Last Autumnal Day?

November 11, 2014. 3:30pm. 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Spatterdock Pond

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Winterberry Holly Berries

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Fern, Pond (algae, leaves)

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Sweet Gum

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Sweet Gum, Fern

Gorgeous day!  Forecast for tomorrow:  39.  And the next day:  33 with lake effect snow.

I better get my skis over to Hollyloft for a tuneup!

Lunchtime Walk-About

Tuesday was a day jam-packed with meetings.  A break at lunchtime between meetings afforded me a walk. It was a working walk – looking for potential volunteer projects for a small group that will be coming in next week. But plenty of time to be stopped by beauty.

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Winterberry Holly

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Grasses and Cattails

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An Oak Leaf, Stuck in the Hemlock

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Beech Leaves Catching a bit of Sun

Celebration!

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

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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!

 

 

 

Blacksnake Mountain Wildflowers

Could not wipe the smile off my face all day.  The wildflowers were riotous!  Thank you to Patty, Bonnie, Bob, and Lolli for being my hiking buddies.

These were all blooming:

  1. Painted Trillium
  2. White Trillium
  3. Red Trillium
  4. Spring Beauties
  5. Dwarf Ginseng
  6. Barren Strawberries
  7. Common Strawberries
  8. Foamflower
  9. Mayflower
  10. Toothwort
  11. Common Blue Violet
  12. Sweet White Violet
  13. Round-leafed Violet
  14. Yellow Violet
  15. Canada Violet
  16. Long-spurred Violet
  17. Kidney-leafed Buttercup
  18. Squirrel corn
  19. Yellow Mandarin
  20. Rosy Bells
  21. Jack-in-the-Pulpit
  22. Dandelion
  23. Speedwell
  24. Cuckoo Flower
  25. Common Mustard
  26. Solomon’s Seal
  27. False Solomon’s Seal
  28. Golden Ragwort
  29. Miterwort
  30. Polygala
  31. Wild Oats
  32. Wild Geranium
  33. Perfoliate Bellwort
  34. Cress (I don’t know what kind)
  35. Bugle
  36. Forget-me-not
  37. Wild Blueberries
  38. Blue-eyed Grass
  39. Bluets
  40. Broad-leafed Sedge
  41. Sarsaparilla (buds)
  42. Red Elder (buds)
  43. Hobblebush
  44. Pin Cherry
  45. Canada Mayflower
  46. English Daisies
  47. Swamp Buttercup

    In addition, there were these either already bloomed, or not yet blooming:

  48. Colt’s Foot
  49. False Hellebore
  50. Leeks
  51. Bedstraw
  52. Red Elder
  53. Herb Robert
  54. Virginia Waterleaf
  55. Wood Sorrel
  56. Indian Cucumber Root
  57. Trout Lily
  58. Partridge Berries
  59. Dutchman’s Breeches
  60. Hepatica
  61. Jewelweed
  62. Mayapple
  63. Yellow Clintonia
  64. Blue Cohosh
  65. Round-leafed orchid

And of course there were ferns!

  1. Interrupted
  2. Cinnamon
  3. Sensitive
  4. Christmas
  5. Lady
  6. Maidenhair
  7. And others I wasn’t sure about…

The Gorge!

We had to park up near the first campsite and walk down the rest of Hannum Road.

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We saw evidence that people had been down there along the Westside Overland Trail on snow shoes and skis. But no one had been down the path to the creek in some time.

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I couldn’t help thinking about hemlock trees since I’ll be giving a workshop about them on Saturday.

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The gorge was very full and very frozen… so slippery, there would be no hiking along it today!

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And it was more frozen than I have ever seen it! So beautiful!

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Trees

I wrote this article for Jamestown Audubon’s weekly column:

Trees
by Jennifer Schlick

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Eastern Hemlock

The temperature has risen 30 degrees to a balmy 23F, perfect for outdoor recreation.  The snow in the woods behind a friend’s house is thigh deep, so I strap on snow shoes and head out with the dogs.  The little one makes me laugh sometimes disappearing up to her ears as she bounds through the sparkling white stuff.  The first fifteen to twenty minutes is fast-paced to get the blood pumping.  After that, I’m warm and toasty for the rest of the walk and even feel the need to stop and cool down – frequently.

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American Beech

To speed the cooling I remove my gloves and unzip my jacket.  While I catch my breath I marvel at the trees, reflecting on the time I lived in Phoenix, Arizona, where the only native trees seemed to be Saguaro cacti and the imported palms looked out of place.  How can people live without trees?  I only made it for a couple of years in the desert and had to return to the forested landscapes of my upbringing.  I never feel more at home than when I’m in the woods.  I just love trees.  The beech still clinging to dry shriveled leaves, the big old maples and oaks gnarly and majestic, and the hemlocks – by far my favorite tree.

Old Maple

Old Maple

Not a fan of sun, the deep shade provided by hemlocks draws me in no matter the season.  I trudge a little ways off the trail to sit beneath the boughs for a few minutes.  I can just barely hear a little trickle of water in the creek under the thick ice.  Chickadees, nuthatches, and kinglets jump from branch to branch above me chattering their social calls, foraging for winter insects.  I scan the landscape and notice that this woods is relatively new.  The trees are young and dense.  Down here by the creek, the species of trees are all native.  Up on the hill, there are stands of White Spruce, Scot’s Pine, European Larch and others that were planted by the landowners many years ago.  None of the trees are really old, though.

There are places nearby where I can commune with really old trees.  I’d love to know the age of the big Sugar Maple on the hill next to the Nature Center building at Audubon.  And do you know the massive oaks on the far side of Spatterdock Pond?  How about the really nice stand of old growth in Allegany State Park off the East Meadow trail, or the forest at Heart’s Content?  There is a feeling you get in the presence of these old trees that you don’t get anywhere else.  You begin to wonder how many people have walked by this spot and what stories the tree could tell if it could talk.  You begin to question the significance of your relatively short life.

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Oak

We’d like to give you a chance to meet a few old geezers in Chautauqua County in March.

Jamestown Audubon’s 2014 “Bucket List” calendar features twelve must-do, must-see nature phenomena to experience before you “kick the bucket.”  The March 15 event focuses on old trees.  Restaurant proprietor Chris Merchant is passionate about old growth forests.  He and Audubon program director Jennifer Schlick will lead a chat about trees over lunch at Mariner’s Pier Express in downtown Jamestown, New York, before heading out to see some of Chautauqua County’s oldest trees.  The regular price of $43, or Friends of the Nature Center price of $34, includes lunch and transportation.  Prepaid reservations are required by March 10 and can be made by calling the Audubon Center at (716) 569-2345 or by visiting http://jamestownaudubon.weebly.com. The trip begins at 11:00am and we expect to be back in Jamestown by 4:00pm.

Another opportunity to learn about trees will be offered on Saturday, March 8, from 1:00pm until 3:00pm.  After a classroom program to learn about the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, an insect that threatens Eastern and Carolina Hemlock trees, we will take a walk to Audubon’s hemlock grove to search for signs – and hopefully find none!  The fee for this program is $16, or $12 for Friends of the Nature Center and can be paid at the door.  Registration is requested by Friday, March 7, and can be done by phone, or at our website.

The Audubon Center & Sanctuary is located at 1600 Riverside Road, one quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania.  Learn more about the activities at the Center by visiting http://jamestownaudubon.org or calling (716) 569-2345.

Jennifer Schlick is program director at Jamestown Audubon.

First Hike of 2014

My first hike of 2014:  Allegany State Park, of course.  We started on Coon Run Road, heading out the Fire Tower Trail.  Somewhere before we reached Willis Creek, we needed coffee and donuts.  Here was the view from our log:

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Once we crossed Willis Creek, we headed upstream, bushwhacking at first… but then finding the trail marked “indistinct or abandoned” on our topo map. Someone has been working on it! It was easy to follow – most of the way. Then either we took a wrong turn, or the maintenance stopped.

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After a bit more bushwhacking, we found the lean to:

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The doggies quickly gobbled down a cup of dog food each. We ate our chili a bit more slowly.

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After conversation about the “State of Emergency” the NYS governor has issued, I wrote the following in the trail register:

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NYS Gov declared a state of emergency. What else to do but hike! Started at Coon Run Rd Fire Tower Trail. Followed Willis Creek up to lean to. Stopped for coffee and donuts along the way. Had chili, apples, oranges and chocolate for lunch. Do we know how to handle an emergency or what? ~ J, T, L, and G

IMG_7853The hike was to continue along the North Country / Finger Lakes Trail back to Coon Run Road. We got a bit of a false start, but eventually found the blazes.  When many trees have tufts of fluffy snow stuck to the bark, a white blaze can be hard to find.

There is a feeling of peace and comfort that I get every time I hike the trails at Allegany – but especially when I’m on a ridge that gives me a view over a valley to another hill beyond.  It’s like I’m in a big cradle or being hugged by huge unseen arms.

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And what is it about shadows on sparkling snow that I feel obliged to photograph?

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I hope this first hike of 2014 is just the beginning of many hikes this year!

Happy New Year!

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:

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OK, now get to work!

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.

ASP – Day 3

For my last hike of the vacation at Allegany State Park, I picked an even, wide path – France Brook Road.  There were still blockades across the road, so I parked where Limestone Run Road meets ASP 2 and walked out as far as the second bridge and back.  Spring peepers and Wood Frogs were making a racket.  I found evidence of some “gentlemen callers” in the puddles and ditches.

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I only saw one egg mass:

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There were several caterpillars on the railing of the bridge. (If you can figure out what kind they are, let me know!)

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I got caught up in photographing the bark of a fallen Scot’s Pine:

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Oh, and there was this leaf… in a puddle…

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It was just a meandering kind of morning. Birds and frogs singing. The world alive. The only thing that dampened my spirits was knowing that this was the last of this vacation. I would have been happy to stay for another few weeks!