A group of folks from Americorp are in camp until the end of August. They will be working on several different projects – one of them will be to develop a couple of self-guided nature trails on the grounds. Work started yesterday on one existing trail, and I was asked to take two volunteers on the trail to see what may be included. It had just stopped raining heavily and everything was very wet – one of my favorite times to be out and about.
What amazed me immediately is how many things I take for granted because I live here and see these things almost daily. We decided right away that the trailhead should be at the pond, not further in the woods as it is for the present trail. In addition to the usual pond critters and waterbirds that visit, we have an unusual collection of cypress knees. They’ve been there all along, I’ve seen them and known they were there, but never did any research on them. It also means that the trees along the pond’s edge I’d assumed were tamaracks – largely because they are “evergreens” that change color in the fall – may indeed be cypress trees – about which I know almost nothing. Why have I never looked into that?
The existing trail is quite old and hasn’t been maintained. The Americorp group will clear the trail and develop a system for identifying points of interest. It’s a lovely walk really, past two ponds, up a gentle slope through the woods, coming out of the woods by Rooke Lake, across the dam and back into the main part of Camp.
I did recognize Monotropa uniflora, or Ghost Plant (what we used to call Indian Pipes) because I’ve known them since I was a kid. I used to think they were a type of mushroom because they’re all white, but they are actually a flowering plant, sans chlorophyll. I can thank one of my high school biology teachers for that bit of knowledge.
Because of yesterday’s rain and warm temperatures, true fungi were abundant, which led to another disappointing revelation on how much I don’t know. What were all these mushrooms and fungi poking up through the leaves? There were little orange ones – big white ones – puff-ball looking ones. Shelf fungi and molds and lichens. Timie to break out the mushroom books.
Aha! I know this one! A large flat-topped rock had served as a dining table for some woodland critter – probably a gray squirrel. Ok, so this one is a no-brainer. Humor me. We did notice that many of the shrooms on the forest floor showed signs of nibbling – but only the white ones. The orange ones were untouched. Immediate deducted lesson: never eat orange mushrooms (or white ones either, unless they’re from the store).
Unfortunately, we have had a serious gypsy moth infestation this year. The oak trees were covered in egg casings. Another hike is planned to destroy as many of these as we can…there are megamillions of potential caterpillars in these casings, that will emerge next spring to defoliate the trees. We will attempt to thwart at least a gazillion of them before that happens.
Ironically, we found this at the end of the trail. Apparently, the end of the trail for this white-tailed deer, in late stages of decomposing. Old age? Injury? A hunter’s lost kill? There were no visible signs (such as an arrow among the remains) and we probably won’t ever know, but we opted to leave the skeleton as it is. A good learning tool about life cycles and nature.
This walk was a good lesson for me, too. I’ve got a great research library at my disposal. Time to start using it!