The summer before he died, my dad spent all of his free time chopping a walking path along the Oconto River.
He’d emerge after spending hours in the woods, dirty, sweaty, all scratched up from tree branches and wild blackberry bushes, and grinning like an eight-year old on the first day of summer vacation.
The project began with a simple sickle and an axe, but became more sophisticated with every chop. Eventually, he enlisted friends and family to ferry wood pieces via a small river boat to designated drop off points. He’d emerge from the woods to the river’s edge, gather the two-by-fours, and disappear again into the depths.
That summer he built nine bridges along the mile-long path and, sweetly, marked the end of the route by carving two wood chairs out of fallen trees for his grandchildren, five-year old Charlie and three-year old Katherine.
On Friday, we took a lovely spring tramp along the route my dad carved more than 23 years ago. We had our doubts, but the bridges held our weight, though they’d languished untended all this time.
We marveled as we crunched through the knee-deep snow — at the freshness of the air, the stillness of the woods, the promise of new life under all that frozen ground, and, mostly, at my dad’s profound legacy.
We intend to resurrect “Peggy’s Bridle Path,” which is what my dad called his summer project, and we’re deeply grateful for the opportunity to do so. We’re not particularly handy, but we know that’s okay.
We’ll make our way slowly, gratefully accept advice from our talented friends, and follow the generous path my dad carved for us so enthusiastically during the hot summer of 1992.
My dad built this deck too and we’ve made good use of it through the years. We enter the bridle path just to the left of it.
I thought this bridge looked beautiful though, I must confess, I was not the first in our little tramping party to brave crossing it.
The river was uncharacteristically still on Friday, owing to deep waters and very little wind.
This poor bridge looked a little less sturdy, but it held up under all of us. Whew!
I just like this picture of Molly, her shadow and her reflection in the pond next to another bridge my dad built.
And I liked the pattern of snow on this tall evergreen.
We paused every now and then in our tramping to enjoy the day’s beauty.
The little chair I’m sitting on and the giant blaze orange snow suit I’m wearing are both legacies from my dad. Molly refused to wear the blaze orange but, I’m telling you, I stayed warm and dry on that two hour tramp. This is one of the chairs my dad carved for his grandchildren.
I also love this picture of Molly dancing through the woods. We never take for granted the unique ability to make our own tracks through these beautiful woods.