I just went on a forest bike-ride and fishing trip with Ted from SightsandBytes. What a lovely chunk of get-back-to nature, beautiful, bucolic bliss it was. I could almost smell the grass and trees, and only worried when we saw bear marks. When I went on trips with my parents, we didn’t go quite as far back in the bush, because forests in Southern Ontario aren’t as big and wild as they are in Newfoundland, but we still managed to commune with nature a bit.
My home-town butts against an Indian Reservation. To make a little extra pocket-money, in the spring, some of the Indians would go into the bush on their land and pick morels, which they sold to town-folk. Morels are a type of mushroom with a tall cap which looks like a sponge. Soaked in salt water overnight to remove any dirt, etc., and fried in butter, they are rich and flavorful, much like French truffles. The few Indians who picked and sold them, knew their own forest well. The morels usually come up in the same places each year, so the natives knew where to look. I don’t think any Indians pick them anymore. The price used to be the equivalent of a half a day’s salary for a six-quart basket. Now, IF you can find them for sale, the price is like truffles too.
A couple of times when we went for a drive, Dad would find a spot, and we would wander through the bush trying to get a gourmet meal for the cost of a hike in the woods. Dad also knew folks who had apple trees. One farm, after normal harvest time, would let us pick our own, for next to nothing – but don’t tell anyone you paid, to pick on Sunday. A different farm let us take as much as we wanted, for free. We just had to supply our own containers.
Something else we picked when we went for rides, were beechnuts. Mom was the one who identified the trees. This one farmer’s field had a row of them, outside the fence, on public land. Beechnuts grow as a ball, between golf and tennis ball size. These dry out and split, and inside are dozens of individual triangular seeds, much like Brazil nuts, only smaller. Dad hoisted me up, till I could reach the ones on the lowest branches, and then my brother and I climbed the trees to snap off and drop more from higher up. We snacked on a few au naturel, as we drove, and took the balance home for a light roasting. Not only a fun and educational pastime, but a treat that made the labor worthwhile.
Like the directions to BrainRants’ place, a lot of the by-ways we drove included the description, “Turn off the paved road.” We enjoyed hilltop views, pretty little valleys, and picturesque streams. Some roads were so narrow that, if you met an oncoming car, each had to move over and drive with two wheels on the grass, to get past. There were some quaint little one-lane iron bridges over the streams. If two cars approached at the same time, the one to the bridge first proceeded, while the other pulled over and waited its turn.
While I liked the park in the “big city”, there was a town, smaller than mine, which had an even nicer one. Like everything else, parks cost money. The bigger the park, the more it costs to build, and usually, the larger the urban area needed to finance it. The exception to the rule in this case was an artesian well. People came from miles around to see cold, crystal-clear water spouting from an eight-inch pipe, ten feet into the air. The charge to enter was only a dollar a car, but over the days, weeks, months and years, the money added up, and went to expand and improve the park. Back before communicable diseases were a big deal, there was a tin cup on the end of an eight-foot pole. You could just reach out the pole and fill the cup with God’s own ambrosia.
The park included a grassed area big enough to play a game of pick-up football. There was a baseball diamond. They had built the largest checkers game I’ve ever seen, a big concrete pad, with squares marked on it. Checkers were solid wood, sixteen inches wide and six high, with iron loops in the top, and another eight foot pole, with a hook on the end, to move them. There were several large oak trees, and from a high branch hung a forty or fifty foot long swing. Guys loved to push their girls, or share the seat for a ride back and forth, that seemed to take forever.
There was a food-service booth, and it, and the park, escaped the can’t-open-on-Sunday rule by declaring a tourist-area exception. There were gardens and flowering shrubs all around. They had even imported volcanic basalt and piled it and some dirt into a conical pile thirty feet high, with a double helix path, almost to the top, to show desert-type low-water plants.
It was a wondrous place. Even if all you did was enjoy the cool shade and watched the darting dragonflies, it was an idyllic way to spend a Sunday afternoon. To me, and many others, it was Eden on Earth. I don’t know whether it was the internet and video games that killed it, but sadly, the park no longer exists. A brewery bought the property and uses all that clear spring water to make crappy beer. It is now, the gate to Hell.