Lessons While Walking

Lessons While Walking

Lessons While WalkingThere’s a trail near our home which, if I stay on it long enough, will take me to our local waterfall. I walk it every day with our dog, Maxwell. This mountain-laurel-bordered path, a few hundred yards from our front door, winds across several streams on its way to the falls. It’s for reasons like these that no one will pry me out of Wilton. Its proximity is also a reason I’ve never joined one of the Wilton Library’s popular Boots and Books walks.  I decided to remedy this.

A few days later an email from the Wilton Library arrived, informing me of a walk along the Pratt Pond trail, just over the Wilton border in Mason. I decided to join the group that walks every month, weather and conditions permitting.

When the day arrived, I packed my water, notebook, pen and camera and headed out to meet some of the people who’ve been a part of Boots and Books for years. I wanted to hear from them why this program is so popular. I also wanted to be outdoors on one of the first warm, sun-filled, spring-like days that we’ve had in many months.

This time only five others were on the walk. I first met Violet Blake, one of the original Boots and Books participants. We chatted as we passed geese creating erratic swirls in the water near the far shore. She told me she’s a regular patron of Wilton’s Gregg Free Library and joined this hiking program seven years ago.

I asked her what she most enjoys about Boots and Books and Violet answered without hesitancy: “I get to go on new adventures to places I never knew existed.” She added, “I’m someone who always wants to know what’s around the next bend.”

Lynne Pentler added, “I thought I would enjoy doing something with people outside.”

If people don’t know Lynne, for years she’s been a familiar face while walking many Wilton roads. She’s also been a fixture when needed to count votes and a member of several Wilton committees.

It was when we all paused after Lynne’s reply that group leader, Nikki Andrews, questioned, “Wasn’t that a chickadee I just heard?” Earlier she had pointed out a striking white feather that settled alongside the trail.

Obviously these walks are more than mere strolls along paths, chatting with friends. They’re nature lessons as well.

Lessons While WalkingDonny Lewis is one of the group’s newest members, having joined “around three years ago.” He found the program on-line when he was looking for things to do in the area. He thought it would be “a nice way to get out on a Saturday morning.”  Donny confessed that some walks can be “drab and dreary” but the company and being outside keep him going. He enjoys meeting up with new and old friends and talking, which he admits, he’s not shy about doing a lot of himself.

I asked him if he had any memorable experiences with Boots and Books and he didn’t hesitate to tell me about a walk to Garwin Falls in ten-degree weather.  It was memorable for its cold and windchill, but the falls in winter were worth the trip. The nice thing is that you can choose when you want to participate without feeling you’re letting someone down. 

Periods of silence were interspersed with people sharing thoughts and observances. One comment seemed timely. “We learn a lot about things around us that we may miss on our own.  Everyone has something to offer.” A case in point was the strangely formed tree branch to the right of us along the trail. It took a distinct right-angled turn then ran parallel to the ground until it ran up against another tree trunk, then began its vertical path once again. It was unclear why it decided upon this shift in direction as it grew.

The conversation continued on the theme of natural surroundings and local landmarks, with David Andrews nodding in agreement several times.  Nikki then mentioned Wolf Rock, a short distance away within Mason’s boundaries. This was when we received a history lesson:

One day a young preacher from Mason was walking on a wooded trail when a pack of wolves began to follow him. He spied a large rock nearby that he scrambled up until he was out of reach of the wolves’ teeth. When he finally felt safe, he climbed down and returned to town where he told his tale of survival. It’s been a local story of self-preservation ever since and the rock has become a town landmark.

When I asked Nikki how she organizes these hikes, she explained that she tries to “keep them within everyone’s skill level with just enough of a challenge for seniors.”  She tries to find new places that are about a half-hour from Wilton and added that people usually stay on the trail for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, walking at a leisurely pace.

The number of people participating always varies, but ten or twelve walkers would not be uncommon.  The group is open to all, after a phone call or email letting either Nikki or the Library know you wish to participate at 603-654-2581 or [email protected].

We had only seen one other group on the trail, a family with two children and a few kayakers on the pond -  until we turned to return to our cars. Two men and four friendly dogs trotted toward us. I couldn’t resist taking a Boots and Books group shot with the dogs who seemed to enjoy the trail every bit as much as we had. 

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