I decided to celebrate Earth Day by driving out to one of the nearby state parks. The part of the country I'm in is one of pocket landscapes; there's nothing huge and sweeping, no sublime vistas, no wildernesses big enough to get lost in. There are, however, a surprising number of small trails good for an afternoon's ramble. Most of them are under a mile or two in length, so I was excited by this trail, which is nearly 3 miles, out and back.
Finally got a chance to go back out to the environmental center and see how spring's progressing out there. Lots of green, above and below, lots of bird song. Not many insects as yet. The ground's still squelchy in spots.
The first clear day after a steady snow turns out to be a great day for a hike. The sightlines were great, there were tons of birds (which were also easier to see), the views were spectacular, and there was no one else around. (Not surprising, since it was about 15 degrees F.)
Aside from cold-scoured cheeks and a chafed ankle from an ill-fitting snow boot, I enjoyed the experience. I have a huge down-filled coat from Lands End that I call my "Minnesota coat" and I was well swathed with wool and fleece beneath. Exploring under such conditions was a bit like backpacking; you need to be aware of your gear and level of personal discomfort, taking care to eat and drink (and pee) as necessary, while not dropping the camera in the snow.
The cold was hard on the cameras, however. The Pentax did fine except for sluggish batteries (forcing me to use the trick of flipping it on, using the small charge to autofocus/expose before it shut off, then setting it to manual mode, then flipping it on to take the picture with the next small charge). The Argus was not troubled by the cold in that way (being completely manual) but the dials were all very stiff and hard to use.
Fluffy fox squirrels
Human + dog tracks looping back and forth across each other
Snow-covered river rocks
Icicles on the rusty bridge
An enormous drainage culvert (never noticed before due to vegetation)
Snow on the branches of trees, drifting off in response to wind, birds alighting, squirrels and woodpeckers
Tire marks for some sort of ATV
Snow resting on the shelves formed by shelf fungus
Water dripping from the bridge
Ice crackling beneath the snow
Crunching snow underfoot
Trees creaking against each other
The soft rasp of microfiber against itself
Acrylic damp with breath against my face
Cold wind like a blow to my face
Watering eyes in response to the wind in the other direction
Prickling cold on my face
Index finger and thumb grow colder than the rest from holding the camera
It's been awhile since I've been on a hike, and even longer since I walked this trail. With the leaves falling off, a lot of the river canyon is revealed that had been hidden before. I took advantage of this to walk (bushwhack? scramble?) along the official unofficial trail that runs between the official trail and the river.
Four deer, white tails uplifted, high-stepping through the brush, fleeing...
A human family down by the river
A couple, walking
A white-haired woman in a red coat, with her dog
A man in a baseball hat
A jogger with two dogs
Various small birds
A huge bird with a long neck that made a sound like a chainsaw starting up (I've been told it's probably an egret)
Lots of fallen leaves
(The sound of me walking on the trail: crunch, crunch, CRUNCH, crunch, snap!, crunch... pause, look around, listen, crunch, crunch...)
I drove out to the environmental center to see what's been going on out there, and to get in a hike.
Trees turning color (but not really there yet)
A turkey vulture
Two workers (one loud and chatty) hauling invasive plant debris on a golf cart
A car being towed in the parking lot (not mine)
Insects - crickets, perhaps
Cars on the bordering road
Twigs snapping under my feet
Something that squawked loudly before plopping into the pond, unseen
Beeping from the tow truck
Sun-warmed pine needles
(I also walked the western half of the trail that features labeled coniferous trees - and gave up after reaching Tree 25. With the exception of the Eastern species, and one or two of the Western, all of the other trees (from Asia, Europe, and the Western US) were dead, dying, or obviously unhealthy. It was pretty depressing.)
I explored one of the arboretum trails today. It was short - only about a mile, if that - but reasonably pleasant. It's not one that's very good for photography - no real vistas, only a few things suitable for close-ups - but it has lots of animals and birds and you can hear the wind rustling in the tree canopy.
In the effort to keep hiking part of my weekly routine, I spent a couple of hours today exploring the wind damage. There were a number of trees down, and debris everywhere, though clearly a crew had been through to remove the worst.
A downy woodpecker
Many, many caterpillars, both hairy and smooth
Two praying mantises, one brown, one green
A teenager on a scooter (it's a non-motorized trail, so grrr)
An old man
A huge shelf fungus that had fallen with its tree, and which someone had set onto a bench
The rumble of cars
Something making a sound like choork but shorter, like churk