I thought I might walk on the frozen lake, where the snow is not so deep, but recent warmish weather has rendered the lake ice unsafe. (No swimming allowed there, yet, either!)
Luckily, much of the perimeter road has been plowed, so I set off to walk this clear path as far as it would take me, just to enjoy the views of the lake and breathe in the sweet cold air.
Unfortunately, a fierce wind kept driving that cold air against my numbing cheeks and into my aching ears, so I soon sought shelter in the park's warming hut, a cozy cabin at the south end of the lake, warmed by a roaring fire.
This cabin has been a welcome haven for winter-chilled hikers, skiers, snowshoers, and ice fishermen ever since it opened in November, 2010, but today I had the place all to myself.
This cozy book corner, stocked with lots of nature books (including many designed for children), is furnished with plenty of reading light as well as a comfy couch.
The hut contains a number of educational exhibits, such as this collection of animal pelts, accompanied by a list of animal names and a challenge to try to name which pelt belongs to which animal. Right next to these pelts is a collection of labeled specimens from all the trees we might find in the surrounding forest, revealing both exterior bark and interior pith and grain.
This slice of a tree trunk was another fascinating display, featuring pins placed at individual tree rings, each pin site labeled according to the date the tree ring was formed.
On the table alongside were informational sheets accompanying this tree slab, revealing historical events that took place during the growth of this tree, starting in 1879 and concluding with 1998, the year the tree was felled. Here are a couple of examples:
Walking back to my car, I noticed these sap-collecting buckets attached to a Sugar Maple. Park staffers told me they had collected about 40 gallons of sap so far, which should yield one gallon of maple syrup.
I think it will take quite a while to boil all that sap down, since the pot they are using has a rather limited evaporating surface. But it makes for a fun display just outside of the park headquarters, where I found recently appointed park intern Elizabeth Bertolini checking on the level.
Before joining the park staff in January, Elizabeth had been involved in marine projects on the North Carolina coast, a much warmer habitat than what she has encountered so far at Moreau Lake State Park, where she will serve until next November. I can hardly wait to show her some of my favorite wildflower sites at Moreau when spring's warmth finally comes to these shores. I regret that it may be a while.