Leaf Strewn Forest Trails

Location: James L. Goodwin State Forest – Black Spruce Pond and Orchard Hill Lookout – Hampton/Chaplin, CT

Links:  Trail Map PDF, CT DEEP

Date: Thursday, October 11th, 2018

Time: 9:00 am – 11:30 am

Hike Duration: 4 miles; 2.5 hours

Weather: Overcast, light sprinkles at times; somewhere around 65 degrees F

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The sky was overcast with moisture in the air that seemed to wrap around us as we began our hike on the leaf covered forest trails today. There’s something about damp earth that causes the scents of nature to be richer and more pronounced.

I remember learning at one point that the sense of smell, more than any of the other senses, is closely tied to our memory. As I breathed in the aroma of dried leaves crunching underneath our footsteps, I was transported back in time.

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When I was growing up, my brother and sister and I would help our Gram rake leaves at her house. She had a hill out back, so we would rake the leaves into a big pile at the base of the hill. Then we would run from the top, picking up momentum on the way down, and jump into that pile of leaves. It was so much fun!

Now I walk along, breathing deeply as I recall those memories. I listen to the leaves crunch. I drag my feet through them, kicking leaves up into the air in front of me. I look for colors on the ground that catch my eye. And as I do, a couple critters catch my eye as well.

We’ve hiked these trails before, although we changed it up just a bit to follow an “Unmarked Trail” on the west side of Black Spruce Pond. We were absorbed by the forest on this trail, and I felt reminded as to why I love being in the woods.

There’s something that hits me deep inside when I’m immersed in the trees. I love overlooks and rivers and lakes and ponds, but trees feel like home. As we walked those wooded trails, I settled into a sense of present moment body awareness.

One of the most effective ways I’ve found to get myself out of my head, is to get into my body. That means connecting to my senses. And it’s so much easier to do this in nature, which is why these weekly walks are so rejuvenating.

The feeling of the gentle breeze caressing my skin. How the mist and occasional sprinkles feel as they land on my face.

The smell of earth and the occasional scents that seem to drift by us, disappearing almost as quickly as we notice them. Identifiable scents such as pine needles, leaves and ferns. And unidentifiable scents that leave us wandering around in search of the source.

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The sight of nothing but trees extending out in all directions. It’s like a massage for my eyes. That probably sounds weird, but it’s the best way I can describe how the sight of being surrounded by nature relaxes the tension in the area behind my eyes.

The sound of leaves rustling in the tree tops and crunching beneath our feet. The soft serenade of songbirds all around.

In this moment, I am right here. Right now. Opening to this moment. Breathing in this moment. Absorbing this moment. Feeling the awareness of this moment in my body and simply being with it. For this moment, stress and worry and concern dissolve into clarity and peace.

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Black Spruce Pond

“The past is gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live, and that is the present moment.” ~Buddha

As we head out of the deep woods, we begin to make the incline towards the Orchard Hill Lookout. This is a slow and steady incline. Nothing too strenuous, but enough to get our hearts pumping. We first discovered this overlook back in December of 2017. It’s actually the birthplace of Our Lunch With a View.

We ate our lunch, reminiscing about that day. It was a simple comment Dennis had made about how lucky we were to be able to eat our lunch with such a view. In that moment, I was struck with the inspiration to write about our hiking adventures. And so the journey began.

Together we sat in stillness once again, looking out over the view. This is another example of how the same hike can be so different. Last time we were here, the trees were bare so our view was much more expansive. Our view today was mostly blocked by trees that have yet to lose their leaves. No less magnificent though!

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