Smaller Enchanter's Nightshade

Enchanter’s Nightshade

We’ve been trying to do it for years.  Something always distracts.  A different creek to explore.  Getting lost confused bewildered.  Starting too late to finish.  Too much snow.  My camera.

Today we finally accomplished our goal.  We were determined.  We set out early.  We refreshed our memory on how to REALLY use the compass and topographic map.  Not the pretend way:  “I think we’re right about here…  That’s cool.”  And most importantly, I left my camera at home!  (The pictures in this post were taken at other times.)

The thing is, the path we hiked used to be a road.  If you look it up on Google Maps, it will show as a road.  But I’m here to tell you:  It ain’t no road!  Not any more.  Some of the sluice pipes designed to divert water away from the road are still in place.  Others are tossed about, rusted, useless.  Some parts of the old road are clear, wide open, easy to walk.  Other parts are so densely covered you can barely fight your way through them.  Or they are completely impassible due to a beaver pond that must be circumnavigated.

100% DEET kept the bugs at bay.  A 12-inch sub and a tub full of watermelon and cantaloupe kept the hunger at bay.  And away we went paying attention to the wildflowers and the beauty and the signs of  wildlife along the way.  Lack of a camera, kept distraction at bay to a minimum.

Leaves from some of my favorite spring wildflowers remained – Foamflower, Trillium, Hepatica.  I even saw leaves of flowers I DIDN’T see blooming here before – Bloodroot – and made a mental note to come back next spring to watch for their blooms.  Midsummer flowers in the woods are not as plentiful, but you can find them if you pay attention.

Enchanter’s Nightshade takes advantage of tiny pockets of sunlight that filters down through the trees.  The tiny white flowers of this native plant have bits of pink if you take the time to look closely.

Enchanter's Nightshade

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website, the genus name, Circaea, comes from the Greek enchantress Circe who “possessed magical powers and a knowledge of poisonous herbs; she could turn men into swine.”  (Source: http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=CIAL) Whether this species is magical or poisonous, I could not say.

Shinleaf in the Grass


Also plentiful on the forest floor were Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica or maybe it was P. americana… See: I should have brought my camera).  According to the Lady Bird Johnson website, “The Pyrolas yield a drug closely related to aspirin; the leaves have been used on bruises and wounds to reduce pain. Such a leaf plaster has been referred to as a shin plaster, which accounts for the common name of this plant.” (Source:  http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=PYEL)

Shinleaf Closeup

At the far end of the road, we emerged from the woods and in the open spot were all the sun-loving roadside flowers – Crown Vetch, Oxeye Daisy, Day Lilies and more.

Lolli scared up a turkey that turned to feign attack.  I wonder if she could be sitting a second clutch of eggs?  We were most impressed by signs of bear activity.  A large puddle in the middle of the road had recently been stirred up, the mud not yet settled.  The grass around the puddle was spattered with fresh mud from what must have been a delightful wallow!  There was a perfect bear track in the mud of the road, and the grasses and plants off the road were beaten down, showing the direction of the bear’s travel.  We couldn’t have missed him by more than an hour.  A few steps beyond the bathtub puddle was a patch of grass and plants that was completely beaten down.  We wondered if the bear had slept there, or even just rolled around.

It was a great day of hiking and exploring.  I want to go back and enter from the other end of the road – WITH my camera this time!




River Walk

Because Jamestown Audubon is working on a project that involves taking people to the River Walk, I took my camera for a walk down there last Wednesday.

Holts Run Road… Again!

It’s new every time, because we hike it differently every time. This time, we went “backwards.” And by going backwards it was much easier to find the old Holts Run Road.


We followed it to the beaver pond that is close to Crick’s Run.


As we arrived, it started to snow. So pretty!


These tracks confused us. I think they must be fisher… but I don’t know for sure. What do you think?

Hey Ladies! Save the Dates!

October 3-5, 2014 on Grand Island, New York – Wild Women Unite!


That’s me – being a wild winter woman.

I’ll be teaching a photography workshop at this event. I’ve never been to it, but when Yvonne approached me about teaching, it sounded like so much fun, I think I’d go even if I weren’t teaching! Here’s what Yvonne asked me to share:

This is an event for all women: whether we are looking for a weekend relaxing with friends or looking to sharpen our outdoor skills. You can find it all at our Wild Women Unite weekend October 3 – 5 on Grand Island. The weekend is packed with learning, laughter and fun.

It begins Friday, with a meet and mingle happy hour, presenting our very own “Wild Woman Song” written and performed by Gina Holsopple. The adventure starts here, so come and sing along!

Later Friday evening there will be a presentation by Jennifer Haddow, owner and director of Wild Women Expeditions. Jennifer has been providing outdoor adventure travel for women since 1991. Listen and learn how to be brave enough to release your inner Wild Woman. She will talk about her world aventures from Iceland to Thailand and beyond. Our own Canadian Wild Woman!

On Saturday, everyone is given a chance to participate in four (out of thirty) beginner level workshops providing hands on opportunity to learn to play outdoors. This year for the first time, we are offering a “seniors” track of four workshops providing very “first step” lessons to start moving and get healthy (Grandmas allowed). Our workshops are designed to support all sorts of interests, from easy living to heart racing adventure, allowing every sort of woman to participate. Take a look at the workshops choices on our website.

Saturday evening is a barbecue and relaxing around the campfire with an Alaskan Wild Woman. CarolAnn lives in the Alaskan wilderness where her only neighbor is nature. Come listen to her stories.

This is a unique opportunity for women, 16 and older, with any level of outdoor experience to become more familiar with and comfortable in the environment while learning new or enhancing existing outdoor skills.

Warning: Be prepared to meet new friends, let your hair down, kick back and kick some butt!

Just go to the website!! https://www.wildwomenunite.com/

I Come Alive

I awoke to snow on Tuesday morning and I was (to borrow a phrase from Karen Eckstrom) irrationally happy. I come alive in winter. The air is fresh and crisp – not heavy and humid. I sweat only from exertion, not from merely sitting. There are no bugs pestering my ears and neck. And the world is pure and clean. I decided to get to work early so I could start the day with a walk.

The light changed several times during the walk, the sun peeping out sometimes, then clouds dumping more snow at others. Here are the pictures I took in the order I took them so you can walk with me:
















OK, now get to work!

Rails to Trails

Chautauqua County has several trails converted from old rail beds. Today I walked on one that starts on Route 430 not far from the intersection with Route 394 in Mayville NY. I hiked in as far as the power line, then turned around. It was cold, but once I got moving, I was comfortable. The sky was partly clear… once in a while the sun peaked through. Mostly there was nice diffused light. Some of the puddles and parts of the marshy pond were frozen.


A lot of the leaves were already down, though a few still clung to branches.



I didn’t have a long lens on my camera. Can you see who is in the trail:

Here’s the same photo cropped real close (and not very sharp):

He could see us, but he couldn’t smell us, because the wind was blowing toward us. We looked at each for a long time before he ran off:

Back almost to the car, we saw these four lovelies:

It was a gorgeous day and a lovely little hike.

Annual Allegany State Park Breakfast

My friend Sue’s family had a tradition – a breakfast at Allegany State Park.  Rain, snow, or sunshine.  She reinstated the tradition a few years back and I am lucky enough to be on the invitation list.  This year, we stuffed ourselves on donuts, bacon, eggs, pancakes, several kinds of breads and pastries, watermelon, grapes, potatoes, grape pie, and apple crisp… and I’m probably forgetting something.

Then it was off to Thunder Rocks to explore and climb and attempt to burn off a few of those calories.  My explore turned up these treasures:













Beautiful day!

Fall Walk

The weather felt more like summer…  But the views were definitely autumnal.

Erlandson Overlook Park has a 1.2 mile loop that goes through mostly “new” forest with young trees.

There were lots of leaves with big water droplets on them.

Some of the leaves had pretty WILD colors!

There were critters… Most gave me a pretty hard time about being photographed. I had to hang over a bridge and hope the light would be ok and that he wouldn’t fly.

The turkey tail fungus was new and still very flexible and soft.

This little Red Eft gave me quite a run for my money.

This tiny Garter Snake was quite lively.

I brought this home and ate it with sharp cheddar and a glass of chardonnay.

The light was shining from behind this leaf and caught my eye from quite a ways down the trail.

There were LOTS of Wooly Bears munching their ways through the grass.

Lovely day!

From Guest Writer Ernie Allison

Hiking with Grandchildren: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
by Ernie Allison

My father always had a firm belief that nothing provides better family bonding time than communing with the great outdoors. I tend to agree. I remember my own Grandfather picking me and my brother up for our yearly camping trip. The fondest memories I have of that grizzled man were spent hiking mountain trails.

Jump Creek Canyon – by David O’Connor on Flickr

Decades have passed and I have grandchildren of my own. As time has passed, so too has the tradition of yearly camping trips between grandfather and grandchild. My grandchildren are thoroughly 21st century youth—that is they prefer to play their video games and wander malls searching for shiny objects. I don’t really understand the appeal, but I have been told the entire experience is “cool.” The first time I brought up camping and hiking, my grandson John asked me if he could bring his portable DVD player and my granddaughter Brooke informed me that she received all the nature she desired from the bird feeder her mother had set up in the backyard. A bird feeder and an inability to be separated from a DVD player. Was that really what we as a species have turned to? Mere months later my wife and I were asked to babysit while my son and daughter-in-law were out of town on a business trip. I was determined to bring a little nature into my grandchildren’s lives. I figured I would start small. No need to shock them, so I packed my three grandchildren into my van and set off for Jump Creek, Idaho. Jump Creek is a nature hike that even casual hikers can manage. The entire path only takes about twenty minutes to walk both ways. Therefore, I determined it was perfect for my grandchildren.

Jump Creek Trail – by David O’Connor on Flickr

Ok, I admit I might have told the children that we were going to the mall. It kept them cheery and chattering for about half of the 2 hour trip to the canyon. It wasn’t until our car hit the dessert that the real complaining started. “You should have told them in the first place,” my wife sighed, patting her brown hair. “Then we would have had 2 hours of this,” I muttered. The complaining died down momentarily when the 400 foot high canyon walls came into view. “You’ll like this. It’ll be fun. I promise,” my wife exclaimed from the seat beside me. The only answer was two huffs and one snore from the back seat. At the parking lot the whole family piled out of the car, and then after some more enthusiastic complaining, the hike began. The grandchildren were not impressed by the bunchgrass and sage. They were not impressed by the towering walls that enclosed both sides of the path. They did perk up when a hawk flew by. And there was some enthusiastic shrieking from Brooke when a snake slithered onto the path. Things didn’t really take a turn for the worst until my four-year-old grandchild Little Sally scurried back to my wife with “Pwetty Flowers.” The little girl had been the only one to show any measure of enthusiasm for the trip. She had been running from one foreign object to another, inspecting every insect, plant, and rock with the intensity that most would give to a math problem. My wife was peering up at the sky in the hopes that another bird would fly past. My wife accepted the flower without looking. Sally beamed with pride. “Ah…dear” I said, “That’s poison Ivy.” When we reached the small creek, I was still explaining the importance of not touching poison ivy, oak, or sumac. “You’ll know it’s poison ivy by its white berries at this time…” “How do we get across?” my granddaughter Brooke interrupted. “We walk on the rocks,” I said. I demonstrated after picking up Sally by tentatively stepping out onto the first stone on the path. I was halfway across when I heard a high pitch squeak followed by a splash. I jerked around to find Brooke sitting in the water. “John don’t push your sister.” The water wasn’t deep, but it was enough to leave Brooke’s shorts soaked. I shouldn’t have been surprised when Brooke grabbed onto her brother’s foot when he gleefully continued on causing him to sprawl into the water. “You jerk,” he said. What followed was a few moments of bickering and fighting from two cranky and wet preteens.

Jump Creek Waterfall – by David O’Connor on Flickr

By the time we finally arrived at the 60 foot Jump Creek waterfall, I was regretting this decision to bond in the outdoors. My two elder grandchildren were hissing insults under their breath and my wife was scratching at her hands where a poison ivy rash was just beginning to develop. Only Little Sally was joyfully exploring her surroundings. The 60 foot waterfall stole everyone’s attention. It was a mesmerizing sight. The bickering died down, my wife stopped scratching, and Little Sally remained still for the first time that day. Then the refrain of “cool” from my mall rat grandchildren started. I knew then that I had made the right choice. This trip allowed me to create a memory that my grandchildren would remember forever. The fact that Little Sally shattered the moment by squealing and throwing herself into the water in an attempt to catch a rainbow pretty much sealed the moment in their memory forever. It was funny until we remembered Sally couldn’t swim. By the time I fished Sally from the water and returned to the car, my grandchildren were asking when we could take our next hike, so I think the trip was a success overall.

Ernie Allison is a freelance writer who loves spending time with his grandchildren, whenever he is able to pull them away from the screens. He is an enthusiastic birder, and if he isn’t hiking or chasing after one of his grandchildren you’ll probably find him in his backyard or in the park feeding birds.

Quick Stroll

My job has kept me tied to the computer a lot lately.  Yesterday, I just had to get out, so I took a quick stroll out to the Big Pond Overlook.

Blue Vervain and Yarrow were both in bloom. Add some Bee Balm and you’d have a nice Independence Day bouquet!

Blue Vervain Yarrow

Both Swamp and Common Milkweed were blooming, too.

IMG_9684 Common Milkweed (and can you see the Monarch Egg?)

I looked for Monarch eggs or caterpillars, but found none. (The picture above was taken during a different stroll. Can you see the egg? on the leaf of the Common Milkweed on the right?)

When I got out to the overlook, there was a mama Red-Winged Blackbird scolding, “Check! Check! Check!” She had a worm dangling from her beak. I refused to leave until I saw where she would take it. Dad called from a tree just behind me. Finally, she headed to the nest and I heard her babies peep, “Feed me! Feed me!”

A family came up behind me and I got to teach the difference between the male and female and show them the nest.

Red-winged Blackbird Red-winged Blackbird Female

I returned to my desk amazed at how refreshed even a short walk can make me feel.