Most of the project sites I travel to for work are not that far from the beaten path. But sometimes, I find myself working in a place that seems as though it rarely feels the tread of boots. There are still wild places, not that far away, that feel primordial. With hidden waterfalls...
and cascading streams.
These are usually rugged places - where the bones of the planet poke through.
These steep and wild places are sanctuaries for trees and forest life. Because the trees are so hard to harvest, they are allowed to grow to impressive heights.
Like Alice, my dimensions feel altered, and the scale of the world is different. Ferns as tall as our waists..
and thickets of dense rhododendron to navigate. It's hard not to feel vulnerable when your limbs are tangled in branches and the pattern of leaves underneath is perfect camouflage for the copperheads that are known the live there.
Every little pool of water is filled with the buzzes, croaks and peeps of some of the most ancient life forms. My heightened copperhead awareness helps me tune in to every flutter of leaves in my perephery. Sometimes I feel slight vibrations and stirring with the soles of my feet. The soil is alive.
On the forest floor, which has been mulched with decades of leaves, grow strange creatures, like this stinky and weirdly familiar mushroom. Giggle.
Pretty purple buttons poke through the leaves.
Like vibrant sea anemone, the fungi spread their arms.
Ancient plant lifeforms, like this clubmoss, carpet the slopes.
I have fond childhood memories of decorating a tree house with long strands of ground cedar, making curtains to shield me.
Another clubmoss, ground pine, creeps on long stolons forming colonies.
If it wasn't for all the snakes and insects, I could get comfortable on the ground pine carpet and take a much needed nap! My coworkers wear fitbits, so now we know that I don't start really whining about getting tired until we've hiked seven miles and about a hundred flights of stairs.
Coral reef, or forest floor?
Decaying logs were moist, black, and covered in colorful moss and fungi.
Is this a chanterelle? There were hundreds of them.
As we hiked down this steep valley, we saw a deer up ahead. We slowly approached, waiting for it to dart away. As I got closer, I could see it's chest heaving as it breathed. It's eyes were closed and it was making a gentle snoring or groaning sound as it stood with it's feet in the flowing stream and it leaned its snout against the moss covered bank. When it's tail flicked, tiny droplets of bright red blood spattered it's flanks. That's when I noticed the still bleeding scratches and puncture wounds on both sides of it's back legs, and the large bite mark on the back of it's neck! Something attacked this deer, and very recently too. Could it be a bobcat? A bear? a dog? a coyote? A mountain lion!? I wonder, was it watching us, while we examined it's dinner...