A Path Into the Woods, the August Edition

I have been walking every day since the last day of February. Most days, I just walk around the neighborhood where we live. Often, it's just 30 to 35 minutes, sometimes more. Some days, we swim or ride our bikes instead, and I skip the walk. But most days, I walk. I walk in every kind of weather. I listen to my tunes box. I don't usually take the camera. I just walk, and I jam to the tunes. I daydream. I wave and say Hello to any neighbors I see.

We've started a new thing lately where my husband drops me off somewhere and picks me up somewhere else. On this day, he dropped me off on the other side of our town and I walked home from there, through the Scotia Barrens. I took my camera along, hoping to see a snake. But alas, I saw nary a one. T. Tiger accompanied me on my adventure; he said Tigers don't mind the heat.

And yes, it is hot here. Possibly some of the hottest weather of the year. Our high temperature on this day was in the high 80s F. On Thursday, it'll probably reach 95. They already have all kinds of heat advisories out for Thursday afternoon. On hot days, I try to walk in the morning; I like to go early.

So it was that my husband and I took my Mazda out for a spin. He wanted to drop off the recycles, give the car a good run, and drop me off for my walk. So he drove to the other end of town and dumped me out right on Mahala Street, which winds up and around and into the Scotia Barrens, also known as State Gameland 176. That street is what you are looking at in the photo above.

I had looked at maps of our end of the Scotia Barrens before I left, so that I was sure I knew where I was going. If you follow this (gated) road uphill a ways, maybe 20 minutes of walking from where Mahala junctions with Houtz, one of the main trails in the Barrens goes off to the right; there is a gate there which makes finding it easy. There is a lady who stacks stones by the gate.

That trail is actually the same one that I often walk in springtime when checking out the vernal pools in the Barrens. I did get to see two of my favorite pools on this day, and they are looking pretty slim and pathetic. The bigger one is nearly dry. The smaller one has a nice bit of water on the far end and is guarded by several small red autumn meadowhawk dragonflies.

I need to warn you that if you hike in the woods in Pennsylvania in August, you are likely to encounter insects. In fact, the mosquitoes and gnats will try to eat you alive if you stop for even a moment. I inhaled/swallowed two gnats, which grossed me out (does one exhale, or barf, to get them out, one wonders?).

And I got one pretty annoying mosquito bite when I stopped to take a photo. So my advice to you, fellow intrepid woods walker, is to keep most of the surface of your body covered (long, light-colored pants are best), walk briskly, never stop, and keep your mouth CLOSED! Oh, and if you have your camera along, you'd better learn to snap that shutter while your feet are still moving! Or you may yourself become Hemingway's famous Moveable Feast.

I spent about an hour exploring the woods on my hike, and then I headed for home. By bike, it's only about 5 minutes to home from the gameland parking lot that I came out on. I wished for my bike to magically appear, but of course, it did not. So I walked home from the woods, having spent a nice chunk of time getting some fresh air and exercise!

When I got home, I looked up the word mahala, and I discovered that it has meaning in several languages. In South African, mahala means "acquired without payment or effort; free." I'll betcha it's nothing but EASY LIVING out here in the country! *insert hearty laughter* So let's let our soundtrack song be this one from Dire Straits and Sting, at Live Aid: Money for Nothing.

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