Discovering Nature

Category: Walks (page 1 of 8)

Summer Falls

This is a 3/4 mile walk along a gorge, but that short span includes something like a 600 foot rise in elevation. We climbed a lot of stairs, then walked down the other side on a more gradual trail. It was an absolutely lovely day.

Salamander Season

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We discovered yesterday that we’d completely missed a chapter of spring. It seems early, but there were lots of signs of the season advancing, including salamanders cruising about among the dead leaves in one of our favorite pools.

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Eggs had already hatched into plump tadpoles.

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Some frogs were floating about. This one’s trying to remain incognito, and she almost succeeded in getting stepped on.

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There were various signatures of creatures who were out and about and carving their names on trees.

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The wind had left its mark too. This tree had been split in two and turned into a drinking trough.

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And this was one of many that had been plucked up by the roots.

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We saw some kinglets, and a few geese squabbling endlessly over their own patch of pond. We also saw a new beaver lodge, and lots of signs of the beaver’s activity on trees along the bank:

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It was sunny and mild, and the green was just starting to show in the landscape.

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On the whole it was a thoroughly enjoyable walk! Even though our winter has been unusually mild, the sight of new growth always marks a welcome change.

Coltsfoot

A friend tells me this flower is called coltsfoot. It’s one of the earliest spots of color to be seen in the mud along the roadsides.

Chipmunks or deer?

“What would you say?” I asked my daughter on our way out of the woods. “Was this walk mostly about chipmunks or deer?”

“Chipmunks, probably,” she answered.

But three deer, resting and grazing, were the first things we saw — after the monarch mudskipping in the parking lot. Later, we heard the snorty scream of a deer warning call, followed by some banging sounds, and then a young buck running through the woods across the creek from us. Could he have been clashing antlers with another deer? Or did he get stuck in a tight spot somewhere? Strange. We back tracked to see if we could get another look at him, and though we did see him we didn’t get any pics. Still another young deer bid us goodbye as we left the woods, too. They were surely out and about.

The chipmunks were definitely impossible to ignore, however! They scampered everywhere and chirped till the woods rang with it, warning everyone that we were intruding. The little guy pictured in the log was close enough to his safety zone to indulge his curiosity about us somewhat before disappearing inside.

The other story, for me, was the busyness and color of the woods. It shows up especially in the stream/bridge pictures. It’s difficult to find a single area of the scene that isn’t already brimfull of other outlines. It reminds me of those art class exercises where you are instructed to fill every space with a different pattern.

Not a ton of color this fall — mostly yellows and rust colors. It’s been dry. But it’s enough to tint the sunlight, giving it a beautiful burnished glow before it hits the ground.

Pathway ponderings

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Older Daughter and I took a walk down a familiar trail the other day. It was midafternoon and there wasn’t much wildlife to be seen. But this woodpecker tree was one of several reminders that the woodland inhabitants were alive and well.

IMG_0662The trail wound invitingly among ferns and trees. We’ll have a few months of color, then the winter monchromatic palette will be back in play.

"Green thoughts in a green shade"

“Green thoughts in a green shade”

I thought this fuzzy fungus was a mouse at first.

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We descended to a favorite spot along the creek, a small waterfall that always invites us for a picnic (though we never have one packed).

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The picturesque scene hides a tragedy. The water was low enough that we walked up the creekbed instead of returning to the trail. At the base of the falls, hidden here by the pile of flood debris, was a dead rabbit, soaked with mud, eyes still open in panic. Somehow it had been washed down the creek and killed.

It was a disturbing sight. I’ve often noticed the waste of roadkill — animals hit by cars by accident. Nature is usually more purposeful, and a favorite mantra of nature writers is “the economy of nature.” But this was an example of pure accident. I couldn’t help brooding over it as we walked on.

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Looking back downstream

Looking back downstream

Raccoons had left their prints along the edge, attracted by the crayfish and frogs.

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Did someone say "frogs"?

Did someone say “frogs”?

It was a nice walk, though we were out at the wrong time of day to see any early warblers coming through on their way back south. The almanac predicts another harsh winter, and I saw some warblers on the move when we vacationed north of here a few weeks ago. Hopefully we’ll see a few in the days to come.

Bald Mountain

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Another place we visited on our Adirondack vacation was Bald Mountain. It was a popular place the day we were there! There is a fire tower on the granite crest of the hill that you can climb to look out over the Fulton Chain of lakes. I’ve climbed it in the past, but not this year — the nice solid ground provides a sufficient vantage point for me!

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Bloom where you’re planted!

 

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Touches of fall

Touches of fall

Our most sure-footed hiker

Our most sure-footed hiker

Revisiting Ferd’s Bog

Lucy, our trusty hiking companion, urges us on

Lucy, our trusty hiking companion, urges us on

One of the places I love to visit in the Adirondacks is Ferd’s Bog, a 50-acre tract of boreal forest surrounding a black spruce bog. I first visited it in 2011, and the bog was filled with pitcher plants; I posted a picture of them here, at my other blog. I haven’t seen the pitcher plants for the last three years, though, and I suspect that people may be venturing off the boardwalk (judging from the many trampled trails I saw into the grasses) and taking them. It’s both foolish (since they won’t grow anywhere else — they grow in the bog because it’s acidic) and selfish (since it alters the ecosystem, prevents others from experiencing it, and even breaks the law by taking plants from a protected area). I hate to sound so negative, but it’s sad to see. I’m not sure whether the process can be reversed or not.

Nevertheless, the walk through the woods into the bog retains its primeval character. There are apparently many interesting birds that inhabit the area, but I haven’t seen any of them: gray jays, boreal chickadees, black-backed and three-toed woodpeckers, for example. But the many plants, trees and mosses always grab my attention and make the walk seem magical.

Here are a few pics from my most recent foray in.

Trail

Trail

Lichen

Lichen

You descend into the bog -- and climb back out

You descend into the bog — and climb back out

A stump beautifully furred with mosses

A stump beautifully furred with mosses

Wood between the worlds

Wood between the worlds

Boardwalk into the open bog

Boardwalk into the open bog

Micro-world

Micro-world

Creeping snowberry

Creeping snowberry

Stump host for all kinds of plants

Stump host for all kinds of plants

 

Open bog -- the black flecks are dragonflies. The air was thick with them.

Open bog — the black flecks are dragonflies. The air was thick with them.

Quietness -- no sound but a single white-throated sparrow

Quietness — no sound but a single white-throated sparrow

Big sky country

Big sky country

Boardwalk leading back into the woods

Boardwalk leading back into the woods

Follow the yellow -- er, white -- brick road

Follow the yellow — er, white — brick road

The trail back out

The trail back out

Red toadstool

Red toadstool

A tree bearded with mosses

A tree bearded with mosses

Red berries -- not sure what kind

Red berries — not sure what kind

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Polished roots

Polished roots

Evergreens

Evergreens

Baby evergreens

Baby evergreens

Log overtaken with other plants

Log overtaken with other plants

Decomposition

Decomposition

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Woodland benediction

Woodland benediction

Some pics of Ferd’s Bog from last year are included here. Some from the year before are here.

Brave blooms and a spring stream

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They look like they’ve just arrived from someplace warmer, a small group of tourists looking hopefully around for accommodations.

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Then there’s this one, growing in a tiny stream. Bloom where you’re planted.

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We enjoyed the gorgeous glen on a sunny day. The joyous spring sound of rushing water was everywhere.

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Wet-loving plants and mosses adorned the shale walls and dead trees.

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I was taken with the sense of heights as we walked down the streambed. Everywhere, the steep banks invited us to look upward toward the sun.

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The contrast between light and dimness caught my attention. So did the contrast between beauty and violence.  You can’t get a stream picture that doesn’t include trees fallen down steep banks, broken and rotting — or great stones tumbled who knows how far by the water at its strongest.

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Someone had created a space for humans along one part of the bank.

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I, along with my daughters, joined in. We left our names there beside a growing number of others.

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Heroic ages

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Thoreau wrote that morning brings back the heroic ages. I find that I’m much less eloquent about my morning walk the other day. I just enjoyed it. I liked the way the boardwalk zig-zagged mysteriously, and how it straightened out like a runway.

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Then it was back into curving mystery.

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The trees made another avenue along the meadow.

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And bits of color from moss and bracket fungus showed a “land down under” that thrives even in a very chilly April when few leaves seem to want to open.

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under

Walking

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The eastern towhee was back in the lower meadow, calling out at the start of my early morning walk yesterday: “Drink your tea!”

The robins were busy about their breakfast in the dewy grass.

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As I walked, I felt a little dejected that neither of my daughters had taken the opportunity to come along. But it didn’t take long to recognize that in fact I was having a very good time being completely alone.

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I thought about a meditation I’d heard recently on the idea that any human artistry has to begin with what’s already created — therefore it has to begin with gratitude. I thought about how I was walking through a work of art, and I did feel grateful.

I’ve said I was alone. Not entirely. I prayed, and so that level of conversation affirmed a companionship. There were plenty of sounds and critters to testify to the community of wild things around me, too: chickadees, kinglets, woodpeckers, chipmunks and squirrels, a ruffed grouse making its sound of a dribbling basketball off in the distance.

My favorite parts were the times I stood still and waited. In one of those listening times, a silent, shivering oven bird showed herself.

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A little farther along and I reached a favorite spot. The green along this stream, and the glittering reflections, invited me to linger and think.

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A short climb, and I reached the upper meadow.

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More birds here, including flickers…

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…and many a chattering goldfinch.

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This demure song sparrow rustled quietly in a bush next to me.

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And a rabbit briefly considered whether I was to be trusted before beating a hasty retreat.

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I was thinking about developments in my life — decisions made, attitudes held — when I turned around to survey the view behind me and saw what seemed a perfect picture of Frost’s “Road Not Taken“:

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TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The poem’s last two lines are the ones usually quoted, but they are really spoken tongue-in-cheek. The speaker has just told us that he had trouble deciding which path to take because both were worn “about the same.” The difference was slight. But he knew he’d look back and try to read more significance into the choice he’d made. In any case it seemed a fitting sight, and a fitting allusion, just at that moment. I’d already passed both “roads” and was looking back, as the poem does.

Thoreau says (in “Walking”) that a person has no business walking if they are preoccupied with their thoughts:

…it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head, and I am not where my body is; I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?

I was guilty of this. Yet there was much, still, that I noticed and enjoyed. There is something about knowing that life independent of me is busy all around that sets me free from trying to keep track of everything, and allows me to hear the inner voice. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I stayed out for several hours — almost long enough to grow moss and lichen, like some of the trees.

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Sights and sounds of spring

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It was 27 degrees when we got up this morning, but the sky was blue and it was destined to warm up into the seventies. Who wouldn’t take a walk?

Today it was more about sounds than sights: tiny rustlings that turned out to be kinglets, squirrels, cardinals or chipmunks. A distant woodpecker. A faraway wood thrush. The vigorous sound of running water in the thawed creek. I did see some deer, but only for a split second before they fled.

Then I saw a pair of quiet, elusive birds. I wanted to sit still and see if they’d come closer, and behold, there was an inviting bench just to the side of the trail.

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It just happened to be near the tree where I got to watch some nesting chickadees a couple of years ago…

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It won’t happen again — not in that tree. It was lying beside the trail, fallen over the winter.

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But it was neat to get to see the inside of their home. The top of the tree had broken off so the soft nest cavity was visible. I also admired their wall decor.

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Finally the other birds came close enough to see. There’s a chance they were oven birds, but I’m pretty sure they were veery. They made no sound so I couldn’t confirm by their voices. But I enjoyed the way they accepted my being there as they hopped around flipping over leaves and looking for breakfast. They’re birds more often heard than seen, so it was a treat.

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When I got home we had more excitement: a redtail rose out of the brush beyond our house. A moment later, the leucistic redtail rose up too, and we saw its blazing whiteness as it circled high into the air. We ran outside in our socks to watch, and discovered there was a third redtail — which the white one chased, screaming and seeming to collide with it. It chased it three or four miles away and then turned, tucked its wings, and sped back at incredible speed. What would have been a ten minute drive took about 15 seconds. I guessed it was a male, defending its nesting territory and and its mate.

I got some awesome pictures, but you’ll have to take my word for it, because after I had excitedly snapped them I got inside and my camera informed me there was no card inserted. I had taken it out to download the pics from my walk! None of my pictures were saved.

Fortunately my daughter got a few pics with her point and shoot, and she says it’s okay if I share them.

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It was an amazing sight! I’m hoping for another chance — but meantime, it’s thrilling to have the memory.

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