Friday, June 8, 2012

Ruth Kern Woodland Preserve, Fulton County

     I took my latest nature walk alone.  I so enjoyed the quiet and solitude of my hike at Asherwood that I decided to go solo once more.  It was fine.  Lovely, really, but near the end, I was ready for some company.

     The Ruth Kern Woodland preserve contains a wide variety of growth from hardwoods, to pines, to the bank of the Tippecanoe river, to ponds, streams and wetlands.  I was captivated by the abandoned Christmas tree farm that used to occupy this land.
Remnants of the Kern family Christmas tree farm, active from the 50's to the 80's.
      But what was once a Christmas tree farm is now a thriving pine forest, my favorite kind of forest to hike in.  I love the carpeting of fallen pine needles which can make your footsteps almost silent.  Breathing in the sharp pine scented air is almost heaven to me! 
I find this winding, pine needle covered path so enchanting!
There is nothing like being enveloped in a towering stand of pines to make you
 feel small and insignificant...and alone.
     In fact, it was in this pine forest that I almost met death. I was meandering down the path in the photo above, when I startled a family of deer, big ones, causing them to scamper away.  Only their "scamper" sounded more like a stampede to me, complete with the thunder of beating hooves and vibrations traveling through the ground to shake my already trembling knees. The scariest part was that I couldn't see them through the woodsy growth.  So I knew they couldn't see me.  And I just knew they were going to burst through the forest, onto my trail, and trample me to death. Thankfully, deer aren't completely stupid, and tend to run away from human smells and sounds, not toward them.  Whew! Untimely demise averted.
     Only later, when I had (sort of) returned to my senses, did I conclude that I was probably never in any danger. However, from this moment on I was shaken, and began to see the forest in a different, more sinister light.  Now I wished I had some company!
Neat visual line pattern? Or reaching branches with a mind of their own...
"The branches bent down and twined around him."
~The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
It struck me odd that these trees were growing so closely together, as if they are huddling in some whispered conversation.
The Ruth Kern preserve was once Camp Wright, a camp serving boy scouts from
eastern Chicago from 1932 to the 1950's.  This duckweed covered pond was once their swimming hole.   It looked harmless enough.  Until I saw these creepy things...
Many of these short and stout, knobby and weird little things littered the pond's edge.  I now know that these are called Cypress Knees, and are woody growths that project upward from the roots of the Bald Cypress.  Before I looked them up, I was convinced they were the Swamp Thing's little brothers rising up from the depths.
Swamp Thing
Created by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson, first presented by DC Comics in 1971.

     As I stood surveying this lovely, serene vista, I thought my mindset was shifting toward a more positive (less freaked out) outlook.  One that could enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the forest.  But around the next bend, I met this guy...
Don't you recognize him?  
Davy Jones
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, 2007
     At this point I was very done with my solo hike, my rattled nerves could take no more!  Thankfully I was at the end of the trail system and very close to the parking lot, where I dove into my vehicle and sprayed gravel as I high-tailed it outta there!  This hiking alone thing is overrated!  

     All joking aside, it was a beautiful day for an enjoyable hike, regardless of the stampeding wildlife.  Despite the questionable state of my nerves, I was able to get a few more nice pics to share. Enjoy!  
Layers of texture: pebbles, duckweed, water
Glad to know I wasn't completely alone!
Pods of the Redbud tree.

See you next time...with my full entourage!!

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