Friday, November 2, 2018

The Best Laid Plans of Beavers and Man!

I recently learned that the land-trust organization Saratoga PLAN will be celebrating the re-opening of the Bog Meadow Brook Nature Trail tomorrow, November 3.  A re-opening celebration will take place at 10:30 AM at the newly constructed trailhead parking area on Meadowbrook Road, near the intersection with Stafford's Bridge Road.  This new trailhead will eliminate the need to walk quite a distance along a busy road from the parking area to the previous trailhead, and it follows an old railroad bed through an open marsh, offering scenic vistas as well as great new opportunities to observe birds and other wildlife.

I've been previewing this new trail section on my own for several weeks, so I can personally attest that this is a wonderful addition to an already great trail.  Here are a few of the photos I took of it during the month of October.

It took heaps and heaps of material, many hours of hard labor, and the use of much heavy equipment to construct this section of the trail, especially considering that the resident beaver population made every effort to foil the humans' plans to cross their territory.  Beavers like to increase the depth of their ponds, so they persistently dam off the streams that drain the water from their marsh.  I noticed that the trail workers' efforts to screen culverts off from the beavers would sometimes be foiled overnight.

In several places along the new trail, rising water would flow right across the path, creating the necessity to place drain pipes across these low spots.  I suspect the trail managers will continue to have their work cut out for them, as the best-laid plans of beaver and man come into conflict over this wetland territory.

Here's a photo of where the new part of the trail joins the pre-existing one.  I looked forward to continuing my walk along the old trail, still underlaid with old railroad ties where the wild grasses and wildflowers happily still make their  home.  The crushed-stone paving will be welcomed by bikers, speed-walkers, and baby strollers, but we ambling nature lovers still prefer the lumpy green-grassy trail, even if the uneven old railroad ties tend to trip us from time to time.

Even now, with almost all the blooming wildflowers gone to seed, there are lovely things to see along this part of the trail.  The Panicled Dogwood shrubs have lost all their white berries to the birds by now, but the vibrant red pedicels that held those berries continue to put forth a colorful display.

I was happy to see that some little orchids I found along this stretch of the trail had managed to escape the mowers.  The seed pods of Loessel's Twayblade Orchid are more evident now than were the tiny green flowers that bloomed in June.

As I moved further along this part of the trail, I soon arrived at a place that had been virtually impassable just a week or so before.  At this spot, the rising waters of the marsh had overflowed the trail to a depth that reached up to my shins as I went ahead and sloshed through the muddy water.

But when I revisited the trail a week later,  I discovered that trail workers had laid a boardwalk across the flooded area.

Water still poured over the trail, but the boardwalk made it possible to continue without wading through mud.   Thank you, trail workers, for all your hard work!

This new plank walk led all the way to the existing boardwalk that crosses an open marsh.  Thankfully, the rising water has not flooded this boardwalk, a great place to rest on some benches and watch for birds in the shrubs and waterfowl on the water.

The newly laid planks continued for some  distance beyond the old boardwalk.

I soon reached a part of the trail where the ground was firm beneath my feet, and beautiful mushroom-studded, moss-covered logs decorated the trailside.

These tiny mushrooms have the common name of Fuzzy Foot (suggested by hairs that grow at their base), but their scientific name, Xeromphalina campanella, translates to something like "dry-naveled little bells." They are often found sprouting by the hundreds on rotting logs. This moss, by the way, is a species of Dicranum, also called Broom Moss for its swept-to-one-side appearance.

Many of our mature trees this fall did not display the vibrantly colored foliage we long to see, but the  brilliantly colored sapling oaks along Bog Meadow Trail did not disappoint.

Nor did the bright-red seedling Red Maples that had sprouted up among the pine needles.

Here's a beauty you could look at but not touch!  All sumacs are know for their vivid fall color, and the swamp-dwelling Poison Sumac is certainly no exception.

Especially now that American Beeches are threatened by a widespread disease,  we should bless them while we still have them, if only for the golden glow they reliably produce each fall.

Walking back the way I had come, I was impressed once more by the length of this plank walk, imagining all the effort it took to lay it.  Many thanks again to all the trail workers who have eased my way along one of my favorite trails.

Thanks belong, too, to all the donors who generously contributed to these trail renovations. Here's a link to a Saratoga PLAN site that lists them by name:


The Furry Gnome said...

Nothing like a trail that goes through a wetland (safely and with dry feet!)

Momo said...

So inviting and very well documented through your entry!

Woody Meristem said...

You seem to have more color than we do down here in PA. Your plank walkways are frequently called "puncheon" whether made from split logs or swan planks. It certainly makes for dry footing across wet areas or a smooth walkway over a rocky area.