I come from Chester, a very small town in Orange County that maybe five people have heard of. My house is far from the main town, hidden away in the woods. Last year, my girlfriend dragged me out to the lake where her friends went to get drunk, and we almost got lost on the walk home despite being no more than ten minutes from my house.
Over spring break, I wanted to get out of the house. My dad was working and my brother took the car to school, so it was me and my dogs stuck inside for hours on end. One day when it was warm and sunny, I decided to take my dog, a hyperactive beagle mix, for a walk to the lake. I couldn’t find her leash, so I wound up going alone.
For context, here are things I have seen or heard outside: deer, obviously, those sneaky bastards; then there are the squirrels and chipmunks, and opossums and the occasional fox. On summer nights, we hear coyotes scream. More than a few times, bears have gotten into our trash. Apparently, mountain lions have been spotted.
So, not only did I walk into the woods alone, but I walked in with headphones on and without telling anyone where I was going.
The late March weather had yet to free the scenery from the grips of winter. The trees were barren and I found myself navigating through the skeletons of trees instead of the lush green of summer. In an especially shady area, a stubborn patch of ice spanned the ground and led me to take a different, more narrow path. I reached the lake and skipped some rocks. I saw the trash on the ground and committed to coming out another day to clean some of it up (I haven’t yet; the rest of break was characterized by rain). With nothing more to do at the lake, I decided to explore.
I climbed up mossy rocks and dug through patches of the ground clearly used for fires beforehand. I found fused glass from a beer bottle and pocketed it (classy, I’m aware), and took pictures of the bare trees and the lake looking out to the town across, Florida. I stuck stray branches in the ground, marking where I had been on the amalgamation of paths so I wouldn’t find myself lost again.
After half an hour, I was bored. It was humid and getting hotter; it was also about the time where my hyperactive dog would accept that she was alone and start to wreak havoc through the house.
I began the walk home, finally taking my headphones off to appreciate the silence as my feet crunched across the forest floor.
Then I saw it: a cement structure sticking out of the ground with four walls and no roof. Last time I had been there, the leaves had obscured it from the path. Next to it was a patch of garbage, probably from whatever teenagers had decided to light up against the wall.
Already committed to exploring more, I walked closer, skipping off the path and hopping over a fallen tree. As I came closer, I saw what looked like a cellar. “What the fuck?” I asked myself. There were plenty of houses in the forest, with driveways so long they might as well have been roads, but this was out of nowhere. “What the fuck?” I repeated, this time on video so my roommate could get a glimpse of the middle of nowhere, New York.
I heard a rustle, and I remembered a couple of things all at once. I remembered that coyotes and bears were certainly things that lived in the forest, and I probably couldn’t take either in a fight; if it wasn’t an animal and it was a person, I was trespassing through a forest that housed a lot of rednecks with guns, who drove pickup trucks up and down the backroads shooting off fireworks.
I ran the whole way back to my house and didn’t breathe until I was in my room.
So, yeah. I’m a huge advocate for going on walks and appreciating nature. So if you’re like me and live in the middle of nowhere, this summer you should consider trespassing into the forest and taking in the scenery.