The plan was to go on Charlotte Lukes’ mushroom hike at Three Springs the morning of the last Saturday in September, but I had forgotten about the lengthy Highway 57 detour, and not having planned for the extra time that would take, I arrived at the filled Three Springs parking area at 9:12 am, with no sign of a soul and not a sound coming from the surrounding woods.
OK, instead of parking on the roadway with the No Parking signs and thrashing through the woods in a possibly futile search for the mycological adventure, how about hiking somewhere I’ve never been? The Ephraim Wetlands Preserve is the first thing that came to mind. So be it.
Just off Highway 42 on the south end of Ephraim, this village-owned preserve takes you immediately from the hubbub of the highway to a peaceful place of contemplation and reverie (not the same things, by the way), even though you can still hear the tires constantly squishing past on the highway.
But here, in the sun-dappled woods on this mild September morn, the mechanized, go-go world seems far away. The air seems richer, sweeter here in this refuge, and standing still on the rough, root-choked trail, I drink deeply.
Signs of autumnal decay are everywhere. A colony of bracken fern has turned brown and each fern is slowly crumpling in on itself as life drains away for the season. One colorful leaf clings to an otherwise barren small tree. An almost phosphorescent green moss and the enticing deep red berries of the invasive Japanese barberry stand out against the decaying background. Club moss grows like Lilliputian evergreens.
There are informational signs along the trail, but several of them have been made unreadable by weather. A large burned-out stump has a sign on it asking why? Elsewhere on the trail, a pipe incongruously pokes out of the ground, desperately in need of a sign.
A portion of the trail is blocked off due, according to a sign, to bridge repair that needs to be done. The sign appears to have been there for a good while.
I didn’t mind that some signs were unreadable – I wasn’t there to read – and, ultimately, that a portion of the trail was closed. Yes, it turned out to be a short hike, but had I just been interested in hiking, I would have gone somewhere I know I’ll get a good hike.
The preserve has an interesting history, but I wasn’t there for that, either.
This space offered me the opportunity to take my time, look at small things, drink in the colors, textures and aromas of autumn, which, I realized shortly into the experience, is what I really needed, to get in tune with nature. Nature is my chiropractor and I needed a spinal alignment.
Thank you Ephraim Wetlands Preserve!