It was one of those days in late June before the high heat and humidity hit. The sky was an empty bowl of blue with just the whisper of a breeze in the air. I took a bike ride from Lake Tunnel to Waterloo and back, along the Cayuga-Seneca Bike Trail. It’s about an eighteen miles round trip that begins on the smooth concrete of Geneva’s Lakefront Park and crosses onto the variably bumpy and smooth asphalt sections of Seneca Lake State Park. In the state park the trail takes a hard left that threads between bathhouse and splash pad, crossing a parking lot, then the park road.
The bike path then enters an open barricade (at least during the day) and turns to parallel the boat channel on a richly graveled road. The bike’s tires grow sluggish on the thick layer of gravel but it thins out and turns to cinder just as the trail bends steeply uphill, takes a hairpin turn, and crosses the railroad.
Over the tracks an even sharper turn streams steeply downhill onto a boardwalk. The tires rumble over the wood but the brakes squeal at a ninety degree turn leading onto a wooden bridge running beneath 96A and over the canal. As it arrives on the other side the boardwalk ramps upward with more hairpin turns, rising to meet a rusty iron railroad bridge cluttered with the ghosted voices of graffiti.
Here the path turns to smooth cinder, bends left through high brush, and straightens out for five miles to Lock 4 in Waterloo. It is a long, well-worn wooded path with the canal coming in and out of view on the left and fields of hay and corn on the right. An occasional bench invites a peaceful sit – though poison ivy may be growing up its legs.
The trail snakes along the backside of the marina, runs past Bishop’s Woods, peeks at beautiful homes from the far side of the canal, and passes through a strange section of manicured menagerie composed of planted flowers, nature-sculptures hung from branches and cluttered with dolls and talismans. Another wooden bridge fords a small tributary off the canal, and from there to its end in Waterloo, is nearly two miles of tree-lined shade with banks on either side carpeted thickly with ferns and wildflowers.
It was on the return leg, in the shaded section between Waterloo and the second bridge, that the visitation occurred. A young buck stepped onto the path and looked both ways. When he looked my way he seemed to squint as he tilted his head. “What the heck is this,” he must have been wondering. Clearly unconcerned, he proceeded to trot along the path in front of me. I slowed to keep an appropriate social distance and followed from twenty yards behind. He stopped once, looked back nonchalantly, then continued his jaunt. He led me along the path for a quarter mile or so before ambling off into a cornfield.
In the grace of that moment, in the presence of that deer, in the enchantment of that wooded trail, the sorrows, worries, and needs of the world evaporated. I highly recommend the effort to find such moments of grace now and again.