Saturday, August 16, 2014

Trail Work at Alford Springs, Alford

Wednesday, six other volunteers, two summer interns at BNRC, and I joined Doug Bruce and Mike Leavett, staff at Berkshire Natural Resources Council, to help construct a new trail on their Alford Springs property in Alford. It's 884 acres of now-wooded, formerly agricultural land in the Taconic range on the border of New York state. We met at 9am and worked until 2pm, with breaks and lunch.

The top layer of decayed matter had already been removed from the trail. Our job was to crush rocks with sledge hammers to make gravel to fill in the dips. Next we went to off-trail sites to dig up subsoil, called mineral soil, a cross between sand and clay. We put the mineral soil in buckets, hauled them to the trail and dumped it on the rocks. We tamped it down around the rocks to provide a firm footing. Also, we gathered leaf matter and put it along the side of the trail and sprinkled it on the disturbed sections of the forest floor. After a few days and maybe a little rain, it will look like the trail has been there for years!

It's great to learn some of what goes into designing and building a trail by working with the experts. It's heavy work, but with lots of helpers, it's amazing how much can get done in a few hours. Very satisfying!

A good trail enhances the experience of being in the woods. Thank you to BNRC and all the volunteers that work on our Berkshire trails!

The mineral soil is dense and firm. It has to be broken up
with a large pick-ax before it can be shoveled into the buckets.
We carried many heavy buckets of soil to the trail.
We dumped the soil over the gravel and compacted it
to make a firm trail, resistant to erosion but allowing water drainage.
Mike showed us a fresh bear scratching on a young pine tree.
What long powerful claws they have!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Full Moon Hike at Hilltop Orchards, Richmond

I led the monthly Full Moon Hike Saturday for the incomparable Holly Brouker who usually leads it. She had to be away and asked me to sub. It's the "supermoon" this month, closer to the earth and brighter than usual. The weather was perfect, the sky clear and the moon was awesome! It was so bright that we clearly saw our shadows and were able to see the variations of light and dark on the moon's surface with our naked eyes and even better with the binoculars that I brought along.

There were 59 of us enjoying the night and wide, mowed hiking trails, howling at the moon and watching the bonfire. Then we went inside for wine and live music. What could be better than that?

I definitely have to get outside more at night!

We're at the top of the orchard in the twilight.
The moon is already prominent in the sky.
A bonfire is always special!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mushrooms on Monument Mountain, Great Barrington

Monument Mountain is a very popular hike; it's a short climb with great views at the top. This week the Tuesday Berkshire Hikers walked up to Flag Rock first, on the west side of the mountain, a wonderful spot in the process of being preserved. The mushrooms were what struck me the most on this hike. I know very little about mushrooms, but enough not to pick or eat them! One of these days I will learn more about them. The size, color and variety were amazing. With all the wet weather this summer, the mushrooms appear to be thriving.

If you know your mushrooms, leave a comment, to help me identify them.

I think this is a Spotted Cort.
Looks like something from Alice in Wonderland!
I think this is some kind of Coral mushroom. 
A cute little one!
Yes, the tiny ones on the right were actually red!
This one looked like it was inside out!
This one had warts! Possibly, this is the very poisonous
Destroying Angel (Amanita virosa). My book called it
the most deadly mushroom in eastern North America!
Amazingly bright yellow. 
These were hard to see because they blended right in with the leaves.
This is Indian Pipe, actually a plant, not a fungus.
Because it lacks chlorophyl, it appears white, like many mushrooms. 
My book showed mushrooms this shape called Witch's Hat.
I'm not sure this is one even though it looks like it should be!
These were tiny.
Possibly a kind of Amanita.

Appalachian Trail, Fernside Rd. to Benedict Pond, Great Barrington

Last weekend I joined an event with a hike lead by Christine Ward, president of the Great Barrington Land Conservancy, and Silvia Cassano of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. It was one of two hikes offered, and the celebration also included a community picnic at Benedict Pond in the Beartown State Forest. It's amazing how much work, volunteer and paid, it takes to conserve, preserve and steward our wonderful Berkshires, and I am very grateful for it.

The hike was on the Appalachian Trail from Fernside Rd. in Tyringham back to Benedict Pond. It was just under 7 miles and included a wooded hillside full of ferns, spruce & pine forests, beaver swamps, view from the Ledges, and a walk around part of Benedict Pond. The weather cooperated, not too hot, making it a great hike. We met some thru-hikers who walked all the way from Georgia. Yikes!!

Me on the left, with Christine Ward, president of the Great Barrington Land Conservancy.
I sent this photo to my son in Portland, Oregon, because, many years ago,
Christine was his much-loved kindergarten teacher!
We came upon an interesting spot next to the trail where a group
of 5 or more trees had been blown down every which-way.
Was this where a mini-tornado touched down for a brief instant?
The trees were a tangled mess, but had been cleared from the trail.
Always a great view from the Ledges near Benedict Pond.