secret places of learning

How can a field trip which involves hiking around Emory Campus be interesting? We pass by these plants every day, right?

Wrong. Ever walked the circumference of Emory Campus? I walked a large portion yesterday. We started at the Math and Science building and walked around behind the baseball fields, through the woods, down to Clifton near where it intersects with Briarcliff; we then crossed Briarcliff and walked into Wesley Woods and followed the stream under Houston Mill, through Han Woods, and finally exited at the entrance of Lullwater…right by my dorm. This hike, which usually takes me 15 minutes, took about 5 hours. And it was one of the most eye-opening hikes of my life.

Cool things? Too many to really name. But four things jump to the forefront of my mind, in order of increasing awesomeness:

1. Conceptual Art Sucks. After the less-enthusiastic members of our party left and it was down to the teacher, myself, and David, we all became a little more relaxed. As proof, John told a story about some conceptual art on campus. The location for this art (a god-awful statue of concrete bricks which a toddler could build) was being debated a while back — the artist wanted to put it in front of a forest because it would “make a nice backdrop.” John and friends fought this and won, and the statue was eventually downsized and placed in-between two buildings, near a walkway. As revenge for the fight and because it really was an awful statue, John and a friend embedded a piece of paper inside one of the concrete bricks: “Conceptual Art Sucks.” Now, when aliens find our remains in thousands of years, they’ll know we didn’t all have bad taste.

2. Geocache. David found a geocache while we were out hiking; to honor the cache and our field study course, I put in the four necessary colored pencils (red, blue, yellow, and green), and David put in a sketch of a Dwarf Iris. If worse comes to worse, the next person to find the cache can use the materials as a coloring page.

3. Tulip Poplar. John’s favorite tulip poplar on campus recently fell down. It was huge, probably over a hundred years old, and everything about it was majestic. It had been truly magnificent. As it had fallen, though, it created a bridge across the creek — a bridge which was approximately the width of a sidewalk, and very sturdy. In its fall, the tree had created a great place — a meditative seat over the water, wide enough for a nap. David and I walked out to the middle and sat down, myself reminiscent of that scene in Dirty Dancing where Baby and Johnny walk out and practice their balance…our balancing act was much less impressive, as the tree was so wide, but just as much fun. Another fun note: there was a dwarf iris in bloom next to the exposed base of the tree — it was the first dwarf iris John had ever seen in bloom in the wild.

4. The waterfall. Okay, less of a waterfall and more of a trickle down the rocks. But it was…beautiful. Majestic and whimsical and secret all in one. Only a few people know where it is, and I’d guess that fewer still care much about it, but it was wonderful to see. Like a little fairy hideaway in the middle of the forest — too plain to draw much attention and so magical it was mesmerizing. It’s John’s favorite place on campus, and he doesn’t show many people anymore. It was an honor to witness this tiny, nondescript little waterfall…

Other points of interest would be that I learned the difference between true and false solomon’s seal, we saw hundreds of nodding trillium (my favorite), and we saw a beech and oak tree which had fused together and grown that way for a very, very long time…

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