It’s only a one-mile loop, this Dry Marsh Trail. I can handle that, even in this heat. It’s an easy hike, though, and it’s good to be away and outside, just the two of us.

I lag behind, stopping to take pictures of this and that. He waits for me to catch up, reads out loud from the brochure.

This marsh was once a small lake that supported many aquatic plants and animals. Through the years, rain-washed soil gradually filled it in, and now it holds water only in wet years.

There’s little water today.

As the marsh continues to fill in, plants growing around the drier edges will spread inward. If you were to stand on this spot 100 years from now you might be in the middle of an oak woods.

I pause to ponder how changes and erosion and drought can still stimulate growth.

He reads about the various trees. We count the seven leaflets on a white ash leaf. We try to figure out which leaves belong to the quaking aspen, leaves that seem to tremble or quake in the breeze. We learn it takes two years for a black oak acorn to ripen.

I turn my lens heavenward to try to catch the sparkles of sun on residual raindrops.

My imagination runs wild as I think about the Irish sheep farmers who first settled this land.

There’s another trail in this park. We stop in front of the sign. It’s 22 miles to Green Lake and 36 to Silver Lake. “Ready?” he asks.

I tuck damp hair under my Detroit Tigers cap and look squinty-eyed at him. “Will you know when to stop?”

“Just let me know when you get tired,” he answers, “and we’ll turn around.”

The problem is I don’t always know I’m weary until it’s too late.

We’re scrambling over some rocks now. This trail’s more strenuous than the first, but not nearly as tough as last year’s climb up Sugarloaf Mountain. To press on then was well worth the view and perspective.

The lake spreads out below and to our right. The water shimmers in the light.

We’re about thirty minutes down the path before I realize we’ve left our water bottles in the car. I run my tongue along upper and lower lips, taste the salty. Even my light and loose sleeveless shirt clings to my back.

The lake’s behind us now, and the path stretches before us. We see only one other person—a man who carries a tall walking stick and nods as he passes. His camouflaged backpack bounces, and for a moment I envision him waiting beyond the bend to ambush us on our return.

I shut the camera off and pop the lens cover on. There’s nothing new under this green canopy even for this deep see diver. I just follow my leader step by monotonous step on a sun-dappled path. I lean against a tree to dump stones and sand from my hiking sandals. I keep my eyes down to avoid smushing the black cherries or crunching the green acorns that litter the way. I remember that repetitive movement is supposed to stimulate one’s creative flow.

Finally he says he thinks we should turn around but come back and hike here again. I say okay as I’m not seeing anything new (to take a picture of) and maybe it would be fun to try a new trail next time. I’m trying not to whine. “Don’t you get tired of seeing the same thing?” I ask.

“No,” he answers. I just like to look at the woods. It’s enough.”

To look at the woods…

I flip the lens cap off and turn on the camera. I take one last picture.

To look at the woods…

To look at the wood.

It’s enough.

If you’re interested, I’ve posted more photos on my blog here.


for when the way grows weary

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 3 min