By John R. Greenwood
It was April 11th, and I hadn't been for real walk since Thanksgiving.
Getting out of the house Saturday morning wasn't a, "Let me think about it", it was a "Where's my sneakers and camera, I'll be back later," moment.
It wasn't like I needed to go on five mile wilderness trek but it needed to include trees and some open space. Walking up the road would probably suffice but I was hoping for something one degree removed from the outside world. Moreau Lake is only a short drive away but I needed something smaller in scale than 'state park' so I chose 'town park'. Gavin Park is my town park. Not only is it less than a mile away it's a beauty and it includes a one mile long stone-dust walking path around its entire perimeter. The path is wide and surrounded by large pine, maple, and oak trees. We are lucky to have such a gem in our neighborhood. I grabbed my camera and headed out the backdoor.
I parked at the end of one of the lots near the walking path and off I went. I hadn't walked fifty feet when I encountered another obstacle left by old man winter. It was a hefty size tree that had fallen across the path. I could have easily walked around the obstacle and continued on my way but that would have been too easy. It's in my nature to read something into everything I encounter and this was no exception.
I looked at that dead tree as a challenge to my path into the future and not just a simple detour to my walk. I set down my camera and grabbed the tree by the arm and began shoving him out of the way. We wrestled like a couple of ten year old boys in the backyard. I pinned him to the edge of the path, gave him a last-second boot in the branches, wiped my hands together and continued on my way. My pace picked up, along with my spirits. I was headed in the right direction--for a minute.
As I approached the 1/4 mile sign on the edge of the path I thought I heard voices. I didn't pay much attention--I thought it might be somebody working on the other side of the park. I kept right on walking. Then I heard a man yell, "Heeyy!!" I stopped and turned around to find a man in a brown Carhartt and baseball cap running across the fields in my direction. I walked back toward him, obviously I must have broken some regulation or park etiquette. He stopped about ten feet in front of me, bent over, put both of his hands on his knees and tried to spit out the words,"Park's Closed." He looked like I should have--although I'd only walked to where we were, he'd come across the field like Leland and Youngblood on an episode of Dog The Bounty Hunter. I threw my hands in the air and whispered to myself, "Don't Shoot".
"What's up?" I asked, even though I heard him the first time.
His gasps had eased off. "Park's Closed" he said. It was much clearer this time.
My eyes crossed a little. "I'm just walking around the perimeter."
He explained that the park director had instructed him not to let anyone on the grounds until they'd done their spring safety check. He said the park would be open on Tuesday. He explained that there were places in the back of the park along the tree-line where the snow had just melted and the water was still ankle deep. He seemed relieved that I didn't fight back with that "I'm a tax paying resident and I have a right to be here" argument. He was just doing his job and I simply needed some fresh air. There was more of that around somewhere.
He thanked me for understanding and repeated, "We'll be open Tuesday" one more time.
I smiled to myself and shuffled back to my truck in slow motion, taking one parting shot of the, "All Fields Closed Today" sign as I headed home to the smell of bacon.