off the beaten path

12.29.20 ~ cute little sapling
Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

Tuesday we donned our masks and warm layers and headed over to the Arboretum to meet my sister and her husband for our first in-person visit since the pandemic started in March, unless you count video calls and quick verbal exchanges from our balcony to the parking lot. We had planned a “safe” outdoor meeting like this to celebrate Thanksgiving and then Christmas, but rain had spoiled our plans for both days.

Beverly & John, geologist and botanist, know the natural areas of the Arboretum like the backs of their hands so I was anticipating a wonderful guided tour, off the beaten path. It did feel awfully unnatural, though, keeping six feet apart behind masks for a couple of hours, but we pulled if off. It was so good being with them again. We explored the Bolleswood Natural Area.

partridge berry

Partridge Berry is a native perennial, a small, woody, trailing vine with 6 to 12 inch, slender, trailing stems that does not climb but lays prostrate on the forest floor. The trailing stems root at nodes which come in contact with the forest surface and may spread into colonies several yards across. … The fruits are tasteless and generally survive through winter and into the following spring. Birds are the primary consumer of these fruits and the subsequent distribution of seeds.
~ US Forest Service website

Knowing about our recent fascination with glacial erratics, Beverly had a surprise for us, a huge one! Our first glimpse of it is below…

first side
front side

It looks like that rotting tree grew up there and was then snapped down in a storm. But it also looks like humans have moved some wood around, making it look like the wood is holding up the stone, but it’s not. It’s resting on other erratics underground.

other side (Tim is 5’8″)
a close-up from the back
a peek underneath ~ two orbs!

After marveling over this erratic’s size and its precarious perch we continued on. Sometimes there was so much moss along the path it reminded me of a forest in Ireland.

And we finally came to a flooded bog. (The drought is definitely over.) It was beautiful with bits of moss, autumn leaves under the water, partial sheets of thin ice, sticks, and a few remaining plants and grasses.

And then John pointed out a carnivorous plant…

pitcher plant hidden in leaves

The pitchers trap and digesting flying and crawling insects, making the species one of the few carnivorous plants in North America. The hollow pitchers fill naturally with rainwater. The pitchers also have broad lips where insects land. The insects crawl into the pitcher, where stiff, downward pointing hairs prevent them from leaving. Anectdoctal evidence suggests pitchers capture less than one percent of the flies that venture into their traps, but a few insects eventually fall into the water at the base of the pitcher, where digestive enzymes secreted by the plant release the nutrients within the insects. Eventually, the nutrients are absorbed by the plant, which supplements the nutrients absorbed by the roots.
~ US Forest Service website

pitcher plant

On our way out of the Arboretum we saw…

winterberry aka black alder
oyster mushroom, thanks to Larisa’s friend for the id

It was sad to say good-bye but we were getting cold and so made our way home to some hot tea. Curled up under our blankets, we put on some music and our happy holiday hearth DVD. Very cozy after having rosy cheeks from the chilly air. Maybe we’ll do this again — hopefully soon.

25 thoughts on “off the beaten path”

    1. It was cold! Lately it seems like whenever it warms up it rains so if we don’t want to get wet we must meet and walk in the cold. 🙂

  1. What a delightful way to get to visit with them, albeit from 6′ and masked.
    Partridge Berry! I looked it up and it does, in theory, grow in my area and we certainly have some nice habitats for it. I’ll be on the lookout for it now! 🙂

    1. I remember seeing partridge berry in the woods when I was a child, though I didn’t have a name for it and haven’t seen it for many years. I hope you spot some! It was fun. We’d stop walking and talk for a bit, then get cold and walk some more, stop and go, but it was a great visit. 🙂

  2. How very nice that you got to visit with both of them and to explore the Arboretum together. We have lots of partridge berry here. I’m already sighing remembering when it was possible to walk without snowshoes.

    1. And here I am wishing for the opportunity to take a snowshoe walk! Feast or famine in the weather department… I think the last time I saw partridge berry was when I was a child — how lucky you are to have so much of it. I’d love to use it for a groundcover instead of having a lawn…

    1. You know, I’m learning a lot these days — I had no idea we had a carnivorous plant in Connecticut. It was back in 2010 in the Arboretum that I learned we also have a native cactus — the prickly pear!

    1. Happy to hear you enjoyed the walk, Frank! It was wonderful spending time with family and making the best of the current situation. Wishing you and your family a Happy New Year, too!!

  3. Finally catching up here on Reader and enjoying your walk Barbara – it seemed I was along with you and Tim, Beverly and John. How nice to have a geologist and botanist along on this trek to point out anything you might have overlooked. Now, you sure could not have overlooked that huge erratic. Did you find out from Beverly if they had a book with maps in your area to discover more erratics? I love all that bright green moss – I’ve seen it a few times in wooded areas and once on a woodland path the path had an emerald green sheen. The frozen bog looks similar to a vernal pool I saw today while (finally) reviewing some of my photos. I am hoping to find some Spring Peepers there in the Spring. Happy New Year to you and Tim!

    1. I’m way behind, too, Linda. I’m glad you enjoyed the walk and I can’t wait until we have a chance to do it again. I did get a chance to ask Beverly about a local book on glacial erratics and she does not know of one. But we find them almost everywhere we go so I’ll just keep posting pictures of them to my blog for my own reference. 🙂

      She is aquainted with Robert Thorson, though, and learned a few things from him collaborating on a project several years ago. I thought this article he wrote was interesting.

      I love the moss as well, and it stands out more in the drabness of winter. Looking forward to seeing some vernal pools this spring, and hearing the peepers. Hope you get some wonderful pictures! Happy New Year to you, too!!

      1. I am glad to see your comment here … was starting to worry as you’d not been here in a few days … any colors in the drab of Winter, including colorful berries are such a welcome sight.

        I spent a half-day going through just my December photos and separating them for posts in January … just going to post 2X a week as it’s getting too difficult to keep up here and need to organize photos as well. I have a few post drafted based on the walk that day, mostly from December, so will do reverse chronological order. I spent the other half of yesterday catching up on e-mail and Reader … how nice your sister was able to give you that article based on working with him. You’ll gain insight each time you go out and discover more. I am hoping to see those spring peepers … missed them last year and recently the engineers who are completing the bridge project on Grosse Ile said the bridge will be out of commission until November 2021 … it was supposed to be done in November 2020 after being shut down since May 2020. The vernal pools at the refuge look promising for peepers and pictures.

        We have snow that fell overnight and it is snowing now, so I’m going out to shovel, so no walk as we had freezing rain New Year’s Day and into yesterday- very treacherous so didn’t even go out yesterday. Feel badly for the squirrels, but too risky until they plow/salt, so will plan on Tuesday a.m. Happy New Year Barbara!

        1. Sorry to worry you — I’ve been battling a sinus infection and finally got an antibiotic yesterday, after a telemed appointment with my doctor. I’ve also been binge-watching Vikings, season 6B, 10 episodes in 3 days…

          I admire your commitment to posting on a schedule! It’s a good thing we have the change of seasons to look forward to. This morning our local meteorologist informed us that we have “no big storms, no blizzards, no nor’easters, nothing but fair weather for days and days and days” for the 10-day forecast. (I think he’s getting bored!) Then he joked, “I’ll see you next week.” Looks like another dud of a winter, but I suppose I should be grateful. I’d rather have nothing than have your freezing rain. Hope your squirrels are faring well. I bet you can’t wait to check on them.

          1. It was unusual for you and I thought you might have posted several times but you only did once – I was behind in Reader and once again I’m not going to make it there tonight. I looked and saw you had not responded to comments, thus my worry. I am not becoming too reliable in responding like I used to be, partly the reason for cutting down to two posts per week except for a special holiday, etc. I need to get a handle on the blogging as I have ideas and pictures for posts, but have to get them done and keep up here better.

            We were told we have a clear and dry forecast through the weekend. That is great as we’ve had the gamut of snow, freezing rain, plus wintry precip a lot the last month. We are two inches about normal on the snow and the temps (the latter surprised me) but each time it has snowed, it has melted a few days later. I did get a walk in but it was icy on the part of the walking loop that is near the Creek. I had to walk on the grass, even in lug-soled hiking boots. The welcoming committee was happy and came running over: squirrels, a male Cardinal, a Jay, a Red-Bellied Woodpecker and a Chickadee (tried to get a peanut – so cute). I was worried about them – I’m afraid they’ll go foraging and a hawk will go after them. This is why I have no pets — I worried and babies my birds and lost both of them, one to respiratory infection that flared up again after a 10-day stay at the vets for antibiotics and the other to a stroke and had to have him euthanized. Too sad – no more pets – now I worry about the squirrels.

          2. That seems to be how blogging goes — sometimes we’re on top of it, other times we get behind… Is it my imagination or did snow used to stay on the ground for weeks in the winters? I remember my mother talking about the January thaw, when a lot of the snow would melt after being around for weeks. And then we’d be buried again in February. It seems like we had white Christmases more often than not. Sigh…

            My father and my aunt felt the same way you do about having pets when they got older. When I was younger I couldn’t understand. Now that I’ve lost a few dearly loved cats I do understand them and you. No more pets here, too.

    1. I thought it might be! Thanks! All the pictures I saw online showed the oyster mushrooms sticking sideways out of standing trees. This one was sticking up out of a rotting log on the ground.

  4. Wonderful photos of your outing, Barbara. I, too, love coming across glacial erratics, our woods have many. Like sleeping giants. 🙂
    Masked outings seem to be the rule of the day and at least we can do that. Like you, the distance and separation increases our appreciation when we do see our loved ones.

    1. Thank you, Eliza. Glacial erratics do seem like sleeping giants now that you mention it. 🙂 Lately they seem much easier to spot than birds! I’m grateful that my sister lives close enough to make a masked visit possible. Sometimes she comes and stands below and 6 feet away from my balcony and we talk outdoors that way, too…

  5. It’s incredible how much colour you found on a cold winter’s day, and is that iced water I see?
    It must have been such a treat to spend some time with your sister after so many months apart. <3

    1. It was definitely a special treat to be with my sister — I miss her so much! Yes, those are layers of ice on the shallow bog water. It melts and freezes off and on as the temperatures go up and down, creating some interesting patterns. 💙

Would love to read your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from In the Woods

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading