December Quiet

Recently we had an opportunity to spent a few days at Salt Fork State Park. It’s located in eastern part of the state and is Ohio’s largest state park at 17,000 acres encompassing a landscape of forested hills, open meadows, valleys, winding streams and a large serpentine lake. It’s a park that’s new to us with a name that is said to have been derived from a salt well located in its southwest corner that was used by Native Americans. Early December is not the busiest time and the park system was offering a senior discount in an effort to rectify that problem. With leaves mostly on the ground and their colors fading fast it is not the best time of year to experience nature’s beauty, but if one loves to hike and explore we thought “the deal” was too good to pass up.

Morning landscape, from the lodge, (all images may be clicked on for a better view).

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A short afternoon hike after our arrival revealed that recent wet weather had resulted in trails that were wet, and in spots very muddy, but perhaps what was noticed most was that, with the exception of the call of a distant crow or a nearby chickadee, the woods were completely silent.

Along the trails the lake can often be seen.

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During our stay we had the opportunity to explore various trails and the playful sound of small streamlets could often be heard as they made their way down gullies and around moss-covered rocks.

Oak leaves on moss-covered rocks and a very small waterfall.

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Fortunately there were “wildflowers” to enjoy but not the kind one goes in search of in early spring woods.

Red-orange Mycena, (Donna).

Turkey Tail bouquet, (Donna).

Interesting but unidentified, (Donna).

Cypress needles on moss.

Crowded Parchment, (Donna).

Unidentified polypore.

Perhaps Ground Pholiota

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Moss covered rocks and fallen cypress needles provided the most vivid color seen.

Now moss-covered this sandstone rock broke off from a nearby cliff.

Bald Cypress

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A longer hike took us by an old stone house on our way to Hosak’s cave and waterfall. The house was built by Benjamin Kennedy, an early settler to the region, around 1840. With the exception of the lake the surrounding landscape probably looks a lot like it did then.

Old Stone House

Hosack’s Cave. Notice the small waterfall that is probably non-existent most of the year.

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The morning of our departure we were greeted by two inches of fresh snow. In the stillness it was magical.

View from the lodge.

Sycamore

Holly, (Donna).

In the fresh snow a small stream stands out.

Like powdered sugar the light snow graced park trees.

Snow covered branches reflect at water’s edge.

A Great Blue Heron seems out of place.

Blooms of a different kind, Tulip Tree.

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The lodge, all decorated for the holidays with the warm glow of fireplaces in cozy locations, was lovely. The food, be it breakfast, lunch, or diner, while not French cuisine, was reasonably priced and very good. The staff was very friendly and helpful.

Late autumn snow, Salt Fork State Park.

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At times nature’s beauty, found when not expected, speaks to us in a whisper.

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Thanks for stopped by.

Enchanted November Woods

A half an hour before, we were standing in a cold wind just below a dam that has created one of central Ohio’s larger reservoirs trying our best to spot, and perhaps photograph, the Black-legged Kittiwake that was reported in the area. A unique opportunity because it’s a gull not usually seen in these parts. We finally did get a very average binocular view of the bird, another one for my “life list”, but in the process managed to journey pretty far down the road to hypothermia. Now we were looking forward to a hike in the woods with the thought that it wouldn’t be windy and the modest exertion might be enough to warm us up.

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Char-Mar Ridge Park, is not far from the dam so it seemed like a good choice. The park is home to numerous species of large trees as well as a pond that usually contains waterfowl. A plus is that next to the pond is a nicely situated observation blind for undetected viewing. This time of the year finds most leaves, a significant portion of which are oak, on the forest floor as the bare branched sentinels, once their home, tower overhead. The lack of leaves on branches promotes a rather barren landscape but made it easy to spot a Pileated woodpecker just minutes into our walk. It insisted on maintaining its position between us and the sun foiling efforts to obtain a really good photo.

Pileated Woodpecker, all photos may be clicked on for a better view.

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Once in the park it was hard not to notice the uniform blanket of leaves. They accentuated the park’s large rocks and fallen trees giving the sense that one was walking through a sculptor garden.

Oak leaves on log.

Large glacial erratic.

Recent rains darkened fallen trees, further contrasting them with the leaves.

Fallen leaves and branches.

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While I was amusing myself with stumps and fallen trees my wife was doing her best to locate fascinating fungi.

A study of leaves, tree bark, and fungi.

Resinous Polypore, (Donna).

A type of spreading fungi, (Donna).

Lichen and jelly fungi, (Donna).

Common Split Gill just starting out, (Donna).

Colorful Turkeytail.

Perhaps young Cinnabar-red Polypore.

Another look, (Donna).

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It was just a short distance to the blind overlooking the pond and despite the fact that the resident Red Headed Woodpecker was not seen the time spent there did not disappoint. A neighborhood of usual suspects was more than happy to entertain us.

White Breasted Nuthatch, (Donna).

Another look.

Male Cardinal.

White-throated sparrow, (Donna).

Another look.

Tufted Titmouse, (Donna).

What are you looking at?

Downy Woodpecker

Take 2.

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There was also activity on the pond.

Male Hooded Merganser.

Male and female Gadwalls

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It is hard not to be enchanted when one finds color suspended in an otherwise drab gray landscape. Most leaves were down but those on the smaller beech trees hang on and even though their color is no match for the brilliant reds of a maple they did their best to supply color.

Color suspended among slender trees.

A closer look.

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Recent rains meant that some areas still contained “ponds” of standing water on and along the path creating a challenge for dry feet but also provided a unique “looking-glass” into the late autumn woods.

November reflection.

November reflection, black and white.

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November reflection 2.

November reflection 2, black and white .

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In the cold November woods there always is more going on than we know. We move too fast and miss much, wishing for warmer days.

Char-Mar Ridge Park.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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