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Low bridge, everybody down

>> Monday, December 21, 2009

(If the title of the blog doesn't ring a bell, try here and make sure the sound is up on your computer).

One of the biggest attractions of our house before we bought it was that it is only about a block from the Erie Canal path.   It seemed like such an appealing idea to have a path through the woods so close to home.  And it is an appealing idea.  Unfortunately it isn't always quite so great in practice.

I must admit first of all that the canal path can be lovely.

Lots of stretches of it make for excellent bird watching, and I've spotted ducks, herons, deer, rabbits, muskrat, beavers, turtles, coyotes, ermine and other cool critters along its banks over the years.  It's easy walking, has great history, is good for low-impact mountain biking and other activities that can rip up more natural trails, and generally brings people closer to nature.

Sadly, however, our stretch of the canal path is not one of the most desirable.  We got the swampy bit.  The path itself is always dry as it's a fine gravel:

Along the other side of the path, however, is a massive swamp that breeds gargantuan swarms of mosquitoes.  That means the path is pretty much off limits during mosquito season.  It also sports the healthiest crop of poison ivy I have ever even conceived of.  Those two things combined make me itch whenever I even think of the trail.

The winter, of course, eliminates the mosquito problem and reduces the poison ivy problem (at least visually).  It also brings with it snowmobiles, some of which are driven by incredibly inconsiderate and even dangerous riders, and all of which stink to high heaven.  Thus, it's less than ideal for skiing or snowshoeing (not that I have snowshoes... yet).  Other drawbacks to our stretch of the canal are the garbage along the trail:

Although honestly some of that stuff has apparently been there so long it has practically become a collection of historic artifacts.

There is also, however, a landfill at the one mile mark.

Thankfully it's not a stinky one.

Sunday it also sported hunters, which freaked me out.  I support hunting, like eating venison, and want people to help control the deer population that gets out of control because humans have decimated their natural predators.  I just wish that hunting were always done legally by people with a modicum of intelligence and no alcohol in their blood streams.

Anywho, the proximity of the canal path still does have some perks, and we make use of it on occasion.  If nothing else, when there simply isn't time to drive to a more wild spot at least it's a stroll in the woods.  It's actually great for a jog that is lower impact on one's joints, and is easy to measure distances along, too.

Here are some of the highlights of our short stroll on Sunday:

The ice makes for great critter tracks, although I'm abysmal at making identifications from tracks.  There must be someone who reads this who can recommend a good field book for IDing tracks in snow?


This set of tracks I can identify - it's been made by a rare wild Basset hound sporting the latest in boot fashions with Vibram soles:

I noticed this debris in the snow, and paused to point out the sawdust to my husband.

Looking up, he replied that it isn't technically saw dust, it's more like jaw dust... from really small munchy jaws.

I kind of have to agree.

We also happened upon a massive pile of frozen apples that someone had apparently dumped along the trail, and which was being enjoyed by the wildlife.

Unfortunately none of the munchers were working on the pile when we were there, but to me those look like they might have been made by squirrel-sized teeth.

Finally, I like the sun shining off the wings of the geese flying overhead - as with most of the photos in my blog, you can click on this to enlarge it.

At least our canal path gave us a brief breath of fresh air and delicious hush of winter forest.


Sneaksleep December 21, 2009 at 11:24 AM  

Thanks, now I will have that song stuck in my head for the rest of the day! (Not that I mind).

Ellen Rathbone December 21, 2009 at 12:51 PM  

A really good beginner book for tracks is Tracks and Scats of the Northeast by Jim Bruchac and Jim Halfpenny (or is it Scats and Tracks?) It's pocket-size and easy to get through. For more detail, I recommend Mark Elbroch's books on tracking - tons of great info.

Better yet, take a course in tracking! I'm sure BLNC has some. And we do, if you find yourself up Newcomb-way this winter. :)

squirrel December 22, 2009 at 10:14 AM  

I loved this post. Thanks for the trip and good information. For a moment I thought I was walking along the C&O Canal near Harpers Ferry.
Happy Holiday

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