What’s more fun than a winter hike? A winter NIGHT hike, naturally.
On the eve of the Winter Solstice, 7 Girl Scouts, their leaders and sibs, earned their Hiking badge in the nature preserve. We set out at 6 p.m., flashlights in mittened and gloved hands. The sky was a little hazy, but we could see Cassiopia and the Big Dipper, with flashlights off, from our seats in the new Nature’s Classroom. Venus, the dazzling evening “star” of December, greeted us on the return hike up the hill south of Red Fox Cabin.
The hike was lively, with the questions and observations that are some of the best things about sharing the trails. We didn’t hear or see wildlife but they undoubtedly saw us. Turkeys had been there first, leaving trails with their wingtips in the snow. Squirrels had crossed the paths, leaving little prints at the top of one hill where its looked like they took a breather before moving on. We saw tiny hoof prints and larger padded paw marks left by a fox or Stitch, the large neighbor cat who stops by when children are onsite.
Thanks to the troop for bringing apples, carrots and potatoes for the residents of the farm animal sanctuary.
On Friday, as we walked the main trail, one of the scouts asked me if I best liked hiking during the day or at night. Come on over and decide for yourself on Saturday, January 11, from 8 to 9 p.m. We will hike under January’s Full Wolf Moon named after howling wolves who are, tragically, no longer here. But we can imagine and celebrate what is and what may be. Please bring a flashlight and dress for the weather. Call 419-384-7195 or email firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, January 10, at 4 p.m. to tell us you are coming.
Overheard in a local check-out line: “We just didn’t have a fall this year.”
Oh, but we did. It was an autumn rich with analogous pigments running up and down the warm side of the color wheel. Northwest Ohio had a Fall on fire. Fortunately, the fire wasn’t a consuming inferno like the one raging through the Great Smokey Mountains and points around, though it is dry here. Cranberry Run doesn’t run and the old quarry bed is hollow with one soft, spring-fed spot near its center. Chewed bits of osage orange are scattered on the east bank.
Those bits are a concern, not because they’ll harm the chewer but because quite a few have been chewed and it’s not even half way through December. Osage oranges (also called hedge apples) aren’t a menu choice for native mammals around here, according to tropical ecologist Dan Janzen of the University of Pennsylvania and Paul Martin, a paleoecologist at the University of Arizona, scientists who teamed up to develop the concept of ecological anachronisms.
Those honeylocust pods and osage oranges that still cling to their mothers stand out as deep purple and chartreuse highlights among bare branches. At night, tree branches spiderweb toward the stars, or as is the case tonight, into heavy clouds pushed by wind so strong that it’s snowing sideways. This morning, stars shown in that sky. As I ran down the road before dawn, Orion was still trying to grab the handle of the Big Dipper as the Hunter’s legs slipped below the horizon line to the other side of the world. This weekend, the white reflected blaze of the Cold Moon will hide all but both of these constellations brightest stars.
If you join us in the back tallgrass field for the December 10 Cold Moon hike, you’ll appreciate the brilliance of this, unless partly cloudy predictions turn to mostly cloudy. Cloud cover seems likely, but we may venture out anyhow.
But before the clouds move in, we can appreciate the cold fire that builds most evenings of late, in full view of Red Fox Cabin’s front porch.