A few weeks ago, G and I drove down to Hunter’s Creek in Wales, NY. We have spent most of our time inside this winter, and we were in need of a good walk in the woods. Hunter’s Creek is owned by Erie County and has hiking and biking trails that are maintained by volunteers (thank you!). It is also a Wilderness Weekends in Western New York location.
My ulterior motive for this walk was to capture G modelling my latest knit sweater.
This cardigan is for my cousin who escaped from project photos because he lives in a different state. In exchange, he sewed a beautiful quilt for us. My cousin chose the yarn, which is from Nanne Kennedy’s flock, but is undyed. Though simple in construction, this sweater was a work-in-progress for almost a year. It included a lot of re-knitting, especially above the armholes. I am pleased with how the final result has come together, and hope it sees plenty of wear in the winters to come.
Early in February, we took another blustery walk at Tifft Nature Preserve in South Buffalo. We never feed wild animals, but can’t help but be grateful that other people have tamed the resident chickadees. Having a bird land on my outstretched hand feels like a blessing.
Each year, I measure the arrival of spring with firsts.
The first maple trees flowering by my house…
the first spicebush blooming in the forest understory…
the first skunk cabbage swelling at the swamp…
the first kettle of Turkey Vultures on the wind…
the first frogs and salamaders growing in cold, dark murky ponds…
and, most exciting of all, the first spring ephemeral wildflowers bursting out from the wet forest floor.
My cousin and I found marsh marigold deep in the woods at Darien Lakes State Park. At the Niagara Escarpment Preserve, there are violets, toothwort, bloodroot (my favorite), white trillium, and squirrels corn (a close second). They are like long-distance friends, in my life for a weekend visit, and then gone for far too long.
Spring is slowly returning to Western New York.
The sun is out, and the snow is melting.
With the red ants and stinging nettle still dormant for the winter, it is the perfect time of year for walking around Tifft Nature Preserve.
G worked at Tifft in 2013, assisting the staff ecologist with a massive tree planting and watering project. Here he is explaining the history of Tifft’s “mounds” to our friend. These hills are anything but natural. They are actually built of waste from the coal industry, capped, and planted.
We walked out to the far side of preserve for an open view of Tifft Marsh. Mostly consisting of cattail, this marsh is precious ground for herons, bitterns, and egrets in our area.
On the edge of the water and of the trails, there is evidence of an abundant beaver population. Some new, and some old, as on this tree.
The chickadees there are a tame as ever…and it only took a few patience moments before this one… …came to see if we had any food.She was out of luck- no seeds from us today (or ever).
Yesterday, my dad, our friend, and I went for a nice snowshoe in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.
It has been too cold recently to take many photos, but I managed to click this one on my dad’s phone.
Forest Lawn is a cemetery first, but it is also a beautiful park, and the perfect place makes for an interesting walk. Having recently moved to an apartment just two miles away, I plan to be there frequently throughout all seasons.
It seems as though I have been looking forward to this season – wool sweater season – for weeks now. Yesteray my dad, brother, and I celebrated its official arrival with a short walk at Amherst State Park. The land that makes up this park once belonged to the Franciscan Sisters’ convent, and became a State Park in 2001.
Walking down the small hill from the Mother House (now apartments), we reached the old orchard of apple and pear trees. These trees have not been pruned in a long time, though the famous October Storm of 2006 did cut them back considerably. Some years, my mom picked apples for applesauce, but most of the time we visit just to take a walk and to watch the neighborhood dogs playing in the old field.
On the far side of the old orchard, there is a bridge that crosses Ellicott Creek…and paths travel both banks.
The muddy trails were flooded in several areas, and we had a few precarious crossings.
(Wearing my Icelandic wool sweater – the most wonderful Goodwill find)
The woods were gray and the only birdlife was a lone sparrow, but the creek was lovely. Along the undercut banks, hundreds of icicles were hanging.
Here in the flat towns north of Buffalo, we don’t have scenic vistas, or epic landscapes, but these small and unexpected finds make each walk worthwhile!
This past weekend, G and I visited Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve in Cheektowaga (another Wilderness Weekends in Western New York site). This Preserve has a unique history, and includes several man-made roads and ponds (thank you, Dr. Reinstein). There is a mix of planted, non-native trees such as Scot’s pine, and native, old-growth forest. There is also an assortment of invasive plant species, coming together to form a “novel ecosystem”.
We are both very familiar with the preserve because G was an intern at Reinstein in winter 2012, and he lived in the intern cabin on site.
It was a cozy home, and we both miss it (though we do not miss riding our bicycles along Union Road).
G has not had many opportunities to visit since he moved to Pennsylvania last year, so we stopped in to the Visitor’s Center, and then took a loop around the trails and ponds.
We saw the New York State Champion Beech Tree… …looking rather diseased.
And, of course, several resident deer.The deer present a cute but serious problem for the old-growth forest at Reinstein Woods. There is no hunting permitted in Reinstein or the neighboring Stiglmeier Park, and the deer population has growth to an absurb level. Unfortunately, there is little to no regeneration of the forest trees, and it is only a matter of time before the oldest trees die. G and I think that DEC must act on this- the deer population should be controlled by safe, reliable means. Until it is, Reinstein will remain an interesting, enjoyable place for a walk, but also a place that leaves me feeling frustrated and sad.