Sam Cook column: Wild things beneath the bridge
Kids make the coolest discoveries in the outdoors.
I had been mountain-biking for an hour or so in one of our local parks when I came to a junction of three trails. A man was approaching from one of the trails where a bridge crossed a small stream.
“Careful,” he said. “Got some people on the bridge down there.”
I looked ahead and saw the family on the small wooden bridge: mom, dad, a young son and daughter. They weren’t crossing the bridge. If I recall correctly, the mom was standing. The dad, son and daughter were down on all-fours on the bridge. I rode down toward the stream, hopped off my trusty two-wheeled steed and laid it in the brush along the trail. Then I walked down to the bridge to check out the action.
The dad looked up at me. “Got some brown trout down there,” he said.
The spaces between the boards of the bridge were not quite an inch wide, just wide enough for a child — or a grown-up — to peer through and look into the stream. The water discharges from a pond farther upstream and eventually flows down the Duluth hillside into Lake Superior. It runs cool and clear, placid in this stretch, but later tumbling down cascades and waterfalls before reaching the lake.
The young boy and girl had their heads right down on the bridge planks, their eyes peering into the darkness below.
“There’s another one,” the girl said.
“There’s a whole bunch of ‘em,” the boy said.
Since there were plenty of cracks between the planks, I figured I’d better have a look, too. On all fours, I leaned down until my bike helmet smacked the planks. I looked into the darkness below and let my eyes adjust for a few seconds.
And, by gosh, a fish that certainly appeared to be a trout about 8 inches long slowly finned its way along near the stream bottom. Others came and went in the darkness below the bridge.
How wonderful, I thought. Wonderful that the stream was healthy enough to support a few trout right here in the city. Wonderful that somehow this outdoorsy family had happened to stop at the bridge and look below long enough for the trout to materialize before their eyes. Wonderful that mom, dad and the kids had come to the park in the first place.
This is the first rule of engaging the outdoors: Just go. Get out there. On foot. On a bike. On skis or snowshoes. Because once we’re out there, good things nearly always happen. We make discoveries. We see cool critters. We hear night sounds. We breathe clear air. We learn to listen. We learn to be still. We learn to be curious.
And we come home with stories to tell.