Three days after our exploration of Fernald’s Neck, I decided to do it again. It had been quite some time since I had wandered the blue trail loop in that preserve, so Monday, the 13th of February I met up with one of my hiking buddies for a new adventure. Unfortunately, when we met up at the parking area, I realized I had forgotten my spikes. I had even thought about them as I was tying my boots, then promptly forgot them when I walked out the door. Oh, the annoyances of getting older! Fortunately, from all the traffic, the trail looked like it had been groomed, and I had no trouble at all.
Not long into our journey, my friend stopped to study a hole in the snow that was surrounded by pine cone remnants. While she concentrated on getting a picture, I studied the landscape a little further off the trail. It was then that I noticed not just one “dinner” hole but many. We even joked that it looked like there had been a party in this area. Partying squirrels? That seemed a stretch, since I have witnessed many a fight underneath the bird feeder in my backyard.
Once we were on the loop trail, we stopped to admire a rather large snow-capped shelf fungus. On the opposite side of this tree, we found three more and spent some time studying them. Since most of the trees in this area seemed to be hemlocks, we wondered if these growths were Hemlock Varnish Shelf Mushrooms.
We continued around the loop, stopping now and again to make some observation. There was a little up and down to the landscape but nothing horrible. During our escapades my friend always made me walk in front because of my tendency to trip and fall. She was afraid I would take her down as well. I was amused, then, when I heard a slight slip behind me and had to remind her that it was my character to fall, not hers.
Soon, we were on the opposite side of the park. Climbing uphill, we reached a ridge with some great views looking towards Bald Mountain across the lake and Hatchett Mountain towards our right. The beauty of the landscape made us decide that this was the ideal spot to stop and have a bit of lunch. There was no stump or log for us to sit upon, so we stood as we ate, enjoyed the scenery and wondered if the homes across from us were summer residents or not. Only one house showed signs of tracks coming out onto the ice, so we surmised that most might be summer residents.
After lunch, we continued along the far side of the loop. We stopped once more to investigate the abundance of cones on a downed hemlock branch. As we neared the intersection with the orange tail loop, I pointed out that this was the one place in the preserve that did not display a parking lot direction sign that actually needed it. I said this from experience, having turned in the wrong direction on to the blue trail loop during a previous visit. Fortunately, I realized it before too long. Today was different, we were already on that trail and did not need to make a decision.
We finished up back at the parking area, watching two visitors putting on snowshoes. I hoped they enjoyed their adventure for I did not think there was enough snow on the ground to warrant snowshoes.