The two women with dogs passed me seemingly effortlessly on the uphill climb. The path leveled out and I caught my breath and pulled the apple I had brought for breakfast out of my bag. As I finished the apple and tossed the core far over the steep, forested slope, the trail wound upwards once again. Disheartened at the prospect, I turned back for the easier return trip. I was attempting to photograph a flashy, orange turks-head lily when I heard a loud, high-pitched chattering. I looked up to see the unmistakable red crests of several pileated woodpeckers on a far-off tree trunk.
Somehow the morning was magically transformed in that single moment. My nostrils were filled with the pungent, earthy aroma of the forest floor with its decaying leaf layer. The sweet, clear notes of birdsong filled the air, relegating the sounds of traffic to a distant, forgotten land. My eyes drank in green in shady tones and sunlit tones. Even the warm morning air, which had already caused me to shed the light jacket I had worn, seemed to soften; stirring the leaves and cooling my face.
By the time the trail turned to limestone and the traffic noise began to crescendo again, my morning walk had become full of the magic of this wild place, so close to the city, and yet so far away.