There is something special about the woods in a spring rain shower. The water beats steadily against my hood and I have a strong desire to pitch a tent, nostalgic for past backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail. The air is incredibly fresh and there is a silence that is unmatched. Bird songs sound crisper when they are accompanied by the sound of rain.
I came away soaked but it was an exhilarating dampness. The forest was alive despite its dormancy in the inclement weather. This trip reminded me why spring is my favorite season.
When I first entered North Beach, I was once again blow away by the hydrology. I thought my April trip was flooded but this was way worse. The North Beach Sign was nearly completely underwater, not at all serving its purpose. Even though the sign declaring Lone Rock Point closed for mud season was gone, the point was arguably muddier now than when it was supposed to be closed.
What appeared to be a vernal pool at the edge of the beach was still there although this time it was accompanied by more green and still seemed lacking of amphibian life.
As I walked to the point I was distracted be nearly every leaf and herbaceous plant I came across. There was so much visible change that I felt somewhat overwhelmed with the need to catalogue and record all of it. Red and sugar maples as well as aspens were unfolding their leaves while other leaves like that of the American beech and northern red oak were just beginning to escape their buds.
The dominant herbaceous species was trout lily, filling vast expanses of the forest floor its flowers just beginning to bloom.
There were lots of other random plants that I couldn’t quite identify and grew much less pervasively.
The ferns that I saw on the last trip were no longer covered in spores but there were several small fiddleheads in their clump.
The final aspect of the woods that impressed me on this trip was the lichen and fungi covering trees and stumps. The rain darkened the bark which really made the abnormalities stand out.
When I finally reached the point, I began to feel a bit sentimental. I was reminded of all the times I had wandered throughout the year. It seemed like it wasn’t too long ago that I was concerned I would get lost on the way to my site. It felt like such a long journey down the first few times and now it is a trip that feels so quick. Over the summer I will miss the views of the lake, the birds and all the intricacies in the cedar tree roots. I am looking again to visiting next fall and completing the phenological loop.
While I may see it as an escape into nature, my place is not free of human influence. The trails to my site are always filled with hikers and the the litter is a clear sign of human presence.
On this trip someone had even left remains of a fire on the bluff.
My place is even permanently marked by the Lake Survey.
The point is, people and their signs are everywhere. People mostly visit my spot for the purpose of recreation, or they are like me and consider this natural environment an escape from a busier life. My place would certainly not be the same without people, even though I do not always physically see them.
Everyone who ever enters a place always becomes a part of it whether they realize it or not. Places are defined by the smallest aspects of human impact. Simply walking through a forested area like my place will crush plants and bugs, forever altering the microcosm of an ecosystem that previously existed. Our impact on a place may not always be large but this impact will make us a part of it. The extensive time I have spent getting to know my place means that my impact to my place is much greater than that of mere hikers. Given I have been sharing my place with others, I would argue that I am also more of a part of my place than most. The best way to become a part of a place spend quality time in it alone while also sharing it with others.
(Original Photographs Copyright Colby Bosley-Smith, 2017)