The Red Sandstone Trail runs between my home and the west shore of Sugar Island Flow on the Racquette River. I’ve been walking it since my teenage years, long before the local chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club improved it beyond the original deer track and bushwack. It’s not wilderness – running by dams and p0werhouses, sandstone quarry and penstock – but wild enough and unpeopled enough to do. There are woods and rapids and stretches where nothing made by human hand is visible, and the full variety of North Country plants, trees and wildlife appear somewhere along its stretch.
Red Sandstone Trail Nocturne
It’s best to walk these woods alone,
to look, listen, breathe, smell, move –
being quiet, becoming still, balm for
the dizzy clamor of another working day.
It’s near enough night for the shift change.
Deer drift down to drink dark water, a beaver
slaps the surface to call her family home.
The owl’s eyes open wide and swivel.
Trees, spent of glory, stand stark except
for the sheltered understory which bears
a meager spray of amber lamps. Shoes swish
beside the river running black in half-light.
Near November, yes, it’s best to walk alone.
What would talk add to the evening chorus?
Were I singing, each evensong would praise
this wild world itself as Word made flesh.
When shadows go full dark, a glow begins
upriver where the moon will rise and
another downriver where street lights
in the village infuse a far flock of clouds.
Up this dim lit trail, I follow my nose like
a dog, past piercing pine, scuffed duff,
pungent scat, the bite of sumac, and
at last, the backyard’s new-mown grass.
Back again in my right-angled nest of wood,
bright as day and warm as summer, I shed
coat and shoes and pull down all the shades.
Outside, the wild world spins on toward dawn.