Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Snowshoe Loop: Basil Brook Bypass & the Rec Path

Waterfall Trail (Yellow/White) off of Wesley Drive
Everything changes after a big snow. Parking lots are impassible and there's more in the way of gear and logistics to consider before heading out on the trails (especially during the Big Chill of 2018). It's so easy to stay inside the warm house, and a hassle to put on all those layers, but it's loads of fun once you're out there. After a big storm, look for parking on plowed city streets that get little traffic. I parked on Wesley Drive at the upper Rec Path crossing a few days after the big Jan. 2018 nor'easter blizzard, and strapped on my snowshoes.

Snowshoe Loop: Parked on Wesley Drive at the "P" icon,
then took the Falls Trail to Basil Brook Bypass and returned on the Rec Path
Snow conditions were perfect for snowshoeing. I decided to check out the Basil Brook Waterfall. Yellow/White blazes lead from the Rec Path crossing at Wesley Drive down to the falls. That was the beginning of what turned out to be a one-mile loop on Basil Brook Bypass and the Rec Path.

Rabbit trail
No people had been down the trail. But near the big rock face at the falls, some kind of animal had created quite a trail leading to a den at the base of the cliffs. A couple piles of little perfectly round pellets in the tracks meant it was a rabbit.

Rabbit Den
The falls were completely frozen, but I could hear water running under the ice. During the summer, it can be difficult to walk across the swampy area below the falls, but since everything was frozen, it was a piece of cake.

Basil Brook Falls
Our poor ash trees. They're all infected with Emerald Ash Borers and are dying. While hiking, you may notice where woodpeckers have pulled of strips of bark looking for the larvae. It's become very noticeable just this year, and is especially noticeable when the bark strips pile up on the snow.  Borers live under the bark, then exit via little holes. The Emerald Ash Borer holes are "D" shaped, like the ones I saw near the falls (there are other types of native borers that make holes, but these species do not kill the trees).

Perfect "D"-Shaped exit hole from an Emerald Ash Borer.
Also, the bark was stripped by woodpeckers looking for them.
After crossing Basil Brook, I took a left onto Basil Brook Bypass. The trail is not marked, so it's not recommended in the snow unless you're familiar with the trail. Most of the trail was pretty easy to follow in the snow, but I did lose it at one point for a few minutes in the mountain laurel. There were plenty of animal tracks. Deer, maybe coyote. Squirrels. Mice. Birds.

Animal tracks on Basil Brook Bypass

Bridge at Basil Brook Bypass
The intense wind on the back side of the blizzard blew a lot of seeds off the trees. There were so many seeds, the snow looked dirty in places. They blew into little piles in low spots. Mostly they were from birch and tulip trees. Birds and rodents eat the seeds, but prefer the free handouts at bird feeders.

Tulip Tree seeds still attached to the flower head
Tree seeds on the snow, mostly birch and tulip
When the trail joined up with the powerlines, I had to stop for awhile to cool down. It was less than 20° outside, but I was sweating.

Goldenrod seeds 
Basil Brook Bypass curves back to link up with the Rec Path, making a nice snowshoe loop of one mile. No one had been on the Rec Path except the animals, which was surprising.

Rec Path
There were stories in the snow. A squirrel jumped off a tree, dug up a nut, then scampered back to the tree. Hawks or owls struck at mice and squirrels. A coyote loped up the middle of the Rec Path. 

Squirrel Circle

Hawk or owl struck at a small animal here

Coyote tracks?

Bird of Prey miss a mouse
All in all, it was a lot of fun. Special gear included snowshoes, trekking poles with the little snow cups screwed on the ends, layers of very warm clothing, and sunglasses. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Time to Snow Shoe

The blizzard last Thursday left some fresh snow.  Sure it was -5 degrees Sunday morning, but the thermometer is gradually creeping up toward 32 degrees.  Time to crack out the snowshoes and enjoy some winter walks.

The Dog Paw Path over by Nells Rock Road wasn't touched as of Saturday morning.  The parking lot wasn't plowed out yet, so the challenge is to find areas near trailheads that have been plowed and walk in to reach your favorite trail.

The RecPath is a good bet for beginning winter hikers or cross country skiers.  Moderate grades, nice and wide tread, nothing to trip on, and scenic views along the way.  Enjoy the good winter weather while you can.