On Labor Day, eleven weeks after the summer solstice, we took an afternoon family hike, my spouse, the two kids, and me.
Always unsettled by changes in our schedule and irritated that after a month of working out and watching my food intake, my hiking pants were still tight and my belly still stubbornly round, I was in a sour mood when we left for our hike. I spent the first fifteen minutes complaining about how un-walkable our town is, how boring the suburbs are, how impossible it is to bike anywhere safely with the kids, how homicidal the drivers are.
I was still complaining when we got to the river, but the sight of the jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) shut me up for a few minutes.
I don’t know what it is I love so much about jewelweed. Maybe it’s because it can soothe poison ivy or because its oranges and greens are so vibrant together. Or maybe I’m just thrilled that it’s one of the plants I can recognize without looking it up.
By the time we reached the meadow, the wind from Tropical Storm Hermine’s approach had blown away most of my crabbiness, and I could enjoy the view.
When we reached the distal point of our hike, we found that the relentless drought had left the creek almost completely dry.
Green frogs (Lithobates clamitans), which we identified by their banjo-sounding croaks, sought refuge in the couple of puddles that remained. They dove beneath half-submerged rocks at the clumsy approach of my hiking boots before I was able to photograph them.
Without much trouble, we were able to skip the trail and walk up the creek to the bridge without getting our boots wet.
I found it disorienting to see the bridge from this angle. Although I didn’t necessarily like seeing the creek so dry, it did put my irritations in perspective. Just a few months ago, this creek was full and covered in ice. What would it look like this winter? Would autumn rains replenish it, or would it stay empty until spring?
We only have three more hikes left until we’ve logged a full year of weekly hikes on the same trail. I don’t know what we’re going to do after Week 52. I feel a little fatigued at the weekly blogging about our walks, but I can’t quite imagine not hiking the trail each week. At the creek this week, we noticed that the jack-in-the-pulpit fruit we’d seen here the week before was gone. I’d caught its portrait just in time. What else might we miss if we stopped walking here each week?
As we turned and headed back toward the trailhead, I realized that the coil that had been wound so tightly in my chest had relaxed. I had borne witness to yet another week in the life of this trail, and it had borne (indifferent) witness to another week in our lives. It felt like a belonging of sorts.