More Nature in Early Spring

Last week I posted some pictures of ‘nature in early spring,’ as a response to ‘healingmagichands’ challenge to look at nature around us.  In so doing, I became intrigued by this time of the year, as winter thaws, but the world has not yet come to life.  I was able to go out with my two sons and walk the trails down to the river.

We live in paradise.   At least, that’s how I see it.  We have access to numerous trails in the woods, heading to a local stream, with gorgeous views and seemingly unlimited hiking opportunities — all accessed from our backyard.  We hiked down to the river, and then back up a particularly muddy path. At one point Dana (3) had gotten tired so I picked him up to carry him.  I stepped on a ‘snow tunnel,’ sunk, and fell, with Dana hitting the ground sideways.  It was slow motion so no one was hurt (we were covered in mud, not blood), but that chunk of the trail can probably wait a week or two.

Some photos.  First, the boys ready to head out from the back yard towards the river:
img_5074 There is still very little green, the gardens are still drying out, but you can see signs of life.   Water is everywhere, and little streams form sounds and images that really define this time of year.

img_5083 This is a typical example — the trail    also  gets used by ATVs, which may sound like a pain but while they are load, they are infrequent and we always have time to move out of the way (most hikes we don’t encounter them).   Moreover, Ryan and Dana may themselves be into ATVs someday, even though we’re not.  The ruts from ATV tracks create pathways for the streams to flow.  This tiny stream flows into a larger one (and is fed by even smaller ones), which goes down to the river.  The boys were excited to ‘follow the water,’ and discover how it all flows down the hill to the river.

img_5099We reach the river at the top of a steep bank, with places eroded.  There are points where it goes pretty much straight down.   Mostly mud, but still I worked to make sure the boys didn’t get too close to the edge.  The river becomes a mere trickle by late summer, especially if we don’t get much rain (it’s really a stream), but at this time of the year it’s flowing well!img_5107 The trail ultimately goes right down to the river, and if we wanted to we could follow it a long ways.  There are also numerous trails going into the woods, some of the with hills and jumps designed for ATVs, some that really can only accommodate people on foot.  If we go the other direction we ultimately cross the trail, or we can veer off and head for miles towards nearby towns.    As we decided to head back a different route, we hit a much more difficult and muddy section, including the infamous “snow tunnels.”  img_5122 Luckily, we’re all wearing mud boats (a must purchase item in this part of the country) so the mud wasn’t a problem — and there’s enough lingering snow that we could clean them off.   The boys could usually walk on the snow OK, but I’m a bit heavy and often hit weak spots (and Ryan had fun stomping on ‘snow tunnels’ and causing them to collapse).  And, of course, we could follow the trails of water and think about how the water was making it’s way down to the river.   Ryan, always one to think through things, figured that some water must stay in the ground so that our well could work.  I explained that the well is over 400 feet deep, and there are little lakes down there.  He was surprised that the dirt, rather than making it dirty, actually filtered the water.



And finally, after about an hour, with Ryan above helping Dana navigate the mud, we near home, coming out in the front yard (seen barely, through the trees).


As spring continues and drifts into summer and fall I’ll revisit this path, and note the changes.  Summer becomes alive with intense green, and in autumn this path is unbelievably beautiful as the trees turn bright yellow, red and orange.  People take vacations to see foilage like we have right out the door.  Yet for now, it’s still early spring, nature is just starting to awaken.   People are raking and cleaning their yards, with the grass still brown and crushed against the ground after having snow often over four feet deep piled upon it.   The mud was good to see deer tracks, as well as imprints from other small animals (though I had to reassure the boys that wolves and bears weren’t about to jump out).   Ryan even told me he saw a white bunny carrying a basket with colored eggs — I wish I’d had my camera ready for that one!

A walk like this, in fresh air (and as yet no bugs) provides a natural high.  Any stress from the day or the routine disappears.   And I have to count my blessings, having paradise accessible from the front door!

  1. #1 by henitsirk on April 14, 2009 - 01:43

    Nice hydrology lesson!

    I miss our NY home…it was a lot like yours, though more suburban. We had a stream in our backyard, surrounded by forest, and lots of wildlife. It was really heaven for the kids to go mucking around in the water and mud, make little “houses” in the woods, see the changes of season, etc.

    Here in ID we have much less water, but lots of open space, and ATVs galore. My son already wants one, of course. We weren’t really equipped this year to explore any winter trails — must get snowshoes next year! — but I’m looking forward to some nature walks next month, when wildflowers should be appearing.

    The grass is definitely greening up here, and there are spring bulbs in gardens. However we just had a thunderstorm with a bit of hail, and tomorrow night should bring a bit of snow. Very unsettled weather this time of year.

  2. #2 by Mike Lovell on April 14, 2009 - 14:06

    Love the pictures. When I was growing up, we lived with a ravine (located dead in the middle of town) as our backyard. It became a great place of exploring…we eventually got the nerve to go through the “devil worshipper’s tunnel” that passed underneath a street and continued the ravines path toward the river across town. And then there was another ravine on the southside that went from the golf course and took a windy course until it ended up at the river. Then wading down the mighty Raccoon River became our next explorers’ challenge. I have always found myself at peace when I am in the paradise setting of even the smallest chunk of “wilderness”.

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