Like the brown bear aroused from his winter sleep during a winter thaw, outdoors beckoned my companion and I with warm February temperatures—70 degrees Fahrenheit.
We grabbed our walking sticks, put the leash on the dog and headed out, our destination being the Twin Swamps trail in Point Township, Posey County. We counted our blessings—no bugs, no poison ivy—a fine day for a hike in the woods.
As my friend, Dan, and I were treading the elevated wooden walkways that have been built across the sometimes damp and muddy path, we noticed that many of the trees standing had been charred by fire at their base. On the ground were burnt small timbers. There were no dead leaves blanketing the forest floor. In fact, we immediately saw one fallen log still sending forth smoke. And then another damp log sizzling. My dog, Pepper, was not so curious about scents in this scorched area. Had the lightning from the recent storm struck and burnt the preserve or was this a controlled burn?
About mid-way down the flat one mile trail we found an elevated fallen log that was not charred on its upper side. This we used as a resting spot lamenting how parks and preserves need to provide benches for the elderly who still like to walk but may need a brief rest to recharge their batteries along the way. This lack of resting spots is evident even at Harmonie State Park. But rest we did on our log while listening to the woodpeckers high in the canopy.
Other than birds, we neither heard nor saw any squirrels or other wildlife nearby with the exception of one small dead snake along the trail. The snake was intact and may have died from smoke inhalation in an underground hole. The silhouette of a deer was seen in the forest at a far distance.
As we neared the cypress swamp, we crossed a large barren four foot wide trail. It appeared to be a fire break. Beyond that trail, dead leaves were so thick on the ground that it was difficult to see where the trail to the swamp resumed. A marked post just beyond the “fire break” showed the way.
When we arrived at the swamp, the cypress knees were standing stark upright in the mud. The water, that I had seen on previous hikes come all the way to the beginning of the walkway, had receded dramatically. As we walked towards the elevated observatory at the end of the boardwalk, we noticed a number of trees in the swamp had been downed by beavers. Had the beavers built a dam which was impeding water flow to the cypress tree swamp?
The boardwalk and elevation tower do have benches. One can go with binoculars, relax and watch the spring migration of warblers and flycatchers. Springtime is a lovely time to hike the Twin Swamps trail. Blue bells are in bloom. If one hikes in August, the spider lily may be seen with its large white fragrant blossoms.
We headed back down the trail, choosing not to go the path to the other swamp that has over-cup oak as the predominant tree species. We knew where our resting log awaited.
Now, in the second week of March, winter has returned with snow, wind and cold temperatures. And, like the brown bear, we once again have settled into our comfortable dens while awaiting warm temperatures but with good memories of an early Twin Swamps hike.
©Ann Rains March, 2017