My morning was not going at all as planned. It was the first Saturday of fall turkey season, and whatever could go wrong was going wrong. My alarm had failed to go off, and in my hurry to get out into the woods I didn’t eat breakfast, only got about a half of a cup of coffee, forgot one of my turkey calls, had to go back to the house to get my wallet (since I realized I needed gas in the truck), and, last but not least, I dribbled gas down my left pant leg at the gas station.
I was fast becoming discouraged and was thinking of just calling it good by returning to bed, but I knew I would regret that. I finally parked the truck along Asaph Run, about an hour and a half after light, and started up the hill on foot.
It still gets me how quickly the forest transforms my thinking and attitude. As I left the truck I was still cursing to myself about all of my mistakes that morning. But in less than five minutes that was all gone, and I was consumed by my surroundings.
The morning had started out with temperatures in the mid forties, and, even though the valleys were clear, the ridge tops were fogged in. I thought hard about where I wanted to set up, and Hoadley Hollow came to mind. I set my course up and over the ridge, trying not to work up too much of a sweat. As I gained elevation, each step I took was a step toward tranquility. Once up on the ridge I could only see about forty yards around me, and I felt like I was in another world. The leaves were wet, so I was able to steal along the forest floor like a thief. In the haze I saw three doe feeding ahead of me, so I stopped behind a deadfall and watched as they interacted with one another. After a short time they moved away, still unaware of my presence. I soon found “my tree” and sat down. The area was full of turkey scratching, and I was hopeful I would get a glimpse of them.
Two gray squirrels started chasing each other up and down what seemed like every tree in the hollow, including the one I had my back against. At one point I looked up to see one of them staring intently at me from about seven feet above my head. On another occasion, one of them scampered across my foot while in hot pursuit of the other one. A ruffed grouse kept a distance of fifteen yards. At first it strutted around and voiced its dislike for me with a repeated “putt-putt,” but after a bit of time passed it finally found a dry spot under a nearby hemlock and settled in for a nap. The squirrels finally quieted down.
As I sat immersed in serenity, my back against that old oak tree, I watched as a ray of light broke through the wall of gray mist and allowed in the sun’s brilliance. It was just one small spot of golden warmth at first but it soon engulfed everything around me in its glow. As each new ray of light emerged it brought with it a thousand blue, green, and white sparkles making a natural kaleidoscope. I could feel the warmth of each ray as they hit me one by one. Before I knew it a transformation had taken place. Bright sunlight wiped away every shadow, and shimmering beauty exposed the face of the mountain.
I never did see a turkey that morning, but what I did see will be with me for the rest of my life.