Soon These Woods Will Ring With Peeper Song!
Sunday morning dawned beautiful and sunny and unseasonably mild. In late February, when you are given the gift of such a day, there is only ONE sane thing to do: head to the woods!
My husband's current favorite backpacking site is in Sproul State Forest, at a mid-woods site lined with evergreens. We call it the Pine Glen site, but I believe there are also spruce and hemlock trees among the mix. It is very green (and quiet) there at all times of the year.
So we gave the cat his lunch early and took off for the woods of Sproul, not to backpack this time, just to spend the day. When I am at our Pine Glen site, I am usually carrying a backpack and tent and sleeping bag and pads and all the other usual overnight stuff.
But when you simply hike, you get to travel with much less. So I was carrying just my daysack, a chair, my fanny pack, and my camera bag. My husband had his own gear, plus a little cooler and a music system with tiny speakers (yes, we shall have music wherever we go!). It felt strange to be in one of our favorite backpacking spots, but traveling so light.
We spent the sunny afternoon there, relaxing, reading, hanging out, taking pictures. Temperatures in town would reach the mid-60s F; out here in the big woods, I'm not sure it crested 60, but it sure tried! We took a break at one point to eat our bacon-chicken-ranch bagels as a quick lunch, accompanied by pretzels and washed down with low-salt V-8 juice.
We took time to stroll around and investigate the woods around us and see how things were coming along. I am happy to report that the woods are doing just fine! In fact, things there are just as they should be. (Yes, I did think of that quote from the Desiderata: Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.)
There are still piles of ice and snow left in a few places, but most of it has melted by now. What bare earth you do see is frozen in the morning and muddy in the afternoon. Spring is coming; that is the message of the mud, but the mud isn't the only one telling such a tale.
The vernal pools are just starting to be born. There is still ice in them, but only in the middles. The edges are liquid; good for reflections. Watch your step, though, as you inch closer to see what's going on, as those muddy edges that look solid from over there may not be as sturdy as you think.
This is the vernal pool closest to our campsite. We walked past it in the late afternoon on our way out, and in the late-day sun, the woods almost seemed to glow with golden light. It looked so lovely that we agreed next time, when we're here as backpackers (for backpacking time is coming soon!), maybe we'll try to camp closer to the little pond.
Soon - but maybe not quite as soon as we think - this pond will be melted and standing full of amphibian eggs. (I know this to be true for I have seen it!) Shortly after that, these parts will ring with the happy song and laughter of frogs, especially the spring peepers who make such delightful music in Penn's woods.
It wasn't the first time I've had amphibians on the brain while prowling Sproul. In fact, the last time I visited Sproul, in mid-December, guess what I saw: a toad. Yes, a toad! And so my husband and I were joking that maybe we'd see that warty fellow again, but of course we didn't; it's way too early for all of that.
But one day soon, the amphibians will rule these parts once again, and the woods will ring with the songs of peepers! And what a day that will be, when the amphibians are back in the high life again. :-)
The soundtrack is for the amphibians: Back in the High Life Again. I'm including the original, of course, by Steve Winwood. But I'm also including a version I might even like BETTER: the quiet, intense, wistful version by Warren Zevon.
P.S. It never occurred to me that some of you may live in places where you never get to hear the spring peepers! So here is a link to a YT video of the soothing sounds of spring peepers and crickets. You're welcome!