Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Late March

Unseasonably warm. That was how you would describe the weather on the 27th here in central Pennsylvania.

With temperatures reaching over 70 degrees - I found myself very winded, out of shape, and out of practice with my hiking. Unable to ignore the beautiful weather, I hopped into my car (hehe) and drove off to one of my favorite haunts - and a place I often visit to get away from the world. I visit it even moreso now that I have a car than I ever did.

I pulled into the grandparents driveway where I shuffled around the driveway with pap, smoking cigarettes and talking about the upcoming trout season. I'm hoping like hell I get the time off from work to do it. This year will be unlike any other year because for the first time I can fish WHENEVER and WHEREVER I want! It's going to be great. As for the smoking bit...I'm going to give'er another go with the whole quitting thing. Now that I'm able to hike again and burn fat, I don't have to smoke. Whereas before, smoking was a crutch that seemed to keep flab off of has no become a burden. Slowing me down, and adding labor to the simple task of breathing.

I put out my cigarette and walked around the house. I stumbled upon grandmas old garden which has been left unattended. Most flowers have been removed, as it is slowly phased out to blend in with the rest of the yard. Despite this however, one of springs first beauties is in full bloom. Meet the Crocus:


Sprouting from the earth, the crocus add bursts of violety hues to the new green grass, an the old stone walkway.



Digital cameras and binoculars in hand, I moved forthward across the field to the forest I so often frequent. The trail is covered in a green carpet of moss, which at this time of year is some of the only greenery to be found in the forest. The only greenery that is, until you come upon one of the many springs of the area.

I hike down the trail, feeling a lot like I was walking on the back of a giant green fuzzy snake that twisted through the forest. Then I came to another field.


Visually bland, the sunbleached grasses and leafless ridge did little to satisify my taste for nature. Milkweed pods stand dead, opened, and lifeless in the stiff crisp grass, fastened into the muddy soil beneath my feet. Although most have been dispersed already, I catch glances of the white tufted seeds blowing in the March wind as I pass through.


Dividing two fields there is a line of trees. At the edge, a pile of wood stands overlooking the dip in the field which is bordered by the foot of a large oak ridge. The forest there is full of springs and my interest grows as spring progresses as I know in this very woodline there is some prime mushroom (particularly MOREL MUSHROOM) habitat.

more field...

I've never found a morel - although this is my first year searching for them. I shouldn't have a large amount of trouble, but it is a well known fact in the shrooming world that a morel patch is a SECRET! If you ever find these delightful little mushrooms, don't share the information with other shroomers or you'll be sorry! So, what makes this woodlot prime morel territory? For starters, this:

Apple Trees

Once upon a time, this section of forest was field. A field with apple trees. Decades later, the field was neglected and has since grown up with a variety of trees. A handful of apple trees are still standing in amongst the oaks and maples.

Now, according to my new morel book, the Yellow Morel (which peaks it's season in May) is particularly fond of dead, or dying apple trees. Neglected apple orchards spawn a LOT of morels much of the time - and I'm hoping this is the case with my little secret place.

Before the yellow morel, there will be black morels...undoubtedly coming into season within the next couple weeks, and lasting through May alongside it's yellow counterpart. Chances I will find them in the area are pretty good too, although I believe their fruiting will be determined more by the maples, and tulip poplars in the lot. One this is for sure though...there is PLENTY of moisture!



Springs are everywhere at the base of this ridge and while poking around in anticipation for mushroom season I jumped the American Woodcock, or "Timberdoodle" on a few occassions. Here is a drawing of mine featuring this beautiful, but strange bird. Also - note the mushrooms behind him. Those are the mighty yellow morels I'm seeking this year.

American Woodcock

The woodcock meanders around the springs, probing the soft mud for earthworms. With their large eyes, these birds are most active in early morning and late evening where they emit a nasal "peeeeeeent" sound while spiraling upward from the ground for courtship. As one of my favorite birds, they are closely related to (and sometimes referred to as) the Snipe.

Thirsty from the overload of exercise I put on myself at once, I couldn't seem to ignore the taunting trickle of ice cold spring water as it trickled down the forest floor toward some distant stream.




Throughout the wet forest floor I found decaying logs and stumps covered in polypore mushrooms. With so much moisture, I'm sure this new hotspot will reveal even more species than my other haunts. The specimens found were dry, and relatively lifeless. But slowly, life is being restored to the forest.


So gradual is springs onset, that nobody can really pinpoint the exact day when a brown field becomes green. I'm looking forward to another year of great nature experiences.

Stay tuned...