Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Forest Trail

A Happy and Blessed Easter to all of our Christian friends!

This may look a little bit like a winter greeting, but note the green buds amidst the snow. It is spring. Sort of.

N. has been working on Kemana--his wilderness studies--even amid the chaos that overtakes me during the myriad preparations for Pesach.

This weekend, finally, despite looming tests, papers and projects, I have taken some time off to walk the forest trail with N. Bruce has come along, too!

Our house is in a development inside the Cibola National Forest, Sandia District. Certain sections have been sold to developers with very strict guidelines about the type of development--residential rural--in order to provide roads and access at the edge of forest lands. So we are fortunate to have the National Forest a few hundred feet from our door.

This is where N. has been doing the Wilderness Trail part of his Kamana-Nature Awareness work. He goes out almost every day and practices various aspects of nature awareness that are assigned in the course and then he comes home and uses books, the internet, journaling and mapping to research and describe the ecology of the place we live.

To get to his secret spot and to practice his awareness skills, N. uses the "forest trail," an unmapped trail that heads across a mountain meadow south of our house and then into the forest and up the ridge.

Entering the forest trail, is an experience in contrasts. One moment, you are in the meadow and it is light and open. The wind blows strongly down the meadow and across the trail. With a few steps, past an outlying juniper surrounded by grass--which is now really, really green!--you enter the forest, where the trail is bounded by the dense growth of the pinon-juniper woodland ecosystem. It is cooler, darker and more protected from the wind. Here you can hear the alarm calls of western jays--the self-appointed alarm system of the Cibola N.F.--as you move through the woods.

The trail takes you across the southern exposure of the ridge, and into the small canyon made by Sedillo Creek (it is really a wash since it does not have year-round water above ground). As you climb, you enter the ecotone between the pinyon-juniper woodland the Ponderosa Pine forest. The ridge between Sedillo and Juan Tomas is not quite high enough to become full Ponderosa Pine forest, but from the top, you can look across to higher mountain tops that do.

As we walked quietly on the forest trail, we saw trees that had fallen under the weight of winter snow, providing cover for coyote and rabbits. We saw quite a lot of coyote scat and some scat that may have belonged to a bear.

I could feel my hearbeat slow to a steady beat and my body relax. There is something that feels existentially right about walking with the soft earth beneath my feet and the sky above; with the wind blowing softly across my face, bringing the rich scents of the forest and the soft feel of humidity to my skin.

This spring, the forest is so green, and the ground is damp with recent snows and rains, making the smells richer and the air softer.

N. showed us the tracks of a bobcat that had used the trail briefly, before returning to the dense growth of the forest. They are very shy here, where there are so many people so close. It is very rare to actually see the cat.

We circled around a stand of Ponderosa and started back. As we crossed the mountain meadow, we saw a golden eagle take flight from the top of a juniper stand below. He has been hunting the meadow behind our house as well, but I have not had a camera available when he has been close enough to get a picture. I did not get this one either, but now that I know where he hangs out sometimes, I plan to come back, settle down in the shade and get the picture. This picture is from of the New Mexico Department of Tourism.

Now that the snows are off, I can walk the forest trail easily. Oh, I envy N. with his Kamana curriculum. What I am studying right now keeps me indoors--reading, memorizing and writing papers. It is very interesting and I like it, but I have to really work in the time to get outside. N. is outside in the forest almost every day!


Beth said...

Lovely post. I'm right there with you on the having to stay indoors reading, memorizing and writing papers, though we do get out for a nature walk every day, if possible.

Frankie said...

Absolutely beautiful. I'm so glad N. has his new curriculum and is able to enjoy the beauty. Wow.

Thank you for sharing the photos. Almost as good as being there!

steph said...

Hi, we live just south of you but on the west side of S14 (I'm guessing you're on the east side.) Our area is just breathtaking, isn't it? A lovely place for young ones to grow up and stretch their wings. I have a toddler and an infant I hope to homeschool and I love the idea that they will be surrounded by peacefulness. My 2 year old already LOVES exploring as does the dog, of course.

And we sure have gotten some bizarre weather out here. We're at 7,500 ft and it took forever for the big snows to melt...and snow in April, too. I've been here not quite 3 years and both times I've been pregnant it's dumped several feet when I was at 8 or 9 months...I felt like a pioneer woman hauling in logs with the spouse away and neighbors not even within eyesight. Occasionally scary, but pretty awesome nonetheless. I'm not from here (or anywhere, really), but this area of NM feels like home to me.

Thanks for your blog. I really enjoy it!


Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Steph, we live south of I-40 about 2 miles near Sedillo. I agree about the beauty and it was a pretty intense winter. It was so funny--people said that we might get one or two snowstorms that would be difficult to travel in. We had a lot more than that!