The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot.
— Werner Herzog
This past weekend, I walked 4 or 5 miles along the Northern Rail Trail between Andover (Potter Place) and Wilmot, NH. It’s a trail I’ve travelled a few times before, though not this early in the year and usually on bicycle. Walking is slower, you don’t cover as much ground, but you see and hear so much more.
This was the first day I heard wood frogs, a multitude of them, making their quacking sounds in the swampy area along the rail trail, not far from Potter Place. Of course, as I slowly approached to try to catch a glimpse, they quieted. I sat for 15 minutes in silence, but they were not fooled. I could hear them a few hundred yards farther up the trail.
The other prominent sound was that of two yellow-bellied sapsuckers calling and drumming to each other across the trail, one on each side. (Photos are of same individual.)
One reason for choosing the rail trail was in the hope that there would be coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) in bloom — the other reason was that most of the wooded dirt trails were still icy and slushy — and my hope was not unfounded! Only two sets of plants, both in the same spot, but still rewarding to see some flower colour after a long winter.
More colour on the hazelnut shrubs along the river, just off the trail a bit.
There was some ice and slush on the trail, but not much.
At one spot, in a sandy area just off the trail, I saw dozens of insects flying low to the ground. They looked like flies or bees but until I got a photo, I wasn’t sure (and I’m still not: there may have been other insects that my camera didn’t catch).
The Andrena is also called a mining or sand bee, and they have nests in the ground. Hence the presence also of this blister beetle, which is parasitic on ground-nesting bees:
Back on the trail, I almost stepped on this woolly bear. I’m not accustomed to seeing them in the spring. I found out via Wikipedia that it’s the larva stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella) and that it overwinters in this caterpillar form, freezing solid (but surviving due to a cryoprotectant in its tissues). Now, in spring, it thaws out “and emerges to pupate. Once it emerges from its pupa as a moth it has only days to find a mate.”
There were signs, as usual along rail trails, of the historical uses of the trail, including some tracks and what looked like a possible train platform, and a water trough, now covered in moss, with some plumbing attached.
There was also evidence of other animals having passed by not long before us. I’m not sure of the source of either of these.
I like walking this bit of the trail through ledge; there are trees, mosses, and other plants growing in the little soil on the rock.
From some spots on the trail, there’s a view of Mt. Kearsarge.
Don’t forget to celebrate National Trails Day on 6 June this year!