If you’re like most people, you speed down Randolph Road near the intersection of Kemp Mill Road in Wheaton, Maryland without giving a thought to what lingers just outside. The little brown Northwest Branch Trail signpost is probably just a blur in your windshield.
You’re missing out.
Won-ok and I ventured there today and found Santa dropping Christmas gifts all over the place. He bestowed us the gift of watching white-tailed deer prancing along the edge of the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River, an elongated drop of honey-colored tree sap hanging suspended in mid-air, and chunks of shrinking ice clinging to fallen trees. Santa gave us glimpses of trametes and other fungus-among-us as they sat atop logs overlooking the water. He treated us to the relaxing sounds of water rushing and whooshing downstream and the delightful chirping of birds that fluttered along the forest floor.
Santa filled our lungs with air crisp enough to make our noses run and turn our cheeks rosy. Eye-popping bursts of red, green and even a little flurry of snow-white brought the woods to life even in the allegedly dead winter. Our boots crunched rocks as we walked by the water and splashed mud puddles as we traipsed the trail.
Ol’ Kris Kringle gave us three joyous hours on the trail this morning with no other humans around — just us unwrapping his bottomless bag of our favorite kind of gifts.