Forest Bathing

A term that means visiting a forest for relaxation. Or a walk through the woods to aid in a person’s well being and serenity. And what better time of year for this idea of forest bathing, than fall.

The forests here in Vermont are finally undergoing their autumn changes. Warmer weather in September slowed the process. And some worried that the colors might be muted or the leaves would fall off too quickly once the cooler weather arrived.

But as I stroll through the forests near where I live, as I bathe in their colorful splendor, I know that nature is right on schedule.

Autumn is here. And the forest is displaying her extravagance, splashing the earth with her glorious hues.

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It is truly the perfect time for forest bathing.

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Heaven’s Gulch

I tried to get to Devil’s Gulch last year, but along the way I was distracted by Ritterbush Pond and never made it any further.

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This year, I was determined to hike there and to see this unique natural feature on the Long Trail near Belvedere Mountain.

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It was a beautiful day when we set out. Ritterbush Pond appeared, and we did linger there for awhile. How could we not? The calm reflective waters invite lingering.

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But it was Devil’s Gulch that was our destination. The trail there is deceiving. It travels down instead of up. Down, down, down. Deep into a narrow valley.

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A ladder leaning up against a rock face is the first clue that there is more to this place than meets the eye.

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At the top of the ladder you look down into the gulch. Devil’s Gulch. I expected something dark and sinister. But what I saw seemed more like an entrance to a magical and enchanted place. An opening into another time and dimension. It captured my heart immediately and completely.

Huge rocks and boulders lay scattered about before me. Some resting precariously and others seemed as if they had been there forever.

Thickly coated in emerald green moss and lichen. Tree roots embracing and holding them in place.

An altar appeared. Made of rocks and moss. It felt almost church like. And I wondered why. Why was this beautiful place named Devil’s Gulch?

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As the sunlight filtered through the overhead trees and we explored this captivating place, I realized it didn’t matter why. To me, it felt more like Heaven’s Gulch.

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A place of serenity, peace…and a little bit like heaven.

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101.5 Miles

It has been a beautiful summer. I spent many hours enjoying the people and places I love.

This summer I also hiked. I hiked a lot. Sometime in July, I calculated I had hiked over 70 miles since school ended June 20. I decided I wanted to try to hike 100 miles before school began again.

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The mountains in Vermont are glorious. The views and vistas magnificent. No two mountains are alike. The trails vary in length and difficulty. The views partial or a full 360 degrees.

To me, it doesn’t matter. The journey up the mountain is just as special and wondrous as the summit.

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School began August 20. On August 19, I hiked up Sunset Ledge and watched the sun set. As I sat and gazed out I realized I had reached and surpassed my goal of 100 miles.

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This summer I hiked 101.5 miles.

As I climbed down in the dark, I smiled. Maybe next summer I’ll try for 200 miles.

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From Lake Willoughby With Love

There is a place. In the far northeast corner of Vermont. A place I have come to love. A place where I have over the years sought peace and serenity and found so much more. It holds a very special place in my heart.

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Lake Willoughby.

With her towering mountains that stand guard over her shores.

With her calm and reflective waters.

With iher glorious vistas and magnificent sunsets.

It is a place where worries fall away and life slows down. A step back into a simpler time. And wonder around every corner and on every mountain top.

It’s always hard to leave. But I know that she’s always here for me. Waiting patiently until I return again.

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From Lake Willoughby with love…

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Springtime at the Quarries

They always surprise me, these abandoned quarries.

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I always discover something new each time I go. A new trail. Another new hidden quarry. A new view. A new sense of awe.

In the springtime, the quarries show their true colors. The deep and mineral rich water sparkles brilliantly in the sun.

The leaves fill in the woods and trails filtering light and giving life to the things that grow here.

The rocks, scarred and striated, stand tall and proud above the glorious pools below.

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This newness…is how I wish to live my life. Each day a new beginning. Each day a new chance. Each day a new adventure.

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And the quarries in springtime remind me just how beautifully brand new each day is.

Little River

It wasn’t the nicest of days. The sun wasn’t shining. The temperature wasn’t warm. And the leaves, once so vibrant, were fading.

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But I’ve learned, that in every season and in every place, there is beauty and joy if you take the time to look around you.

Little River…

Another state park. Another favorite of mine. In all kinds of weather and on all kinds of days.

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There’s something about the stillness and muted reflections of the reservoir in late fall.

There’s something about the soft and quiet foliage that remains, both on the trees and on the ground.

There’s something about the peacefulness of still waters and cooler air.

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There’s something about the serenity of shimmering raindrops when the sun tries to peek through the dense clouds.

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And there is something about the wonder of hearing the sound of sleet echoing through the forest.

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After all it wasn’t the nicest of days…

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But there was beauty and joy to be found at Little River.

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Closed For The Season

The state parks here in Vermont close after Labor Day. This is the time I love them most. There’s something about these beautiful protected natural areas, empty of people and noise and activity, that appeals to me.

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And so I spend the off season visiting them. This weekend I enjoyed the splendor of Allis State Park. It was a gorgeous sunny day. The leaves just beginning to change and ready. A warm breeze rustles through the trees and is the only sound you can hear.

The lean to’s are quiet. No fires or smell of wood smoke. Life happens here only in the summer.

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The fire tower is mine to enjoy.

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The view, always magnificent and breathtaking, works its magic again.

Trails on Bear Hill can be explored and new discoveries are always made. Because there is no rush or throng of people to distract me from the surrounding landscape.

I meet a couple from a nearby town who wonder aloud why more people aren’t here. It’s such a beautiful place especially in the off season. I wonder too. But today I’m glad that they aren’t. The park is after all, closed for the season.

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A Sunday Stroll

At least that’s what it was meant to be.

A leisurely walk in Groton State Forest, on a gloriously warm Sunday afternoon.

I had noticed on a map that there were some ponds in the forest that I had never seen. It seemed like the perfect kind of day and a perfect kind of walk to a perfect kind of destination. It didn’t involve steep mountains or climbing up rocks. Just a simple stroll through the woods.

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The trail from the parking lot meandered slowly through the woods and then connected with what’s known as the rail trail. An old railroad bed converted into biking, hiking, and walking trails.

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We had already walked about a mile. I thought the ponds couldn’t be too far away.

On the side of the trail a bog appeared. I knew we must be getting close.

The trail continued. I walked and enjoyed and took pictures. My mind empty of thoughts. Simply enjoying the beauty around me. Noticing signs of change, yet summer still very much around me.

I drank from my water bottle feeling happy and at peace. What a lovely day.

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Walking. And walking. and walking some more. Thinking around each bend in the trail a pond would appear. Another mile passed and then another. I began to wonder. Maybe I couldn’t see the pond from the trail. Maybe it was hidden deeper in the woods. Perhaps the bog had been the pond at one time. Maps are often outdated.

And just as I thought about turning around. It did appear around a bend.

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And it was stunning. Breathtaking. Magnificent.

I kept walking. Savoring and marveling at the water, the reflections, the view.

And then another smaller pond appeared. And it was just as magnificent.

I looked around. The trail connected to a road. And I thought that if I followed it, I would come back out to where the parking lot was, instead of going back the way I had come. And so I continued walking.

After another mile I wondered if I might be heading in the wrong direction. A couple riding their bicycles stopped to chat and I asked “Where does this road lead?”. Marshfield they answered. And I realized it wouldn’t take me back to the parking lot. I would have to go back the way I came.

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So I turned around.

A Sunday stroll of 8 miles. I slept well that night.