Our mid-May Wednesday hike was one of those days when the thermometer indicated a warmer temperature than what we perceived. With a cool breeze blowing, we spent quite a bit of time deciding whether we needed jackets. We had agreed to explore one of the preserves closer to home and realizing that our walk through Tanglewood would be shaded, we opted to bring the jackets. Little did we know that those coverings would be a life-saver.
As I have mentioned before, Tanglewood is one of those places that is wet even during the dry season, so we did anticipate that we would need to work around some rather large puddles. To our advantage, the last few weeks had been rather dry but we still needed to walk around some mucky areas. What we had not taken into account was that this was the middle of May, the first week after Mother’s Day, and the black flies were out with a vengeance. I had never seen it so bad. When my friend stopped to hunt for frog and salamander eggs in one of the off-trail ponds, I soon grew tired of waving the bugs away and donned a bug net. If it wasn’t for the nets (and the jackets) we would have been forced to give up our ramble and head back towards the safety of our car.
Once we were appropriately attired, we were able to continue our exploration of the area. Except for the swarm of flies, this was the best time of year for observing the growth of the spring season. A few days before I had noticed the leaves of various wildflowers but no other color than the green foliage could be found. Now, we found new flowers springing up on a daily basis and I happily pointed out different wildflowers for my friend. As we walked along the Forest Trail, I pointed out sessile-leaved bellwort and painted trillium.
Our goal was to take the Forest Trail to the campground and then circle back on the River Trail. It took us some time to reach the camp since there were so many interesting things to study. In addition to the wildflowers, we also had to stop and take pictures of the Wood Frog that we had startled as we disturbed its hiding place in the leaf litter. We eventually reached the campground and had to stop to admire the suspension bridge that crossed the river at that point. The last time I saw this bridge was during winter a few years ago. Now I noticed a sign with the word “Pitcher Pond” that pointed to a trail on the other side of the river. I wondered if that would be an excursion for another day.
From the camp, we followed the river back towards the entrance. Along the way, there were additional flowers to admire. I was not sure about some of them but I later identified one as a wood anemone. When we reached a grove of rather tall plants with ribbed leaves growing up from the center of the leaves beneath, I recognized this from my months’ long attempt at trying to identifying it when I spotted it in Central New York. I was happy to be able to name it as a false hellebore. (The plant is toxic to both animals and humans if ingested).
As we made our way back to the car, we noticed that the swarm of black flies had dissipated a bit. Perhaps they let-up during the afternoon hours. Even though we felt rather warm at this point, we were not inclined to remove either the jackets or the nets for fear that the bugs would smell fresh food and return. After we were safely in the car, we removed our protective layers and headed for home.