The forest is wet and misty. A dense fog hangs on top of the river like a fluffy blanket. I hear twigs snapping in the distance. A couple of white tail deer are eyeing us with curiosity. In a few days the forest rangers are going to cull the herd. There is not enough acreage to support all the wildlife. My hubby is walking ahead leaning on his Gandalf stick, his silhouette disappearing in the mist. The drizzly rain shapes diamond droplets in my dark hair like a nature’s tiara.
My breathing is labored. I have not been out of the house in two weeks – the flu really sapped my energy. The hard to discern trail winds gently downhill all the way to the railroad bridge that crosses the river. The return will be much harder, going uphill. I watch my steps carefully – the twisted tree roots bulge out of the ground but are hidden underneath a thick cover of dead leaves.
The water level is low – rain has been very scarce this winter. We can see the sandy beach with fantastic shapes of driftwood, empty shells, and dried algae. In summertime I would not dare venture on the beach – there are too many snakes for comfort and the cotton mouth is everywhere. I step on the fine yellow sand and take my shoes off. It is soft and velvety but cold. The water looks like it’s covered by fine webs.
A tree’s snarled roots are hanging half in the air and half solidly dug into the soil. The power of water has ravaged the shore and bit a large chunk of earth from the bank where the tree had grown. The roots are covered with barnacle-like fungi. Two trunk knots look like peering eyes. I expect Hobbits to jump out of the fog.
We cross three bridges overgrown with moss before my lungs tire – we must return. I hear the distant whistle of the freight train approaching the bridge. Underneath, a lone fisherman in a grey jacket blends with the background as he stands still holding the rod. He seems to disappear in the fog. I am not sure what he is fishing for – the river is infested with snake heads some weighing as much as 18 pounds. Who knows who dumped this invasive species into the Potomac River but he did a great disservice to the native wildlife and fish.
On the way back, the climbing trail is more difficult. A primitive bench carved from the trunk of a fallen tree offers a few minutes of rest. The silence is comforting. I hear in the distance the cry of an owl and the chatter of small birds. A few squirrels dart from trees to the ground in search of acorns.