Up the Creek Trail — Summer
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.
It’s a cool, cloudy late afternoon in early summer. The neighbor who gives you rides wants to go with you today. You agree. She is pleasant, if a bit noisy, company and is impressed by what you know about nature. Besides, your dog is staying over at the vet for treatment of some mysterious malaise. You are worried about her and needed to get out.
Almost immediately your friend wants to know what this thing is. Where? Right here on the edge of the woods. She guides your hand to a very long frond. It seems to be a single leaf. You feel a slight fuzziness on the stem. “Staghorn sumac,” you tell her. You hear something. Must be something in bloom. (DVG) Those are honeybees, you think. “What’s blooming nearby?” You ask. “Lots of things,” she answers. Helpful.
Several birds are now calling. You focus on one. Ah, yes, a bluejay. Sounds excited as usual. From overhead comes twittering. Yes, part of the bug patrol. They’re not bad today, though. You tell your friend there are swallows overhead. “Oh, I see,” she cries. “How do you know they’re swallows? How do you even know they are there?” “I hear them,” you say briefly. She listens. “I hear something. Is that the swallows?” You assure her it is. Of course, just as you’ve decided that the bugs aren’t too bad, a black fly pays you a visit. You swat it away. Must have missed that spot with the repellent. It simply isn’t true that they relish the taste of bug dope.
You feel the woods around you. What is it exactly that you experience? A difference in sound reflection? A subtle difference in wind? Your friend is suddenly excited. “Oh, I know what these are, here in this little opening.” She urges you forward and guides your hand to something about knee high. You carefully feel canes with heavy thorns and find compound leaves. “Raspberries, aren’t they?” she asks. You assure her that they are. “We used to pick them for jam and just to eat with ice cream when I was little.”
Your conversation on wild edibles is interrupted by a bird call. You tell your friend, “Quiz bird. Tell me what it is. We’ve heard it before.” She hems and haws until you remind her that it is the state bird. “Chickadee!” she exclaims, and you award her a point. You stand for a moment together, listening to the chickadee.
There is a lot of birdsong today. On your left you hear one. A white-breasted nuthatch. On the right is a thrush. You listen carefully. “Want to try naming either of these?” you ask your friend. It turns out she hadn’t even heard the wood thrush and has no idea what the nuthatch might be. You squeeze her shoulder when the thrush sings again. “Oh,” she says, “that’s pretty. What is it?” You tell her.
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.
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. It is a red-winged blackbird. Your friend is exclaiming over something. “There’s something here that looks like a little red lizard. It’s kind of yucky looking.” You explain. “It’s just a red eft. That’s the land stage of the red-spotted salamander. Both the young and the adults live in the water. They wander when they’re, well, sort of teenagers. You know how teenagers are.” She pauses for a long time before saying, “You really do know everything.” You feel it would be impolite to disagree with her, so say nothing.
And what is this? From the wet area comes a real treat (long) (WK). Yes! It’s a green frog. You point it out to your friend in time to hear another frog. “Cut-cut-cut,” it says in a deep, burred voice. You tell her that one is a mink 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?
- Continue with the rest of the trail or you can
- Pointer: Return to the trailhead, or you can head back to
- Pointer: the lobby
You’ve decided to continue with the Trail. You still need some more calming. And the sound of the creek is pleasant. (DVG)
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 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. You hear one fairly regularly on this trail, though.
You start to tell your friend about what you’re hearing, but hear another nearer at hand. Probably in the alders and willows. You listen for a moment. Yellow warbler. Just beyond him another sings. A song sparrow. Your friend is proud of hearing them. You tell her what they are.
“What is that,” she asks suddenly? (long)(WK) It is a bit late in the season, but the sound is unmistakeable. as a 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. You tell her, and she is duly impressed.
The trail is rising a bit as you cross the bench to return to the center.You hardly even puff. A spring of regular walks has gotten you into some sort of condition, though much improvement is possible. 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.
A cricket chirps nearby. Must be getting late, and maybe the clouds are thickening. As if in answer, you feel a drop of rain and move along.
A little farther on, your friend finds a tree that interests her, at lest for the moment. “Oh, yuck! It made my hands all sticky. There’s some sort of something in these lumps on the bark.” “A balsam fir,” you explain.
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.
More crickets are turning up (DVG) as you return to the trail head. You feel better and thank your friend for doing this with you. You are still worried about your dog, but are sure she’ll be ok. Getting out in the woods is a wonderful thing for optimism. Your friend thanks you for the nature lession. And – You head back into the center just ahead of the rain (DVG).