We make almond butter sandwiches, then pack dried apples, walnuts, apricots, three water containers, a handful of band-aids, and cutters for the bull briers—and off we go to spend the afternoon in the woods.
From the swamp at the bottom of the hill as we go into the woods comes the sound of ducks croaking like frogs, or frogs quacking like ducks. The bull briers are so thick we can’t get close enough to find out.
The clippers come in handy at the mud crossing, clearing out bull briers so we can cross on the rocks. We pass the vernal pool, deciding that next time we’ll bring containers to get water from each water spot that we pass. It’s been years since we found a hydra in our pond water, but I keep hoping to find another.
At the fork in the path, there’s no need to be decisive; both sides end up on the running hill down to Frog Pond. The trick is to make it all the way down the hill without having a tree root reach up and trip you. At Frog Pond the frogs do sound like frogs, but what we see are ducks swimming serenely out of view. For the first time in years everyone crosses the rocks over the stream from Frog Pond without any wet shoes or clothes. (Not that wet shoes have ever bothered anyone. Up to his knees in water, Christopher said, “It’s alright. My shoes are waterproof.”)
The Big Rock is next. Sandwiches come out of the backpack, and there are no complaints. “This kind of dark bread is my favorite.” A goose glides by. A few raindrops surprise us. No one is worried about climbing the rock now, and the easy, hard, and harder ways up are all used. The band-aids come out when skin meets rock.
Next, we go to the bridge over the stream from Governor’s Meadow—which is water, not land. In warmer weather, this is the wading place; today it is for floating sticks. Across the path is a steep dirt hill to climb, steep enough that grabbing a fallen tree trunk or a friend’s hand helps in getting to the top.
Usually we would have to head back after this, but since we have more time today, we go “off the map” and take the long way home. We stop at a bigger rock that is spectacular but has had too many glass-breaking visitors.
Back on the path, the talk is of how many hours we’ve been gone, what good hikers we are, how we should have brought more water, whether we will get back before school is over, and “Can we do this tomorrow?”