Nolde Forest is a state park just south of Reading, PA. The road leading to the park entrance is a busy stretch; you can hear cars rushing by in clumps every few minutes. Sometimes, through the trees of the Watershed Trail, you can see the cars. But when the cars are absent, the trail takes on that pleasant ambience that all good forests have. A brook bubbles nearby. Somewhere, a small bird is singing.
There is a small pond, North Pond, on the eastern end of the park. An indistinct loop trail meanders around it. Itís muddy today and difficult to follow precisely, but you canít lose your way with the pond as a landmark. There is a dock or a platform where the loop trail goes into the woods and on to the rest of the park. What is it for? Itís too high to launch any watercraft, not that youíd have anywhere to go.
I began along the Coffee Pot Hollow Trail after rounding the pond. Coffee Pot? Well, nonetheless, itís a nice trail. It wanders through the forest, which thickens and almost completely leaves behind the civilization of the park entrance and the busy road beyond it. As I continue to walk, the forest continues to darken, but itís not just the trees growing thicker. Thereís rain on the way.
A last bit of sun shines through the fog. The rain starts after this, the map gets wet, and it becomes less clear exactly where I am or where Iím going. The trails arenít entirely represented on the map anyway. Intersections are just different enough to throw me off when I reach them, standing in the rain and scratching my head. I take the Boulevard Trail to the Rock Outcrop and the Ridge Trail back to the central area of the park, all on purpose, but then I wander and I wonder where I am. Boulevard? Watershed? Appletree? Itís nice when there are many trails through a forest, many avenues and vantage points to view all the facets the wood offers. But there is a downside to this, particularly when those trails are poorly marked and tightly packed.
Had it not been raining, I might have stayed to explore all the possible trail outcomes. Itís not too big a park. But today, I had no patience for that. Iíd had enough rainy hikes lately, and there would be more to come. I used what was left of my map to find the shortest way back to the car and took it. No worries though, I donít hold the weather against the forest. Itís a fine park. Not worth going out of the way to see, but definitely worth stopping at if you happen to be nearby.