Challenge: Look Up and Listen

Raven Rock State Park in central North Carolina is small but lively. Despite yesterday’s late start, I saw deer, warblers and sparrows, battling squirrels, and droves of human hikers with their canine best friends. Raven Rock Loop Trail (2.6 miles) with it’s many tributaries (Little Creek Loop Trail, 1.5mi; Fish Traps Trail, 0.5mi there/back; and Northington Ferry Trail, 0.9mi there/back) make for an easy morning’s stroll through the woods. These trails wander the beech and sycamore forest above the bluffs that fall to the lazy rapids of the Cape Fear River.

ravenrocksp_map
Raven Rock SP Map (source NCparks.gov)

Where the trail turns from the bluffs between Raven Rock and the Fish Traps Trail junction, I heard a distant hammering — unmistakably, a woodpecker. I stopped and listened. On the river side of the trail, two doe nervously spied me. Step-pause-step, they measured my threat. From deeper in the woods, two hairy woodpeckers — locked in aerial fisticuffs — flapped and flailed to a shortleaf pine. They paused and hopped around the tree’s trunk before engaging again and flapping to the next tree, jockeying for territory and foraging rights.

Further up the trail came a ruckus. The doe skittered away, flashing white tails and cracking twigs until they had disappeared into dense brambles. Thus began the procession. First a gaggle of hikers, having the grandest time came barreling along the trail. Then two girls complaining about the hard ground on which they had slept the night before. (One carried a faded, pink-on-pink New Kids On The Block sleeping bag straight out of 1989.) Then came two women telling of how they had met their husbands, power-walking and watching their feet. No one saw the deer. No one stopped to witness the struggle, bird against bird, for territory and food and life.

I love to see these folks enjoying the woods. What a day to be out and about! What a day to be away from the desk and office! But what had they missed? Did they wonder? If only they had looked up from their toes and listened. Why complain about the cold, hard ground? The cold, hard ground does not complain about you. Jabber can wait.

What do they miss? What do I miss? I always wonder.

* Featured Image Source: NCparks.gov

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