Up the Creek Trail -- Spring

Up the Creek Trail -- Spring

Welcome to the Up the Creek Trail. This trail takes you through low-lying boggy areas near the beaver pond up the creek beyond, and back. 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 downloads may take several seconds to a minute or so.

What a day! It is nice and warm after a long, cold winter. It is just past mud season and into leaf-out. You get here fairly early to catch the birds singing. Maybe you will be lucky and hear some frogs, too, though most of them call at night. You walk it alone. It is fun to share experiences with people, but it is also fun to be alone. You pat your radio, give your shoulders a shrug to skake off the troubles of daily life, and off you go.

You haven’t gone far when you hear your first bird. (long)(MIST) It is a scarlet tanager, probably singing from the top of one of the pines nearby. Faint trails of fragrance wafting down the breeze tantalize you. The world is starting to bloom.

Several birds are now calling. You focus on one. Ah, yes, a bluejay. Sounds excited as usual. Overhead sounds ‘per-chick-o-ree’ (long)(MIST). Goldfinches. From beyond the feeders a series of sharp ‘peeks’ sounds.(long) (DVG) Too loud and sharp for a downy woodpecker. Must be a hairy. Now he’s drumming (DVG). Must be setting up a territory.

You feel the woods around you. What is it exactly that you experience? A difference in sound reflection? A subtle difference in wind? Whatever. You search the trail side with your cane. Here is a smooth-barked tree. You feel overhead and find a branch. The buds are starting to burst, and you pick up a fragrance of blooming.

Your reverie over the tree is interrupted by a bird call. You grin and listen. Maine’s state bird, the black-capped chickadee is a cherry addition to any season. And putting all the evidence together, you decide the branch you are holding is a red maple.

My, the birds are active. On your left you hear one. A white-breasted nuthatch. And on the other side is another. That sounds like a brown creeper. You listen greedily. You have been told that as people get older, this is one of the first bird sounds they can no longer hear. You savor it while you can. You hear another sound from about ground level. It is a sharp ‘chuck-chuck-chuck’ (DVG). You sort through the filing cards in your brain. Fortunately, they seem to be in order today. Chipmunk.

You carry on, the path tending downward. The bad part of that is that it means you will have to walk upward at the end of the trail when you are more tired.

The feel along the sides of the trail tells you that you have entered a region of dense growth. Must be the marsh. You reach out to find a plant sample and encounter a branch bare except for some small, hard cones. Ahha! Alder. You are in the marshy area. It is no surprise to find another plant in the mix. It has buds pressed to the stem and with no obvious separations that you can feel in the bud’s covering. Probably a willow. What species? Well, er, ah. Maybe a Bebb willow? These will all be leafing out soon.

A little up from you, but probably still among the hardwoods sounds a pleasant song. A wood thrush.

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. Your feet squish in some mud. Which makes the tree a black spruce. And from the marsh comes another bird song. This one is a bit harsh, but still wonderful to hear after the long winter. It is a red-winged blackbird.

And what is this? From the wet woods comes a real treat (long)(WK). Yes! It’s a wood frog.

Here is the choice point. This is the end of the short loop of the Up The Creek Trail. You can head on back to the lobby where it is warm and you can brag a bit, 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 Trail. It’s peaceful here, and calming to the soul.

Here is another tree next to the trail. It has bark that shreds in long vertical strings. The branches have leaves pressed flat against them. Northern white-cedar, of course, another of the swamp and bog trees of the area.

You continue on your way, pleased with having figured out the tree. Off to the side you hear another chickadees. Chickadees are everywhere. Thank god! A short series of loud whoops sounds (long)(DVG) from the same general area as you heard the wood thrush. Pileated woodpecker. That’s nice. There aren’t that many of them around.

But here is a pretty common one nearby. Probably in the alders and willows. You listen for a moment. Yellow warbler. Just beyond him another starts up. Song sparrow, of course.

What is that? (long)(WK) Of course! Another sure sign of spring, the spring peeper. He’s kind of behind you toward the beaver pond, but they are found in all sorts of wet woody and shrubby areas.

The trail is rising a bit as you cross the bench to return to the center. You try not to puff. You have gotten out of shape during the winter. Must look into cross country skiing next year. There must be a shrubby area nearby because that’s what this bird is found in. A common yellowthroat, one of the most widely distributed native birds in North America.

It is no surprise to hear the dry trill just farther along the trail. Chipping sparrows are also found in wood margins.

While you are listening to the chipping sparrow, you almost step on something else that flies from under foot with a loud, whirring rush. When your heart slows back down below the danger range, you are able to reflect calmly that you have just stirred up a ruffed grouse, also called partridge around here. You have stirred a grouse here before. Wonder if it is the same one.

A little farther on, you find a tree in cane range beside the trail. A quick feel of the smooth bark leaves your hands sticky. You feel little resin bulges in the bark, and your hands are soon a mess. You don’t even have to look for branches. You know they’d be evergreen with inch-long flat needles growing singly along the twig. A balsam fir.

Almost back to the center, you stop to listen to a song from the woods behind you. Must be a deciduous stand of trees there. The redeyed vireo is found no other place.

So now you’re back where you started, but a little calmer, a bit rejuvenated, and perhaps just a bit wiser in the ways of nature. And pretty smug, now that you’ve gotten your breath back.

image: Pixabay