Finds in the Forest This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

The sun was beginning to set across the sky painting it a fiery red-orange color. All around me the familiar barks of the neighborhood dogs rang in my ears. In the distance I heard the sound of the neighborhood kids screaming in glee, probably playing one of their made up games once again. It was only a few years that I was one of those kids, but not anymore. Since then I have grown away from the other kids my age. I have become more interested in the world around me. I didn’t want to cut open the worms to see what was inside, but rather watch them squirm all over the ground. I had no interest in harming the land around me, but exploring it. The other kids could not comprehend this matter and eventually we went our separate ways. But that was a long time ago, since then everyone else has gotten their licenses and cars. They are able to leave the neighborhood behind when they want, but I could not. Sure I had my license but I did not have a car. Instead I used my own feet to walk wherever I wanted to go. And right now, I wanted to go in the woods.

I came up to the small entrance among the trees. It was hidden mostly because few people ever looked hard enough to see it there, but I did. I ducked down avoiding a tree branch overhead and began to walk along the dirt path. The birds overhead cawed, as if announcing my arrival to those animals within the woods. I came to a fork in the path in front of me. Over my time exploring I have been on both ways. The left one led to an old abandoned cabin with a hard path to get to, and the right one led to deeper into the forests and was the more scenic route. My feet did not pause, and my mind did not ponder the options, but I began to take the left path as if by instinct. It seemed I was in a more adventurous mood today.

As I walked I saw the small stream on my right. It went deep in to the woods, but I did not know how far. I have never been able to find the source of the water because I had never traveled far enough. But that would be an adventure for another day, not today. I bent down near the stream peering out the water running over the slick stones. I saw the small black tadpoles swimming in the stream. It was a good sign. It was a sign of new life. Within a few months, there would be another generation of frogs exploring the forests. It seemed the forest was prospering with life, as it always had.

Glad that I had seen the tadpoles I decided to walk on. Always when I walked on the paths in the forests I had to be on high alert. It seemed my senses worked better out here. The grass smelled fresher, and looked like a brighter green out here where no one could destroy it. The birds seemed to be louder, unafraid of being heard by humans. It was out in the forests where it was real. I was only observing this different land around me; I was not a part of it. I was only here because the animals would let me observe. They seemed to know of my intentions and did not mind me watching them.

In the distance I saw the log cabin approaching. It was a huge clearing among the trees, it was something special. The path beneath me suddenly became rocky. The rocks seemed to keep others away from this hidden cabin within the woods. The rocks would move if someone stepped on them at the wrong angle and someone could easily get hurt. It had taken time to discover the best route but I had. First go to the right, then jump left, a tiny step, a huge bound. I was used to it and knew I could do it. But at first it had been a challenge, but I overcame it with practice.

The path smoothed out as if accepting the fact that I had made it here. The log cabin’s roof was covered with an old blue tarp that had tears in it. In the front of the cabin was an old fire pit. It was a marked off circle with four long logs around for people to sit on. Glancing down at the pit, I see fresh ashes. They are black, not the usual gray meaning someone had used this place recently. It meant I was not alone. Someone else had invaded my forest, someone else had been here. Looking in the dirt, there were no footprints visible. Whoever it was had gone. They had used the cabin and left, leaving the land unharmed.

I went to go check out the cabin to see if the stranger had left a mess. I opened the heavy door with ease. I paused once it was opened, glancing around curiously. The cot was still there, not a dent it. Directly across from the door was the window, which another blue tarp covered. It let in a draft as it had no glass. The blue tarp had holes in it; I figured it was a window to hunt. The holes were probably bullet holes. Glancing around I looked at the walls with the messages carved on them. Messages warning to people stay away, saying the Native Americans lived here, then the random messages of hi or people’s name, people trying to be a part of the history of the cabin. Near the co was a new message. Carved into the woods with all capitals, it read thank you. It seems the stranger here was grateful for the shelter. It seemed someone else had appreciated the beauty of the cabin besides me. I ran my fingers across the letters with interest and smiled slightly.

I looked outside and saw the sun was setting further now and it was becoming dark. On the opposite side of the sky, the moon was out pushing the sun away. I decided it was time to go back home. Without changing anything, I shut the cabin’s door and begin to walk away past the fire pit and to the path. I walked down the path in silence enjoying the forests around me until I heard movement in the bushes around me. My eyes snapped their attention there but saw nothing. For the first time ever my heart begins to beat fast as if being scared within the forests. The warnings everyone had said suddenly come to my mind. The warnings of the animals in there, the Native Americans lurked there waiting to kill, and the warnings of the dangers. But I had never been afraid. I had always felt safe on my path. I glance back as I heard a twig snap and eyes meet my own.

The eyes are a chocolate brown that meet mine. I did not move but stayed put. Our eyes locked on one another. I was less than five feet away from a Black Bear. The warnings ran through my head. If you see a bear back away slowly, don’t make eye contact, and don’t run. But in that moment I was frozen. The bear was not full grown, but no longer a cub, but still big enough to hurt me if he wanted to. It would be worse if a mother was around I knew they were very protective. But the bear did not show any aggression, he opened his mouth. My eyes grew wide in fear but he let out a moan or whimper, a mix of both almost. Whatever it was, it did not sound aggressive. It seemed maybe he was in pain or he was unsure of me, I wasn't sure which.

“Are you okay, little guy?” I asked him in a calm voice, not a drop of fear within it.

The bear tilted his head at me, as if trying to hear my voice better. If anything he seemed more scared than I was. He too was frozen in his spot. Out here, he probably did not see a lot of humans, but hopefully he would not attack. A bird chirped overhead, breaking the silence between us. The bear seemed startled by the sound and began to charge right towards me. I did not and could not move, just watched him get bigger in three huge bounds. He ran right past me and I stuck out my hand. I felt his black fur, the softest thing I have ever touched. The bear did not seem to mind and did not slow his speed. He ran away back into the forest, just as afraid as me as I was of him.

I let out a big sigh of relief. I was still alive and he had not killed me. Smiling I looked back at the cabin which I could still see. Maybe the bear lived nearby, but I was on his land. If he had wanted to he could have attacked. I began to walk once again along my path, my senses still on high alert. This time coming out of the woods I was changed. Bears are not the cruel animals everyone makes them out to be, but are scared fragile creatures. He was as scared as me as I was of him. He was close enough to attack me, but did not. I even got to pet his fur. All the warnings were for nothing it seemed. But still I was lucky to be alive. Suddenly my heart sank at my thoughts. It was unfortunate others could not experience the beauty of the Black Bear like I do. It seemed he knew I was not going to hurt him so he just watched. I was lucky enough to experience the beauty of the Black Bear so up close and in the wild. It was a once in the lifetime event. The sky above was dark now, but I could still see. The stars were coming out and in the light I glanced around looking for the chocolate eyes once again, but I did not see them.

Before I left the forest I glanced back at the path I had come from. It was full of beauty and secrets. The animals had let me see their secrets and silently I promised myself I would not betray them. I made an X over my heart as if sealing the promise I made to myself and smiled. I would be back soon to explore the forest once again, and see more of the beauty lurking behind every tree but for now I was satisfied. The forest always had great finds and was an adventure. Not many people appreciated the finds within the forest, but I did.





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