Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day 90 - The Woods

When I was 7 years old, my parents moved me and my brother from the small white house on Adams Street to a dark green house on one acre surrounded by second or third growth trees. The house was on a hill that looked at an intersection of three ravines, with a small creek bed meandering through the bottom. Our dinner table was situated in front of a "sliding glass door to nowhere" that overlooked the backwoods. When my brother and I would act up during dinner, my dad would stare off into the woods and comment that he could see three squirrels and would challenge us to find them.

Growing up, my brother and I would "explore" the woods. Sometimes we would be visited by our distant cousin Jeff who lived across the road from us. We first started our explorations directly behind the sliding glass doors, discovering the familiar. We would stay within eyesight of the house, but would jump, crawl, leap, run, and explore that ravine. Big brown flaky vines, as thick as fireman rope, would serve as swings or modified bucking broncos. As we grew up and our exploration furthered from the house, we discovered a downed tree that spanned across a ravine that served as a detour to the longer arduous path. Falling from this log would only be a few feet, but the log spanned across some impassable briars which forced us to take the longer path.

Our first real exploration occurred during a winter visit from my cousins (Amanda & Ela). We tromped through the snow and ended up going further than we had ever been before. The trees quickly obscured my parents house and we were left in the wild country. Wild being defined as new territory, not true wilderness. We explored an old ski lift (we had an eccentric neighbor in our area who also converted his front yard into a three hole golf course), and managed to get ourselves "lost". My cousins weren't too keen on the idea that we were lost, but to me it was an excitement.

I can remember another winter day when my parents had gone to go grocery shopping and left me and my brother home. Thad and I would slide down on our butts in our overalls and create trenches in the snow. With seasonal changes, these troughs would then turn icy and turn into great sledding runs. The end of these chutes would deposit us about 6 feet above the creek bed, and if enough speed was gained we could jump to the other side.

Anyway, that afternoon, my brother found my dad's stash of bottle rockets. They must have been there for a couple of years, because I couldn't remember in recent memory when the last time my dad did a fireworks show. One of us, probably me, decided it would be really cool if we took our G.I. Joe toys and slid them down the chute with the bottle rockets attached. The resulting bang from the firework didn't destroy the toy, but merely popped them apart. After grabbing the pieces we merely popped them back together and repeated the process. Everything was going pretty fine, until we could hear a loud voice clear his voice. Busted! Years later we found out that both mom and dad had been watching us for about five to ten minutes and were laughing quite hard.

Towards the end of our stay out in the woods, my brother and I had taken a few longer day trips into the woods. We discovered ATV trails and herds of deer. We battled fatigue as we climbed ravines and were occasionally rewarded by shed antlers. Looking through 20 years of experience, I remember that this place was where my love for the outdoors was nurtured. I won't stay started because my dad and grandpa instilled that in me from hunting and fishing trips. I say nurtured as it developed a free spirit of adventure and exploration that continues even to this day. Without those woods, I wonder if I would still love the outdoors and thus fly fishing.

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