With awe I step onto the grassy floor, breathe deep, and open my senses to encounter the forest at Kettle River Provincial Park. The forest is predominately pines with their convoluted, rough, burnt umber trunks standing ramrod straight through antler like dead branches to silvery needles piercing an endless blue firmament.
Alone along a trail I am aware of a mat of dry, brittle pine needles and gnarly roots under my feet. The trail winds along the bank of the meandering river that ripples with a swift current over rocks worn smooth with time. The forest is divided by the river and also by a historic railway bed which crosses over a trestle bridge, through dappled shade, narrowing to feel the brush of silky tips on young firs.
The forest reaches out with the tingle of a snapping branch, the prickly slash of glossy Oregon grape, the soothing, wet, slimy froth of spit bugs on waving grasses. Colourful, wild flowers nod their heads as I pass. My fingers reach high to pluck plump, purple Saskatoon berries, their sweetness bursting on my tongue. Irritating flies and mosquitoes dive bomb and buzz in my ears. Crickets chirp, and a cacophony of bird song, chirps, trills and caws together with the antiphonal chatter of tree squirrels and peeping ground squirrels fill my auditory sense. A warm, soughing wind carries the scent of pine pitch.
The forest darkens as the shadows of the day lengthen. Tree tops silhouette against a star studded canvas. The air takes on a chill, a hush falls, and in the forest a sense of peace prevails.