January 3, 2014

Maybe Winter isn't all THAT Bad...

Yesterday Bill and I ventured out to Clear Creek Metro Park in the Hocking Hills to meet three friends for a day of hiking. We were a little reticent, since there was a snow advisory when we left home and there was already an inch or so of new snow on the ground. By the time we got to Lancaster the snow was coming down pretty hard so I checked my weather app. Oops--while we were on the road the snow advisory had turned into a winter storm warning, and the snow accumulation prediction had gone from 1-3 inches to 3-5 inches. Well, we were already nearly there so it didn't make any sense to turn back, and we were glad we didn't!

The hiking was really fun. The forest was surprisingly quiet, with no birdsong or rustling leaves. The snow even muffled the sound of our footsteps. I enjoyed getting out in front and traipsing through the new, untracked snow. 

Since the snow was so fresh, we didn't see too many animal tracks but I'm sure that by now there are plenty. Animals tend to hunker down until the storm passes, and often you can then observe a lot of activity.

At one point our friend Jim was hiking behind Bill

and noticed something move in the footprint Bill had just made. He called the rest of us over, and asked us to hand him a walking stick. He flipped over the crust of snow that Bill's boot had made as he walked ahead, and there was a tiny, dark gray mammal--a short-tailed shrew! Unfortunately I wasn't fast enough to get a picture; quite rapidly the shrew scrambled back into the snow and disappeared.

Short-tailed shrews are voracious predators and have to eat about 3 times their weight in insects, worms, snails and other animals each day in order to survive. They do not hibernate and can also eat plant material and fungi. They are one of the few mammals that has venom glands, which secrete a neurotoxin to subdue their prey. We seldom see them so it was great fun to see this little guy, especially against the snow cover.

Later in the hike we came across this beautiful lake, surrounded by hemlock trees:

I loved seeing the snow-covered beech trees, with their leaves still clinging to the twigs:

Clear Creek certainly looked different than just a couple of months ago!

The fruits of a sourwood tree look especially elegant with some snow cover:

Last summer's ironweed stands tall in a meadow:

It was definitely worth venturing out yesterday for this snowy adventure!

1 comment: