Wolf Hill Preserve
Silence. A gentle breeze snakes through the trees. Pine needles tickle each other, creating rustling all around. Birds sing in the distance. I’m reminded that the modern world is not far as the sound of the natural symphony is cut by the sound of a plane overheard.
It’s a sunny Saturday in March, perhaps the warmest day we’ve had this month. Just five days prior to our hike, Smithfield, Rhode Island received around ten inches of snow. Temperatures in the teens during the days that followed had kept the snow from melting.
The landscape is bright. The sun reflects off the snow and warms my skin. * crunch, crunch, crunch* My feet pound into the cool, compact snow. I pause again to enjoy nature’s music, tilting my head back to look up at the leafless trees. I call out to Ian up ahead, “What kind of trees are these?”
“Pines, oaks, maples. Pretty standard,” he calls back. We continue on the path, with me dragging a bit behind, stopping every so often to take it all in. When we were starting on the trail, the snow was compacted down, the path paved by previous explorers. As we progressed on our hike, it became clear that few had walked the entire trail since the snowfall. We trudged on, sinking ankle, then calf, then knee deep into the snow.
We got some relief from the deep snow when the landscape opened up into a valley. The snow was more shallow here, so we paused again, letting the calm wind and soft chirping momentarily put us in a trance. Looking around the open space, it was impossible to ignore the telephone wires abruptly cutting through the valley. Looming and rusted red, they intimidate the quiet, careful surroundings. Another reminder of human’s harsh intrusion.
Once we crossed through the valley, it was back to the paving our own path through the pure, white sheets of land before us. There’s something beautiful about creating fresh prints in undisturbed snow. We kept our eyes out for animal tracks, eventually finding some deer tracks and following them a way down the path.
We had set out to hike the World War II Memorial Trail through Wolf Hill, but after a couple of loops and a few wrong turns, we ended up touching on five out of the seven trails in the preserve. After three hours and six miles, we were rounding the final bend to the end of the trail.
Despite spending the morning lost in the forest, there were a number of times where the proximity of modern civilization was on my mind. Yet at the end of our hike, I realized that I’m grateful for any natural escape I can get. It’s crucial to not only protect, but to explore nature both locally, nationally, and globally. Utilizing and respecting our national parks and nature preserves is what their existence thrives on.
Ian and I hope to explore Wolf Hill Preserve and more of Rhode Island’s State Parks again soon, but hopefully with a little less snow next time.