Hiking: the activity of going for long walks, especially in the country or woods.

Based on this definition, hiking is to a degree, defined by the longevity of a walk in the woods, and when it comes to trails, there are three factors that qualify my opinion: 1) distance and duration 2) incline and 3) remoteness.

A scenic route, of course is a major plus, although, the two are not mutually exclusive. A walk in the park can be scenic, but I do not consider a hike to be a walk in the park. It is impossible to walk a stroller on a legitimate hiking trail.

For these reasons, I was particularly pleased by the trails at Sawnee Mountain in Cumming, Ga. The five-mile inclined path provided a welcomed outdoor exertion, and my boyfriend, Ty, and I extended the occasion by taking the Church Loop detour, adding an extra 1.2 miles round trip.

Mountain Trail Loop.

***

It’s no wonder the Romantic poets were so inspired by the woods. The woods draw out your inner orator while repressing the need to speak over a crowd. Only the birds and the wind are speaking.

Silently, we march on the trail, my thoughts tracing my surroundings to unlock some hidden meaning. But there is none. It is a blank canvas for my imaginative vices.

The incline grows steeper; I am tethered to the present by exertion. But as I control my breathing, my thoughts wander, chasing a Dryad muse in spring attire.

Blue Trilium growing a hiking trail.

Blue Trillium

Dancing on springtime breezes

She grows and goes just as she pleases

Dapper as Solomon in all his caliber

Her royal robes are painted lavender

Queen of groupies in the flower realm

she rules the weeds with a golden helm

But like a kite, she’s gone with the wind

Living for the day her only sin.

As all free spirits, she’ll live and die

Beneath the stars and bluest skies.

Eastern Sweetshrub growing on a Georgia hiking trail.

Eastern Sweetshrub

Budding beauty

Clothed in scarlet

Should reckless hands

Do reckless deeds

And pluck you

From your crimson bed

Who’d have said

you asked for it?

Common Blackberry growing on a hiking trail.
Between thorns, red fruit appears.

Common Blackberry

We ate nothing but blackberries that summer

harvested from the neighborhood park.

We stayed out late, well after supper

smoking menthols

and cigarillos

and drinking Four Locos

when it was dark.

Our friendship was a pure white petal

but there were matters we could not settle.

And when bloody fruit

burdened our boughs

our petals broke and fell apart.

Royal Catchfly growing on a hiking trail in Cumming, Ga.

Royal Catchfly

Venus landed on a wooded plane

To punish and ensnare all

creepy crawlers

who owed a sum of money

to the Queen of Olympus.

And her crimson handmaiden is here too

Placing bets and playing cards

With the squirrel, the rabbit and the Queen of Hearts.

Dark Woods

My hope is a rope to hoist me up the mountain.

 It sustains me, and I think of all I could be.

When the sun sets it will be a noose.

A sign of hope and salvation

appears between the patchwork of branches.

My fear is my hope,

my desire a compass

I retreat into the inky darkness.

Beluga Whales

We pioneered the eastern shore

Where a fallen log stood proud in days of yore

Stripped of bark and grace and dignity

It struck me as mammoth tusks of ivory.

The core was smooth and ready for chopping

in a littered pond it lay now rotting.

If the pond were a larger, saltier body

The pale tree might be

a yellow beluga whale

spotted as we sail

chartered waters on a plastic sea.

A Tower called Babble.

A Tower called Babble

Once there was a pile of ants

That decided to make themselves a town

And so they convened and decided to build

A tower taller than the tallest hill

Their strongest soldiers were recruited for the job

Two thousand lives were lost to the cause

And when at last they had succeeded

There was a town hall to decide what to name it

For the nearby creek that so loudly chattered

They all agreed to call the tower Babble.

That night they gathered to take a moment

To celebrate the ant town’s greatest triumph

They thought the tower would last a millennium

But that town of ants soon had a rebellion

When the Queen of ants fell for a lowly worker

The throne was usurped by an evil sorcerer

who cursed the town and their great fortress.

And so remains in a distant forest

a pile of rocks the ants called Babble.

***

Sawnee Mountain Trail.

For me, the forest is a call for art. In awe of my surroundings, I cannot help but become introspective and consider how I might channel that inspiration.

For this reason, I am not a zealous hiker, although I do prefer lengthy hikes that provide a sense of adventure and, particularly ironic for this time, isolation.

Although the parking lot of Sawnee Mountain was rather crowded with other quarantined hikers, Ty and I quickly lost them as we reached the mountain’s foot. This was rather fortunate, as the bathrooms were closed “until further notice” due to the pandemic, and so once we were enfolded in the foliage, I took the opportunity to mark my territory. But is it even a hike if you don’t have to do that at least once? I think not.

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