Thursday, December 10, 2009
Snowy Trails, Out of the Wind
The forecast today was for winds over 30 mph. And cold. Not such a good day for the snowshoe hike that Laurie and I had planned, hoping to take advantage of this beautiful fresh snow that fell yesterday. But then we thought Hmm, that wind should be blowing from the west, so maybe if we stay on the lee side of the mountains in Moreau Lake State Park, it won't be too bad. And indeed, it was lovely. As this photo shows, the lake was nearly calm, although those clouds overhead were racing along like . . . well, like the wind!
Deep in the woods we could hear the wind whooshing way up in the treetops, but down on the snowy ground we felt barely a breeze. This little brook added its music as we followed its course up the mountain to connect with the Red Oak Ridge Trail.
Now and then the sun made it down to us through the trees, setting the stream a-sparkle.
We were headed toward rocky heaps at the top of the ridge, a place where Laurie is positive porcupines live.
In among all these heaped-up boulders we found many caves, some big enough for a human to hide in, but most just the right sort of spot for a porcupine den.
And sure enough, we found one. Not the critter (darn!), but a trail that led from its den in the rocks to the base of a hemlock tree. Nibbled twigs of hemlock lay scattered about on the snow, but peer as hard as we could in the trees, we could not see any Porky. That doesn't mean it wasn't up there. Porcupines can be very well camouflaged among the branches.
Even though we didn't see any critters, we saw some other cool stuff. Like this small (half-inch) frozen drop, hanging from the face of a moss-covered boulder.
And this tree stump that looks like its innards oozed out and sagged down.
And this cluster of twigs that looks like some kind of nest but is actually part of the tree. It's called a Witch's Broom, and results when some organism -- insect, virus, bacterium, etc. -- invades the bark, causing the tree to explode with these twiggy masses. Witch's Brooms are relatively common, and this is the best time of year to find them, when all the leaves are down and snow creates a white backdrop. We couldn't tell what kind of tree it was. A smallish, understory tree, it had curled-up leaves that were small, simple, and sharply serrated. This photo shows the bark on that limb just below the clump. Any tree experts out there?