I stood contemplating the wide sunny path veering off to my left. It was late spring, leaves were unfurling, showing a tender green. Most of the trees were deciduous saplings, growing straight and tall - in this part of the forest there was no old growth to overshadow them.
A private academy owns these large stretches of woods and old farmland, crisscrossed with meandering trails, and bisected by a placid river. It had been more than a year since I'd walked this particular trail. I knew the Academy had been clearing brush and deadwood, but had not known they were opening a whole new section to hikers.
Continuing on the old, right-bearing path would take me along the river bank and circle back to the main trail that ended at a quiet road where I had parked my car. I’d walked, biked and skied it so often, I felt confident I’d be home in time for a scheduled 2:00 call.
But this new path was so inviting, so clear in it’s sun-dappled glory that I angled left into the unknown. A light refreshing breeze blew against me, birds sang and darted through the airy canopy and I began skipping and singing, “We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz!” It was glorious!! Heavenly!!
But then I slowed, stopped, and tried to envision where this path might lead and if it would even come out on the road I wanted. And the more I thought and consulted my mental map, the more I began thinking I should have followed my original plan. It was conceivable this unknown new path would take me wandering miles and hours out of my way.
I turned back and resumed hiking the old trail. It was much darker in the mature forest and very little breeze came through to disperse the blackflies who suddenly descended on me. I started encountering deadfalls to clamber over and, prickly, grabbing brambles.
When I finally came to the river it was to find that chunks of the low bank had eroded or collapsed for long stretches, forcing me to navigate the swampy muck that now reached into the forest where once an easy path had been. Very little was recognizable, old landmarks had been obliterated, but I clung to the knowledge that following the river would eventually take me back to both the main trail and cell reception. The sandals were often sucked off my feet as I slogged on. A newly-formed pool could only be traversed by scooching across a young uprooted sapling on my fanny.
Pausing mid-scooch, remembering the lightness and freedom of what seemed hours ago, I started laughing. “Follow your gut! Trust your intuition! Which choice feels better?” How many times had I received that advice - how many times had I given it? Had I even thought to notice and consider it before turning back? Could this adventure possibly be a more graphic example??? Probably not…
Old ways aren’t always as dependable as we remember, take a chance on the new paths that appear today!!