When I first moved to northern Niagara County, I started exploring my new ‘hood (by “exploring” I mean driving back and forth on Route 18) and thus discovered Wilson-Tuscarora State Park. In the summer I would ride my bike to the park, stopping to take in the view of Toronto across Lake Ontario on a clear day. Once I went swimming at the beach, doing laps in the barely-60 degree water in the final days before a September triathlon. Another time I joined a group to kayak out on the lake (which frankly scared the beejezus out of me, a novice kayaker, but it was beautiful.)
Alas, I had never ventured into the woods and the marked trails.
It’s been an historically warm December in Western New York and while I am one of those people who is wistful for some snow I also want to take full advantage of the mild temperatures. It was an overcast Sunday morning that turned into a great time for a walk in the woods, particularly since I wanted to spend time with my boyfriend, Scott, before driving to Detroit to cover a hockey a game.
The trailhead was easy to find off one the back of a parking lot and the path was well marked. It was an easy nature walk which got me thinking about the difference between “hike” and “nature walk” and if there’s a need to distinguish between the two. Of course it’s helpful to distinguish between the two as “hike” usually implies a greater degree of difficulty than “nature walk” but for my purposes it all boils down to one thing — time in the woods is always time well spent.
Back to the hike/nature walk.
There are few different trails that loop around the woods and wetland area of Twelve Mile Creek. I was grateful to be surrounded by birds and trees and fallen leaves — the peacefulness and stillness of the day helped soothe the stress of my work-related road trip. Away from my laptop and Twitter and DVR collection of yet-to-be-watched hockey games, I was able to be in the moment with Scott. Which was a good thing. Because Scott has much knowledge and a keen eye. He pointed out wild grapes still clinging to some vines and a few remaining small apples.
We heard an animal in cattails and waited for it to come out. Only Scott explained those weren’t cattails but phragmites — an invasive speciies which crowds out native vegetation. Huh. Learn something new every day.
Our walk continued, momentarily jutting out onto the disc golf course. We continued back into the woods along Twelve Mile Creek. As we approached the creek mouth, near a private marina on Tuscarora Bay, there were remnants of what looked like an old bridge. Yep. Clearly it was an old bridge. You could see how the grass on the opposite side was once a road. While interesting to see, it sparked all sorts of questions in my head. What was the road used for? Why did it fall into dissue? I remember reading that Wilson at one time was a big shipbuilding town. Was this road part of that industry? The narrative layers of the history and natural surroundings fascinated me. When Scott started talking about hemlock, I snapped out of my daydreaming.
Hemlock? Wait. As in the way Socrates chose to die? (Hey, don’t look at me like that. I know stuff.) Know, this was hemlock spruce, resembling a pine tree. They can stay small, biding their time in the shade of bigger trees for as long as 400 years. See that’s no biggie for them since they live for 900 years. I sense nature trying to teach me a lesson in patience. Also these hemlock leaves are high in Vitamin C. As he told me this I recalled some guided nature walk where the expert told us natives would make tea out of the hemlock leaves. (Sometimes I forget I know stuff. Rentition is also often problematic.)
We finished our walk in the woods and took a turn around the boat launch to walk along the water. That’s when Scott caught a glimpse of the birds. “Did you see that big white bird?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I assumed it was a seagull.”
“I don’t think it’s a seagull,” he said.
I mean what other kind of bird could it be? We walked along the road then quietly up the grass hill to peer into the water. Sure enough, these were white and black ducks. I had never seen such ducks. Actually I probably have but failed to take real notice and dismissed them as seagulls.
They were bufflehead ducks. The black and white ones were the males follwed by the females which were grey. We stood back and watched them for a while, wishing we had binoculars for a better look. Even from a distance they were beautiful and graceful and the only words that came from my mouth were “That’s so cool!” Not quite poetry. But truth. So there’s poetry in there, somewhere.
Hike 52 Project
Date: Dec. 13, 2015
Location: Wilson-Tuscarora State Park
Total distance: 1.8 miles
Elevation: 31 feet
Duration: 1 hour 2 minutes
Weather: 48 degrees, overcast, short drizzle, wind 8mph east
Hiked with: Scott
“Week 2 #hike52”
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