Monday, October 17, 2016

A Walk in the Woods

Last week, our Girl Scouts had a field trip to a local mountain, so-called in CT because it's a tall hill.  And I think, of all of us, I had the best time!  The tour focused on the natural history and human habitation of the area that could be read in the trees, reaching back to Native Americans and colonists and up through the agricultural use of the area, all of which I found fascinating--and I love rock walls!  I was proud that I made it through the hike, since parts of it had rocks and roots covered in leaves and unstable-for-me inclines and declines.

I'm becoming a much better hiker, a term I use loosely when applied to myself.  See, I don't think I realized what hiking was, seeing it as walking on paths through nature--not the arduous and sometimes treacherous climbing over rocks and trees and slopes that it is.  I first realized this in Vermont last weekend, when I was shocked to see what the Appalachian Trail looked like--not so much a path as a slightly-cleared thin line snaking through trees and rocks.  I'm now much more impressed with hikers than I ever was, particularly those who hike for months, sleeping on the way.

What we learned on our hike:

  • cedars grow where once there were agricultural fields
  • "wolf tree"--a tree with many protruding branches which was once probably the lone tree in a field.
  • charcoal kiln--where farmers would gather and stack timber, cover it with leaves etc to burn it into charcoal for sale
  • quarry--the holes and cuts of star drills, etc., were visible on cuts stones of an outcropping
  • "three-sisters tree":  when trunks are cut during timbering and then another trunk grows out of the roots, then there are trees with 2-3 trunks, a sign of timbering
  • how to roll a log--towards you to protect yourself from what might be lurking.  And always put it back!
  • walnut, chestnut, hickory, and oak--local trees that produce edibles
  • quartz--if you see a pile of quartz chips, it could indicate Native American tool-making.
  • deer rub--an abrasion on a tree where deer mark their territories.
  • rock walls--Second and third-generation European settlers (around mid-18th century) found that erosion caused by tree cutting and agriculture started to reveal all the boulders below the soil.  It was a curse on farmers!  They tried to clear fields, piling rocks as the iconic New England rock wall (most dating to late 18th and then 19th centuries), but agriculture in Connecticut ceased for the most part by the beginning of the 20th century, being too difficult and not profitable enough (hence the switch to manufacturing in much of the Northeast, as well as the move of settlers to better farmlands in Ohio, etc.)  In fact, the state is more forested now than since the settlers arrived; most trees are under 100 years old.  I love those rock walls and have been reading a history of them.
Between the hikes in Vermont and this hike, I'm of a mind to do more nature walks--as long as they are very easy access!

Rock walls

Wolf Tree to the right of center

More walls

Quarry holes

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