One of these days I’ll get to explore the route I traveled today with my young neighbor, Kyan, who is recovering from a blood marrow transplant. In the meantime, I took him along with me in spirit.
Our first stop–the frog pond, aka vernal pool, that we both love. After all the recent rain, it has once again filled with water.
As I stood before it and thought about spring moments spent observing the wood frogs that use this pool as a breeding place, I wondered if I’d see any action. I wasn’t disappointed–springtails and mosquito larvae. When I return with Ky in tow, I’ll pull out the small shovel I carry so we can scoop these up for a closer look. Of course, he’ll probably need to remind me to do that. Such is age.
And then I retraced my steps, dodging puddles at first because I had my hiking boots on. Oh, they’re waterproof, but suddenly the water is deep in spots. I’m not complaining–by any means!
Rather than my woodlot trail, I decided to cross the field that Ky’s grandfather owns as I headed home to change into my Boggs. And so I happened upon a mystery. What was this white stuff? Fur? No. Fungi? Maybe. Stay tuned? I hope you will. Had Kyan actually been with me, I’ve a feeling he could have told me right off.
Back on the trail, where the puddles were shaded, nature presented its artistic flair.
I trust Ky would have appreciated the various forms the ice took. Had he been with me, we could have stomped our feet through the ice and felt its thickness. But then again, he may not have wanted to ruin such beauty.
That being said, over the course of several hours, I found plenty of puddles that were ice free and walking through them was the easiest mode of travel. Plus . . . who doesn’t love to jump in a puddle, right Ky?
Had Ky been with me, we would have marveled at all the tracks left behind by creatures who passed in the night or early morning hours.
And I’d have shown him how to make a positive ID of a print, in this case–Eastern Coyote. We’d have looked at the key characteristics, like the winged ball of the pad, the x between toes and pad, the symmetrical front toes and inward facing nails. And I would have shared my Trackards with him so we could both better understand how the critters with whom we share this space move about.
In this case, it appeared there were several coyotes and they shared a brief tussle.
We’d have looked at the contents of coyote scat, of which I saw tons. Ky would have reminded me that the apple skins meant the coyote visited the neighborhood orchard.
And I would shared with him that the grassy scat meant perhaps one of the coyotes had an upset stomach. If you are grossed out by the scat, please forgive me. But . . . it’s natural. It’s a sign. It tells a story. And Ky is 12. Then again, I’m in my late 50s–and I LOVE scat.
Had Ky been with me, we’d have wondered about the swatch of hair deep in the woods. And maybe we would have looked around more than I did to search for other signs of why the hair was left behind.
Had Ky been with me, we would have noted numerous deer tracks as well. And coyote tracks in the same vicinity.
We’d have seen where the deer browsed.
And where one rubbed its antlers–perhaps leaving an important scent for others to note.
Had Ky been with me, we would have seen some downed hemlock twigs.
And known to look for their comma-shaped scat.
Had Ky been with me, we would have found a bunch of puff balls or stink bombs.
And most definitely we would have poked them with our feet and watched the spores flow out like a cloud.
Had Ky been with me, we would have noticed the little things, like a peeled acorn stuck in a tree and wondered how it go there.
We would have enjoyed not only the sight of the Auricularia auricula-judae or brown jelly fungus, but also it’s other common name–wood ear because indeed it does resemble an ear.
Had Ky been with me, we would have felt bad for the wee shrew that took one for the family’s sake. Despite releasing a toxin that prevented his predator from consuming him, he still died from the attack. But perhaps his siblings and parents will not be attacked by the same predator–a lesson learned. Maybe. And we would have marveled at what a long nose he had and what tiny ears.
Had Ky been with me, we might have bushwhacked, only getting fake lost on our way home. If he wasn’t comfortable doing that, however, we most certainly would have turned back and followed the trail.
And finally, had Ky been with me and we had bushwhacked, he might have noted some white fluff on the ground, the same as what I saw in the field earlier. And then he would have noticed the source.
One never knows what one might discover deep in the woods. Had Ky been with me, would he have recognized Myrtle? Was it a dog toy at one time? If so, how did it find its way to the middle of nowhere? I know–it walked. But really, it was over a half hour from home and the terrain not easy, yet I found no other stuffing. Of course, it could have traveled a different route than I took.
At the beginning of today’s journey I’d thought about seeking out the color orange again in honor of Ky, but perhaps he’s tired of orange. And it was much more fun looking for things I thought Ky might appreciate had he been beside me. I know he’ll see things I’ve never noticed and I can’t wait to learn from him. Perhaps soon we can venture together, maybe once the ground is frozen and snow falls. Or in the spring.
One of these days, I will surely walk with Kyan.