I must have acquired my love of the woods from my many childhood romps with my father. We camped a great deal, probably the majority of the weekends of my childhood, and would go on long uncharted hikes through the woods in the north Florida panhandle. He loved being outdoors, and it was infectious. So, even to this very day, I walk the woods and trails near my home.
One of my favorite places to walk is the Emory Forest, or so I call it. Located on the Emory University campus, and literally just around the corner from my home, the Emory Forrest is home to the university president’s mansion, which was donated to the university by the Chandler family, of Coca Cola fame and fortune. Much of the area around the lake is wooded and beautiful.
Students and faculty walk and jog through the trail and around the road to the mansion. This just in (6/13/04): the Emory Forest is actually officially named, The Emory Forest. The forest is supported by an organization called Friends of Emory Forest. In the corner of property, near Clairmont Road, is Southfork Peachtree Creek, which runs through the forrest. This very spot is where Sherman’s troops mounted an attack on the city of Decatur. Sherman’s troops had worked their way down, what is today, Clairmont Road–then called the Shallowford Trail, for the obvious reason. The men of Decatur were waiting for them at the creek, and one of the bloodiest battles of the siege of Atlanta ensued. After taking Decatur, Sherman turned right, on what is today North Decatur Road, and headed into Atlanta. Objective: destroy the rail lines that were supplying the ammunition to the soldiers of the south. The ammunition was being manufactured in Atlanta.
By the way, North Decatur Road is probably the oldest trail-turned-road that has remained in continuous use since the oldest recorded history of what was to become the state of Georgia. The oldest documented name for the trail was “Peachtree Trail.” Everyone knows Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind. I’m told her father was a rather prominent historian who did a great deal of research on the “Peachtree” name, which is so pervasive in Atlanta.
He documented that “Peachtree Trail” was so named because it ended at an actual peach tree in what is today the Battlecreek area, which is so named because of another Civil War battle, but then that’s a whole different story. No one knew where the peach tree, a native plant of China, actually came from, but it’s existence was documented all the way back to the indians living in the area before Georgia was even a state.
At any rate, my walks in the woods are full of the fragrances of the south, the smells imprinted in my mind since childhood. At the beginning of the month of May the honeysuckle is in bloom and fragrant. Honeysuckle is my most favorite of all smells on the planet! Near the end of the month the magnolia trees bloom and share their sweet fragrance. I vividly remember from my early childhood the huge old magnolia tree that was “up on the hill”–which is how the old timers referred to my great grandmother Tyson’s homestead. Neither the tree nor the old homestead stand today, but my memories of “the hill” will never fade.
And, this morning, as I took my early morning walk, I was greeted by the third fragrance of the season. The mimosa trees were in full bloom. Not only do I love the smell of the blooms, but the flowers are among my favorite: so beautiful, colorful, and delicate. I also love the fern-like leaves which open and close to greet the sunlight. And the last “forrest smell” I will mention from today’s little walk is the smell of the early morning dew as it begins to evaporate when the sun gently nudges it from its place. Seems to me it takes a bit of the pine scent into the air with it. Combined with the early morning coolness, about 63 degrees lately, the forrest smells enticing and refreshing, and it reminds me of my own “roots”–a great way to begin the day.