Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sunset at Sunset Rock, Copake, NY

This year for New Years, I made a bucket list for 2015. One of the items on it was to see more sunsets. Sunsets are amazing and I love them. So I need to make sunsets a priority in my life! I don't mean just happening to catch one while driving home. I mean finding a spot with a great view to actually sit down and watch for a half hour to an hour as the sun disappears below the horizon. It's theater! Why did I wait until May?

Sunset Rock on the Taconic Trail is .6 miles from Sunset Rock Road in Copake, NY. It's easy to get to and you can return to the car before it even gets totally dark. I watched with my friend Michael as the sun set over the Catskill Mountains. Perfect!

Swinging Through the Treetops at Ramblewild

Last week, my friend Silvia and I visited Ramblewild in Lanesborough. They describe themselves as a tree-to-tree adventure park and we were ready for adventure! It's a little intimidating for someone like me who is a wee bit height-challenged but I actually felt quite safe in the harness. It has two locking carabiners, only one of which can be opened at a time ensuring that we were never unattached.

The eight courses are designed around a central hub on two levels starting 10 and 15 feet above the forest floor. Each course has 15-17 elements utilizing ropes, wires, logs, and zip lines in creative ways. I never knew what was coming next, just that it would be new and different! (Thanks to Michael Wilcox for the photos.)

First, we put on our safety harnesses and hard hats.
Then we were instructed on a practice element to learn "the ropes." 
Silvia prepares to climb to the hub platform
to begin the first course. 
The courses are designed in five levels of difficulty.
I'm nervously ready to step off the first platform
onto the netting.
It was easy!
This element was a little harder but still very do-able.
Silvia loved the thrills!
Most of the time we were at least this high up in the canopy.
I was concentrating so hard on my balance
 that I forgot how high up I was.
Logs and boards were used in many inventive ways.
Every element presented a new challenge.
The zip line brought us to the ground
 at the end of the first course.
I hoped I wouldn't to the splits between the logs!
We found that stepping sideways
was the way to navigate this element.
When I look at these photos,
I can't believe I did this!
I'd never been on a climbing wall before.
I was proud I scaled it! 
Just don't look down!
Silvia and I completed two courses on the first level and another on the second level in our 3-hour allotted time. It was challenging, exhilarating and fun. I think Silvia could have easily completed more difficult courses, but I was happy to call it a day. We came, we saw, we climbed, we conquered! Yes!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Moose & Bear at Three Mile Pond, Sheffield

No, I saw neither a moose nor a bear on a walk on Three Mile Pond Wildlife Management Area in Sheffield last Sunday. But, I knew they were there!

The moose made itself know by leaving footprints in the soft mud along one part of the trail. The footprints were obviously very fresh, so I looked around but, it seems, the moose was long gone. Too bad! Three Mile Pond has a large swampy area at the northeastern part of the lake which looked like great moose habitat.

Moose track!
Now, how did I know that a bear was around? We saw many skunk cabbages pushing up through the wet soil in the woods. The purplish leaf hood (spathe) covers the tiny yellow flowers on a knobby growth (spadex). The flowers and the leaves give off a skunky, rotten meat smell that attracts insect pollinators.

Very few animals eat the leaves, but bears do. So I surmised that a bear had been around because of all the leaves that were bitten off. Some research also revealed that the Common Yellowthroat sometimes builds it's nest among the leaves. I didn't see that, though.

Here is the Skunk Cabbage spathe (mottled deep red)
with the spadex inside covered with small yellow flowers.

Here the emerging green leaves have been bitten off by a bear.
This rock was about 2.5  feet across with beautiful round lichen.
I could not believe how huge this burl is.
And it's in whimsical shapes too!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Bird Walk at Jackson Pond, Stockbridge

April 18, I went on an early morning bird walk with Doug Bruce from Berkshire Natural Resources Council. We parked at the Stockbridge Bowl Boat Launch and walked across the road and a short distance up Old Colonial Road to the sign for Jackson Pond on the left. Jackson Pond Boardwalk is a BNRC property with a long section of raised walkway in the wetlands. It's excellent bird habitat.

Doug Bruce is a very knowledgeable birder by sight and sound.
It's a large wetland area with Yokun Ridge in the distance.
There's some shallow open water where we saw geese and ducks.
The pussy willows were just out!
Doug sent all the participants a list of birds seen and heard. I didn't see quite all of them, but he pointed out 25 species. Here's the list:

Canada Goose


Turkey Vulture

Red-tailed Hawk

Mourning Dove

Barred Owl

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Northern Flicker

Pileated Woodpecker

Eastern Phoebe

Blue Jay

American Crow

Tree Swallow

Black-capped Chickadee

American Robin

Chipping Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Northern Cardinal

Red-winged Blackbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

House Finch

American Goldfinch

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Common Grackle