I was three weeks shy of my fourth birthday when my mother, baby sister and I arrived on my grandparents’ ranch in northern California on May 1, 1952. Refugees of our parent’s broken marriage, we were received with love by our mother’s parents and I was “set loose” on 100 acres of tromping grounds. With a few stern prohibitions from my mother: do not go into the “spring field; do not play around the wells; and do not go near the septic field!
These were easy rules for me to follow, as I conjured up images of dying horrifying deaths being swallowed up in quick sand or sewage or falling down a dark well shaft and drowning before anyone could come to my rescue. No! No problem — there were still many fascinating barns and outbuildings to explore and make playhouses in; eucalyptus groves to climb in and hide in; puppies and kittens and chickens and sheep to play with; a creek to spend endless hours in AND best of all — inviting trails that honey-combed the entire ranch that went EVERYWHERE!
Where did those trails go, exactly? That was the fun of taking them. My young child’s curiosity eventually led me to travel all of them and become intimately familiar with their intersections and destinations.
Most of the trails had been made by cows and sheep, as they grazed the grassy pastures of my grandparent’s ranch. A few were created by deer but often the deer used the “super-highways” already trodden wide by the larger numbers of animals. I found great joy in exploring these trails and even as a high school student, I would frequently ask the bus driver to “let me out” at the back side of our property, so I could hike the mile through the pastures to home, rather than stay on the bus for another hour, as it wended its way along the country roads that were its rural route.
So here I am, some 60 + years later, in an entirely different rural setting — following trails through the forest.
Most of these trails are human-made and maintained. Some of them go to someplace and others go through someplace, like an area of the property that allows one to be right IN the middle of the natural, undisturbed forest. Along these paths are the “roads less traveled.” These are made by deer and maintained by deer and other animals that go “off the beaten path.” I’ve begun to explore these also. They often appear to “go nowhere” but that is just because my human senses are not trained to follow the subtleties of the animal trail markers –yet.
A few days ago I realized that walking these trails here at Lost Valley was renewing the joy and pleasure of my early childhood explorations. I began to appreciate the trails even more. As I step off the porch of the Large Dorm where I live to go anywhere else, I encounter a trail. It takes me to the Guest Kitchen where I make my breakfast or the Lodge where I eat lunch and dinner — or cook lunch or dinner — or to any number of other trails and paths that allow me to enjoy the wooded beauty of my new home.
Happy trials to you, as you enjoy a few shots of my new playground.