Outdoor Explorers

Kirk and I had the afternoon free on Friday. For the first time in a long while, we chose to spend it outside. We shucked through the McDonalds drive-thru, picked up our hamburgers, cokes, and fries, and headed out to a local seminary where we could sit at a picnic table by a lake and feel the wind blow through our hair. This particular lake is dark and choppy—very Northern—and we could see the wind blowing through the hanging moss “hair” of the cypress trees, too. It was quiet and peaceful, with different birds clucking and cacking in the air and no other sounds at all.

Then we discovered a giant anthill under our table, and many ants crawling our legs, so we headed to the bookstore and browsed around for an hour.

The next morning, we decided to go on a hike. Kirk knew a great place about forty-five minutes away. We pulled on our faded jeans and hiking shoes and headed on out with the windows rolled down, all the fresh fall air whipping in and out of the car and us crying, “I can’t believe how insanely gorgeous this day is!” about once every two minutes. It was divine.

We pulled up at the trailhead, signed our names in the guestbook recorder, and then stepped onto the trail. Kirk relinquished his camera to my ever-curious eyes, and I stopped every few steps to photograph some new view.

Entrance to the hiking trail.

Trees that look like nymph ladies dancing.

Cool tree bark.

This was going great for about ten minutes . . . until we discovered the spiders. At first it was just a thin, medium-sized web high above our heads on the trail with a bulbous, small-to-medium spider who scampered along the web and out of sight when he saw us stopping below to stare at him. Kirk proceeded ahead on the trail, walking under the web above us, while I stood rooted to the spot, staring upward with mouth agape. I couldn’t move. I’m pretty afraid of spiders.

After Kirk reached for my hand and persuaded me that the spider had moved away, I slowly let him pull me along the trail underneath the web, my eyes watching it steadfastly in case the spider decided to descend by his webstrings into my hair or mouth.

This fiasco over, we kept moving along. I relaxed for a moment and put my photographer eyes back on . . . until Kirk pointed out another web, this one above our heads but off to the right a bit, and this one hosting an even bigger spider. It was definitely medium-sized, and you could clearly see its black and yellow stripes. A banana spider, Kirk said. A big one, I said.

Now I was beginning to realize that perhaps these spiders were indigenous to the place, and perhaps we were trespassing upon their ground. How many more would we see? I can tell you the answer: more and more. And they just kept getting bigger and bigger.

My body had gone totally tense by now. I dropped further and further back on the trail from Kirk, who had taken the lead so that he could scope out for spiders and keep us from walking into any elaborate webs. “I don’t know if I can do this,” I whispered. “I just don’t know if I can.”

The verdict was settled when we saw the biggest spider of all—splayed out to the full glory of its size in a giant-sized web at the right side of the trail. This spider was huge—at least the size of my entire hand, palm and fingers included. (Because I refuse to post a picture of these hideous creatures on my blog, you can check them out for yourself by clicking here.)

I screamed, then screamed again. “I can’t do this, hon,” I said. “Okay, let’s go,” Kirk said. Of course, this meant we still had to walk back along the trail, underneath all the spiders and webs again, in order to get back to our car. I was a wreck by the time we made it. The muscles in my back were so tense, and my arms were sewn at my sides.

One question I have is, are all woodsy trails like this? Will I ever enjoy a hike again without worrying about spiders dropping into my hair, down my clothes, or into my open mouth?

Because the weather has suddenly turned so gorgeous, with a sweet smell and a crisp fall nip in the air, we are determined to enjoy it to the full, so today we took lunch at the seminary again. We sat at a table on the concrete patio, under the library overhang to avoid the ants this time, while Kirk finished a paper and I continued my way through a second reading of Eat, Pray, Love. After about an hour, I closed my book and got up from the chair. “I’m going to go walking around a bit,” I said, and I headed out onto the grass that leads down to the lake.

But I didn’t just walk around—I tromped. By this I mean I picked up my legs so that my knees came up real high, then slammed them down to the ground for a good tromp sound. I tromped down to the lake, stood for a moment and took it in, and then imagined that an alligator was laying hidden in the brush and could come up from behind at any minute and gobble up my legs. (I know, I have a vivid imagination!)

So I tromped my two legs back up toward the patio, making my way in circles a couple times just because I wasn’t done tromping yet, until I finally landed back at our table. As I tromped, I was telling my body, my lungs, myself, my God, and that whole space of land that I was so really and truly alive.