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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Fresh Air and Open Spaces - Sky Meadows State Park

There are some hikes and trips which, more than others, remind you of what hiking is all about and what drew you to this hobby in the first place. This time I have truly been on one of these hikes.

On this Sunday afternoon, I went to Sky Meadows State Park in Virginia. It was cloudy and cool, but very pleasant. This land was owned by George Washington at one time. Although I am interested in histor, that is not really the reason I visited this place.

Pretty soon after I started walking, I re
ached the start of the hiking trails. It is pretty apparent to me why they had named the park as they did.

As I climbed the hill, I was passing through a meadow,
there was an open sky around me as well. Lots and Lots of empty space. The golden sunlight shining on the meadow contrasted with the blue and gray clouds in the sky. The sight of the buildings in the distance. Even some mountain peaks, further away still. And fall colors of yellow, red, and orange, in addition to the usual green. And just look at the space. Space and fresh air to breathe!

It has been a while since I have traveled to this park. Two or three years maybe. There were some people there when I arrived at about 3:30 PM. It was ok though. There was plenty of space for all of us. As time got on all the other people disappeared. It was just me, surrounded by the meadow and the sky. Within fifteen minutes of starting to walk, I felt like I was relatively high up. As I looked back down the trail, I saw several layers. First, at bottom, the meadow. Then several layers of trees and forest. Then, finally, at the back and top, the higher surrounding mountains.

The trail led into a forest. A nice change of pace, and a welcome one for me. For me, forest means shelter, protection from the elements. I grew up on the east coast, and that means the majority of mountains here are forested. It is a wonderful change of pace for me to walk through the meadow on the way up, and it means the views are wider and clearer, but stepping back into the forest brought me to somewhere comfortable and familiar - a place that seemed secure to me. Although overdeveloped, the neighborhood I grew up in is basically forested, and that is still apparent even today. So to me, trees and forests mean shelter, protection. It is also pretty neat to see this just after walking through so much open space.

It started to get darker. Notice the shapes and appearances of the trees, and how much they can vary! The first tree stood sentinel over the edge of the meadow area, and takes on the color of the glowing sunlight. Familiar shapes of trees lit by sunlight changed into twisted shapes of silhouettes against an evening sky. Colors became less bright but more varied, especially in the sky, and the trees became mere abstractions. The sun was setting just as I came out of the forest and back into the meadow. Feeling completely refreshed, I returned to the car.


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