A Walk in the ParkMay 21, 2007
We finished lunch and we cleaned up the kitchen quickly so we could hop in the car and get started with one of our favorite ways to spend a weekend afternoon. We were headed for the mountains, and as we pulled out from home, we were still deciding just where we would go. Would it be the antique sale, or the Flight 93 Memorial at Shanksville? What about the festival for the National Road on the other side of the mountain? I decided that the memorial may be too emotional for me, and we thought that the antique sale would be ending, so we headed for route 40. As it turns out, we’ve failed to get details about the festival and we headed the wrong direction for the activities. Since we didn’t have a real plan to begin with, this wasn’t a problem.
After a short discussion about what we’d like to do, we make a turn off the National Road and make our way to Ohiopyle. We stop at an antique shop along the way. The most interesting piece we saw there was a curved stairway for about $1,400. We take a moment to dream about including the stairway in a future remodel of our house, and we move on.
Driving on toward Ohiopyle, we pass some cyclists. I’m quite impressed with their ability to pedal those mountain roads. The hills are long and steep; these guys were pedaling along just fine. I’m sure I’d be walking my bike. We pull into the state park and walk the familiar paths along the Youghiogheny River. One of our favorite spots is the overlook to the falls. The park is full of visitors, but not crowded. This is a diverse bunch as well. There are some families with young kids, a few elderly couples, and plenty of bikers as evidenced by the number of motorcycles in the parking lot. There are some aging hippies in tie-dye t-shirts and a group of women from the bruderhof (Hutterian community) we passed on the way to the park. There is a gay couple taking pictures of the falls, each other, and before I can offer to take a picture of them together, it seems one of them has brought his mother, and she takes their picture. They stand arm in arm, smiling at the camera with the scenic view behind them. At some point, not too long after we’ve been in the park, the cyclists arrive and take what appears to be a very cold dip in the river.
Eventually, we make our way back to the van and move to a different part of the park. We’ve decided to walk a trail on the opposite side of the river. Since it’s new to us, we begin tentatively looking for the trail markings, but soon we’re hiking with confidence. The river’s edge is coming alive with blossoming trees, wildflowers, and a healthy crop of poison ivy. I’m careful to avoid it since I’ve had bad experiences with poison. We find a beautiful outcropping of rock that juts into the river not far from the falls. The sun is shining and we sit down to enjoy the snack we’ve brought along. I open the crackers and start spreading the cheese. I also open the small bottles of wine. It’s a private space in spite of being able to see people across the river, and up or downstream from our rock. We sit there enjoying our snacks, soaking up the sun, listening to the rush of the river, and enjoying each other’s company. Eventually, the sun shifts and we’re in the shade. We decide to move on.
We head downstream to get closer to the waterfall before coming back to our picnic spot. On the way downstream, a fellow trail walker has stopped. We thought the guy’s wife was taking a picture of him and their baby, but it turns out that he was stopped and admiring a snake. It was a small copperhead and was protected by a large rock. I’ve learned to respect snakes. They do very little damage and are often good for the environment. If the snake isn’t bothering you, there’s no need to bother the snake. I believe this is my first encounter with a copperhead in the wild, and I’ve heard that they can be aggressive. I’m surprised that this snake isn’t upset at the presence of humans. I suspect that it was either sleeping, or experiencing some sort of transition, like shedding. The color seemed muted, not quite as bright as I expected. I pulled out my cell phone, zoomed in and got a pretty good picture without getting too close. It never did respond to our presence.
The rest of our trail walk was uneventful as far as wildlife was concerned. We get in the car, warmed from our walk. It’s time to head home and so we drive a different direction. Funny thing is, we’ve done this day before, several times. It’s never exactly the same, but it never fails to give us the same results. We spend time connecting to the earth which is always good for a person. We spend time connecting with each other in a beautiful natural setting, and that’s always good for a relationship. We walk away from the park with a peaceful, calm feeling of love and satisfaction.