Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Just Another Day in the Park

"Take a walk with Mother Nature.
It will nurture your mind, body and soul."
Anthony Douglas Williams

Merry ME Adventure Girl

While I haven't been writing as I thought I would, I have kept up (mostly) with my daily walks. I've gone out bundled up against the Florida cold (nothing like Bostonian cold, but still chilly) with a hoodie and gloves. In the last few days, it's been warm enough to shed even a lightweight jacket.  Walking around the neighborhood has gotten boring, so I tried something different today.

Sweetie and I went to the Jacksonville Arboretum. I'll be honest, until recently I didn't even know Jacksonville had an arboretum. I read last night about a few nearby places with nice trail walks. Woodsy places where you can walk with a child or dog and imagine you are no longer in the city. The Arboretum was #1 on the list so I decided to go with it. My intention was to get up early (who am I kidding?) and hit the trail. When Sweetie called around 3, I was still in my pajamas. (Not working turns me into a veritable slug.)

The only tree I recognized
After some bickering about insignificant things like the pool pump, we headed out. I was sure I knew right where to go, until I missed the turn and had to drive in a big circle to find the place, with Sweetie acting as navigator. My idea of a peaceful walk was quickly turning into more of an ordeal that I had bargained for.  I kind of expected to find the arboretum full of people, so the empty parking lot surprised me. Why I thought it would be crowded on a Tuesday afternoon, I don't know. I asked the only other person I saw if she knew where she was going. Okay, so it was kind of a dumb question and deserved the quizzical look she gave me. But she was very nice, pointed out the gigantic information sign right in front of Sweetie, where the trail maps were kept. I asked about which trail to take. Sweetie asked about snakes. Snakes? Who's idea was it to take a nature walk?

This turtle was on a mission, did not want to stop for a photo op.
Lake Ray was more of what I'd call a pond.
After looking at the map, I decided to strike out on my own. I've heard tell there is some Daniel Boone DNA in my blood, how hard can it be to walk a mile circle around and through some trees? I tossed Sweetie the car keys promising to see him in a little bit. He was going to stay near the entrance taking pictures.

Here's what I didn't know. That DNA I talked about, it's kind of watered down. When you get inside a stand of trees, even when they have little markers telling you what kind of trees they are, everything begins to look alike. I cursed myself for forgetting to bring a large trash bag and a whistle. That's all I remember from when my kids were little and we taught them if they were ever lost in the woods to "hug a tree."

The Florida version of Stonehenge. Perhaps put in place by alien beings or  Timucuan Indians*
I had also miscalculated my idea of a brisk walk. One cannot walk at her normal quick pace when it's necessary to keep her eyes on the trail to a) keep her bearings, b) not trip on tree roots and c) be ever watchful for snakes. It began to make sense to me why the woman I saw walking off in the opposite direction from me was wearing jeans.  My bear ankles would be just right for an angry rattler to sink his fangs into.

Ancient Timucuan fertility symbols left at the edge of Lake Ray where virgins were tossed to appease the Gods.
I had taken the lake road. When I got to a clearing there was an older gent who pointed out that I could take the upper ravine road and it would lead me back to where we were standing and then I could follow the road I was on back to the parking lot. I considered following him, he looked like he knew his way around and was too old to be a serial killer who hung out in arboretums waiting for unsuspecting victims like me to come along.  Instead I took the Upper Ravine road.
This path wandered up, down, around and through trees and vegetation. If I looked between tree branches I could see a ravine (what's the difference in a ravine and a creek?). In a few places, I could hear water trickling over a rock or limb. Strangely, I heard no birds. I saw a dragonfly and one yellow butterfly flitted overhead. Other than that it was me and Mother Nature.

I tried to clear my mind to get the full benefit of the outdoor experience. I tried to let go of a rising fear that I was going to get so lost nobody would find me. I weighed the consequences of going forward or turning around and trying to retrace my steps. I wondered if I tried to call 911 for help if there would be  cell phone reception. I said a silent prayer of thanks for the good sense to carry a bottle of water. All the while I put one foot in front of the other and kept moving.  At last, like Ponce de Leon landing on the wooded shores of St. Augustine, I spied a clearing. Not exactly the parking lot I had hoped to see, but close enough that I knew I'd survived my sojourn in the woods.

Sweetie was nowhere to be seen when I got back to the starting point. Oh dear, I thought to myself. As much as I love the man, I decided it would be prudent to stay put and wait for him. No point in both of us being lost, right? A few minutes later the women I'd seen at the beginning of the hour came strolling down the path. Beads of sweat dampened her forehead. She'd obviously gone farther and faster than I had. She pointed out that Sweetie was right around the corner.

As we walked to the car, Sweetie commented that the sound of traffic and sirens didn't add much to the ambiance of the nature setting. Of course, he is right. But I kind of liked hearing that civilization wasn't as far away as I feared it might be.

The next trip will be somewhere near Ft. Caroline. I'll be more prepared.
Merry ME

*The Timucuan (according to the local news lady this is pronounced ti-MOO-quan, rather than tim-a-quan) were an American Indian people who lived in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia. The Timucuan may have been the first American natives to see the landing of Ponce de Leon near St. Augustine in 1513. (Wikipedia)


tennessee stream walker :) said...

FYI! i've been told 911 works off special satellites so even if you have no signal you can still call for emergency assistance.

Anonymous said...

I can't ever imagine getting lost when you could still hear traffic the entire time!
But I do understand that the trees can lead you around and around!
So glad you are walking..
I am hoping to Get p to the National Arboretum soon!
Keep your fingers crossed!

AkasaWolfSong said...

Thanks for the adventure Mary...loved the turtle, the Indian markings and of course observations as told by You! :)