Stalking colour: autumn shinrinyoku
Updated: Oct 28
This week I had to make a journey to the Big Smoke 75 miles south to pick up new eye glasses.
So as not to waste the trip, en route back I took a few hundred miles detour (that's not much on the scale of distances between things where I live), following a switchbacking road offering beautiful vistas, up the Sacramento Mountains to a trailhead in the Lincoln National Forest where I could walk feet on a forest trail and see what there was to see.
The Osha Trail which I chose for my little walk in the woods, is a 2.5 mile (5k) hike for humans, horses and dogs on leashes*. The trail is named after Ligusticum porteri a sacred and traditional medicine plant which grows in the area. I did see what I think is some of this "wild celery" but didn't know what I was looking at, at the time. I only researched the plant after coming off the trail.
I still have a few pieces of Bear Root medicine which was gifted me way back in 2018 by a colleague with indigenous heritage and knowledge of traditional medicine. It probably came from the Osha trail. I did see signs of what could have been human digging alongside the trail during my walk this week.
It had rained the night, before leaving the forest damp, glistening with moisture and sweetly perfumed.
While I'm not very good at North American native tree identification, the main trees seemed to be Aspen, (Ponderosa) Pines, (Douglas) Fir, (Gamble's) Oak and a maple with much smaller leaves than those I lived with in the Pacific Northwest.
Most of the neon brilliance of pinks, oranges and reds was,I think, provided by the maples.
Aspens brought a brilliant yellow and oaks were vivid green in process of changing to tawny brown.
The well maintained/well used trail was easy to navigate with just enough ups and downs and small areas of rockiness for interest.
It is known for its wildflowers and, late in the season though it is, I found an array of, unknown to me, flowers, mostly yellow or white. Underfoot was often softly springy, carpeted with freshly fallen leaf colour. Every now and then an invisible signal would bring a shower of more falling leaves down around my shoulders accompanied by a soft rustling. Then just as mysteriously all would be still again.
I used hiking poles and was grateful for the stability they gave me on the rocky or bumpy tree root parts where I might have stumbled. I only used one of the 5 or 6 benches scattered along the length of the trail, mostly in places with beautiful vistas.
Back at the almost empty trailhead parking lot, I ate a solitary picnic lunch at one of the three tables there.
Prior to embarking on the little walk I had invested in a slice of fresh baked cherry pie from a bakery in the nearby little mountain village of Cloudcroft. The region is known for its cherry orchards. The pie went down well with the almonds, bananas and kombucha which I had brought with me.
Overall it was a refreshing and restorative interlude and worth the four hours or so of driving time it required. The autumn changes in the desert around me daily are generally way more subtle than that of the forested mountains.
*Note: though I only encountered 4 humans and a single dog on the whole length of the 2.5 mile trail, the dog that I did encounter was not on a leash, nor at its accompanying (male) human's heel, but was instead besides a huge steaming pile of poop. Why do so many of the dog owning public in this country think the rules born of common courtesy and consideration of others and the environment do not apply to them?
Seriously I am beginning to think the dog ownership thing really does need an entry in the DSM.