didn't find her anywhere along the way

Not only that, but I couldn't hear anything.  No crunching leaves, no snipping clippers, no nothing.


She must have gone back to the house, it's so daggone cold, I thought.

So back to the house I trotted, dodging briars and low-hanging limbs, hopping over fallen trees and leaping over mud holes.

The front door was slightly ajar.  I knocked on it, poked my head inside, and said Hello?

No answer.

So back into the woods I trotted, dodging briars and low-hanging limbs, hopping over fallen trees and leaping over mud holes--this time stopping every few steps to listen for footsteps which are so easy to hear when the crispy, dry leaves carpet the ground.


Back to the house I sprinted again (dodging, hopping and leaping my way out), this time wondering if maybe she was in some back room and didn't hear me the first time.

At the door I stepped in a little ways, stepped in some more, called her name,  realized (again) she wasn't in there, and dashed back into the woods, more than a little out of breath from all this dodging and leaping.

Sinkholes.  Mud.  Thick patches of briars.  Bad knees.  Hasn't been back here in a couple of years.  Oh no, I thought, she's fallen and it's my fault and she can't call for help because she's face first in quick sand or in so much pain she's writhing in agony barely able to move.  How could I have been so ridiculously unaware of her whereabouts?

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, she appeared.  Safe and sound.

Perfectly fine! Cool as a cucumber.

All that worry was for naught.  Thank goodness.

I didn't let on how worried I'd been.  No need. She was fine.  I was fine.  It was all good.  I did casually mention that our trek in the woods most definitely counted as vigorous exercise.  Oh yes indeed it did.

She then took me around and showed me some of the beautiful plants on her property that she believes were planted by one of three sisters who originally owned the house.  She told me that the shed (above) in these woods was likely used as a potting shed.

In the coming days I'll share more photos of this wonderful shed, which was one of my favorite parts of the journey.

In the mean time thanks so much to Carol for inviting me over and sharing her stories, her artwork, and her beautiful woods with me. I look forward to returning in the spring for pictures of all her flowering shrubs--as well as her artwork, which I thought was magnificent.


Note:  Carol's husband, who passed away several years back, was a California artist whose work may soon be shown at Gloucester Arts on Main. She was telling me stories about him and his work, when I asked about a stack of canvases over in a corner of her living room.  They were paintings she herself had done, and they're also worthy of showing, in my opinion. Unfortunately, due to the cold weather which pretty well numbed any functioning brain cells, I did not even think to take pictures of her artwork.  Next time.  Thanks, Carol! 


deborah said...

you have the 'mostest' fun on your adventures! Even if you did have a little scare due to losing your trekking partner:)
Looking forward to more photos from the deep woods-
Have a great week!

Anonymous said...

Wow, isn't it a good thing you have been doing all that running to get into shape for just such a situation? The moss emerald shades really stood out in the woods and they stand out in your outstanding photos...of the woods. Looking forward to seeing photos of the canvases someday.
WV "ingish"--my ingish hasn't been too good these days--all Greek to me

Deltaville Jamie said...

I can't wait to get down there for some misadventures. I need more "cartoon fodder". And that bright Irish green color of that moss was simply fantastic to see in the dead of winter.

Mental P Mama said...

Lucy and Ethel. That counts as training, by the way. And, I am blown away that she, too, has one of those dirt books. You guys are kindred spirits!

Windsmurf said...

What an adventure. I can see why you got distracted by the moss, it is a really vibrant green, especially against all the gray and tan of the fallen leaves and trees. Next time maybe one of you should wear a bell.

Fighting Mermaid said...

The soil survey is really cool, and the maze of drainage ditches back in the woods is nothing short of amazing. I love exploring the woods behind my house (most of which don't belong to me at all). There used to be a neat old house back there, but I think it must have burnt down because I couldn't find it when I went looking, but long ago it stood in clearing as if lost in time with rusted cars from the fifties in the yard, and no signs of any visible driveway or entrance. I have tried using google earth satellite images to locate it to no avail. (please laugh, because I am about to burst--I really did think this would be a good way to find it again).
Love the story about your woodsy adventure!

Daryl Edelstein said...

What fun ... personally I dont like wandering in the woods .. too many sink holes, tree roots to trip over, bugs to bite me, and opportunities abound to get lost and not be found ... BUT I would happily go awandering with you ..

Dghawk said...

What a wonderful adventure you had! I think the woods are a marvelous place. You never know what you are going to see or find.

Anonymous said...

LOL, windsmurf--they could wear cow bells as they wander the wooded expanses !

Carol said...

It was a delight to have you exploring the woods with me. I really am sorry for losing you...or losing me. Cowbells would be interesting. *lol*

Wait til it warms up a is an entirely different world with camellias in bloom and later on, the rhododendrons. Hope you'll come back again.