Sunday, June 10, 2012

Travelogue - Shelby Forest

After very little self prodding, I decided to take a small day trip this morning to Meeman Shelby Forest State Park, located near Millington, Tennessee. It had been years since I was last in the area and today felt like a good day to go. 30 minutes of driving later, I found myself on a narrow road completely surrounded by tall, lush and green trees. Every so often I saw a car or truck yet they did not distract me from my search. A search for what, I was not sure of at the time yet now as I write this log, I realize that I was searching for a place of solitude. I quickly found my gateway to solitude as I turned on to a one way road that barely looked big enough for my Toyota. I drove up and down hills, around tight curves and under trees larger than life, until I located a small side area for me to stop and get out. When I did, I was in amazement; trees all around me and no sight nor sounds of the world beyond. I gazed up at the tips of the trees and the grey sky above and felt a mixture of excitement, nervousness and amazement. I wanted to yell and scream something but my mouth was frozen. All I could do was just stare and listen at what lay around me, hiding in waiting or out in plain sight that my city eyes could not detect. Suddenly feeling a bit nervous, I got back into my car and drove off, now completely under the spell of Meeman. After driving 20 mph for a couple of minutes, I slammed on the brakes as several lovely samples of mushrooms "waved" at me from the side of the road. I had to take photos of them, me being such the junior mycologist. After I had my fill of fungus photos, I drove onward to another miscalculated destination. Before long, I came to another clearing when, straight in front of me were at least five very large crows/ravens. I slowed down my car and hoped like heck that they would not fly away when they did just that with loud caws all around. I trailed behind them and parked the car in a small parking lot area. The murder of crows then flew off again yet one remained behind for a while in a tree as I scribbled down my notes thus far. The crows looked to be at least 2 feet in height and their feathers were blacker than night. I wanted to take their photos yet they would not let such a thing happen. They flew off again, cawing in the distance, as their sounds echoed all around me. I looked to the tree to see if the solitary crow was still there, yet alas, he too had flown off, leaving me sitting in my car looking like a scared rabbit. I got out of my car and took several more photos then stopped as not only did I hear my corvus corax brethren, but also a woodpecker pecking his head off against a tree. I got back in my car and drove off again, still unsure as to my next destination but hoping that it would provide the same kind of entertainment. The crows at Meeman reminded me of the ravens I saw at the Grand Canyon, yet those ravens were at least three feet tall and their caws were much deeper, as though they needed a cough drop. After some time had passed with me driving around, I found another spot to stop and take more photos. Although I saw a car and truck parked at that location, I saw no other human. The air smelled clean and earthy, like a good cup of green tea. The grey clouds let loose some sprinkles yet not enough to dampen my solitude while there. Meeman, for those of you who have never been there, has a stillness that is deafening. A snapped twig sounds like a police siren. A crow's caw sounds like an ambulance. I took many deep breaths as I took the photos, not caring if bugs were trying to fly in my ears, or that I kept hearing something or someone snapping twigs in the thick of trees and bushes in front of me. Finally, I returned to my car, turned on the air conditioner and headed for home and civilization. Thanks to my GPS (with British male voice named Simon), I returned to the highway with no problems. I turned off my A/C and let down my windows to feel the cool and green smelling breezes enter my car, as well as the delightfully fragrant scents of the flowering trees and shrubs lining the highway. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I had to return very soon.

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