Monday, June 8, 2009
Old Trees, Dead Bugs
Maybe it turned out for the best my grandkids couldn't come with me to Mianus River Gorge, the old-growth hemlock preserve near Bedford, NY. They probably would have been bored stiff, and I would have had to cut short the hike (the full trail runs about five miles, round trip). Even I felt a little bored at times. The really old trees were way down in a steep gorge where I couldn't reach them -- which is probably how they survived all these centuries. No logging teams could reach them either. It was obvious by the presence of old stone walls throughout the woods that the uplands had been cleared and inhabited long ago, then left to revert to forest. And garlic mustard. And barberry. (Is there any place those weeds won't grow?)
An ancient hemlock reaches for the sky.
An old growth-hemlock doesn't have quite the majesty of, say, an old-growth white pine, but they do have a gnarly old look and trunks that have reached an impressive size. Unfortunately, I couldn't get really good photos of them in the darkness of the woods. Other trees of impressive size included tulip trees, which I might not have noticed if it weren't for the snippings of leaves and flowers that littered the path. Some machete-mouthed tree squirrel must have been clearing its personal highways way, way up in the canopy.
One curious thing I found was a patch of damp rocks just swarming with millipedes. I counted over a dozen on just one mossy stone. But what was really odd is that there were many dead ones on the rocks, too. Some were long dead and dried up, but others were seemingly still in the throes, curled and barely moving, exuding fluid on the rocks they lay on. The oddest thing of all was that the live ones seemed to be tending to the corpses in some way, nudging at them, walking over them, paying some attention. It almost seemed like some kind of millipede graveyard. Very strange. Or maybe they were eating them!? EEEW!!!