We drove forty minutes north at midday on Sunday with the intention of hiking a trail we’d enjoyed only once previously. Our memories of it had petered a bit, but we did look forward to bear trees and cascading falls.
And we were not disappointed. Within minutes of beginning the ascent, a look up at the gnarled top of a Beech gave me reason to scan the bark below and by the number of claw marks left behind it was obvious that this had been a well-used source of nuts in the past.
We could just imagine the bear scrambling up, sitting upon the branches and pulling them in to form a “nest,” or so it looks when they’ve been broken and folded inward, foraging for beech nuts, and then, once all were consumed, scrambling back down and on to the next tree.
Bears weren’t the only animals that have known this land and beside a stone wall we paused for a second. Our first ponder was whether it was a boundary fence or meant to keep animals in or out. Until . . . we spotted a piece of barbed wire growing out of a tree. No wait, barbed wire doesn’t grow out of trees. Trees grow around it. And our question was answered: the wire would have been added to keep the animals in the pasture.
That said, it had been a while since the wire was installed and even longer than a while since the stone wall had been built, for the trees had had time to grow and mature and incorporate the wire into their souls and while one still knew the flow of xylem and phloem, this other was a source of new life for insects and birds.
Our next pause was at picnic knoll where two tables and two Adirondack chair invite hikers to take a respite and enjoy the view. We tarried not given that we had a football game to get home to and pizza dough to prepare. Well, one of us had a football game to get home to and the other the dough.
Onward and upward we hiked, keeping an eye on ankle biters (saplings not cut to the ground that caused us to stumble repeatedly if we weren’t paying attention) at our feet, while searching for more bear trees, not an easy task during leaf season. But our best reward was the sight of this oft-climbed tree and the realization that the two behind it had also been visited.
We know there are more like those in this forest thus giving us a reason to return in late autumn and search off trail to see how many we can count. If memory serves us right, from the trail we once counted over twenty such bear trees.
Oh, there were other things to see along the way, like the Hobblebush’s ripening berries . . .
and Bald-faced Hornets gathering nectar.
But the second object of our intention was eventually reached for we’d found the cascades, beginning with one named for the family that farmed this area: Chapman.
It was a bit of a scramble but we were well rewarded for our efforts.
Again and again. After viewing this final flow, Library Cascades, we practically ran back down the trail. Just in time to catch the start of the game on the radio. Pizza was a wee bit late, but we didn’t mind.
The story should have ended there, but while hiking on Sunday we came up with a plan for Monday. So . . . back into the truck for that forty-minute drive we did go. This time, in the same forest, we hiked up an esker, which I saw as the stick of a lollipop.
At a junction, we chose the Red Pine Trail, a tree with bark so rich in color and design, it creates an art gallery in the forest.
Along the way, we paused at openings to enjoy the views, but . . .
a ridge off-trail, and really off-property (Shhhh, don’t tell. The boundary was marked but not posted.) invited us and we couldn’t refuse. What view might there be that we would miss if we didn’t accept the summons?
We were rewarded with the sight of the surrounding mountains showing off their summits in crisp contrast to the sky above.
I’m pretty sure the invitation included lunch and so we sat down and dined.
Our off-trail pursuit offered one final gift as we headed back to the trail–galls created by a wasp upon a Northern Red Oak twig.
A few steps later and we startled a Garter Snake who flicked its tongue to get a better scent of us before deciding we weren’t worth the effort and slithering away.
Again, there was water to cross, but it wasn’t nearly as impressive as the cascades of Sunday.
And some porcupine work to acknowledge, though we had hoped to see a den, but determined it was probably in the ledges below.
One final view at the land beyond and then we completed the loop that formed the sucker at the top of the lollipop stick and began our descent. Again, this should have been the end of the story. But . . .
There was plenty of daylight left and this day’s football game wasn’t until much later and so we sought a third trail in the same forest. The natural community differed, which made us grateful because each trail had its own unique flavor, this one including Striped Maple dripping with seeds of the future.
Once again, we climbed toward the view.
One sight that caught our attention for it was the only one of its kind that we saw along any of the trails was a Lady’s Slipper, and we gave thanks that it had been pollinated for perhaps its future will spill forth in multitudes we can enjoy next spring.
A flock of nuthatches, woodpeckers, and chickadees entertained us occasionally, but it was the silent Hermit Thrush who paused that caused us to do the same.
At last we reached the end and stood for a moment to take in the range beyond, before turning around and retracing our steps for this last trail wasn’t a loop.
Nailed to a tree, was this sign: To Be Continued. As so it was on this Sundate/Mondate. We trust we’ll return to see where the trail may lead next.
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