Temperatures climbed into the 50s the last weekend in February encouraging us to get outdoors and explore something new. With all the snow melt we assumed there would be little use for snowshoes during our walk so we left them behind as we headed out to Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge. Since we had already explored the western side of the Carmans River, we decided to spend this visit wandering around the Black Tupelo Trail and the Indian Landing Loop on the eastern side of the river.
The Black Tupelo trail is a relatively new trail, created in 2012. It added an additional three miles of hiking trails to the refuge and includes two observation platforms overlooking the Carmans River. Before heading over to the trail-head, we walked out to an observation platform not far from the parking area. The platform overlooked the river and the field of reeds in the middle of the water serving as a hiding place to many of the birds in the area. We watched an osprey soaring overhead. But what really caught my attention on this platform, were the branches just above us. With the calendar still declaring the winter month of February, we observed the fattening red leaf buds of the tree nearest the platform.
After leaving the platform, we headed down the Black Tupelo Trail discovering that late winter / early spring hiking is quite difficult. There was enough melt that snowshoes would be of no use but there was also enough snow to provide quite a workout as we slid back a little for every step taken. At one point we contemplated turning back but I decided we should move forward to at least the Indian Landing Loop which was about a mile down the path. If not for the fact that I had my hiking poles, I am not sure we would have been able to travel any great distance.
We did find that the water views were much better on the western side of the river. This hike provided more woodland observations with occasional glimpses of the water. When we did reach Indian Landing, we looked out towards the fields of reeds and watched the water fowl for a bit. We even caught sight of a kingfisher. I have an early edition of “Hiking Long Island” which indicates that the eastern side of the refuge was only accessible to those arriving from the river to this landing. What a wonderful gift, that hikers can enjoy this portion of the refuge as well.
The Indian Landing Loop was a little easier to wander around. There was enough snow melt that we actually were able to ramble along the dirt path without any difficulty. Without having to struggle through our travels, we were able to enjoy our woodland observations. We noticed this small, spiky tree nuts or pine cones (?) everywhere. My tree identification skills are minimal so I will leave it up to the reader to decide.
Back on the Black Tupelo Trail, we discovered that the 50 degree temperatures had caused some serious melt in places. There were some parts of the trail where we had to maneuver around the small ponds that were created under the warming sun. Other areas, we still had to struggle with the same snow mush we had walked through earlier. It wasn’t long before we completed our hike. We had persevered and we had not given up. Our determination had been rewarded with another fine outing.