( MS )
The high leafy canopy kept much of the sunlight from reaching the earth. Direct sunlight seldom appeared here. The effects were profound. Nearly eighty feet above his sitting place he could hear a squirrel foraging, unseen, chattering occasionally. It had been described to him once, and he wasn’t sure then, that the story teller had been careful with the facts. Now he knew why. The pristine beauty of this very hard to get to place was absolutely awe inspiring. He knew now, why the story teller had difficulty describing the place. It was so very, very, different from the everyday surroundings of the “outside world”.
He knew when he had walked into the horseshoe shaped valley, that it had to be the one that he had been told about.
His muscles were stiffening up from sitting in one position for so long. Checking the time he realised that he had been sitting with his back against the tree for well over an hour.
It wasn’t enough. It just wasn’t enough. He needed more time to absorb a satisfactory amount of this wonderful place. He knew, somehow, that this was one of those rare and wonderful places that was just “good for your soul”.
Almost no under brush grew amongst the very large hardwoods. Large ferns of a type he was unfamiliar with, grew randomly on the forest floor.
The moisture in the air was very high, he guessed, because the rare shaft of sunlight that would appear briefly, would glisten brightly in the vapor/air, then dissappear. Sitting on the mountain side he could see all the way to the bottom of this special valley.
A spring flowed from a steep cutbank at the upper end of the valley. The soil was coarse textured and a rich dark color. A light mist arose from the spring and it was evident that the wildlife had been digging in the soil there. “A mineral lick”, he thought, “Man that is such a large licking place that they must have been using it for who knows how many years !”
Soaking it all in, as well as he could, he began to marvel over the immense size of the large hardwood trees that filled the valley, shutting out the sunlight.
Upon closer observation he noted that what he had thought was a smaller tree was, instead , a extremely large muscadine vine. It was so large that the bark didn’t look like those vines he was familiar with. Traveling upward through the leaf canopy the vine dissappeared from sight in it’s quest for life sustaining sunlight. Looking on the ground for leaves or fruit from the vine, he found none. “Wild life”, he thought, “they have cleaned it all up”.
Deer tracks were every where. Closer examination told him that some of the tracks were quite old. Thinking about it he realised that the rain and wind had trouble penetrating the heavy overstory to erase the tracks.
Beautiful mushrooms grew here in strange shapes , some brightly colored, some not.
Here and there were the acorn caps that had been discarded from the acorns as the deer and other wild life had eaten them. He thought, ” they are the same color as the dirt ! I wonder if………”
Before the thought was completed, his attention was diverted to a patch of sunlight in the distance. There had been movement. Not much movement, but enough. He focused the binoculars on the spot. It was where a large ancient oak had falen leaving a break in the tree tops where sunlight could penetrate.
It wouldn’t last long, he knew, the trees competing for sunlight would soon close over the opening.
Grass had sprang up in the patch of light and his binoculars revealed two deer bedded down in that grassy place in the sunshine.
“Well, fooey !” He thought, “I was so engrossed in this place that I almost forgot why I came here !”
“Too far for my old .30″, he thought. “If I tried a shot from here, it would be a “maybe” thing”.
“I can’t make a stalk from downwind, it is too open, I would be seen.”
Then, there were other factors, for after all this was the Caney Creek Wilderness, rough , mountainous, wild and unforgiving.
The climb back over Porter Mountain would take serious time and effort. He had been here long enough that his hike back to the pickup truck would go well past dark.
It was a difficult decision that he had to make. If he did shoot the buck that he could see in the small opening, he would be past dark, skinning and quartering. Then it would likely take two trips to pack out the meat, hide and antlers.
Finaly he knew, “I just ain’t up to it, by myself”.
Slowly the solution came to him.
A few carefully taken photos with the camera in his day pack, and he began the long climb back out of the rich woods. Back to the “real world”.
The long difficult hike was filled with thoughts of, “should I tell others about this place ? Or should I just not speak of it at all ? After all, I know now, just how hard it is to tell people of this place”.
Only one photo came out well enough to tell much detail, likely because of the subdued light conditions.
The photo lays in a desk drawer, looked at from time to time. Mostly on those days when he feels the need to “escape” from the “real world”.