Pine Hill Forest

We Started HereWe’ve had an unusual run of exceptionally good weather.  I can hardly stand to stay inside when it’s like this.  Thursday I spent most of the day tramping around at various places, and finding more places where I’d like to tramp.  On one of the backroads up behind Camp Timbercrest, I saw several trail heads along the road with round, red NYS Department of Environmental Conservation markers.  Friday, I went back to explore one of them, dragging Bob along.  That’s him, standing by the trail head.  He doesn’t even look too unhappy about it.  (Bob doesn’t mind an occasional walk in the woods.  But he doesn’t like to go all day, or for several days with a backpack, the way I like to!)

Some Trail Markers Were PinkIn some places along the trail, you could find more of the round, red metal markers nailed to trees.  But most of the time, we followed bright pink ribbon that was attached to overhanging branches using clip clothespins.  This was a new method of trail marking for me…  I thought it was clever, though my cynical mind wondered if a prankster may have moved some of the ribbons to random new locations…

Mixed ConifersSometimes the ribbons were difficult to find and because the trail is not heavily used, it wasn’t always obvious where to go.  But with a little patience, and only a few false turns, we managed not to get lost.  It was such a gorgeous day – brilliant, blue sky, just the right temperature.

Whenever I walk these old hills, I find myself wondering about the history, the land use over time.  In 1890, only 20-25% of New York State had forest cover, so it is quite likely this forest was farmland a little over 100 years ago.  By the 1920s and 30s, many of the farms had been abandonned and New York State had begun a reforestation program.  Hardwoods TooMillions of trees were planted all across the state, which explains the arrangement of trees – often in straight rows, as well as the high numbers of non-native species.

The trees weren’t all non-native.  And they weren’t all “new”.  I was especially taken by a stand of very old, very large white pines.  How did these magnificent giants escape harvest, I wondered.

Magnificent Big Old White Pines

From what I understand, white pines were coveted for furniture-making, building, and especially for masts for British ships.  So most were cut and shipped out of our region when the Europeans arrived in this area.  Maybe these pines were younger than they looked.  But let me tell you again:  they were BIG! 

The hike we took alternated between old logging/agricultural roads, and more rustic looking trails.  A clear, fast-running creek sliced through the center of the trail loop.  A mixture of conifers made up most of the forest, but at one point we found ourselves in the midst of a wide expanse of deciduous trees.

It isn’t a difficult trail:  it descends to the creek, then ascends again to the road.  But the climbs are not steep.

False HellaboreThe forest floor did not disappoint.  There were several species of ground pine, as well as the promise of many spring wildflowers.  Skunk Cabbage and False Hellabore were sporting lush new greenery.  The speckled leaves of Trout Lily were popping up through brown forest floor.  Spring-fed seeps made me wonder if I might find later this spring or summer some of the odonates that like that sort of breeding area.

The trail we walked is one of several on this same road.  One of these days, I intend to return to walk them all.

You can read more about the history of the New York State Reforestation Program at the DEC website:

http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dlf/publands/stateforests/history.html

There are a few more pictures, and a topo at my Flickr Site:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenniferschlick/sets/72157600111063266/

Farm Dump

Farm DumpIf you had a couple hundred acres of land, would you devote some of it to a dump?  Is that even legal any more?  I wonder…

The property owned by the Nature Center where I work was a farm once – many, many years ago.  We have found two spots that served as dumps.  They are noticable only in early spring, before the skunk cabbage leaves grow up tall enough to hide them.  There are amazing treasures in there… and a lot of junk.  Bed springs, an old metal headboard, pieces of old crockery, a battery, and lots and lots of glass…

Farm Dump-Blue Bottle

Many of the bottles are colorless.  Some are beautifully colored – blue, brown, green.  Some are clear, others cloudy.  Some are still whole, most are broken.  Most are empty, but some are still capped and contain – who knows what?  What came in all these bottles and jars?  Food?  Medicine?  Cosmetics or perfume?  Liquor?

It’s interesting to watch how nature reclaims the dump – so very slowly.  This area floods, then dries up, then floods again.  The stuff gets moved around a little, buried with silt, surrounded by dead plant material – but slowly, so slowly.  The bedsprings are rusting and as plants grow up through them it is hard to tell what is metal and what is organic.

Farm Dump-TerrariumsMy favorites are the mini greenhouses formed by the clear glass artifacts.  Today, Sarah lifted a broken glass pie dish to reveal an amazing stand of moss.  Then we found these two jars – each with its own ecosystem inside.

There is beauty to be found everywhere – even in a dump.  But here’s the question:  if this were your nature center, would you clean up the dumps?  I’m curious to know your opinion… the pros, the cons…  Do you work at a place or own some land where stuff has been dumped?  What did you do (or do you plan to do)?