a stroll along the pigeon...

 

the trail

 

Dawn came and went several hours before I awoke. I crawled from my bed and looked at the stream, debating whether to fish here again or move on to another camping spot. The desire to see new surroundings made the decision easy. It took a little longer to pack up then it had to set up, but I was soon ready to move on. This side of the river was against a large ridge, so I climbed the game trail to the hiking trail at the top.

It is difficult enough to climb a steep ridge without an extra thirty or forty pounds on your back, which explains why I was breathing heavily when I reached the top. A fallen pine tree was wide enough to make a comfortable seat. That's when the elk stepped from the woods.

When the encounter was over and my breathing had returned to normal (and the weakness in my knees had gone away) I started along the trail. For the most part, the path wound along the high ground above the river.

The August sun made me thankful for the breeze that moved through the trees on the top of the ridges. The breeze faded away on the lower stretches, but these were usually shaded from the sun and brought their own kind of relief.

The sweat was soon washing the stink of the city from my pores. Within minutes, my hatband was soaked and did little to keep the sweat from running into my eyes. After an estimated half hour of steady hiking, I stopped to take a breather and to tie a sweatband around my forehead. I was glad I'd brought extra socks, because I had a feeling I would probably have to change them at least once during the day.

The river continually pulled at me with its allure of cool water and bright fish. I resisted the call, because I wanted to push my out-of-shape body for at least another hour.

Each step seemed to loosen my muscles a little more and I soon felt stronger than I had at the beginning of the day. My pace picked up as I began to fall into the pigeon-toed stride of a long distance hiker.

The tendency, when carrying a backpack, is to lean forward and let the weight of the pack push you along the trail. Knowing this, I deliberately lifted my head to look around occasionally as I moved along the sandy trail.

It is easy to miss things in the woods if you are not paying attention. There is a difference between looking and seeing. Most people will look right past something if it is immobile. Others are so caught up in their thoughts that they can't see something right under their feet. And, sometimes it is what you don't see that is significant.

Without my noticing the change, the woods had grown quieter. It took a few moments to realize what had changed. The nuthatchers and wrens that had been flitting about in the underbrush seemed to have disappeared. I looked around for a reason that would explain their vanishing. That's how I happened to spot the bald eagle.

Part 6...

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