- Education and Science
Wander the Wilds
A Relaxing Walk
Between late fall and early winter is the best time to go for a walk in the Missouri Ozarks. All the ticks, mosquitoes, and water moccasins will be in hiding during the colder months. And though you won't find as many blooming flowers, you will be able to see further when the leaves are down.
On one such day I put on my tough PVC galoshes and went for a stroll. Wet frost under the leaves combined with the steepness of the hill to give me an unexpected slide, but I managed to stop by grabbing hold of a nearby sapling. I soon learned to feel with my feet, finding roots and rocks that would hold me up as I climbed or descended steep places. The challenge was pleasant, and my progress was aided by grabbing onto trees when necessary, although a few times I learned the hard way that some bushes like the gooseberry have thorns.
I passed a very large rock with a hole dug in the dirt at its base. Fur and footprints around this hole told me it was probably a fox's den, and I steered clear of it in a wide path with reverence for their personal space.
Rustling in the leaves nearby told me to pause and look. A large squirrel was bounding through looking for anything edible.
The creek was running, although in some places icicles hung round the edge. I stepped down into it and walked a few hundred feet. Again I heard footsteps, louder this time, like a large animal nearby. On one side of the creek stretched a long piece of rock wall with an amazing creviced texture, and from the woods on top of the wall with a rustle of wings a tom turkey sailed overhead to the other side.
Moss covered everything that was damp: rocks, trees, dirt. Quite slick and not good to step on. Titmice and other small birds clung to bushes and fragments of sapling. Near the forest edge were western cedar trees, a refuge for the winter birds with its generous sheltering green boughs and bluish berries.
I came eye to eye with a very large white tailed doe. She paused her chewing to look at me, deemed me not a threat, and casually went back to nibbling on sticks, although when I looked back again she was gone.
Although most of the leaves were gone, it was plain to see each tree sending out new buds for the next growing season. Many branches had grown an inch in only a week!
In some places where the trees had died and the roots had rotted, I found a most unpleasant situation. Buried in leaves, these holes became wicked trap doors. Several times my foot plunged instantly down, and fast as I could I got the heck out of there, hoping I wasn't disturbing any hibernating rattlesnakes. Once I sank to the knee! I soon learned to kick and test the landscape before trusting my weight anywhere I couldn't see.
The western sky became aglow with orange as the early sunset approached.
Soon I would hear the howl of coyotes under the frosty winter moon. With my gloved hand I gathered a few sticks for my burros to chew and pulled a piece of hard candy from my pocket to eat on the way back to my house, feeling extremely contented. This world was beautiful, wild, ancient, and it would continue its song of cycles long into the far off distant future.