I had so much fun in the mountains a few weeks ago that I decided to go again for an extended weekend. It was also my birthday, so that was an added incentive (or excuse) to take some time off. I had perfect fall weather for a companion:  blue sky, bright sun, a slight breeze and a little nip in the air.

I took a hike I have never been on before called Boone Fork Trail. It’s part of Julian Price Memorial Park, right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock. It’s a 5.5 mile loop of wonderful. There’s a little bit of everything on this trail:  easy walking by Boone Fork River, steep climbs through alleys of rhododendron, access to Hebron Rock Colony Falls, ladders leading to big boulders, challenging rock hopping across shallow creeks and open meadows. It was an engaging ramble. In fact, at one point I caught the tip of my shoe on a root, which sent me flying down the trail but remarkably unharmed by the fall. With so much to pay attention to, I didn’t dare attempt to resume the game of catching falling leaves as I had the day before on an easy and partial hike of Rich Mountain. I would just have to go home without snagging a leaf on this trip.

When I was done hiking, I noticed that I had conveniently parked next to a gentle flowing part of the Boone Fork River. I plopped my backpack down in the passenger seat of my car and sat on a boulder by the river, soaking my tired feet in the cold water. All refreshed, I decided to head back to Blowing Rock for a cup of coffee. Once in my car, I reached over to my backpack to get out a scarf.  

I stopped with my hand in mid-air, trying to understand what I was seeing. The main compartment of my backpack has an elastic draw string that zigzags through four small cloth loops on the outside edges of the flap. The loops, or tabs, hold the cord in place so that it can be cinched to conveniently hold something against the outside of the pack. The top loop had a brown leaf sticking out of it, like a feather on the back of a headdress. Now, I did not tuck it there, and I have no idea how the leaf could have wedged itself into this spot. It takes some dexterity to wiggle the stem into that snug of a space. I had to just laugh out loud, delighted that through no effort of my own, I had been given the gift of a leaf.

And that is what I mean by “beleaf.”