Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hyde Tract- A New Trail!!

Saturday we decided to try a new trail. I think it'll be great when spring breaks through, it wasn't bad now, but it was quiet. I'd say it was quiet as the grave, but I'm not convinced death will be this quiet. There were NO animals! Well, that's not true, we saw our fair share of horses on the way there and further down the street was a lion safari, (thankfully we didn't see any lions or other exotic animals on our trip!) and before we got there we saw wild turkeys!! THAT was cool! Thankfully they weren't on the trail either. They were big and I'm pretty sure it would have freaked out all the girls. They would have laughed later in life, but it would have been MUCH later. :-D  We found out about this trail on a birding website for the area and thought we'd check it out and break out of the routine we've gotten into of walking the same trails all the time. There's nothing wrong with that, the trails close by are beautiful, even in winter, but there's something to be said for exploring new places. So, let me show you around on the Hyde Tract.
   These are the turkeys we saw on the way there. Sam thought we needed to shoot some for dinner, but I assured him that it's much faster to just buy one from the grocery store, may not be as fresh or organic, but you also don't have to pick feathers out of your teeth afterward either. :-D

I'd like to show you a picture of the garbage pail that was there at the beginning of the trail, but I didn't get a picture of it. It was overflowing with garbage (thankfully that's where people were putting it), there was also several dozen empty shotgun shells. Someone or someones were having a grand ole time shooting. We saw a good many more shells on the trail, Mike thinks that may have contributed to the lack of animals that we saw. We didn't even hear any birds, at all, period. There were NO animals anywhere to be seen, not even squirrels! On that note, let the pictures continue!

This is where we start. You see the snow WAY behind Eva? That's the parking lot. It didn't take her long to delve into her little supply of raisins. 
That's Sam and Mike VERY slightly further up the trail. You can't see Rora and Caleigh because they're beside me.
Oh look! There they are! Strangely, on this trip, Caleigh and Rora took more pictures than Sam and Mike! That NEVER happens. Mike took 5, actually, I took 3 of the 5 on his camera and Sam took 3 (of the same thing). They were busier listening intently for proof of SOME sort of life in the forest (animal life).
Continuing down the trail. You'll notice throughout these photos that there's plenty of snow on the trail in some places and in others, no snow at all! A conundrum to be sure. ACTUALLY, I'm sure there's a VERY good reason for it. I'll let you think on it and figure it out. :-D I'll tell you what though, it's not because of cover. There were places that there was no snow that was well covered and places with snow that was covered to. The same goes for being uncovered. It was 40 degrees out, but there was enough of a breeze to make it uncomfortable if you weren't moving. 
Since there was no animal life to be seen, I decided that my main work of photography, with the exception of my exceptional family, would be knotty trees. They were there aplenty and I have photographic proof! Here's my first example of a knotty tree to show you.

As we continue down the trail, we came across the ruins of some sort of old building. It was quite large when it was standing. The wood had either rotted away or just been removed. 
Here is the first evidence of it. 
This is what the trail looks like leading away from it.
Here is the bulk of the ruins. Whatever it was, it looks as though it had two or three good size rooms. If this was only the foundation, it must have stood quite tall, if not, it was still quite a structure. I'd love to find out what it used to be. Perhaps I will before we return.
A closer up look of it. Caleigh wanted to go inside it. Strangely, Sam didn't try to. Not sure what was wrong with him that day.

Off we go! Down the trail again! This part of the trail was not just a little snowy, it was muddy, slushy and icy all at the same time!!
No Snow!

Here's another knotty tree.
The trail narrowed out quite a bit as we continued on. You'll see a nice mixture of both leafy (deciduous) trees and piney (coniferous) trees. Some part of the wood was more one than the other, I'll point it out when we pass through.

Here the trails diverge. Sam wanted to go right, I thought left (because I  knew ultimately we'd end up going that way anyway).
Wee all the water in the background? There are a good many swamps in the area. We've never been here before and don't know if this is swampy area, though we don't see any cattails around which we see in abundance in most of the swampy areas we see. After Christmas we saw a LOT of snow, it then melted suddenly a couple of weeks ago and then it rained directly after and then it got cold again and has snowed off and on since then. It could very well be that all this water is simply due to no time to be absorbed in the quantities that abounded at the time. Anyway, you'll be seeing plenty of water both in the forest and on the trail in places.

Eating more raisins and skirting a muddy puddle, much to her chagrin. She would rather walk THROUGH the puddle!

Just before this the paths diverged again. Sam and Mike thought it wise to try the smaller path, so, we ventured down it. 
Looks more like Autumn here doesn't it? It didn't smell like autumn though. Autumn smells fresh and crisp and like apple pie, here there was virtually no smell at all. Perhaps I just didn't stand quietly long enough to take notice, I'll have to do that sometime, but to my recollection, winter outside has very little smell, much like a freezer.

I kind of favor this picture. The trees were very tall and the path through the middle of them felt very much like walking between walls of trees or soldiers at arms. Come spring and summer when their branches abound with leaves (the green ones, not the dead ones that stubbornly refused to come off) I imagine it will be a beautiful sight to behold. I imagine a path with green leaves stretching their arms over the path and enfolding them with the branches stretching across from the other side. Almost like London Bridges as the children walk beneath the outstretched arms of "bridges falling down". We will certainly have to come back for pictures of that!
Caleigh and Rora are comparing photos that they've taken. I can't remember the last time the two of them spent so much time taking pictures on our trips.
I was getting kind of far behind, time to catch up!
Still on the same trail, notice the snow? It wasn't there a little bit ago!
This is at the end of that path. It was VERY wet! So, we decided to turn around, double back and go back down the main trail. 
Back on the main trail! See how much wider it is?! Doesn't stay that way though. Sam right now is on top of a nicely camouflaged, frozen puddle. Like I mentioned earlier, it was around 40F, we didn't like the idea of testing the strength of the ice for very long. Once the snow was moved off, it was apparent that the puddle was nice and deep. When I say nice, I don't mean pleasantly, well, perhaps pleasantly to a bird when it's not frozen, but not pleasantly if you were to step in it and soak your foot.
You'll see here that he did manage on another puddle to break through, thankfully Mike had Eva already past it, otherwise she would have certainly decided that she needed to stomp in it. That would have been an abrupt end to our hike.

There's a great deal of water on the sides of the trail through here.

I would guess there is normally a pond here. It seems like entirely too much water to have only stayed there because of snow and rain.

Running to catch up!
Going around another HUGE frozen puddle, this one seemed deeper than the last, we didn't think it wise to try and find out exactly how deep it was. Pity the poor feet that found out.
You'll notice here the forest changes from leafy to piney. It happened rather abruptly. It didn't smell piney however, it still smelled like winter, that is to say, like not much at all.

No snow again!
As I stood here, everyone was strangely quiet (if you knew my children, you'd know this was indeed strange). In the stillness one gets to thinking and when one gets to thinking, it is truly amazing where that thinking takes you. I don't tend to wax poetic, so there were no amazing or heart wrenching works of prose drifting through my mind, but I did get to thinking about how the stillness has a beauty of it's own. As I mentioned before, it was breezy. There were even points that it was downright windy, but the amazing thing about a forest is that the tops of the trees heave and groan with the force of the wind and the sounds emanating from the tree tops can the stuff that makes you shake in your boots. The howling and roaring of the wind as it navigates and forces itself through the bare branches makes you want to look around for the monsters or maniacs in the trees (well, if you've watched too many horror movies or B movies or read too many well written books that vividly describe the creepy sounds the surround the stupid person who doesn't hear the Jaws themed music as they venture out alone, at night, unarmed into the thick of the forest), perhaps the BIG, bad wolf is hiding behind one of the trees and is waiting and watching, ready to pick off whoever happens to be trailing behind (that's usually me, imagine my uneasiness). ;-) Anywho, winter may not have smells that make you think of winter whenever you smell them, but it does have sounds. Bare tree branches make a more hollow sound in the wind than do trees full of leaves. This sound resounded in this place, right here. However, as we looked up into the treetops and saw the branches swaying and pitching and heard the roaring of the wind, we only felt the slightest of breezes kissing our cheeks. The forest was protecting us from the bitter bite of the winter wind. 
I found this on the trail shortly after having all those thoughts above racing through my mind as we stood there. The children had taken off ahead of us and I noticed this by my feet. It's the feather of a Red Tailed Hawk. It's the closest thing we saw to an animal of any kind our entire trip. Caleigh LOVES feathers and insisted on holding it until she lost it later. Strangely though, it wasn't the earth shattering event I had anticipated it being after she lost her prize. 
Here she is with it a little while later. She REALLY liked that feather.
You may wonder why she's carrying two messenger bags. Well, the big one on the left is hers, the little one with the green handle is Eva's. Apparently Eva ran out of raisins and no longer felt the need to carry it, so Caleigh, out of the kindness of her heart offered to. She hates the idea that something might be left behind, so, to make sure that nothing would be, she carried it for her, never complaining once about it or ever asking anyone else to do it for her. We were very proud of her for that.

Aren't they cute?!
It is not your imagination, it is indeed MUCH darker through here. The forest got much thicker. I was afraid that the trail didn't loop around quite as directly as Mike was sure it would. The further down this trail we got and the longer we spent on it, the more sure of that I was, but Mike was confident and I followed dutifully behind him. Ultimately he was right, but I truly had my doubts. I was afraid we'd either get lost or have to double back the way we came. At this point we'd been on the trail well over an hour.
That sign says Do Not Enter. It doesn't say WHERE not to enter, it just says not to. This is not private land, there's a sign at the beginning that says it belongs to the government, so, we weren't sure if it was just there for decoration or not. We decided we weren't supposed to go to the right because there was private property that wasn't far from there.
Caleigh was looking on a log here. She was SURE she saw a bear print in the snow on the log. We assured her that there were no bears around, that they were all hibernating. Thankfully she dropped it after that. Rora is constantly in fear of finding bears in the forest. When she thinks of bears, she doesn't think of Winnie the Pooh, she thinks of grizzlies and Kodiak bears. We assure her this is black bear territory and that they scare off pretty easy and that they're not allowed on the trails, she doesn't' believe us.
This was the first of several trees down in the path. This one was on the start of a hill. We had to go UP the hill, there was no going down the hill later. It was rocky and steep in places, but first, you had to vault over the tree.
This is looking down the hill before going over the log.
Mike is tossing children over the log, I'm to big to toss. :-)
This is UP the hill. It took FOREVER to get up the hill. Just sayin'. 
DOWN the hill, see the vaulting log?
At the top of the hill, the trail stretching before us.
Another tree across the path, have to go under this one.

See all the branches? Eva thought she could go under it, being a person of very little size, one might think that she could without issue, she couldn't, she got caught, the only way for her to escape the wiry clutches of the downed tree was to take her coat off. She was sad, Caleigh was sadder still, she thought we'd have to leave behind her coat forever! Eva was getting more and more upset until she turned around, grabbed the coat with very little effort and proceeded to put it back on. Crisis averted.
This is how the rest of us had to go around it. We managed without loosing any more articles of clothing. See Eva going under? This is the part where she looses her coat.
That brown sweater there is Eva without her coat and Caleigh is in the blue, she's about to loose it.
See? Her world is coming to an end. Everyone else is on the other side, leaving without us and her world is ending. It didn't take long though before the world was put to rights and we were on our way around the tree and continuing on our trek down the tract.
Here is another tree worth taking a picture of.
Don't be fooled, I'm not leading and everyone is behind me, I'm so far back I can't see them anymore. There's a bend in the trail not far away, they had rounded by this time. Standing here with no one around made me think of something, poetry came to mind, not my own.
O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed;

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
and hear the brook, and feel he gentle breeze;

And when I think that God his son not sparing,
Sent him to die - I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home- what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Now I realize that right now there are no birds singing sweetly in the trees, but my soul was stirred and cried out "My God, how great Thou art!" We are so small in such a vast forest, so alone, or seemingly so. We were surrounded on all sides, protected and loved by our God who created all of this vastness, as empty as it seems right now, it is only sleeping, waiting to spring to life in a matter of months when all together the trees will burst forth with leaves, the animals will awake from their slumbers and the whole earth will shout out at the same time, praising God and singing "How great Thou art!" and show all those who are willing to stand still for a moment and notice how great He is and how amazing and wonderfully the symphony of spring is as it works together flawlessly, to create the majesty of God almighty in unspeakable ways that we will never be able to fathom. Mozart and Beethoven have never created works as full of grace and detail that flow together more beautifully than this.

As we continued down the trail, we kept hearing cracking beneath our feet. Some of us, being heavier than others heard more pronounced moans and groans from the ice beneath us than others. I decided to take a picture, here is a better close up beneath.
The picture doesn't do justice to how deep these puddles were when they froze over. 
STILL not to the end yet. At this point there was a near continuous chorus of "Are we almost at the end?!" from several female advneturers. I'll leave it to you which three they were, I'm not saying if I was one of them or not. ;-)
Let us begin our fashion show of knotty trees full of personality.

Okay, here we are! We are at the ruins again! We're in the home stretch!

Here is Eva at the last puddle of day. Sam stepped through it for her and it was frozen through, not even any mud to step into! She did end up finding some in other places along the trail, but nothing like on our last trip.

Here we are, at the end, finally. I am eager for Spring and all the life that comes with it. Eager for the warmer temperatures, eager for the greenness and smells that come with it. Have a wonderful day and I look forward to posting again. Next week we won't be going on a hike, between the weather and Mike's schedule it just won't be possible. Our next scheduled hike will be on February 9th. We're going on a hawk and owl walk with the Naturalist's Club. I hope to find something of enough note to post before then however so as not to deprive you for too long of our sweetness. :-) Happy trails!

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