Father's Day was a perfect day to get wet, so I had a great breakfast courtesy of Sara and the kids, and got ready. Lily had been asking to go for the past few days, and thankfully the weather was good, because I couldn't get it out of my head. I woke up thinking about the walk, thinking about what was going to go in my pockets and where we should leave the path. I pulled a pack from the attic, ready with a folding saw, some half rope and a knife - I put water and kids in the car, and we were off. It isn't a hard walk, and if you go slow enough won't even break a sweat. But by the time we got to the white 21 trail marker the sound of traffic was long gone and we went down the bank and into the river. I haven't been since the fall, and all the winter rain and downed trees changed the path of the water in parts - since we're far off the trail, there are places that look brand new even though I've been through this stream dozens of times. As we go up the hill the river becomes more familiar when the ground changes from dirt to river rock, tumbled granite and mica. This is the best place to find salamanders and crayfish, if you're taking notes, and we always get hung up building dams and wrestling creatures out from between the crevices.
After an hour or so, the polished rocks give way to pages of grey slate, that make the ground look like someone left a great iron book open under the earth, and the water that is a gentle tumble further down the hill splashes and chirps around the jagged rocks... this is my favorite part. I'm always worried that the kids will fall here, and tear their knees open on one of the sharp edges, but since there aren't any places to look for animals along the solid river floor, they tend to be a bit more focused. There are yellow birch and sassafras trees growing along the bank all along these slate twists of the stream, and the roots that can't penetrate the rock stretch out in red tendrils into the water, like the sea urchins we've seen with Jeanne and Julie on the Pacific shore.
We pass by bridges, groundhogs, and deer bones washed white by sun and stream... and climb out of the water three hours later with wrinkled toes and dirty fingernails to make our way back to the car. Back on solid ground the walk back is quicker, and chipmunks dash out of our way on the path into the tall grasses and Serviceberry tangles. All I can think to myself is that I can't imagine a better place to be, and just like every other day we're in these woods, I have to fight back the urge to get feet-wet, and start all over again.