Sunday I took Roland for yet another hike through White Clay Creek State Park. I had met a teacher that week and she had given her students an assignment that she thought I would like too. She send them outside to enjoy the fall day and to write what they saw, smelled, heard, and felt. I thought that was a the greatest idea and I should do the same. I set out with just that purpose in mind.
Upon getting out of the car I was still engrossed in my conversation to appreciate all that was going on around me. I gathered our gear setting each piece out so I could take inventory; backpack, gang line, harness, Roland’s pack, trekking poles. It was then I noticed we were being watched by one of the park rangers. I strolled over and quickly struck up a conversation. It quickly became apparent that he was a hiker and had wondered about what I was setting Roland up with. I showed him his gear and everything about it, our conversation flowed like a gentle stream from one topic to the next as we talked about hiking, dogs, and the Appalachian Trail. As our moment came to an end Roland and I set out.
Down the trail. we walked, getting into our rhythm the only sounds to hear were our breath and footsteps. I took in long slow deep breaths, each so crisp and with just enough chill. As I took in that cool air it felt so clean and invigorating as my lungs filled with energy. I felt alive with the cool air against my skin as we walked along arriving at a bridge. This bridge sat high above White Clay Creek, a few large trees fallen over, twisting and reaching over the water, clinging to the ground, and other small trees with every hope of not being washed away at the next sudden storm. The rolling water stripping leaves, bark and debris from the branches sunk into the crystalline waters. The rolling water babbling like a thousand spoons being played, passed underneath, creating a perfect, serene moment. We stood there listening, watching, just long enough to take it all in before heading off again.
In the distance I could make out a figure, standing alone, by the trail. It seemed as if whatever was in front him had captured his direct focus. The trail led straight to him and to our surprise he stood facing this large pond, covered in lily pads. The lily pads stood just a few inches above the water reminding me of a thousand umbrellas in the sand. This looked like the perfect spot to rest and just see all the beautiful colors and animals. Roland lay just a few feet from the water as I snapped a few pictures of this hidden pond right off the trail. If Tristen were here, she would sit and just watch the crane fish and the frogs bellow, this was the kind of spot where you could get your thoughts in order. The sounds of the crickets, frogs, and birds created an almost white noise, calming and clearing your mind as they chirped on. On our way out I snapped one last picture to send my dear friend.
We hiked on enjoying the silence of the world, funny thing is the woods are nothing but alive and noisy, compared to the busy life at home and at work it was a welcomed silence and change of pace. We passed open fields narrow trails and quite a few runners. It wasn’t until we reached Pennsylvania that we were treated with a very rare sight, camera’s, lighting, backdrops, and tables of sound equipment. I stumbled upon a film crew, looking closer it became obvious it was a small group of twenty or so British students making an indie scifi film. Roland and I stood watching as they acted, received direction and shot scene after scene. There were some elaborate props, some sort of probe with lights and mechanical arms that was the focus of these scenes. I wondered how, if today could get any better than this, watching a movie being made, seeing behind the magic. Off we trotted excited to see what would be next in our journey of exploration of sights and sounds.
The Light had grown dim and we found ourselves coming to the end of the hike. Roland had grown slack in his enthusiasm now, his gang line tangling as we walked. It was in that instant I decided to do something I would have never thought of doing in the years before. I took him off the lead and let it trail behind him rattling as we went. To my greatest surprise, he took up right next to me only to drop behind when he had to smell or take a break. I can’t express the magic of the moment when he ran back to me to catch up, No care to anything else but the trail. This gave me all sorts of hopes for our bigger trips, maybe just maybe we were finally at the point where he could be trusted in certain situations. I am very sure that being tired, wearing his pack, alone with me, all had a huge hand in the magical 3 miles we walked side by side back to the car. The feeling of freedom from each other was amazing, to not have to be tethered at all times free to walk with him and not walk him. Upon reaching the car Roland just lay down and waited to be relieved of his pack. He continued in his unwavering trust laying there with nothing binding him to me the car or the ground as he drank and I packed up the car for home.
Sunday was probably one of the best hikes we have been on in a long time. My friends suggestion was a great one. Allowing me to take a different appreciation of the world around me as we hiked. Roland surprising me and staying with me for miles without a hint of fleeing or chasing the smallest bit of movement. So many wondrous sights sounds and smells filled the hike with joy and wonder.