I disentangled myself from the small car, swinging my backpack over my shoulders while waving goodbye to the two older Estonian ladies who gave me a ride to the Viru Bog trailhead from the too far away bus stop I landed at when the driver ignored my request for the stop before. The women smiled widely, kindly at me and I grabbed comfort in those smiles—not because I was nervous but because they acknowledged me as a young woman, out on my own, telling me how wonderful it was and to be careful and how to find my way back to Tallinn. They drove away and I plodded onto the path.

The weeks behind me stretched out full of people, amazing people, people I held close and continue to. But the fact remained: every day I spent with others, every night others slept near. Now I was alone for the whole day, in the woods, and it was a change, is all, a change born from a stubborn curiosity that latches. Lahemaa National Park, I had repeatedly explained, was the first national park of the Soviet Union! It is supposed to be very beautiful. There is a bog with a watchtower over it. There are trails and campgrounds, and even villages. I’m going there. I had decided while leafing through pages on Estonia. Though my time in the country was still too short, I was determined to see more than last time, and that included some wild places.

Moss in Lahemaa National Park Trail through Viru Bog

The soft light filtered its way through the trees. After a couple of minutes of walking and looking around, I came to the elevated wooden pathway that made its way through Viru Bog. This was my little hike. I slowly set out, pondering each step, looking around carefully. I had time.

The boardwalk split—I took the shorter way and came to a dead end platform with a bench. I sat and slowly ate some of the karjalanpiirakat I had found much to my delight at the grocery store that morning while getting provisions. Karjalanpiirakat are bliss. I sat there in the larger silence that was punctuated by smaller-scale noise: something created a ripple in the water; I heard a bird. I drank a bit and started walking again.

Viru Bog Reflection Sundews, Lahemaa National Park

I stopped to take photos, and I stopped to read every sign along the path. There are sundews, one told me. I squatted down at the edge of the board walk, careful not to topple off, and indeed—there were. Periodically I would crouch, to peer at these cute little sundews as well as mushrooms and mosses. Then I would stand up and take in the larger sights in front of me: trees, yellow grasses, boggy water, sometimes grouped into a pond. The path led to a tower, windy at the top, but which provided a more than adequate view by which I, surrounded, ate the rest of my karjalanpiirakat.

Shadows, Viru Bog

The trail ended. I had traversed the bog, but still had plenty of time. So I walked slowly among more trails, realizing that there were blueberries in the woods. I began to pick them, gathering a fistful before smashing them into in my mouth. Over and over. My palm turned purple. I decided then to pick blueberries for my current and upcoming hosts as a gift, something that required more effort than popping into a shop. I ate my second yogurt despite not being hungry, simply so I could use the container. I rinsed with my drinking water, and then began to pick, stooped among the bushes. By now I had migrated off any main park paths, and was in fact on a small trail that led directly off the road to nowhere, ending after just a minute’s walk. I circled around, picking, picking, eating, and before I expected, my containers were full.

Pond, Viru Bog

It was time to go back. I was done, and I wanted to be back in Tallinn before dark. No bus stop presented itself to me so I ambled up to a women changing shoes by her car. “Do you speak English?” “No…” “По-русски?” “Да!” And thus, in Russian, I asked her about the bus. She wasn’t sure because she came by car, but she asked the two men she was with if they could give me a ride. Sure, they agreed. So I climbed in with Vera, her husband, Andrei, and “grandpa,” Georg. My Russian-speaking American self charmed them right away, especially when I explained I knew about United World Colleges and that, in fact, I knew an Estonian who went to one. Their son had too, and he was now studying at a liberal arts college in the U.S. Dmitri endlessly told me I should be a politician, since I could speak Russian. They asked me all sorts of questions about my travels and about education in the States. Instead of dropping me off at a bus stop near where they lived at the outskirts of Tallinn as they had originally agreed, they went ahead and drove me right to the old town, near where I was staying. I felt a little sad to wave goodbye.