Sunday, September 20, 2015

September 20, 2015 - Leisurely Walks

Fall is here - it is my second favorite time of year to walk the trails around Lake Wicwas (early spring, with the renewal of life emerging everywhere tops my list).  With the black flies, mosquitoes, and deer flies now gone, I can once again enjoy a slow, leisurely walk in the woods without being hurried on my way by those annoyances.  It's a time to look closely at the lake and forest features I passed quickly by during the summer.  One of my favorites is the red eft.

Red Eft form of the Eastern Newt
As I was watching one recently it dawned on me just why I am so fascinated by these small amphibians.  One reason is that they move in such an interesting manner, like a giant dinosaur or alligator in miniature.  But I realized the critical factor is that I can watch it.  What other forest creature is so slow and calm that you can get right down on your hands and knees and watch it do its thing?  Just about everyone else - frogs, snakes, squirrels, birds, deer - they dash off in an instant.  But these little guys just go slowly on their way for you to watch.

While I was down there, I also noticed another miniature form of a previously giant object:  the Tree Clubmoss.
A forest of Clubmoss

This looks to me like a towering coniferous tree, but is in fact only five or six inches tall.  Similar to how the red-eft looks like a prehistoric creature, the clubmoss has been around for millions of years and is believed to be similar to very earliest plants that evolved on earth.  And in fact, their early relatives were 100 feet tall.  They grew in giant swamps and pumped so much oxygen into the atmosphere that the O2 content was 30 to 35% versus today's 21%.  This was during the "Carboniferous" period, so named because plants like the ancient clubmoss grew so abundantly that when they died their carbon loaded bodies were compressed into the coal and fossil (i.e. carbon) deposits we use today.  Imagine this a forest of 100 foot tall trees.

Much of what I learned on the Clubmoss came from a report on the NH State Parks blog - you can read the full report here.

If you're in the woods this fall, take advantage of the temperate, bug-free zone to look for previously unseen sights - maybe you'll even find a troll residence hidden beneath a moss-covered stone roof!
I hope the troll peeks out in the evening to catch the beautiful fall sunsets.

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