As I continue my walk by turning right onto the Ridge Trail, I glance back down Marsh Trail and notice the sky seems to be bluer, and the grasses and trees greener in the clear and almost sparkling early afternoon light. Unfortunately, I know what this portrays.
Over time, working with a camera and nature, I have learned that at this time of year, nature is preparing for a change of seasons. The hints are all around us if we are willing enough to just look closely. Over the last few weeks I have noticed the squirrels are getting fatter and hiding more and more nuts and other food. Some of the willows and other trees are showing just a hint of yellow color on their leaves. A few Lake Trout have moved into Presque Isle Bay. Yes, autumn is sneaking up on us.
The trees on this portion of Presque Isle are old growth maple and oak. Some of the oaks that line Ridge Trail are 120 to 150 feet high and are in wonderful shape. As I move along, I find that woodpecker who was tapping loudly enough for me to hear on the Marsh Trail. Off to my left are a fallen and a standing snag. On the standing snag, a large Pileated Woodpecker is busy working it over quite methodically. He is most likely looking for Carpenter Ants, his favorite meal. He stops to look at me, but does not fly away.
If you decide to walk my route, please take note that the trail tilts toward the marshy area that is off to your right, and is full of exposed tree roots. You will need to watch your step just a bit more than usual here. Again, with the large maple and oak here, I plan to return when fall is in full force to capture some of the color I know will be showing itself.
The woods in this region are growing on old rolling sand dunes formed over three hundred years ago. Off to the left as I walk, fallen logs and standing snags litter the forest floor. Normally, fungi and parasitic plants grow all though this area. However, with this year’s dry weather, only a few are visible. I suspect that when the fall season and its rains and cooler weather arrive, the mushrooms and other plants such as Indian pipes will begin to appear.
If, during the fall you might want to have some fun, grab your camera and capture some close-up shots of the fungi and Indian Pipes. To do this and get good results, you will need to do two things. The first is to get and use a macro-lens, and the second is to be prepared to get low and wet. These little jewels and their unique backgrounds will not come to you, so you must flop onto the ground and get down to their level.
As I turn onto the Ridge Trail, I notice the many snags and fallen logs on the left side of the trail. This area is one of the larger old-growth climax forest regions of the park. Looking out ahead, I see a flash of light brown cross the trail. I slow down even more, and slowly but surely, a small button buck deer walks onto the path. He stands there and looks at me. I stand there and look at him. It becomes a contest of who is going to move first. I lose that battle. I try to get my camera up to take a picture and he snorts, wiggles his ears and moves into the woods. All this before I can even get my camera up.
This portion of the walk is very quiet. There is no noise from the roads, people or boats on the bay or lake. On the right are the old marsh region and the many huge oak trees that now grow along the trail. Some of these are 150 feet in height and must have seen Joe Root when he was on Presque Isle. The bushes beside the trail are a mixture of bayberry, an d honeysuckle with a few buttonbushes found here and there. One of the natural features of this trail is its lush moss covering. This year the moss is not as heavy due to the dry weather, but a few years back, moss blanketed the trail and surroundings. It felt like was walking on thick carpeting when I entered this portion of the walk.
As I continue the walk, I look for animal droppings or what looks like a cat’s fur ball. This is one of the places where the park’s coyotes roam and hunt in the evening and early morning. They often leave fur and/or feathers as the only evidence of their presence. The coyotes here are like ghosts and normally just appear at night or at dawn. Occasionally, you might see one run across an open area and into the woods; however, they usually remain well hidden.
As I said in the first part of this blog, quiet is the special key to walk through the Presque Isle woods. Patience and luck will help you see the less common animals in the wild. If you are like me, as you trek through the park, you will soon come to realize that nature provokes many feelings. It can awe and inspire, provoke fear, and even humble you.
At the 6/10 of a mile point in the walk, buried deep in the underbrush on the right side of the trail is a large oak tree with a portion of a split-rail fence, which the tree has absorbed right through the middle of itself. After a bit of research, I found that this was part of a corral installed to hold the draft horses used at the park’s sawmill, which was just over the ridge from this trail. The corral was three sided, with the fourth being a pond that was part of the old cranberry bogs. The horses used the pond for their water supply.
About 2/10 of a mile farther down the path on the left over a rise are two buildings and a storage lot. This is Presque Isle’s maintenance area. This is where the sawmill once stood.
Shortly, I am on the maintenance road, turning right and walking about 25 yards onto Fox Trail. This is where I run across a problem. I know where the trail is. You might not. Why? There are no trail signs for Fox Trail off this road. This has been a problem for over three years. About that time, some form of heavy equipment knocked down the signs. After they lay on the ground for a number of weeks, they just disappeared. A number of Presque Isle regulars and I have mentioned this to the head of maintenance quite a few times. Still no signs. The park now has a new head of maintenance, so maybe, maybe, we can get fresh new signs installed.
Fox Trail is a beautiful, wide and somewhat open trial at this particular portion. I call this section of the Fox Trail its east branch. A wooded and hilly west branch can be entered from the other side of the maintenance road. Yes, you are right, no sign here either.
A Presque Isle power and telephone line runs along this trail, and it is kept open so that they can be serviced if needed. This creates some open meadow-like regions where wild turkeys can be heard and seen rather often.
Fox Trail meanders through wooded swamps, oak and maple forests and open meadows. As I walked, I observe that the moss I noticed on the Ridge Trail is nowhere to be seen here. What is nearby are patches of a plant called Velvet Leaf. This a rather tall plant with large heart-shaped velvety leaves. When in bloom, which should be in September and October, it will produce yellow flowers in the leaf axils. These are a different looking plants and if you are walking during their blooming time, take a picture of them.
Near the 1.5-mile point in my walk, the trail moves into a deep woodland section of the park. The forest all around is rich and flourishing with little or no low-growing bushes. This whole section of the walk offers hundreds of reasons to get off the path and into the woods to explore the area for fungi, snags, ferns, insects and rotting logs.
Just ahead, I can see where Fox Trail rejoins the Sidewalk Trail, and my short but interesting walk is ending. It took just one hour and 30 minutes, which is just about average. Not too bad.
Whenever I visit Presque Isle, I try to remember what an old friend told me about nature, and it goes something like this, “Remember, our dreams of nature’s beauty are self-drawn and live within our own minds”. I find that is very true. However, to me, Presque Isle is a special place beyond work, relationships and sometimes even family, where over the years I have become aware that each of us has a duty to live our own lives and enjoy nature’s bounty and richness whenever we can.
See you on the park!!
This post was written by admin