After I went on my Walk-About with Zach, it made me realize that I could do many more Walk-Abouts closer to home. It’s true I wouldn’t have Zach’s knowledge to guide me. But I could use what I’d already learned from him to experience not only The Orphaned Woods, but other natural environments close by.
My friend Jackie loves to walk in the woods as I do and is familiar with hiking trails where she lives a little further north from us.
Yesterday we walked on a trail, along the Hudson River through the Hudson Point Nature Preserve.
There were a variety of terrains along the trail, wooded pine forests, small sandy beaches on the river, and swamps bursting with life.
Although we got sidetracked talking to each other at times, we both were conscious of Seeing Wide. That way of seeing that Zach told me about. It’s seeing not only what is in front of you, but being aware of your peripheral vision and seeing it all at the same time.
Before she saw it, Jackie felt this caterpillar, about three inches long, climbing up her leg. She picked it up so we could get a closer look at its face. I have no idea what kind of caterpillar it is, but when Jackie put it on a pine tree, it vanished on the rough gray bark.
I’d seen plenty of lilypads and their flowers in the lakes up Upstate NY, but I’d never seen this tall purple flower with a Lilly-like leaf growing on the edges of the swamps. I used the plant Identification on the photos on my iPhone to find out that this is a PIckerelweed.
In the swamp, besides hundreds of damselflies mating, was this lumpy mass, growing off the wooden walkway under the water. I thought it was frog eggs, but Jackie, who is one of those people who remember the Latin names for plants, said she thought it was some kind of freshwater organism.
She was right. It’s called a freshwater Bryozoan and is “made up of hundreds to thousands of microscopic animals called zooids.” It’s an indication of a healthy ecosystem.
As we walked toads as small as Japanese beetles to one the size of a softball hopped out of our way. Inch-long fish swam in the shallow water along the small sandy beaches. We heard more birds than we saw, and even passed a few other people and a couple of dogs.
We came to one spot that Jackie recognized as the place where once she had seen dozens of Lady Slippers blooming. There were no pink and white flowers, but as we took the time to look closer Jackie found two wide orchid leaves laying close to the ground. Now that I knew what the leaves looked like, I found another plant. This one had a stem shooting up from the center of the two low leaves, a wilted brown flower sagging off the top of it.
Soon we saw they were everywhere. Some with the flower already gone replaced by a single leaf at the top of the stem like a little flag.
We decided that next year we’d come back to this spot earlier in the month to see the Lady Slippers in bloom.
On the path back the sun was shining through the thick pine cover lighting the glossy green leaves of a flower neither of us had ever seen before.
Like the orchids, once we saw one plant the others came to our awareness. But even though there were so many of them blooming with their waxy pink and white flowers, when the sun didn’t shine on them up, they were almost unnoticeable.
I couldn’t help but wonder what else we hadn’t seen.
Jackie and I agreed to continue our Walk-Abouts. I’m not sure where we’ll go next time, but I will take pictures and write about it.