Monday, May 30, 2011

Epic Beach Hike, Cape Cod

Here's the starting point, the Race Point Ranger Station, way out on the far tip of Cape Cod. The destination: Race Point Lighthouse, only two miles away. Ha ha ha ha....

OK, so let's head down to this National Seashore beach. Which appears to be covered in....RV's??? Yup. Lines of 4WD and RVs, mostly fishing.

By the looks of it, people were catching fish. Biscuit was terrified of a carcass left behind. Later I saw a big fat retriever chomping on a carcass as if he does that all the time.

After a bit I entered a zone where vehicles are prohibited and had a long stretch of beach all to myself. This photo is looking back at the fishermen.

Ahhhh.....That's more like it!

In one spot, there were half a dozen big Moonsnails left behind by the tide, still alive. They're about three inches across and normally burrow into the sand, where they eat clams. Why they were stuck up on shore, I don't know.

After walking and walking and walking...past another line of vehicles, another empty beach, and then a third line of fishermen, and forever rounding the corner of the Cape, the Race Point Lighthouse finally peaked over the back of the dunes. I almost didn't see it back there, and nearly walked right past it.

The only way to get to the lighthouse is by 4WD or your own 2 legs. Maybe by boat.

Some interesting vegetation in the back dunes here. A patchwork of color. The bright green is poison ivy.

The pink and white are Beach Plum blossoms.

And the soft gray-green is moss or lichens growing on the Beach Plum.

OK, then, now it's time to walk back. Through the soft sand. Two more miles. Each mile was the equivalent or 2 or 3 miles of normal walking. By the way, did I mention there are no restroom facilities or any bushes along the entire route? I lugged a bunch of water on the hike but was afraid to drink any of it.

Two fishing boats.

The walk was quite a workout and my legs were sore for about five days!

Somebody Loves Dogs

Here's a box of dog treats nailed to a tree. Wow! This was out on the Cape, at a place called John Kendrick Woods in Orleans. Almost makes up for the fact that dogs are banned from all the trails in Cape Cod National Seashore. So, to whoever it is that put the biscuits there...Thank you!
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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bearberry Hill, Cape Cod

Take a walk with me up Bearberry Hill near Truro on Cape Cod. True to its name, the hill is in fact just covered with Bearberry, an attractive low shrub that I planted at Eklund Garden a couple years ago. It's not doing all that great at Eklund, but it sure likes the sand dunes on the Cape.

There's a lookout platform at the top of the hill and a spectacular view in all directions. We decided to follow one of the little paths through the hot sand out to the ocean...

...but when we got to the highest dune, we discovered a sheer sand cliff of maybe 100 feet. Too steep to go down, but the waves were soooo inviting.

Looking back from the top of the dunes towards the pines below, we could see vast clouds of pine pollen blowing in the wind. Ugh.

There was lots of interesting vegetation along the dunes. Here was some tiny Beach Heather in bloom. There was also lots of Bayberry, the shrub they once used to make candles, and lots of poison ivy.

A second viewing platform overlooked one of the many kettle ponds on the Cape that were once used to grow cranberries.

This isn't cranberry, though. Cranberries grow in the places that are too wet to walk for the most part, and this was growing along the sandy trail. This is Bearberry.

And here's some Dusty Miller. Yup, the same stuff that grows in gardens. It escaped and now grows wild on the dunes.

Walking on the dunes was hot, even though it was supposedly only about 70 degrees. It felt more like 85. We headed for another beach access point much further down the trail, and this time found a beautiful quiet beach.


If you look close, you can see a seal in the photo above.

The sand cliffs were interesting, composed of various layers that were eroding from the wind, sand pouring over the edges like sugar from jar.

This pod of gravel and one bigger rock looks like it got washed up in a really big storm. A Nor'Easter, I bet.

We then headed into the forest and the bog house, where this Box Turtle was found hiding in the pine needles. He wisely refused to stick his head out.

The old boghouse and bog were just about the end of the line for us. Instead of retracing our steps on the hot dunes, we followed a fire road past the house right out to nearby North Pamet Road. Fortunately little short cut, as we had no more water left to drink. Those dunes are hot when the sun is out! After the hike, we got to pick over 100 dog ticks off of the dog.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mohawk Trail, Cornwall

The Mohawk Trail is another of our fine blue-blazed trails maintained by CFPA. Here's a waterfall at the Music Mountain Road crossing.

The woods were just bursting with native wildflowers today. I noticed that most of the Wild Geranium in bloom had one of these insects in them. This illustrates the complex relationships between our native plants and insects. The plants aren't just sitting there looking pretty, they provide food and shelter to our native animals.

Lots of Columbine! I happen to adore the native red and yellow colors. When you see Columbine in other colors it's probably the European Columbine.

These are delicate Merrybells, a native that we also planted at Eklund Garden in Shelton.
There is clearly some deer hunting going on around here. Look how thick the woods are. It sure doesn't look like that in Fairfield County, where much of the forest has been stripped by deer. It was in this area I saw a Black-Throated Blue Warbler, a bird that needs deep forests to thrive.

Lots of Virgina Strawberry along the trail and roadways, an ancestor of the domesticated strawberry. There are records of strawberry fields maintained by Native Americans, often in old cornfields. Not clear whether they planted the strawberries or the berries just grew in on their own.

This hut along the trail made for a great resting point. Hiking on a weekday, I didn't see a single person on the trail all day.

Marsh Marigolds.
Fringed Polygala, aka Gay Wings.

Solomon's Seal.

On another part of the Mohawk, the trail followed a high rocky ledge filled with blueberry blossoms.

And came out onto this nice view. :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Japanese Knotweed is Quite Dead

Success! The Japanese Knotweed I injected with Round-Up last year appears to be quite dead this spring. Here's the post from last fall so you can see the "before" pictures and the J.K. Injector Tool that was used.

The Knotweed Patch was about 50 x 50 feet and 12 feet high. Now there's just a big dead spot.

Of course, it is not enough to kill an invasive species, if that is just replaced by another invasive species. Here we have Mugwort poised to take over, unless the Autumn Olive can do it first.
Although the larger-stemmed Japanese Knotweed plants have been killed, the smaller stemmed plants on the periphery could not be injected because the large injector needle splits the stem and the Round-Up just drains out. Follow-up is critical for these smaller plants, or they will take over in no time.

The Stump

Meet our friend, the rotting stump, which we were too lazy/cheap to remove from our yard. There's a story in that stump. You can see where the three main trunks were, one of which has rotted out faster than the other two. And because there were multiple trunks, that means this tree regrew from from a cut stump rather than sprouted from a seed.

This large poultry staple must be where a fence was attached to the tree when it was about ten years old. The tree grew completely over the nail.

The punky tree roots and stump are now home to a number of enormous grubs which I believe are some type of Longhorn Beetle larvae. These larvae have no legs and can only eat rotting wood.

There is a grub in Australia called the Witchetty Grub that looks very similar, and people eat them. Bon Appetit.