Wonderland

In the summer of 1960, the year that I turned ten, two friends and I decided to clear a trail into the woods that bordered our Cincinnati neighborhood. Armed with an assortment of tools from our parents' garages, we started early in the day and, by late morning, were out of sight of our familiar surroundings. Somewhat intimidated by this separation, I recall that we considered abandoning the project more than once.

Nevertheless, we returned to the trail after lunch and steadily approached a low rise in the forest floor. Soon after crossing this ridge we heard a faint rumble in the distance and, within another twenty yards or so, recognized the sound as flowing water. Angling our trail toward the sound, we soon arrived at the edge of a deep gorge, a landscape that none of us had ever seen before. Awestruck, we worked our way along the rim of the chasm until we found a safe route to the bottom.

There we found a wonderland of limestone boulders, shallow pools, waterfalls and jungle-like vines. Just downstream, an old sycamore had fallen across the gorge, forming a natural bridge over the creek. Most exciting was a free-hanging grape vine that let us swing out over the water. Between turns on the vine, we explored the tree bridge or hunted for crawdads in the cool shallows. We spent much of the summer in that forest and maintained the trail for the next few years; though girls, baseball and swim clubs would later become more interesting, a part of me has never left that gorge.