5 – Bear Springs Trail

My daughter Emily, her dog Gretchen, and I have begun hiking the original trails at Allegany State Park with the goal to complete them all this summer. This challenge, the Allegany 18, was put out by the Park. I sort of tricked Emily into it by leading her to believe there might be a patch at the end of it. I never said patch. But the logo for the contest looks like it would make a good patch and so she leapt to a false conclusion. Not my fault. Haha.


Bear Springs is an easy out-and-back half-mile trail. I say easy, and it was on this dry, almost summer day. But it is obvious there are sections that would be very sloppy in the spring after snow-melt and rain. There are several places where clever built structures help you over seasonally wet areas, though not all mucky areas have them.


The spring itself is pretty neat, covered by an igloo-shaped stone structure. I’m not sure why the water coming from the spring is orange. I suspect iron.


There are other structures nearby, too, that look like they were grills/ovens at one time.


A pretty little moth.


A plant! At first I thought it was a fern. But those seed heads seem to be coming from the fern-like foliage.


Obligatory selfies!


4 – Three Sisters

I retired from job at Audubon. Friday, June 12 was my last day.

Today, on my first official would-have-been-work-day of retirement, my daughter Emily, her dog Gretchen, and I started the Allegany 18 Challenge. This challenge put out by Allegany State Park is to hike and document all 18 of the original hiking trails. We started today with two short ones so we could see how Gretchen would do. Turns out, she’s a trooper and I think she’ll be fine, even on the longest of the trails.

Three Sisters is “hike #4” of the challenge, a 2.5-mile loop that starts very near the Quaker Administration Building.


We did the loop “clockwise.” When we got to this sign, we went straight (left).


This took us into a camping area which was a little confusing. We found a trail marker on a high on a tree leading us up a gated road. That road led to a mowed power line and no indication of where the trail picked up. Hmm… We found it eventually by going right and headed up the steep woodsy trail.

At the top of the hill we found the engraved number 4 where we took our obligatory selfie.


There weren’t many wildflowers in bloom. Lots of Virginia Waterleaf on the descent, but my picture didn’t turn out. 😦

This Wood Sorrel turned out pretty good though:


There were areas on the descent that are obviously very wet in spring, but were dry on this almost summer day. It was a perfect first hike of The Allegany Challenge.


Irish Settlement Hike

I had been hearing for a long time about the Irish Settlement at Allegany State Park, and even tried to find it once a while back. (See: “Not What I Planned“)

After some digging around on the Internet, I finally found what looked to be an easy way in. Horse Trail #3.

(I didn’t clean up the track from my GPS… you can see all my meanderings and stops for coffee and lunch.)

I’m sure there are more ruins to be found. But we were quite pleased with what we did find.

Not What I Planned

What I planned is pictured in orange. I nice short hike of about 1.25 miles with lots of time for exploring and photographing the remains of an Irish settlement that was occupied from about 1861 to 1918.

What we did instead is pictured in blue. It required some adrenaline-inspired driving, was much more physically demanding, and did not get us to the settlement. It was delightful, never-the-less.


I wish you could hear this creek.


Susquehannock 2018


Our favorite trail to ski is the Ridge Trail, approximated on the map with the blue line, a little over 6.5 miles. It starts at the Ranger Station and ends at the Susquehannock Lodge. This year, the snow conditions were not good to take that trail. Ice beneath a thin layer of snow gave the ski poles no purchase. As my friend put it, we could have endured the trail, but we would not have enjoyed it.

Luckily, we ran into some “regulars” – trail users who knew alternatives. They suggested that we take the logging road instead. It was wide and groomed and the snow was perfect. It is pictured in the map with an orange line. We skied out and back for a total of about 5.5 miles.


My friend Sue on the Logging Trail.


Lamont and Martha


Me and My Shadow

It was a champagne day on the trails. Just delightful! We enjoyed it!

I Sleep with the Windows Open

It was my turn to write the newspaper article this week. Here’s what I submitted:

I Sleep with the Windows Open
by Jennifer Schlick

After my brother was born, dad and the neighbors transformed the attic into a bedroom for my sister and me. Tongue and groove knotty pine boards on walls and ceiling created an atmosphere of rustic log cabin. The men also created a built-in table that served as both desk and vanity, a big double closet, and even a little sewing nook with built-in cabinet storage and a top big enough for laying out and cutting the fabric. Twin beds were placed on either side of the south-facing window, each with its own reading lamp. It’s a sweet space that I use to this day. I’m typing this article at a computer I’ve set up on that built-in desk.


Katydid: “Katydid! Katydid!”

Being just under the roof, the temperature of the room varies widely with the season and the weather. The heat of a summer night can be mitigated by a window fan placed in the north window, blowing out, pulling cool night air past the beds. It works brilliantly on all but the hottest and most humid nights. The cold of winter can be managed by leaving the door at the bottom of the stairs open and opening a floor vent that allows heat to rise from the 1st floor furnace. But I like it cold and I like wearing sweaters, so I rarely resort to these measures. In fact, I only close the windows when an unruly wind blows the rain in, or when the winter temperatures are truly frigid.

I realized recently what an intimate relationship I have with nature in my neighborhood as a result of those open windows, an intimacy that goes beyond an awareness of seasons and weather brought to me by variations in temperature and humidity. That realization started with a scritchy-scratchy noise outside the south window, just under the roof. It didn’t take me long to decide it must be a bat. The next day, when it was light enough to see, little “chocolate sprinkles” attached to the screen added evidence to support my guess. Guano. I was pretty sure. It was months before I finally saw the dark silhouette of a bat in flight swooping from under the roof just after hearing the scritchy-scratchy noise.


This is not the Screech Owl I heard outside my window. At least it is doubtful this is the very one.

One morning, awake and procrastinating the start of my day, the sound of bat’s return coincided with the whinny of an Eastern Screech Owl, and that got me thinking about the soundscape outside my window. I began a mental list of the dusk-night-dawn animals I know are out there because I’ve heard them. In spring my lullabye might be the high clear peeps of Spring Peepers and the elegant trill of American Toads. In summer I fall asleep to the chirp of crickets and katydids calling out their own names. There are times of year when I don’t need to set an alarm because the dawn chorus coincides exactly with the time I wish to awaken. Robins, phoebes, cardinals, chickadees, titmice, crows, and others sing me awake, or a Red Squirrel might chatter in the boundary line of spruces. The soundscape might include the non-animal conversation of winds, sometimes gentle and sometimes aggressive, rain or hail on the roof, long low rumbles of distant thunder, sudden explosions of nearby thunder, or a muffled snowy quiet.


American Robin: “Cheer-up! Cherio!”

Odors come through the windows, too: that fresh air smell that doesn’t have a name, the smell of rain that does (petrichor). A skunk went through the neighborhood more than once over the years. And let’s not forget that humans are a part of nature: the smoke from summer campfires tells tales of friendly gatherings and is often accompanied by guitar music, songs and laughter. The winter fireplace smoke is quiet and feels warm and cozy.

When I’m outside during the day, I favor my sense of sight and neglect my other senses to a certain extent. When I’m in my room, sight takes a back seat, but isn’t totally useless. I awoke at 1:00 a.m. a fews days ago thinking I had overslept. A glorious full moon was flooding my room with light. And I love to put sleep aside and don my glasses during a thunderstorm so I can get glimpses of lightning bolts.


Full Moon

I work at an organization whose mission is to connect people with nature. To that end, we often implore you to get outside. Today, I invite you to connect with your backyard by sleeping with your windows open.

Jennifer Schlick is program director at Audubon Community Nature Center. ACNC is located one-quarter mile east of Route 60 on Riverside Road between Jamestown, New York and Warren Pennsylvania. Visit auduboncnc.org or call (716) 569-2345 for more information.



It was my turn to write for the weekly newspaper column. It is in the Saturday Post-Journal on February 25, 2017. Our web guru only used two of the pictures as below. But the P-J used all the pictures I sent. Guess that’s because I didn’t write enough words. AND they put it on the page that prints in color. Hooray! Here’s how it appears on the Audubon website:

More than one person has asked about the picture on the front of Audubon’s March-April newsletter. “It’s not a crocus,” they say. Correct. It’s not a crocus, but it blooms equally early in spring. One of the questioners remarked that he had never seen this flower before. That surprised me since he is no stranger to the woods. In his defense, the bloom is small, only one half to one inch in diameter, and it has a very short blooming period of only a couple of weeks in early spring. Many of my photographs of this early bloomer were taken on days when there were still patches of snow on the ground.

Newsletter cover shot. The petal-like sepals can be blue, purple, pink, or white.

Hepatica is in the buttercup family. It produces extremely variable flowers. A green center with numerous white stamens is surrounded by five to twenty (usually six) petal-like sepals which can be white, pink, lavender, or blue. Each bloom rises from the forest floor on a leafless, hairy stem and behind the sepals are three hairy bracts. The three-lobed leaves that you find near the base of the flowers were formed last year. New leaves won’t be formed until the blossoms have given way to seed heads.

Back in the day when the Doctrine of Signatures prevailed, the shape or color of a plant was used as an indicator of its medicinal value. The liver is three-lobed as are Hepatica’s leaves, and the color of the aging leaves is similar to that of raw liver. So Hepatica was used to treat the liver. We now know that Hepatica does NOT treat liver ailments; it is, indeed, poisonous in large doses.

Hepatica is one of several springtime flowers whose seeds are dispersed by ants, a strategy known as myrmecochory. The seeds of flowers that employ this strategy are attached to a food reward called an elaiosome that is filled with proteins and lipids, irresistible to ants. An ant carries the entire seed with elaisome to its underground nest and eats the rich food or feeds it to larvae. The unharmed seed is carted off to the waste disposal area of the nest where, surrounded by frass, dead ants and various other nutrient-rich debris, it germinates and grows into a new plant. It is estimated that about 30% of early spring forest flowers disperse seeds in this way, including Trillium, Dutchman’s Breeches, Trout Lily, and Spring Beauties, to name a few.

If you are interested in hunting for Hepatica, a good strategy is to familiarize yourself with the leaves and watch for them on the forest floor noting their location. Whenever I see the leathery three-lobed leaves that start out shiny green in spring and darken to burgundy or brown just before winter, I try to memorize the location so I can return for a springtime visit. I checked my photo inventory and found that I have Hepatica pictures taken anywhere from March 23 through April 30, depending on the year. Accounts I have read report them blooming as early as January if the weather is mild, and into May if it isn’t. Sunny days are best for fully open flowers. The blooms are also pretty on rainy days with partially open drooping flowers. Rich deciduous woods are your best bet.

Hepatica leaves have three lobes.

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. Visit at 1600 Riverside Road, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown, or online at auduboncnc.org. The trails and Bald Eagle viewing are open dawn to dusk. The Nature Center’s winter hours are Sundays-Fridays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. On March 1, spring hours begin.

Jennifer Schlick is Program Director at ACNC and can probably be talked into helping you hunt for Hepatica.


P.S. After writing this last week, I went for a hike along a hemlock-lined creek in Allegany State Park. In between patches of snow, it was hard NOT to step on Hepatica leaves. I didn’t see any blooming though.

Winter Walk

Well, sort of winter. Forty degrees. The ground under foot was mushy under the melting snow. The creek that was probably frozen a couple of days ago was clear of ice today.

American Beech

Eastern Hemlock

Oak (and other leaves if you look closely)

Black Cherry

Yellow Birch


White Pine

Nice walk with wonderful company.

What is this Stuff?

I wrote on New Year’s Day about a hike to a spot in southwestern New York where there used to be an orphanage. Now, only the foundations of the buildings remain. There is a plant growing all around the site that I haven’t been able to identify. We took a few cuttings and I put them in water to force them. Here’s what came out:

Three compound leaves all came out from the end of one of the cuttings.

Here’s the leaf:

Be sure to click back to the New Year’s Day hike to see the thick twisting vines that grow up and completely engulf the trees. Every new shoot coming up through the snow was this plant.

The name that keeps popping into my head is wisteria. But is there a variety of wisteria that can withstand our western New York winters?

January 8, 2017

Why do we wake up some days in lethargy with little interest in or desire for the day’s unfolding? That was me this morning. And then the light began to reveal a perfect winter day fresh with powder. I knew I didn’t have the energy for a full day of hiking. I also knew I would regret it if I didn’t get out there.


Just under 1.5 miles with elevation change of around 100 feet, it was a good length and it refreshed my soul. We were only “lost” for a short distance. We’ve walked this trail dozens of times and know it well. Conversation and playing with the dog got us slightly offtrack.


Snowshoes were a must. In some spots the powder was quite deep. The return trip was by road without snowshoes.

1.4 miles
+ another 1 mile loop with Lolli after supper.