Mountains to Marsh Trail -- Fall

Mountains to Marsh Trail -- Fall

Welcome to the Mountains to Marsh trail. This trail takes you from upland areas of the Penquis Virtual Nature Center to the lowlands. Just follow along and carry out any instructions you may get. Try to decide what you are hearing, smelling, touching, or feeling before going on to get the answer. If you want to test yourself, or play a game with yourself or someone else, keep track of your right answers. Ready to start? Remember, long files can take a half minute or so to download.

It is one of those days that lie half between the lazy, sleepy days of late summer and the brisk days of fall. The days are growing shorter and chilly mornings are becoming frequent, so you should call it fall. Your dog doesn’t care. Just so long as she gets to go for a walk, you can call it whatever. You pat her, your radio, and your cane. Yes, all assembled. Onward. It’s cloudy with rain predicted, so you also make sure you have your slicker.

Immediately you hear a sound (DVG) that sets the seal on your definition of the season. Geese heading south. Your dog still doesn’t seem to care about defintions, though she wags her tail and licks your hand when you explain it to her.

Still a few birds around. A crow.

Off in the distance comes a rapid series of notes. It must be a flicker. Over the a rise and hear a relative of the flicker. Its sharp ‘peek'(long)(DVG) sound identifies it as a hairy woodpecker.

The trail begins to descend. Finally. You must be heading down to the low-lying areas.

You sweep your cane back and forth overhead and beside the trail and encounter branches. Squarish needles growing out singly from the branch, about as long as the last joint on a person’s finger. You crush one, but get no smell. A red spruce. And onward.

The trail levels out. You must be down. Your cane encounters branches and you feel along one. Ah-ha! Palm shaped leaves with three lobes and toothed margins. You feel upward and find that the leaves are growing opposite each other. Since it is more than head high, you decide this must be a maple, likely a red maple. Striped maple is possible, but their leaves are generally larger than your hand.

This is the end of the short loop. Maybe that’s what the little, well, not so little, bird is trying to tell you. Or maybe the bluejay has another message. You ask your dog if she cares, but she seems more interested in you than in the bluejay. A good companion, but a poor naturalist. At least, she no longer gets overly excited by rabbits and such. Once early in her training she took off after something leaving you behind. She was very apologetic about it and promised it wouldn’t happen again. And it hasn’t.

Well. You can head on back to the lobby, or you can go back to the trail heads. Or you can continue on with this trail. What do you wish to do?

You’ve decided to continue with the Mountains to Marsh Trail. You know you are near the beaver pond. Was that the splash of a beaver tail on water (DVG), warning, perhaps, of your presence? Seems to have startled a frog chorus into action (long) (WK). The bullfrogs should be about ready to close up shop for the winter.

You walk on past the area. A tree arrests your cane and your attention. It is obviously an evergreen. It has short, rounded needles growing singly along the branch. A spruce. The ground. is quite wet. Which makes the tree a black spruce.

It is up the hill a ways beyond you, but here comes a friendly sound. A red-breasted nuthatch. Conifers there, though you believe there are mainly hardwoods around you, lowland hardwoods. Sure enough. There’s the other nuthatch, the white-breasted. They are birds of hardwood forests. This one’s almost right next to you.

Almost back to the center, you hear another bird. Common here. The mockingbird supposedly repeats each phrase of its song three times or more, while relatives like brown thrasher and catbird repeat them once or twice only.

Well, it has been fun, even with the drop or two of rain, but you are now back at the trailhead. Oops! (DVG) Here comes the storm. Inside!

image: Pixabay