Monday, May 9, 2016

Showing the Love for Our Park

Was it worth it, my knee so stiff the next day I could hardly bend it?  Or the bone-weary exhaustion that had me spend most of Mother's Day afternoon asleep on the couch?  Well, just look at this gorgeous Lake Bonita, soon to be made accessible to the public at Moreau Lake State Park. Thanks to the hard work of many willing hands who participated in I Love My Park Day this Saturday, the trails that circle this lovely new addition to the park's already extensive acreage have now been cleared and groomed and marked, and they will soon be welcoming hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders.  Predictions are that the public will be allowed access some time in June, after a parking area has been completed and shooters will no longer be using a rifle range that abuts some of the trails.

On Saturday, after first convening at the park's Nature Center, where we received our assignments from Park Manager Peter Iskenderian and packed up lunches donated by area providers, several work crews met at Lake Bonita's new not-yet-completed parking area off of the Corinth Mountain Road.  Here, we acquired our tools and then split up into four groups: one to circle the lake clockwise, another to circle the lake counter-clockwise, and a third to work on a new trail connecting Lake Bonita to Lake Ann, high in the Palmertown Mountains that form a large part of the northern reaches of Moreau Lake State Park. A fourth crew, composed of members of a regional mountain-biking club, set out to build rock passages across streams and to terrace a few steep slopes for more level hiking and biking access.

One of the crews was led by park nature educator Rebecca Mullins, here wearing protective gear for the chainsaw work that would be required to remove fallen trees from the trails.

My crew was led by park naturalist Gary Hill, who also carried a chainsaw while we followed with our rakes and loppers and axes, as well as extra gas for the saw.  My task was lopping branches that leaned over the trail, making sure to lop high enough so that bikers, snowshoers, and horseback riders could pass without being slapped in the head. One of our crew, Sam, hammered the green trail markers into trees at optimum distances for guiding hikers along this beautiful lakeside trail.

Our crew had to stop from time to time, as Gary sawed several large trunks into moveable pieces that we could roll away off the trail.

Here's the crew from the mountain-biking club, creating a bikeable passage across one of the several creeks that crossed our trail.

Hard, wet work, but these guys know how to do it!

When we reached the dam at the northern end of the lake, we knew that most of our work was done. Even though, in order to reach our cars, we had to hike just about the same distance as we'd already come, at least we could walk on trails that the second crew had already cleared.  For my part, I was mighty relieved.  We'd been working hard for over five hours in rugged terrain, and my still-painful once-shattered kneecap was telling me it was time to rest.

Trying to keep up with the rest of my trail crew, I didn't have time to stop to take photos of flowers along the way.  But when some of the workers told me excitedly about some pink and yellow "orchids" they'd seen on a rocky outcropping, I knew I had to go check this out.  I kind of guessed that they hadn't seen orchids, and I was correct.  The flowers were actually those of Pale Corydalis, a flower that's as pretty as orchids, but not related.  I told the crew that this plant is related to Bleeding Heart, but since it's more kidney- than heart-shaped, and tipped with yellow, I made up another name for it: Pissing Kidney.  They won't be able to google that name, though, to discover its scientific name: Corydalis sempivirens, a member of the Poppy Family.

Only a few other woodland wildflowers were blooming as yet, but this cluster of star-shaped leaves indicated that the dainty Starflower will soon be opening its star-shaped blooms.  The little white five-parted flowers already in bloom are Goldthread.

I believe this plant, to judge from the shape of its round green leaves, is Green Pyrola, which was growing right in the middle of the trail.  I cautioned the rakers following me not to rake off the budding flower spike that rises from the center of the leaves.  This species of Pyrola is not nearly as common as another Pyrola species called Shinleaf.

In a grassy open area near the dam, these beautiful large white violets were spangling the grass.  When I leaned in close to take their photo, I surprised this fat American Toad, who hopped a few inches away from me to take cover among the flowers. Adorable!

Now I am truly eager to return to this lovely lake, bringing friends and a picnic to eat while enjoying this spectacular view.  After all that hard work, I can't wait to enjoy the pleasures that the work has made possible. But please, dear readers, do wait until the park announces the grand opening of these trails. It might be in only a few short weeks, and conditions will be much safer then, after the parking area is completed and a nearby rifle range is no longer in use.


Jens Zorn said...

Well done! --- particularly in view of your bum knee

The Furry Gnome said...

LooKs like a graet day! I'm doing aomething similar on Thurs.

catharus said...

Wow! Quite the work day! Kudos! 'Love the bit about the Pale Corydalis. That's a new one for me. 'Hope you're doing well! Blessings!