Thoreau was a hiker; he was a man who loved to hike. But if he had a mountain bike, he would have zipped around the hills and mountains of New England, climbing up to that perfect lookout over the rolling land. This is what I thought as I rounded the twisty-turns at Oleta State Park Thursday.
I found that perfect gear, built speed, felt the wind, and for a few seconds forget it was summer in South Florida. Hound dog Sandy kept up, happy to open it up outside and burn some energy. We stopped where the trail crossed a brackish creek. Sandy waded in to cool off, spooking what seemed like a hundred tiny fish, jumping, twisting, and swimming off.
Then we were off again, the breeze drying some of the sweat on my brow. The trail (which I’ve named Breeze Loop because you can pedal quick enough to create a minor breeze) emptied out to a field of immature mangroves where a White Ibis was searching through the shallow water.
Thoreau was always traveling a little further down the trail. He enjoyed immersing himself in the kind of adventure that lead to a moment in nature where nature would come across in that different light, when he would see himself differently. His lesser-known essay “Ktaadn” is one of his best nature essays. It shows both the thoughtful and the adventurous Thoreau as he hikes up the 5,300-foot Mt. Katahdin. “Following at the course of the torrent which occupied this,–and i mean to lay some emphasis on the word up,–pulling myself up by the side of perpendicular falls of twenty or thirty feet, by the roots of firs and birches…”
Thoreau hikes further up the mountain, encountering a harsh landscape where nature seems to say “This ground is not prepared for you. It is not enough that I smile in your valleys? I have never made this soil for thy feet, this air for they breathing, these rocks for thy neighbors.” He comes to explore and see, and that’s all; he means no harm to this untouched land.
“Nature was here something savage and awful, though beautiful… but here not even the surface had been scarred by man, but it was a specimen of what God saw fit to make this world.”