Stop and Whoa! moments from the trail

Have you ever been sort of mindlessly hiking along when suddenly you see something that makes you stop in your tracks and take notice? When that happens to me, I take it as a message to be more present, to pay more attention to what is around me right now, this moment. Well, today I started hiking alone and my mind was wandering a bit to other things, until I saw a tree trunk with a big roundish scar on it…

I wondered what had happened to that tree – and when – to make such a scar. It was a stop and whoa! moment! The tree had my attention. Then just a few feet down the trail I had another stop and whoa! moment…

What might be living in that hole in the tree?

Suddenly, those moments just kept coming along… the tree pictured below seemed to have had to make a turn in its youth for some reason…

None of these trees are particularly unique. There are a lot of trees in the woods with scars and holes and curvy trunks. But for some reason today, these caught my attention all within a few minutes of each other, causing me to be mindful of the place where I was walking, the things that were around me, the ordinary magic of these winter woods on this particular day and time. As I continued to hike more mindfully, I discovered a whole host of other oddities in the woods…

This tree appeared to have lifted its roots right out of the ground, looking very much like a large insect (or alien) preparing to walk across the forest.
This tree had fallen to the forest floor, but continued to grow three large trunks out of its side.
Many of the beech trees had this striated black lichen growing on its bark.
A black fungus-looking thing was covering a small twig
A Pipsissewa and a mushroom stood out among the leaf litter
The swirls on this beech tree reminded me of the hurricanes on Jupiter’s surface
I’ve always loved this sycamore tree at the edge of the creek along Robin’s Trail at Johnston Mill Nature Preserve.
A dinner table stash of Hickory nut shells from the squirrels
Graceful, golden, curly grass seed heads appeared along the power cut
as did this architectural beauty hanging from a blackberry stem…

There were also barred owls calling, downy woodpeckers trilling, chickadees and bluebirds and sparrows flitting about. At one point a large hawk came flying through the trees and landed on a branch high above the creek. I couldn’t see it well enough to identify it, but I felt its presence long after I hiked on.

All of these wild and wonderful sightings were a simple reminder that paying attention, being present, being mindful helps us connect to other living beings and understand that we are all part of this complex, beautiful, messy, amazing world.

What stop and whoa! moments did you have today?


  1. Deb…such
    Beautiful words and thoughtful contemplation… it reminded me of my alone time walks when I was a teen. Being the eldest of eight kids, these moments gave me much needed simplicity and space that was unheard of at our house. Thank you for taking me back, my dear sister in heart, and for the hopes of simpler days to come. Love you…Cathy

  2. Every photo and every word, simply amazing. My favorite, if I HAD to narrow it down to one “whoa”…, The Alien. Every moment of our lives is amazing, when we slow down to realize it. At this moment of an early southern Florida morning I’m sitting by my open lanai door, it’s still dark outside. But I can hear the ever-so-light patter of a gentle rain as it meets the land, water and lush landscaping here. The occasional bird call adds to wonder of it all. It’s an incredible feast for my ears! Thank you for reminding me, and may you encounter many such moments today and always❤️

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