Day 3 – Group Size Reduction

Six of us had to go home after two nights…  Look how triumphant they look!

 Six are Done

By the way, I misjudged my fellow hikers by describing Mode 1 yesterday as “Let’s just get there.”  Here’s what my friend Susan had to say about that:

Actually, the goal of us Mode 1 Hikers was not “let’s just get there”, but rather to experience ourselves traveling through and within the nature on a macro level. We didn’t look at the pieces so much as we looked at the whole. We each commented on feeling in “the zone” as we strode along. And, hey, it was probably nice to stroll into camp with the fire already lit!

Yes, ladies, it was very nice to stroll into camp with the fire blazing.  Thank you for that!  Perhaps if I were in better aerobic health, I could have kept up with you and experienced the zone!  At any rate, I was sad to say goodbye to the Six.  Many thanks to you all for being a part of my trek!

Deb and I carried on at our slow, measured pace…  There is a spot in this section between ASP 1 and Bay State Road that passes an old growth forest.  The biggest trees are at the bottom of a rather steep hill.  We opted not to go explore them today, but vowed to come back another time.  Still, even at the top there were some enormous trees… some standing, others blown down:

 Enormous Cherry (and Deb) Enormous Blowdown (and me)

Can you even see me next to that root mass?  I always wonder what it would be like to be in the woods when the wind is strong enough to take down a tree like that!

The last leanto turned out to be our favorite, tucked in a little hemlock grove on level ground.  Bob walked Emily in from the other end of the trail so she could sing camp songs around the fire and spend the night with us.  An entry in the trail registry warned that the porcupine would likely pay us a visit at around midnight.  I don’t know what time it was, but I had my flashlight and camera ready.  The shots didn’t come out all that well, but you can sort of see him back there between two trees, messing up our neat and tidy wood pile:


He put on quite a display for us, puffing out those quills and trying to look all scary.  It was hysterical to watch him climb down the tree in a sort of ratcheting fashion, and to climb up with no effort at all like a gekko – as though the tree were horizontal.  (none of those pictures turned out at all!)

We drift off thinking of tomorrow and hot bubble baths…

Day 2 <– Click –> Day 4

Embarassed by my Dog

Last week, while hiking at the gorge (and yes, Dave… the gorge is beautiful in winter!) we came to a spot in the trail that was blocked by a fallen beech.  That, of course, did not stop my dog.  As we picked our way around the blockade, Lolli, pretty much in the middle of the fallen beech, started barking like crazy.  I couldn’t tell if she was stuck, or just stubborn.

Terry said, “Just call your dog.”  Easy for him to say.  He has a well-behaved dog.  (I guess I should have gone to dog-training school.)  I called and called and called.  I kept thinking of a Julie Zickefoose post in which she wrote of her dog, “Don’t make me use the Darth Vader voice.”  Porcupine - No - ReallyAs I strained to see if maybe her collar was stuck on a branch, I finally noticed the cause of the commotion.  At the base of the tree was a porcupine.

Oh geeze… that’s all we need… a dog with her mouth full of quills.  “You better go up there and get your dog.”  Yeah, I knew that.  My dilemma, of course, was do I take the camera with me or not.  Hahaha!  Am I obsessed, or what?  Luckily, I didn’t have to climb very far up the hill before the porcupine decided to waddle away and up a tree.  Once it was out of reach, Lolli lost interest and re-joined us.  From a distance and without a long lens, I attempted a shot of the critter.  He’s up there… really!

Porcupine PottyLater, after we had eaten lunch, I was wandering around the campsite and found quite the pile of porcupine scat.  Oval, full of wood fiber, and according to Stokes, “sweet-smelling” – though I didn’t use my nose to test this assertion!  For me, the fact that it was the right size, shape, consistency and in the right location was enough for a positive ID!  Besides, there was a quill right in the middle of it!

Porcupine Quill




Apparently porcupine scat is quite tasty, too, since both dogs decided to snack on it.  Why do dogs do that???

Porcupines are not the fastest animal in the world…  They don’t need to be, given their protective quills.  Unlike the porcupines you have seen in cartoons who can take aim and shoot their quills, real porcupines can do no such thing.  Contact must be made with the quill, which will then easily fall out of the porcupine and become attached to you.  Backward-pointing barbs and the heat of your skin will ensure that the quill works its way deeper into your skin and it will take quite a bit of effort to get it out again!  When a dog has a run-in with a porcupine, the vet may give sleepy-time medicine before yanking quills with plyers.

Porcupine by Jeff TomeA huge pile of scat either at the base of a hollow tree or near some rocks usually means that you have found a porcupine den.  A small amount of scat may be found under feeding trees.  Porcupines are particularly fond of eastern hemlock which they will climb to get at the upper branches.  They won’t eat the last foot or so of the branch though and will drop it on the ground where it may become welcome food for deer.

My dog did not manage to get a snoutful this time.  With her curiosity, though, I fear it is only a matter of time.

P.S.  I snagged this photo of a porcupine from Jeff Tome’s Flickr site.  He’s so busy with his new baby, he probably won’t even notice!