Where do you find time and space to escape from your daily routines, stresses and responsibilities? Recently, I find my weeks and weekends filled with many unending tasks. The stresses of teaching, being a parent, and keeping it all together these days fill my mind with concerns and to-do lists. But, on Sundays, I try to escape to recharge and reset my frame of mind. I set aside a few hours of “nature time“ to explore one of FoHVOS trails. I “reset” when I walk a trail, immersing myself in its beauty and learning from the woods and its flora and fauna. 

Woosamonsa Ridge, owned and managed by FoHVOS and D&R Greenway, is a sight to be seen in October and November, especially this year. All the recent rain has created brilliant leaf color, and it has been a few years since we have seen this brilliance. As soon as I step out of the car onto the trail head, with my dog Friday, I look up and see trees of yellow, peachy orange and rusty browns. I was lucky last weekend when I hiked the white blazed trail. The sunshine set the trees aglow on the two-mile trail loop the canopy envelops. The color, sunshine, Christmas ferns on the forest floor, and larger old growth trees make this a special location out of all the FoHVOS trails. As the white blazed trail winds over streams and up to the top of the ridge, a hiker has a high vantage point. As an added pleasure, last Sunday, the gentle breeze made the leaves float down gently like the floating feather in Forrest Gump. It was a magical fall day.

While the show is above my head on the trail, I learn from the leaves fallen at my feet. The many shapes and sizes are evolutionary perfection. Large leaves like the sycamore are best at intercepting light because of their size; some sycamore leaves are as large as a dinner plate. I have paid special attention recently to different types of oak leaves. Oak trees vary in leaf size and shape. For example, the white oak has scalloping and lobing along the rounded edges. The pin oak leaf in comparison, looks similar to that of a holly leaf. The pin oak leaf is pointy with large serrations and lobing along the edges. The largest oak leaves on the trail are red oak leaves. The red oak leaf is broader and its serrations are not as deep as a pin oak.

New hikers may need answers for their questions about the flora and fauna on the trail. There is an app for that! Satisfying any curiosity is easy. I use an app called “Picture This” to identify leaves and plants. I often use the app multiple times to refresh my memory and eventually the identifying parts of a plant sinks in. I now can recognize many plants and fallen leaves along the rocks and roots at my feet. (Google Image is a free app to use for plant identification.) 

Set aside some time, find a trail, soak in the beauty and learn from the woods. When you get into your car to drive home, you may feel like you can conquer another week with a fresher mind, and your adventure in nature may just hit the reset button for you.

Thanks to our new community correspondent, Kate Dunham for this article on nature in the valley. If you have a subject you are knowledgeable about and would like to share that with the community, please send an email to amie@rukenstein.com

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