Life in slow lane begins to show appeal

Life in slow lane begins to show appeal

With the year 2023 now consigned to the annals of history and a fresh new set of calendar pages ahead, it’s a great time to give thanks for the lessons of the past 12 months and lay plans for the adventures ahead.

My wife has inadvertently inspired me to train my senses in a whole new direction while venturing out in the woods. Most of you recognize me as one who loves to be out there in it, no matter the time of day (or night), season of the year or weather conditions at hand. I tend to preach often about the importance of putting yourself in situations where you’re apt to find nature, but the truth is most of my own observations arrive incidentally as I travel from point A to point B on my bicycle. I don’t spend a whole lot of time just wandering the woods. That’s where Kristin comes in. She has become a dedicated “woods walker” over the past couple of years and has inspired me more and more to tag along.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always been a junkie for the forest and all that can be found there, but for the past 30 years or so, I’ve gotten most of my dosage from the saddle of a mountain bike. The beauty of the bike is I cover a lot of ground in the time I spend aboard. The drawback is I’ve got to focus intently on the trail ahead to keep from busting my bones.

And while I used to think hiking was really just a very slow alternative to mountain biking, I’ve come to realize there is virtue in traveling at a walker’s pace through the woods. I may rack up a lot fewer miles on foot, but I tend to see a whole lot more — things I may never have noticed from the bike. Note to my friends in the mountain biking community: This newfound joy will in no way diminish my desire or ability to shred; it’ll just put me out in the woods even more.

One recent low-speed adventure took place on one of those cold, damp, early winter days when it seems like nothing at all is moving in the woods. I’m an “animals guy,” so I tend to focus on forms and shapes in the woods that sometimes turn out to be creatures — and sometimes not. A form I’d fixated on as I was hoofing down the trail seemed entirely to be that of a cat-sized animal clinging to the underside of a fallen tree. I approached with quiet caution so as not to frighten the critter, but as it turned out, no amount of ruckus would have flushed the object of my attention from its post. The form was a fungus.

My first lesson, then, of the new year became learning the name and nature of a fungal commonly known as sweet knot (Globifomes graveolens). A fungus fond of hardwoods and especially oak and beech trees, living or dead, the growth appears at first like some sort of oversized wasp, the closely overlapping caps adding texture to the rounded form I mistook for an animal across the distance.

Sometimes it pays to travel slowly and pay close attention.

If you have comments on this column or questions about the natural world, write The Rail Trail Naturalist, P.O. Box 170, Fredericksburg, OH 44627, or email You also can follow along on Instagram @railtrailnaturalist.

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