When I return home, I find myself only revisiting the places where I have spent the most time in the past. Even though I know the land, and I could easily drive a bit further to another park, there is comfort in returning to these woods. In the end, I always manage to find something new to experience, so in a way, even the familiar can lead to adventure.
One Sunday morning, I set out to find a trail that I knew ran north to south, and then take it until it turned back west and hit the powerlines. It was one of those foggy mornings when your eye lashes feel heavy because of the weight of the air. Everything was the softest blue in color and even the sand was damp underfoot. I took the path, but never found the bend, likely because it was overgrown. What I did find, however, was much more exciting.
Just past where the main marked trail turns, a muddier path runs straight. About one hundred meters ahead rests an abandoned bridge. This bridge crosses the Anclote river. The ramp on my side of the bridge was missing, long removed, to deter those on foot and vehicle from crossing. Naturally, I climbed it. If anything, I thought, I would rest for a moment and take in the view. After admiring the slow moving river and the creatures in it, I pushed my way through the overgrowth on the opposite side to see what it was like. The area had clearly been traveled, although the path of pressed grasses was not a maintained park trail.
I knew that crossing the bridge meant abandoning the planned route, but how could I find a bridge and not see what was on the other side? Well, it took me deep into the Anclote Tract of the Starkey Wilderness Preserve. Once I was about a mile in, I knew generally where I was, but was convinced that it would meet a path I had explored a few years back. It did. But I turned around because I already hit nine miles or so and had only planned on running eight. The path ahead, which would meander around the park boundary following the fence line, was tilled by a tractor and I had no idea of the length back to the powelines. It could have been a mile or five, if at all. I decided to turn back. There was no point in stressing my hips when the path back was generally compact with only a few miles of sand. Watching the cars whiz by on SR 54 made me want to retreat back to the isolation of the woods anyway.
When I crossed the bridge and returned to the paths I know well, I literally crossed paths with an old friend. My former coach and my brother's teacher was hiking alone on a trail not often traveled by those on foot. I was so surprised to see someone there, let alone someone I knew. We said hello with pleasantly shocked expressions and went on our ways. I would see him a week later on another path. I guess we have similar ideas on how to spend our weekends. There is no better way to spend a Sunday morning than deep in seemingly familiar woods.