As my friends know, I’m not one to say no to an invite to explore their land. And so this afternoon’s adventure found me spending time with Beth on the 100 plus-acre property she, her husband and parents call home in Oxford County.
Their sense of place begins with a field of wildflowers yet to come, the entry to their wood lot and a view of Ragged Jack Mountain. My sense of excitement to explore their place was heightened by this jumping off point.
Trails loop throughout the property and the family has taken the time to name and label all of them.
We wandered along and suddenly Beth noted that we’d reached their champion pine. I looked at a small spruce before us and wondered what all the fuss was about. Then she pointed to my left.
One massive Eastern white pine gallantly towered over us. At some point in its early life the terminal leader was injured–perhaps by a weevil or weather. But . . . this tree carried on and continues to do so. I felt like we were standing below a giant in the woods.
It’s characterized by layers upon layers of bark.
And it’s wider than any tree I’ve ever seen. Here are the stats on this champion: According to Beth, it towers 108 feet tall, is 256 inches in circumference (21.3 feet) and has a crown of 15.75.
Yup. It’s big. Or rather, BIG!
We weaved our way along the trails and Beth shared favorite spots with me as she told tales of her experiences with this land and water.
Mara, Beth’s springer spaniel, shared her own tail. She was happiest when mud and water provided opportunities to play. We had to wonder other times when she cowered behind us or tried to hide between Beth’s legs. What did she sense that we weren’t aware of? We did hear a few critters, including baby grouse that Mara visited, and saw the tracks of moose and deer, plus coyote and fox scat, and maybe even bobcat scat, but our only official mammal sightings were red squirrels.
Among Beth’s sharings was this spot she refers to as the Accidental Pond. Accident or not–it’s enchanted.
Here and there throughout the woods, she pointed out glacial erratics. This one we particularly wondered about. What came first? The rock split on its own or the hemlock caused the split?
Those were the big things, but we were equally wowed by all the small stuff we saw along the way, like this bracken fern just beginning to unfurl.
Several times we wandered in the land of the cinnamon fern, where the separate fertile fronds sport the cinnamon color for which they are named. It won’t be long before those fertile fronds bow down to the earth and the large, arching sterile fronds are all that will remain.
And then something else caught our attention–a green caterpillar on the fertile frond.
We weren’t sure who it was, but we saw it on several stalks. Always something to wonder about.
Royal fern also offered a display, especially beside the brook. Look closely and you might find the fertile frond “crown” on this one. It’s a rather “Where’s Waldo” presentation, but it’s there.
We found some gilled mushrooms we also couldn’t identify, but appreciated their existence.
The lady’s were in bloom.
Take a look at those hairs.
And it’s spider web season so we paused and admired the work of an orb weaver who built a spiral wheel-shaped web.
Also among our sightings, a well-built high-rise structure woven among the remains of winter weeds.
Camouflage is everything. Just ask the American toad.
We found the wood frog easier to spot.
But I had my eye on the blue-eyed grass.
These are the shy ones. They only keep their eyes open if the sun is shining. On a cloudy day it’s almost impossible to recognize them. And they love damp open woods, slopes and stream banks so it’s no wonder we found them today.
The big and the small . . . Beth’s property has it all. And this was only a sampling from her hundred acre wood. Winnie the Pooh and his friends–they too, would love this place.