For the valentine weekend my wife, Cathy, and I got away to an Ohio State Park – Deer Creek in Mt. Sterling, OH. Of course, we planned a hike or two into the agenda since Deer Creek has some nice trails. When we arrived at the park, we checked in at the lodge for some trail maps and information knowing that we could not check into our room until after 3:00. When I asked the very nice lady behind the registration counter where the trailhead was for the Rolling Hill Trail, she almost looked shocked and said, “I am sorry sir, but the trails are closed – ehhh, the snow…. ummm, no one has cleaned… I mean, no one hikes….” I felt badly for her because obviously she was struggling to know how to serve these crazy old people that wanted to walk some trail. Cathy graciously bailed the lady out and explained that we would like to hike the snow-covered trail just like they were. Cathy, trying not to laugh thought to herself, “do you think we are expecting the park to sweep or shovel the trails?…having driven here this morning, we know that it has snowed and 8 inches of the white stuff covered the ground.” Realizing that we were not going to demand that the park fix the trails so we could walk on paths prepared by snow-blowers, she kindly shared the location of the trail head behind the tennis courts (they were not open either – nor was the outdoor pool!).
Cathy and I were the first to hike the trails for many days. We saw deer hoof-prints scattered along the trail and happy bird tracks lightly painted on the top of the snow’s surface, but the evidence of a homo sapien in the woods was not to be found. We were trail blazers, which was a cool part of the adventure, but we were trail blazers through 8 inches of snow with a thin layer of crust on top. It was slow moving and more strenuous than normal. Cathy likes to walk fast and on a great summer day, we can average close to four miles an hour. Today it was closer to 2 miles an hour.
At one point along the path, we stopped and just listened. After my breathing regulated to normal, I was impressed with the number of sounds I could hear in the silence of the forest: the sound of the wind among the trees, a distant woodpecker, and the songs of several birds filling the air with tunes of joy. The peaceful sounds of silence quieted our hearts (the sounds of silence – now there’s a good song title).
Cathy and I stopped at a turn-around spot and had a picnic lunch in the snow. Our feet enjoyed a break from slipping in the snow but it wasn’t long before our toes began to feel the bite of the cold temperature and the chill of the air was ruining our romantic meal on the trail – at least there were no ants! We were both happy to get moving again with the thought of enjoying a warm lodge room and a nice dinner.