Nymph of the Wood
Copyright© 2012 by Lance Manne
The next morning, I awoke to discover that I was a little less sore than the previous morning. If a guy could do this every day, I imagine he would be in mighty good shape. I looked over and saw that my friend was waking up also. I mentioned to Troy my experience of seeing the eyes of fish in the water, but didn't mention the large golden eye. I didn't want to endure his ribbing for the remainder of our hike.
When I climbed out of the tent, I was surprised to see moose tracks within eight feet of where we had been sleeping. I had not noticed the tracks when I went to bed. I guess the only sure way to see what happened around you, while you were sleeping, would be to place a trail camera out to catch the action.
I started the stove and began to heat the water for our oatmeal. The sky was overcast and it looked like we might see some rain. I was happy when the rain held off and we were able to break camp and pack away our supplies. Soon after we had resumed our hike, the rain began to fall.
As we continued down the trail, the ground began to level off. It seemed that we were temporarily out of the high hill region. It took a few minutes, but soon my legs were back in the rhythm of hiking and I noticed that my muscles were beginning to adjust to the new regime. The trail became muddy in spots because of the rain, so we had to use more caution as we walked.
We hiked along a river for quite a long time. The rain let up, but then turned into a slight drizzle. I missed the sun and all the contrast it brought to our surroundings. However, the air did smell so fresh because of the rain. I also knew that there had been a stretch without moisture and I reckoned that the rain would be welcomed with open arms.
We arrived at a cascading river and discovered it to be flowing quite forcefully, due the previous rain. After stopping briefly to view from the bridge, we continued on our trek. I was surprised to see that the flowing water disappeared into a hole, several hundred feet down the gorge. I would later learn that is was called the Devils Hole. I learned that the water emerged once again, a quarter mile down the trail.
I noticed that Troy was walking a short distance ahead of me. I saw him stop at a log and then do a funny hop over it. I was a little curious as to why he had performed that maneuver. When I arrived at the log, I decided to make the same move. Unfortunately, it was not to my advantage. The hornets that Troy had disturbed came at me with a vengeance. As I fled down the trail, I noticed that Troy was once again enjoying the encounter at my expense.
"You just weren't quick enough," he said. Suddenly his laughter changed to a groan, as a hornet stung him on the end of his nose. Then it was my turn to laugh, as tears began to flow down his cheeks. We quickly moved away from the spot and eventually stopped to apply some lotion to our stings. I ended up with six stings and they did burn quite fiercely. Fortunately, neither one of us were allergic the little critters.
The foliage eventually turned into that of a thick pine forest. We hiked through old growth pines for a period of time. I was surprised to hear some voices coming to us from some distance down the trail. Up to this point, we had been fortunate in not encountering any other individuals on the trail. We had crossed a number of service roads, so I knew there was easy access for others to portions of the trail.
The voices grew louder and it wasn't long before we saw a group of four ladies hiking toward us. I think they saw us at about the same time. As we hiked toward the group, Troy commented that they looked rather fine. We stopped for a moment and inquired of the women as to the destination of their hike.
The ladies were wearing rain coats, which made it difficult to see much of their shapes. However, it was easy to see that at least two of them appeared to have a fairly slim build. They all had pleasant faces and broad smiles and it was evident that they were taking note of our appearance. I noticed several of the women seemed to be very interested in Troy.
We learned that they were staying in a cabin, at one of the local resorts. An employee had dropped them off at one of the entry points. Later, they would be picked up at their exit point and then be returned to the cabin where they could enjoy a sauna before their gourmet meal that evening. They had been disappointed about the rain, but had been determined to take the walk regardless.
They were impressed when they learned that we had camped in the woods the previous night. Several of the women were married and stated that their husbands would never do anything like that. I think we each moved up a notch in their estimation.
I noticed that one of the unmarried women had slipped Troy a piece of paper. I made a mental note to ask him later as to the contents. Knowing him, I was sure it was probably her phone number.
We informed them of several areas where they should use caution, as they continued on their hike. Then we said goodbye and headed down the trail. I glanced back once to take a second look and saw that they were watching us. I waved my hand and then turned and continued walking. We hiked in silence for the next few miles as we allowed a few fantasies to enter our thoughts.
Eventually we came to a service road that was our exit point. It was late in the afternoon and we had made good time. We began hiking down the road, which emptied out onto a main road. When we would hear a vehicle approaching, we would stop and stick out our thumbs. It only took about a half hour before somebody stopped to pick us up.
A pickup truck, containing two men that had been doing some four wheeling, stopped to offer us a ride. They invited us to hop in the back of their pickup and then dropped us off at our vehicle. Whenever I've ended my hike in that manner, it's never taken longer than an hour to get a ride. It might be an elderly lady, or teens, or a worker heading into town. The residents are usually happy to give a hiker a lift.
We threw out equipment into our vehicle and headed for home. The soft seats felt good, but we were already disappointed that the weekend had gone so quickly. Troy suggested that we make another trip up in the fall when the leaves were changing. "That would be an excellent idea," I replied.
After an hour of driving, we stopped in a small town to get something to eat. Troy said he knew of a good café, so we headed there for our meal. The food was good and the atmosphere was what you would expect in a small diner. After dinner, I mentioned to Troy that I was going to visit the gift shop a couple doors down. Troy had struck up a conversation with the waitress and I figured he wouldn't be ready to leave for a while.
I'm always on the lookout for naturally grown wild rice. It puffs up much better than the store bought wild rice. If I could find some that had been roasted over a wood fire, it would be even better.
The gift shop was very typical of what you would expect to see. It carried dream catchers, mugs, local jams, t-shirts, and other gifts to remind one of their visits to the region. They carried the wild rice, but it was cultivated. They also carried small statues that represented some of the wildlife of the region. There were also wood statues of old woodsmen and lumberjacks. One of the carvings immediately caught my eye. The statue was of a beautiful woman; at least that was what I thought. She was slender, shapely, and scantily clad. The eyes were very dark and contained very little detail, compared to the rest of the carving. There were small slits on each side of the neck. On the side of her ankles were what I assumed to be fins. On the bottom of the carving was the word, "Nymph".
The statue was very well done and it got my mind to thinking. It looked very much like the woman that had been in my boat. I decided that I had to buy the statue and maybe I could begin some investigation into how the artist had come up with the idea.
The statue jostled my memory and resurrected some of the stories that my dad had told me when I was young. He would talk about a beautiful creature that inhabited the northern waters. It was told that she would only make herself known to those who respected the creatures of the wild.
The story was told that if you released a large fish, helped an injured animal, or protected the environment, then she might make an appearance when you were in need. At the time, I had thought that these stories were just ways for my dad to encourage me to respect nature. After some of my strange events, I was beginning to think that there might be some truth to the stories. I recalled how his eyes had seemed to sparkle when he told me those tales.
As the clerk was totaling up my purchases, she stopped to make a comment. "I see you took a fancy to the "Nymph". Have you ever heard the tale?" I had only heard stories from my dad, so I said, "No, I haven't. I sure would like to hear more."
"Well, if you want to hear more, you'll need to go visit old Sven. He carved that figurine that you're holding in your hand. He can tell you quite a yarn. He is so convincing that you may walk away believing him. Of course, you had better set aside some time, because that man can talk."
I thanked her for the advice and wrote down the information on where to find him. I returned to find Troy standing outside the diner.
"So, what did you buy?" he asked.
I pulled out the figure and showed him. "While you were fancying a statue, I was able to get the phone number for a real live girl," he said, a big smile crossing his face.
After our little exchange, we hopped into the car and headed for home. Both of us were quiet for some time as I thought about my purchase and Troy thought about his gals. It didn't seem like it took too long before Troy was dropping me off at my house. After thanking him for the ride and the good time, I headed into the house. I knew my bed would feel really good that night.
During the next week, every time I looked at the "Nymph", I became more determined to arrange to meet with Sven. I finally found the phone number for the place where he was staying and asked the receptionist to schedule a time when I could meet with the elderly man. She directed me to an aid that informed me that he was getting very feeble, but said she would try to set aside some time the following weekend.
The next weekend, as I drove up the freeway, my mind raced in a hundred different directions. What if this man could really shed some light on the mysteries I had been encountering? What if he would be able to make some sense of all those unusual events? Maybe they hadn't been visions after all.
I asked for the aid at the front desk and was greeted by a matronly looking woman. As we walked to meet Sven, she told me a little about his background. He had been an outdoorsman all his life. He had made most of his living by hiring out as a farm hand or selling the carvings that he made. She told me that he had never married. She said you could often hear him mumbling about having only one love in his life. She said that he would often sit in the garden and talk to himself. I was informed that we would probably find him near the bird feeders where he would often sit for hours. I learned that his fingers were still able to whittle away at the wood, and he would occasionally do some small carvings.