It’s finally time to get back on My Wild Path and take you with me through this journey into the wilderness. Last time I talked about this journey, I introduced you the place I live in and how I grew up. This time I will take you directly at the beginning of the path, at the turning point, where everything started. I still remember my first trail, my first real hiking, the first time I went for a walk in the woods by myself. I went to a place called Acquerino Cantagallo Nature Reserve, which later in time became my favourite hiking area! It’s very close to my home, just half an hour driving. The landscape of the reserve is characterized by the presence of extensive forests, mainly formed by dense beech forests (the most common plant formation), chestnut woods, reforestation of conifers and mixed forests dominated by hornbeam and oak. I thought it could be a nice place to start exploring this “new world”, so I started to look for information about the trails, I picked up my backpack and I went into this new adventure. Before that time, I had already been there when I was a little kid, but I didn’t venture into the woods; there’s a large field next to a river at the entrance of the woods, which is also the starting point of my trail, where people in summer go for a picnic, and that’s all I’ve done before! My parents have always been those kind of beach lovers, so I didn’t have many chances to explore the mountains during my childhood.

Waterfall in Acquerino Cantagallo Nature Reserve

But now it was the right time to do it! Those days I was far away from being into photography, I was not even thinking about that at all. I was just curious, I wanted to discover new places, to explore the mountains and the woods, to try something different. Or maybe the woods were calling me, and I was just responding to that call. The trail I chose was about 13 km long, quite easy with some climbing parts after the first half. I have to say that it’s still one of my favourite places for hiking. At the beginning, you’re taken into the woods by a nice sound of the water of the river flowing next to you, and the chirping of the birds jumping between a branch and another on the trees. This was already a great welcome! After some steps, you cross an area full of conifer, silver firs and douglas firs, and you literally feel like you’re in the middle of one of those huge North American forests, considering also the fact that the douglas fir is a native North American tree. And here was where the magic happened! And where it happens everytime!

Rays of light through the trees in the forest in Acquerino Cantagallo Nature Reserve

I was totally amazed and blown away by the light that I found there. I had never seen something like that before and I couldn’t believe I had missed that amazing wonder for all my life until that moment. There was such a magical atmosphere that made me feel like I was in a fairytale woods, some of those magic forests that you usually read about in the books or see in the movies. But it was real! The warm light of the morning sun was shining through the branches of the fir trees, creating an extraordinary multiplicity of light beams that lit up the trail and the grass. While I was walking, the sun was slowly making its way up in the sky, sometimes appearing far away between the trees with its powerful light, and making the light beams stronger and more visible. The woods was slowly turning from darkness to light, getting a yellow and warm tone light. I stopped for a while and I stood there in the middle of this magic doing nothing, just admiring all of the surroundings and letting the forest embrace me.

The sun through the fir trees in Acquerino Cantagallo Nature Reserve

And then, the silence! There was no one else, there was no noise at all, no cars, no traffic, no people chatting, nothing at all. Only the birds were interrupting that surreal silence, but hearing them was a real pleasure. Peace. I found a unique sense of peace that I had not found in anything else before. But not only peace in the external environment, I found an inner peace. I just wanted to stay there forever, right there in that place. I really felt alive. I really felt that I belonged there, like I was part of all of that, like I was part of the forest. I can never forget the first time I experienced this sensation. It’s really hard to describe that feeling with words, that’s why I invite you all to take a walk in the woods, even a short one, and experience the same feeling. It could be a turning point for you too! I went on with my hiking while the woods changed from conifer to beeches forest, while the sun was now up in the sky and the contrast between shadows and lights was at its peak. I finally reached the end of the trail with the desire to start again from the beginning. That day, something inside me changed forever. “I will come back soon”, I said to the forest. And from that day, the forest started to call me everytime!

If you want more information about the magical woods that made me fall in love with nature, you can follow the Facebook page of Acquerino Cantagallo association. Acquerino Cantagallo is a non-profit association that pursues the purpose of protecting and enhancing the area, promoting an ecological culture through the valorisation of community experiences in contact with nature, and with all the projects useful for achieving this purpose, like sports and recreational-motor activities, environmental education activities aimed at understanding the botanical and faunistic heritage. Of course, I will talk a lot more about this place in my next posts.

See you soon on My Wild Path!

Mirko Chianucci Written by:

I'm a nature and wildlife photographer based in Italy. With a great desire to explore the world, I'm deeply in love with nature and wildlife. My goal is to raise awareness on natural environment and wildlife conservation to help preserving the amazing wonders of our planet.

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