During the first weekend in December, the temperatures were still fluctuating between a balmy 50 and more seasonable night-time lows in the 20’s. On one of those spring like moments, we decided to explore a section of the Gibson preserve. Since the two sections of the preserve were not connected, we opted to explore the larger area, leaving the 1 mile trail for another day. Our exploration for this outing would also give us the option of exploring a portion of the Ridge to River trail if we so decided since the two trails were directly across from each other.
First, we had to get to the trail-head. The directions on the Georges River Land Trust site indicated that after turning on to Ripley we should park off the road, walk across a bridge and veer right at the fork. Unfortunately, we misinterpreted the road as Riley and had to turn around when we reached the second section of the preserve. Once we corrected our mistake, we made our way to the dirt road that would lead to the two trail-heads. Well, it may have been dirt lane at one time. We stood for a moment, gazing down a long river before making our way alongside this large expanse of water. The thought crossed my mind that I would sure hate to see what this preserve looked like during the wet season, not only because of the water but I also thought about the number of black flies and mosquitoes that must inhabit this area!
Examining our map, we decided that we would be able to create a nice loop by combining the Orange, Yellow and Blue trails. Once on the orange trail, we found the ground was still spongy beneath our feet. In fact, most of Gibson consisted of a lush ground cover of a variety of mosses. Not far into our walk, we found a downed tree covered in Beard Lichen. The long whitish-green hairy growth was lovely to behold. Directly across from this artwork, I found another fine specimen of the orange jelly fungus I had first seen during our exploration of the Mount Pleasant preserve.
Not long after our discoveries, the orange trail began to follow the St. George River. From where we stood, I assumed that we were looking at the second section of Gibson preserve just across the river. For a number of years now, there has been statements on the land trust web site that they have been trying to find ways to connect the two sections but nothing has ever happened. Judging from the width of the river I am not sure that they could easily connect the two parts. For now, we continued towards the orange loop.
Soon, we arrived at the beginning of the orange loop. There was a lot of blow down and damaged trees in this area and we decided to deal with the tree blocking one portion of the loop at the end of our adventure. For now, we continued straight, stopping to admire the artistic swirls within another freshly downed tree.
At the first intersection with the yellow trail, we opted to continue on the orange trail but did side-step onto this trail to study a vernal pond not that far in. Making our way around the orange loop, we noticed that this section of the preserve consisted of cedar, white pine and spruce trees. There were quite a few elongated pine cones on the ground which we assumed to be from the white pines.
Turning on to the yellow trail, we continued to notice the various conifers above and the mosses below. At some point we crossed a bridge and I noticed from my map that we completely missed the blue trail. We turned back towards the bridge and looked across the water where we could see blue blazes deeper in the woods but there had been no sign of a turnoff towards that trail either at the bridge crossing or further up the trail. Since we had already passed both places where the trail intersected the yellow, we decided to abandon the exploration of the blue trail and headed back towards the entrance. We made our way around the downed tree where the yellow trail met the orange, managed to avoid falling into the river that made up the road leading back to our car and heading home for lunch. It had been a beautiful hike.