An autumn run in the New England woods

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of old, with voices sad and prophetic… 
So began Henry Wordsworth Longfellow’s epic poem Evangeline. 
The Druids of old

The Druids of old

When in 1846 and 1847, Longfellow wrote his saga of tragic love set ninety years earlier during the forced expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia, much of New England was heavily forested and familiar to the Maine born and bred poet.

Even today, when one sets foot outside the myriad small farming villages and mill towns that cover the region and who carry names such as Westminster, Rockingham, Windsor, Windham, Cheshire, Colchester, Norwich or Essex, often deep woods and forest quickly come into view. 

One such small village but with a name unconnected with the mother country is Ivoryton, Connecticut, founded only in the 19th century as a center of manufacturing of ivory products, chiefly piano keys.  While it still carries mementos of that trade such as Ivory Street and Ebony Lane, the village is now chiefly known for the Ivoryton Playhouse, the oldest self-sufficient summer theatre in the United States.
 
Lesser known are its woods, which, due to efforts of the Essex Land Trust, remain much as they were when long ago the Mohegans and Pequots hunted and fished here, and which now can be enjoyed by hiking or running the Land Trust’s trails. 
Sunlight on the river creeps into the forest.

Sunlight on the river creeps into the forest.

The other day I decided to eschew my usual morning jog along the Connecticut shoreline and drove up to Ivoryton for a trail run in the Land Trust and its forest primeval.  When I parked my car, the air was clear and cool and I gave myself a long vigorous stretch before beginning my jog.

The sun had been up for more than an hour, yet after only a minute into my run, the forest floor was covered in shadows.  I had to be on the watch for the dreaded roots that could catch and twist an ankle, forcing me to keep to a steady measured pace.   This certainly is not your mundane 5-kilometer road race course, I muttered to myself as I suddenly slowed to squeeze through a narrow zig-zag of sharp rocks.

A narrow and rocky passage forces the writer to slow his pace.

A narrow and rocky passage forces the writer to slow his pace.

 
On the other side I picked up the pace again, the only sounds the dull thud of my feet on the trail and the chirping of birds from high in the trees.  I pass tall pines, the Druids of old, some stately as they reach toward the unseen sky, others victims of past storms and now leaning in death, only waiting to mingle with the detritus of the forest floor.

As I neared a small river, I could hear the quacking of ducks and from somewhere behind a low ridge there was the familiar crackling of wood by a startled deer.  Finding myself back on the inbound trail to the carpark and remembering where the treacherous roots would crop up, I picked up my pace with confidence and finished my run in fine form. 

Toweling myself off, I drank my sports drink with the satisfaction of knowing that I had spent thirty minutes of the day not only on a good run but also oblivious to the nattering of the talking media heads or market gyrations or petty political squabbling that is the quotidian chaos of modern life.  I also knew that soon I would be running this forest primeval again and before winter sets in, others like it.  This is the minimum I owe myself.

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