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Posts Tagged ‘Traveler’s Joy’

Last weekend I was working on the mushroom post you saw last Wednesday but it wasn’t coming together. I was getting all tangled up in it and I needed to get away from it for a while, so I decided to go out for a walk and maybe catch the last of the fall color. I chose a familiar rail trail that I know as well as I know myself, so I hoped I wouldn’t have to search for the name of anything I saw there. I thought maybe I could just put my mind in my back pocket for a while and enjoy the beauty. The above shot is looking west across a cornfield that runs alongside the rail trail, and looks over to some of the many hills that surround Keene. We sit in a kind of a bowl that is surrounded by hills, and since cold air acts like water and flows down hills to fill valleys like this one, it can get cold. Most of the trees were bare over across the cornfield but it was still a colorful scene.

Canada geese have been coming to this cornfield by the hundreds for as long as I’ve been here, and here they were again. This year though, they would get a surprise because there was no corn grown in this field. I’ve always thought that the geese came after the harvest so they could eat all the spilled kernels of corn but for the past two years drought stopped the corn, and this year the fields flooded, so they’ve had slim pickings.

When I got to the rail trail I noticed that some of the trees weren’t that colorful but that was fine, I thought the shrubs more than made up for it.

Here was an invasive but beautiful burning bush. I’ve only just discovered that the red color is more prominent when they grow in sunshine. I’ve shown the pale pastel pink and magenta bushes along the river in Swanzey on this blog many times, and now I know that their paler colors come from them growing in shade. That shade doesn’t stop them from growing into an impenetrable thicket though.

They were loaded with berries and the birds love them, so in the future we’ll have more burning bushes.

Goldenrod still bloomed and I could hardly believe it.

They were covered in small flies. This one had a buzz.

Dandelions bloomed as well and, since I’ve seen their blooms in every month of the year, they were a little less surprising.

At times I had to just stop and look, and then take a photo or two so you could see what I saw. What a beautiful day it was. I was happy to be outside away from the computer, but then I’m always happy to be outside. It never gets old.

The rains we’ve had have washed all the joy out of our native clematis called traveler’s joy apparently because their seed heads were looking a little bedraggled. This native vine is also called old man’s beard and I thought maybe that name was more appropriate on this day.

Its deep purple, almost black leaves are usually quite pretty. I’ve never seen them splotched with green like this.

The American hazelnuts are ready for spring.

The seedpods of wild cucumber had empty chambers where the seeds grow, so it is also ready for spring. It’s an annual that grows new from seed each year and the vines that grow from those seeds can sometimes reach 30 feet long in a single summer.

Some of the maples still had leaves and they contrasted nicely with the red of the oaks.

This staghorn sumac was trying to be pumpkin orange.

And this one wanted to be tomato red. Or maybe plum purple. They have quite a color range.

The American beeches are slowly losing their yellow but they’re still very beautiful. They’re easily one of our most beautiful trees at almost any time of year.

Another nearly 5 inches of rain the previous week had caused Ash Brook to flood and the woods near it were flooded all along the trail. This has been happening for a long time here and the silver and red maples that grow here can take it. What can’t take it is corn. The cornfields have deep drainage ditches around their perimeters but they can’t keep up with this much rain. The Ashuelot River takes all the runoff away to the Connecticut River and then on to the Atlantic, but the river is also being overwhelmed. Come to think of it there must be a lot of silt spilling into the Atlantic these days.

The old rail trail wasn’t like a Manhattan sidewalk on this day but it was fairly busy with dog walkers, bike riders and joggers. The area south of here, where the bike rider in the photo is heading, is densely populated and over the years people have discovered what a great trail system they have right in their back yards. It’s nice to see more people getting outside.

I think the boards that the snowmobile clubs put down on the trestles helped bring a lot of people out onto the rail trails. A lot of people were scared to walk over them when there were gaps between the ties. Until I was about ten I was afraid as well but I finally found the courage to cross, and then I had the whole world in front of me. I was a bird that had escaped its cage, and I flew. Stephen King once said: Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild.

There was a lot of water where there normally isn’t any.

Despite the flooding the railbed was high and dry, and so very pretty. I hated to leave.

When I got back to the car, I stretched my zoom lens out as far as it would go and took a last shot of one of the distant hills. I was surprised to see so much color still on the trees. It was the perfect end to what had turned into a beautiful afternoon. Now I thought, maybe I could finish that mushroom post.

If you seek creative ideas go walking.
Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.
~ Raymond I. Meyers

Thanks for stopping in.

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When I see this photo I think “Oh, for a cloudy day” but no, last Saturday was another in a seemingly endless string of hot, humid, wall to wall sunshiny days. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing and that includes sunny days, but one of the first things someone who studies nature learns is that you take what comes, and so I set off down one of my favorite rail trails looking for nothing but a good time.

My good time started before I had walked 5 yards. Showy tick trefoil (Desmodium canadense) grew in sunny spots all along the trail. Often you find that the flowers are scattered here and there along the stems as they are here. 

One of the things I like about showy tick trefoil is how it blooms when goldenrod does. I like seeing the two colors together.

Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) berries start out green and then turn orange before finally ripening to red. They are pretty things but they can be mildly toxic to adults and more so to children, though I’ve never heard of anyone eating them. Tatarian honeysuckle is considered an invasive shrub. Birds eat the berries and the plant spreads quickly, with an estimated seedling density of 459,000 per acre. Once grown their dense canopy shades the forest floor enough so native plants can’t grow, so the land around dense colonies is often barren.

It’s hard to believe that the tiny scarlet threads of the female hazelnut flowers (Corylus americana) can grow into such wonderous things as these, but they do. Each hazelnut is encased in a frilly husk, and you can just see them around the center of the tennis ball size growth. In 1995 a large shallow pit in Scotland was found to be full of the remains of thousands of burned hazelnut shells and was estimated to be 9,000 years old, so man has been eating this nut for a very long time. In this country Native Americans used them to flavor soups and also ground them into flour, most likely for thousands of years as well. And we still eat them today.

Daisy fleabane flowers (Erigeron annuus) are white, but those blossoms that happen to be in the shade often have a purple tint as this one did.

As I said in my last post, I’m seeing tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis) everywhere I go and it grew all along this trail. That is unusual, because it wasn’t too many years ago when I had to search high and low to find it.  

Wild tall blue lettuce goes to seed relatively quickly so maybe that’s why I’m seeing so much more of it.

Between the drainage ditch full of purple loosestrife and the tree line is supposed to be a cornfield but hardly a seed germinated because of the drought, so now it’s a field full of everything but corn. All of this corn is cattle corn so the cows might have a lean winter.

When we have hot humid weather the conditions are perfect for powdery mildew, which can be seen on this clover leaf. It doesn’t seem to care which plants it attacks; I saw it on a few different species along the trail.

Fuzzy staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) berries were conspicuously absent. I saw plenty of shrubs but these were the only berries I saw. Many plants seem to be behaving strangely this year. I also saw raspberry bushes all along both sides of the trail but not a single sign of fruit.

Tall thimbleweed’s (Anemone virginiana) white flower sepals don’t seem to last very long. Every time I see them they have either turned green or are in the process of doing so, and you can just see a hint of green on two or three of these. That means if you see them in bloom that’s the time to get a photo. There are usually plenty of yellowish stamens surrounding a center head full of pistils, even after the flowers turn green. These flowers are close to the diameter of a quarter; about an inch. Thimble weed’s seed head continues growing after the sepals have fallen off and it becomes thimble shaped, which is where the common name comes from. Though the plant is poisonous Native Americans used the root to ease whooping cough and the smoke from the seeds was used to treat breathing difficulties.

Carrion flower vine (Smilax herbacea) has blue berries that are a favorite of birds, but these examples seemed to be drying out as soon as they ripened and turned blue. This plant is a vine that can reach 8 feet long. The fruit is said to be edible, but you won’t catch me eating it. It gets its name from the strong odor of its flowers.

Common elderberry bushes (Sambucus nigra canadensis) had just a few green berries on them because birds are eating them as soon as they ripen and turn black. The big flower head stems look like star charts.

I saw quite a few bicyclists whizzing by and there go a couple now, on the other side of the trestle. These old trestles have been reworked by snowmobile clubs and some, like this one, hardly show any signs of the original construction.

To get a better look at what the trestle looked like originally I had to go down under it.

Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) grew in a sunny spot just at the edge of the trestle but I didn’t see any butterflies on it.

The trestle crosses Ash Swamp brook, which meanders lazily through Keene before finally meeting the Ashuelot River just around that corner. I spent many happy hours exploring this place as a boy and learned then that you have to be very careful where you step here because you could suddenly find yourself up to your knees in quicksand-like sucking mud. I’d guess that there must still be a few pairs of shoes under that mud, left behind when a stuck child was pulled out by friends. It wouldn’t have been parents pulling them out because you didn’t want parents knowing you were anywhere near this place. Very near here the banks of the river are high and sandy and bank swallows used to nest there. Watching them come and go was always good for an afternoon’s entertainment when I was a boy. Though the brook looked placid it can rise quickly in a heavy rain and flood quite a large area, so the surrounding land is considered flood plain. Seeing the water high enough to be almost touching the bottom of the trestle is something you never forget.

Can you stand another look at the Allegheny monkey flower (Mimulus ringens)? They grew here in quite large numbers but I still didn’t see a monkey. A helpful reader wrote in to say that if I turned the photo upside down then I’d see a monkey. I tried it and still didn’t see a monkey, but I’m glad she did.

If you’re wondering where the title of this post came from, here it is; traveler’s joy. This native clematis is also called Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana.) It drapes itself over shrubs so it can get all of the sunshine that it wants, just as it did in this spot, but I’ve also seen it climbing into trees. An extract made from the plant is hallucinogenic and was used by Native Americans to induce dreams. Mixed with other plants like milkweed, it was also used medicinally. It is a very pretty but toxic plant that can cause painful sores in the mouth if eaten. It is also called old man’s beard and devils’ darning needles, but since it always brings me joy when I see it I like the name traveler’s joy.

A great black wasp came by for a bite to eat while I was there and I admired its beautiful iridescent blue wings. The color reminds me of my grandmother’s favorite perfume Evening in Paris, because the bottle was almost the same color. These big wasps eat nectar and pollen from flowers and don’t bother people but they can be a bit intimidating because of their large size. It was a beautiful thing; a joy to see on the traveler’s joy. I do hope your travels will be joyous as well.

Freedom, joy or bliss doesn’t come from the situation that we think we should be in, but it derives from the one that we are already in. ~Aditya Ajmera

Thanks for stopping in.

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