One thing you may not know about me is that I enjoy a good movie. I especially enjoy the iconic lines that come from some of my favorites — lines like “I’ll be back” from “The Terminator” or “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” from “Jaws.”
Uttered in compelling tones, those words foreshadow what’s coming. Excitement! Adventure! Even danger!
Then there’s that phrase from the Wizard of Oz. It’s just a five-word phrase, but it’s spoken in trembling tones. You may remember it: “Lions and tigers and bears!”
Well. I’ve seen plenty of bears in my day, some closer than I might have wanted. I’ve even seen a couple of bobcats (do they qualify as tigers?) and one mountain lion.
Some folks tell me that I should worry about close encounters of the lion-tiger-bear kind. But I’m not concerned about them anymore — not since I’ve discovered that there’s something far more dangerous lurking out there in the wild and dangerous woods.
What I have discovered is…fall leaves.
Yes, I’m talking about those self-same delightfully colored fall leaves I wrote about a few weeks ago.
When they’re up there on the trees, all orange and yellow and red, fall leaves are pretty and transform even the most basic hike into an adventure through a land where everything’s made of glowing Crayola crayons.
But eventually those leaves fall. Ellie, our resident Mini Schnauzer, likes that part. She loves to chase falling leaves. In fact, she gets the puppy crazies as she runs from tree to tree, barking happily and jumping into the air in an effort to catch each and every leaf as it flutters toward the ground. She is a determined leaf catcher if ever there was one and manages to get quite a few.
However, efficient as she is, she’s no match for all of the zillions of leaves that fall across north Georgia.
Among the leaves she missed recently was the handful of small yellow ones that fell on one of the hiking trails near Amicalola Creek. Those particular leaves blanketed a section of trail (a section which happened to be going downhill), and everything was fine until along came Yours Truly.
The occasion was a long-awaited fishing trip on Amicalola Creek with my buddy Scott. We’d geared up in the parking area near Steele Bridge (a neat bridge that is in fact made of steel) and were making our way down to the creek along one of the trails which descended toward the water from the parking area.
I was hiking along nicely, dutifully watching the trail as I went. I saw the patch of yellow leaves scattered over the trail. I thought about how pretty they were, and about how important it is to always have a solid footing when hiking, and then I took one more step.
Next thing I knew I was on the ground.
One minute I was vertical. I took that step, my foot hit the leaves, and the next thing I knew I was flat on my back.
It happened that fast.
For a moment I just lay there like a beached something, trying to get my breath back and decide if I was still alive.
“Are you okay?” Scott asked.
Still flat on my back among the leaves, I tentatively took inventory to see what hurt, which was pretty much everything. But the main locus of discomfort seemed to be my trusty right arm — my casting arm! It had come down on a big ol’ root knot, and even as I pulled myself into a sitting position it was hurting like the dickens and had already begun to swell.
After a while, and with a hand from Scott, I slowly got to my feet.
“Sure you’re okay?”
“I think so, mostly.”
“Well, I saw the whole thing,” he said, lightening the moment, “and I’ve got to say that it was impressive. For a moment it seemed like you were defying gravity and floating in the air. Then you hit the ground.”
“Yeah, there was that,” I said.
Then he asked the really important question.
“Is your fly rod okay?”
I hadn’t thought to check on that. My fly rod — my beloved favorite-of-all fly rod — had flown through the air as I fell, landing a couple of feet away. I retrieved it and gave it a once-over. No damage.
“Looks okay,” I said.
I gave the arm a tentative shake.
“And I think I can cast. Let’s go fishing.”
Later on, Wife of Mine thoughtfully pointed out that my “go fishing anyway” decision might not have been the best of all possible choices. But it seemed like a good idea at the time, so to the water (albeit tentatively) I went. I caught some trout, too, so the day was not a total disaster.
Today, almost a week later, there’s still a good-sized and very sore knot on my arm. But the doctor tells me I didn’t break anything and that, given a little time, everything will be just fine.
So have I given up late fall fishing? Not on your life. It’s one of my favorite things all year, especially on streams like Amicalola Creek.
But I can tell you this. I’m a lot more aware of leaves on the trail. “Wary” might be a better word.
As you enjoy your holiday hiking, be sure you’re wary of them too. They’re tricky little devils, and they’ll get you if you don’t watch out.
Lions and tigers and bears? Sure. But that’s nothing compared to lions and tigers and bears — and leaves.