Monday, November 16, 2009

The Millenium Trail

Last Thursday BG and I decided to make a day of it and head to Bernheim Forest. It was a warm day, even though the trees were mostly bare and the leaves formed a thick brown carpet on the forest floor. The guide at the visitors' center pointed out the longest trail of 13 miles. All the others were pretty short for us long distance veterans-heh, heh, so we declared that's the one we wanted to take. Our helpful guide seemed a bit hesitant. "It is very primitive," she said. "And you need good shoes and water." No problemo. So, we signed our names in case we never returned and set out at about 10:15 am.

By noon we had progressed all of three miles along the trail. I said, "This is what it will be like to climb the Pyrenees," as I dug my trusty walking stick into the soft leafy humus. We traversed many hills and hollows and seemed to cross the creek five or six times. Realizing that at this rate there was no way we could do all 13 miles by the 5:00 closing time, we shifted into Plan B. If we reached the half-way point, we could take the main paved road back to civilization. "Only two miles from there," the guide had said.

We trudged into the half-way point by around 3:00. We thought all was well. Two miles in two hours along a paved road. No problemo! (I'm practicing my Spanish.) BG hauled out her geo-caching GPS system and said "Hmmm.. It says 3.7 miles." Our guide was slightly off in her estimations. We walked silently down the paved road. I got to thinking. "Is that by the roads or as the crow flies?" BG's eyes widened. "As the crow flies," she said quietly. After punching buttons for a few minutes she showed me the road route on the GPS. It said 5 something miles. I don't remember exactly. All I knew was, no way could we get back before closing time. "Well, we'll just do the best we can," said BG.

And so we did. The closing security guard was a bit put out with us, but he gave us a lift. BG marked the spot where we got picked up as 10.7 miles total walking distance. Hey, not bad, considering the terrain. I think we could consider that a fair day of walking for pilgrims in the Pyrenees!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Time Travel

Last Thursday, I went on a great new walk with my friend BG. It's nice and close: just across the Brandenburg bridge in Mauckport. It's a road that goes up to the little town of New Amsterdam. We took a six-mile hike that ended at a little general store, nestled in a time warp. I think BG knows everyone who lives in the tiny little town and the surrounding countryside. On the way every driver (I guess there happened to be about three cars pass us) slowed down to talk or waved at us with a smile.

As we sat down in some dry leaves on the side of the road for a snack, a camoflaged hunter emerged from the woods carrying a bow and several arrows. We said we hoped we hadn't scared off any deer he was stalking. He said, no, that he had not shot the deer in his sights, but was going to hold out for the nine-point buck he had seen, since he had more meat on him. He and his wife pretty much live off of the deer meat. That and a few squirrels.

Speaking of squirrels, on our way, we stopped to visit with ol' Paul who lives by himself on a farm. He was sawing logs at his saw mill behind back. I asked the 80-year-old if he didn't need someone to help him, holding the planks and all. He said, naw it was easier for him to do it himself. He could tell how the sawing was going by the sound, and helpers tended to drop stuff. Paul runs a beautiful orchard, with neat rows of special peach trees he has grafted and developed himself. BG says the peaches are huge and white and juicy. He has also developed a breed of walnut that is extra large and meaty. He has a sign up on his barn announcing "unconventional Stover walnuts."

And speaking of walnuts, he has a bunch of them drying on a screen just by his living room window. That's important because he has to keep an eye on the squirrels who keep trying to steal his walnuts. (The nerve!)
He told us that he saw a squirrel at his dirty deed last night, put down the top of his window, (purposely minus the screen), rested his rifle on the window frame, and got himself his dinner for the evening. Paul gave us a description of how you cook squirrel and make a delicious gravy out of the drippings. I must admit, I have never had squirrel for dinner. It is a rodent, after all. But I've a mind to try it, now.

We said hey to another neighbor on the way, Paul's nephew, I believe. Big time lawyer from Louisville, come for a little peace and quiet. He later followed us down to the general store. We were sitting with the proprietress, Faye, eating some sandwiches she had fixed for us. Faye was sitting in a rocking chair by the pot-belly stove, and there were benches around it and a sign that read " Fishermen, Hunters, and other Liars sit here." We sat jawin' for a while. BG was talking about her latest hobby of wine-making. Faye said everybody in these parts makes wine and apple brandy and such. The area used to be a huge apple growing region; grapes, too. I suspect there are  a lot of private distilleries in those hills.

Like I said, I felt like I was in a time warp, sitting there in that store. Farm implements, pedal sewing machine, old tins and bottles, cast iron frying pans, posters on the wall dating from the 50's. Faye had a loom in the back, strung up for making rag rugs. I bought some homemade peach jam and apple butter that Faye had put up herself.

My mind drifted to imagining all the places I will discover on the road to Santiago: quirky little out of the way places and people, hidden jewels. Just like Faye and Paul and the itty bitty village of New Amsterdam.