This text is what I wrote (with improvements) for the first assignment.
About a month into my freshman year of college, I was feeling overwhelmed and depleted. The grove of trees behind Bornhuetter dormitory could only do so much to sate my hunger for a proper solitary retreat, and I looked around town (on Google Maps) for a place to explore. I knew that Wooster sits within the headwaters of the Muskingum, just north of the confluence of Killbuck and Apple Creeks, to be specific. The terrain of the area features significant (to an Ohioan’s eyes) valleys to the west and south, noteworthy to me because in my experience where there are ravines there are typically woods, and waterfalls. Thus I narrowed my criteria for sites to explore down to “bottomland by a stream with a noticeable ravine”. As I was without a car that first semester, I resolved to walk all the way to the the place where Apple Creek passes nearest to town, a mile or so south of campus. Not to nearby Christmas Run, nor the rolling golf course to the east. I would undertake a veritable trek by foot to Grosjean Park, which seems on paper (it’s bound by a state highway on one side and the town grid on the other) to be cobbled together around unusable land as an afterthought.
Walking down to the park was an easy, continuous downhill stroll. Navigating to the park itself was trickier—A grassy field, rusty metal fence, and thick underbrush stood between me and the creek, looming in a manner no Google Maps street view could ever adequately convey. The details are foggy as to how I traversed those obstacles, but eventually I found myself walking along a riverbank littered with pebbles in many hues. But it was less exhausting to tiptoe over stones than to fight my way through honeysuckle and thornbushes, and I could appreciate the trees lining the banks of Apple Creek from a distance—sycamore, birch, and maple all stood out to me in their early autumn colors. Some sat away from the water, others bared their dendritic, gnarled roots as they clung to the eroded rises of the banks. For much of my trek I was distracted by my own thoughts about the school year so far and what it could spell out for my future, but I maintained a dim awareness of my surroundings throughout. Those surroundings were certainly not idyllic– I noticed lots of refuse—a deflated kiddie pool caught on a dry shoal; numerous bricks dumped into the streambed; the odd shopping cart. I came to see wooded ravines and rushing rapids interspersed with calm pools, but was met with a landscape just beginning to recover from an extended bout of industrialization. I didn’t feel the tranquility that embraces me when I’m out in the woods, but there was a certain buzz of adventure—what would I find? Who could I run into? Would I happen upon the remnants of an old farmstead? The most I found was
With the faint drone of the busy highway just beyond the trees to my right, the intermittent litter of Styrofoam material, and the slick of phosphate runoff I encountered, it was hard to think of the area as pristine. The trees still swayed along to the wind, and the birds still flittered their fluty songs, but beneath the workings of nature was an underlying, unavoidable understanding that nature only existed here as long as people, specifically the city, allowed it.