We took advantage of a recent day when the snow had stopped and the sun was actually visible in a clear blue sky, to investigate the Merryspring Nature Center. Merryspring was founded in 1974 when Mary Ellen Ross wished to create “a sanctuary where horticulture and nature could be studied firsthand”. The result was a place where visitors can either stroll near a visitor’s center, admiring rose, hosta, herb and perennial gardens or wander the various hiking trails throughout the property.
On this particular day, I was hoping to explore a new interpretive trail. From the description and map layout of a recent brochure, it looked like this trail touched each of the longer trails while not straying far from the gardens. So after donning our snowshoes, we looked across the parking look to find a rather large sign labeled “start”. This was the beginning of the new trail.
Not far into the woods, I observed a perfectly formed pinecone either still holding on to its summer home or stuck in some fine branches, preventing its fall to the earth. There was a beauty to this object that seemed suspended in the air with no support and I had to stop and admire it for a spell.
This part of the trail was clearly marked while we were in the woods but somehow as we emerged from the forest into the first meadow we did not search carefully enough for the next trail marker. We followed the snowshoe tracks across the meadow, soon leaving the interpretive trail behind us. Only the groomed section at the edge of the meadow disrupted the expanse of unmarked snow. As we crossed the field we passed a couple happily tromping hearts into the snow near the trail. The mood was infectious and soon I found myself the “monkey in the middle” while my daughter and husband tossed a snowball back and forth over my head.
Circling the edge of the field we entered the woods once more, meandering the different trails throughout the park, avoiding those that bore no evidence of human visitors. After weeks of inactivity, we discovered that snowshoeing was hard work and turned our thoughts to refueling our energy. Unfortunately, we were at the far end of the nature center with no quick or easy way back to the car. Instead, we stood at one of the high points of the park looking down the hill and a line of high tension wires. Of course that would have been the fastest but not the best way down. And here was where I discovered a smartphone can come in handy. In a few minutes, my husband brought up an image of the trail map and we were able to pick out the best way back towards the visitor’s center.
It wasn’t long before we emerged into the garden area of the park. We crossed this last field towards the car just as the clouds blocked the sun once more.