A glimpse into the future | Gulch View

By Arnie Hammerman | Feb 19, 2014

An old man and a boy walk slowly through the woods. The rich smell of the earth rises up from the dirt path. The wind gently blows through the treetops, causing a branch to occasionally groan as it rubs against another.

The breeze barely reaches the surface, but the air still seems crisp and alive. Ferns, nettles and patches of salmon berries grow along the trail.

Small maples with thin branches reach up toward the shadowy light that filters down through the occasional clearings. They curl around the huge logs of fallen trees that now form these light-filled glades.

Except for these patchy openings to the sky, the hills are covered in a thick canopy of tall trees. Groups of Western Red Cedars, some with loopy arm-like branches, form dense stands.

Tall firs and hemlocks reach to the sky standing in mottled rows like soldiers misaligned before the morning roll call. Many of these trees have massive trunks and thick, mottled bark forming a twisted rope-like labyrinth that seems to climb up them to the sky.

At first, the two walk in silence except for the labored breathing of the old man. The boy runs back and forth, as if unaware of the steep grades, as the man slowly trudges up the path.

“Poppy, Poppy,” he says pointing to a fallen log covered with brilliant golden colored mushroom caps, “What are these?”

The gray-haired man catches up and looks down at where the small boy is pointing. “Those are mushrooms,” he says, “A type of fungus that feeds on dead wood of fallen branches. Have you ever eaten a mushroom?”

The boy sticks his tongue out and holds his nose between his thumb and forefinger. “Eww,” he says, “I don’t like mushrooms. Mama eats them, but I think they are gross.”

“That’s funny; I don’t like them either,” Poppy says, shaking his head and making a sour face. “When I was your age, my father used to say that I would grow to like them when I got older, but I never did.

“Besides, you should never eat wild mushrooms, anyway, as some of them are poisonous.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t eat them, Poppy,” the boy yelled over his shoulder, as he ran up the next small ridge.

The man looked up and saw a sudden flash in the sky. “Look,” he says to the boy, pointing through the trees, “An airship.”

The little boys stops and points too. “I see it Poppy, I see it.” The airship slowly glides by a shrill whirling sound can be heard briefly, as it launches itself further into the sky.

“I remember when we had proper airplanes,” Poppy explains, “With real jets that made loud noise. They built them up there on the hill.” The boy listened. “There was a lot of controversy for a while regarding the airship port, but that was back before the electrojet and planes made a lot of noise. Now you can barely hear them.”

“Can we go to Historic Flight later and look at the Boeing planes?” the boy asked, and then ran off before the man could answer.

As they reached the crest of the trail, they entered a large stand of towering trees. The boy ran round and round the trees with one arm sliding along the bark as he turned. “Wee!” he said in a shrill scream as he swung around the next tree in the other direction.

The old man paused to catch his breath and marveled at the forest standing before him. “You know, I helped save this forest,” he said.

“Really, Poppy?” the boy asked, suddenly stopping and coming toward his grandfather.

“It was a long time ago,” explained the man. “I was only a few years older than you and used to play in here. My brother and my parents and I lived down the street. Some people wanted to build warehouse buildings here, but the people who lived in this area wanted to save this forest. They all got together and saved this land.”

“You mean it’s the same now as it was when you were my age?” the boy asked.

“Well not exactly the same,” the grandfather said. “The trees are a lot bigger and there are more of the large evergreens. The stream down there used to run over concrete and through pipes and had a lot of tires and stuff in it, but now it is all cleaned up and runs more naturally. It was a lot muddier back then.

“You know the bridges that cross over the wetlands and streams? Well, those were built back then to make the land more accessible and safer. There weren’t any trail maps or signs back then. People had to figure out their own way, but it was fun like that.

“Wow,” said the boy as he ran ahead on the trail yelling “Wee!” again.

“Slow down a sec,” Poppy said. “Let’ stop up here where these trails cross.”

The boy stopped and Poppy caught up and took his hand. “Look up in the trees there ahead and be very quiet,” he told the boy.

A slight flutter was heard and, suddenly, a large owl flew by, right across their path.

“Look, look, look!” the boy cried, pointing.

The old man wiped a tear from his eyes, as he looked down at the boy. He was thinking about the time he had photographed an owl in this very forest, many years ago.

Thank you for making this our forest forever. Let us know what your vision of the future of Japanese Gulch is and we will try to make it happen. Email the Japanese Gulch Group at info@japanesegulch.org.

Arnie Hammerman is the president of the Japanese Gulch Group, which has the mission to preserve the Japanese Gulch for parks and open space.

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