My photo files are overflowing with images of paths in various forms and places, both town and country, but today I made a trip to Crabtree Nature Center specifically for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge as I wanted to document a path that really had some meaning for me. Mum and I used to visit Crabtree Nature Center in Barrington quite often, but in the eight years since she passed away I have rarely gone back there. I don’t know why. There are plenty of other places that we used to go to together that I still visit regularly but for some reason I feel uncomfortable taking this once-familiar path alone.
All living things change over time, and I was curious to see how Crabtree had fared during the intervening years. Would it have changed that much? I used to know this path like the back of my hand but would it still be like it was when we came here to see the spring flowers or rustle through the autumn leaves, very often talking nineteen to the dozen but also sharing a companionable silence as we made our way through the fields and woods.
As was nearly always the case, I was greeted at the head of the path by several chipmunks, chattering and skittering about among the dead branches. That much, at least, was still the same.
There are two paths that wind their way around Crabtree, covering only a small part of the one thousand acres that make up this sprawling nature reserve. Phantom Prairie Trail is about 2 miles long and Bur Edge Trail, the path that we usually took, is approximately 1.5 miles, the first part of which skirts Sulky Pond. I was rather disappointed that there was no sign of any migrating birds. I had expected to see a few egrets at the very least but everything was totally still and silent on the pond.
The foliage on either side of the path had become overgrown, covering what once used to be a hide overlooking the pond, and the little causeway at the top of Bulrush Pond where we used to sit for hours sometimes, waiting to see a family of water rats or a beaver, offers very little view of the water now. However, I did manage to find a turtle well-camouflaged with pond weed and a frog who gave me the cold shoulder.
Even in the last week of September, the mosquitoes were still rampant in the shade under the trees so I was glad to get to the other side of Bulrush Pond and out into the sunshine. I noticed that they have added quite a few more seats along the path but there was always one here where we loved to sit and talk or just look out over the pond.
The path zig-zags through tall grass and spent summer flowers, the milkweed pods bursting open to spread their seeds in the first passing wind, and one or two faded butterflies flitting about among the autumn asters.
The path gradually curves back towards the entrance to Crabtree. The observation platform that overlooked neighboring fields has gone but other than that there is very little that has changed. The big difference now is that my best friend is no longer by my side to have a laugh or wonder at all the things that we have seen, like the time we turned and discovered a deer following close behind us down the path or coming across a huge snapping turtle lumbering back to the pond after laying her eggs or the time we found a nest of snakes among the fallen leaves.
Perhaps I’ll return to Crabtree one day but for now it was enough to have travelled down and become reacquainted with that once-familiar path.
For more on the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge, which was set for us this week by Tina Schell over at Travels & Trifles go to #12 – PATH