Nature is the theater where God displays his best works of directing and producing. This rock where I sit is my recliner where I sit back and enjoy the show, and the embankment behind me forms a semicircular amphitheater to capture the surround sound of birds cawing and chirping and the steady river speaking somewhere between a whisper and a roar.
A 1.2-mile hike with five pounds on my back isn't exactly what I would call a workout, especially after taking so many breaks to write down things like the quotation above. So I decided I'd up the ante a little bit and venture across town to Birchmore Nature Trail, a 2.25-mile path situated in a forest within Memorial Park next to Bear Hollow Wildlife Trail.
I pulled up beside a family taking their two small children to see the animals at Bear Hollow, a free zoo where Katy and I frequently enjoy observing more than 12 species of native Georgia wildlife. Looking at the children, I couldn't help but think about how much I'm going to love taking my future kids to places like that.
A little bit downhill from Bear Hollow's I stopped to check out the map posted at the entrance to the trail. An elderly couple who had just finished walking it came up and began making smalltalk with me. They were sweet people, the kind that you can tell are content with the lives they've led.
"You know you're supposed to let someone know where you are when you're hiking," the gentleman said.
"Well, y'all know where I am now, so I don't have anything to worry about," I replied, smiling. We all laughed as I took off at a brisk walk down the mulch-covered path. The entire trail had taken them about an hour. Judging by my normal pace and the easy, soft path, I figured I could do it in at least half the time if I didn't stop.
But again, I made stops to write down some thoughts and comparisons. The forest was much more picturesque than Ben Burton's. I stood over canyon carved by a small stream that ran about 30 feet below the bottom of the bridge and admired the old trees that looked almost mythic, like something out of Lord of the Rings.
But Ben Burton had the river and much more wildlife. An occasional cardinal or chipmunk would make an appearance on the Birchmore Trail, but either because of the denser forest or the proximity to busy city streets, I saw very few animals there.
Both of the trails are low on the difficulty scale, but I think Birchmore was a bit more pampered, with nice signs to point you in the right direction, and wood chips softening the ground beneath your feet.
After the bridge I found a few more interesting landmarks on Birchmore's trail. The path curved around a huge stone wall, built by Birchmore himself. Then it meandered past a hole used to be a swimming pool and is now filled with concrete and overgrown weeds. Walking past the wall, I thought about how cool the name "Birchmore" is. You couldn't pick a better name for a nature-lover. It fits his interests as good as names like "Sir-Mix-A-Lot" or "Funkmaster Flex" fit the DJ's and musical artists who take them. And his was a coincidence.
The trail intersected a road I'd already crossed once, and it wasn't too long before I reached the exit. Back at the car, I called my friends who by now were wondering where I was. I invited them to meet me at Hodgson's Pharmacy for a generous 50-cent scoop of ice cream. Hiking was over, and I needed to replenish my calorie supply before playing basketball later.