A beautiful morning; mists lie like downy veils over the creek and valley as we make our way from the farmhouse to the woods across the way. Sophie scampers ahead, blissfully chasing sticks, squirrels, and the odd acorn that plops down on the pathway. Scott and I trudge through an ankle deep carpet of copper and gold, bundled up against the early morning bite of upstate New York Fall.
The woods belong to a State Trooper from Vermont; he has carved out a hunting heaven somewhere deep in these woods, but has kindly invited us to walk among his trees whenever we wish to, with the exception of hunting season, when such a walk would be foolish. We’ve never walked past a gate about a half mile in, however, preferring to take Sophie up into the pastures behind the house which look over the entire valley.
This morning, we decide to venture in. The woods entice us with lovely sights:
It is so quiet, that we can hear the leaves fall. Deeper and deeper we walk, each of us lost in our own thoughts and the luxurious peace of a Washington County morning.
And then I feel something change. Scott and Sophie move ahead, but I feel a sudden shift in the atmosphere. Leaves continue to fall in the gentle morning breeze, but I sense no gentleness ahead. And then I hear it – an unmistakable growl. I can feel it, somewhere in the tangle of brush, mossy rocks, and tumbledown trees. I cannot see it, but I know that a mountain lion lurks somewhere to the left of where we stand.
Quickly, we turn on our heels and begin walking back. My heart is pounding so loudly I can barely hear anything else. Sophie sprints ahead, entirely focused on the stick we throw ahead with grim purposefulness. Eventually, we reach the gate and then see the warmth of our red carriage barn. Sweet sight!
Half an hour later, shorn of my coat and boots, my hand still shakes as I sip from my mug of coffee by the warmth of the wood stove.
Whose woods these are I think I know…