snow melting in the oak-beech forest

12.24.20 ~ Poquetanuck Cove Preserve, Ledyard, Connecticut

On Christmas Eve morning we headed 13 miles north to find some snow without a sheet of ice on top of it. It was melting up in Ledyard but still looking lovely and was walkable. I was delighted! I was going to get my chance to walk in the snow covered woods!

trailhead, others had been here, too

In the winter there are fewer men in the fields and woods … you see the tracks of those who had preceded you, and so are more reminded of them than in summer.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, December 12, 1859)

first glimpse of a wolf tree

The preserve’s website mentioned wolf trees, which are “relics from the agricultural era when trees along the edges of fields could spread their branches.” My curiosity piqued, I soon spotted one. I’ve seen trees like this before, but didn’t know there was a term for them.

winter shadows are long and enchanting
moss peeking through the snow
beech marcescence with splotches of lichen
part of the huge wolf tree, probably an oak

In the strictest sense, wolf trees are those spared the axe during widespread Colonial-era deforestation in order to provide shade for livestock or mark a boundary. As second- and third-growth woods filled in abandoned pasture and farmland, these titans have become crowded by dense, spindly youngsters. Where those upstarts are tall and narrow, competing fiercely for canopy light, the wolf tree they surround has fat, laterally extended boughs and a comparatively squat trunk—a testament to the open, sunny country in which it once prospered.
~ Ethan Shaw
(The Old in the Forest: Wolf Trees of New England & Farther Afield)

wolf tree bark close up
wolf tree leaves high up on a branch
my favorite picture capturing the magic of the snowy woods
Avery Hill Brook

When we got to the brook we decided to turn around because there was no bridge and crossing over by stepping on the small rocks looked like a dicey proposition. But on the way back we paid more attention to the little things peeping out from under the snow.

ice, leaves, moss, lichen, rock
oak leaf in snow
chunky snow melting on rock
lichen, moss, leaves, snow

The winter, with its snow and ice, is not an evil to be corrected. It is as it was designed and made to be, for the artist has had leisure to add beauty to use.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, December 11, 1855)

more beech marcescence
part of rock surrounded by melting snow
puffs and sparkle

We will return some day, better prepared to cross the brook and make our way to the cove, where we might find osprey and waterfowl. It was good to get a great walk in before heading home to hunker down for the fast approaching Christmas wind and rain storm.

We wound up having a good Christmas, even though it was pouring rain all day. There were treasured video calls with family. We finished a jigsaw puzzle together while listening to my winter solstice playlist on shuffle. Watched the final episodes of a Norwegian TV series on Netflix, Home for Christmas, dubbed in English. (Hjem til Jul)

“In the Still Light of Dawn” by Alan Giana

As we started to close the drapes at dusk we found ourselves awestruck. The eastern sky, opposite of the sunset, was violet!!! We couldn’t believe our eyes! The color comes from the extra moisture in the atmosphere refracting the setting sun’s light rays so that the violet is reflected.

12.25.20 ~ eastern sky at sunset

Color! What a deep and mysterious language, the language of dreams.
~ Paul Gauguin
(Perception & Imaging: Photography as a Way of Seeing)

35 thoughts on “snow melting in the oak-beech forest”

  1. Wow wow all you share here – i could sit for hours, but am hungry and will go eat my dinner – never heard about wolf trees! I do adore the simple pictures – with snow close to nature – and the remarkable violet one- like you have conjured something for us to see – mighty and powerful

    1. I had never heard of wolf trees before, either. I’m so happy you enjoyed the pictures, Leelah. 💙 Poquetanuck means “land broken up” (like dried mud cracking) in Algonquian. The Mohegan-Pequots are a branch of the Algonquians, people indigenous to this part of Connecticut.

  2. Enjoyed the snow, the photos, the quotes. How wonderful to be able to see nature covered in its beautiful covering of white snow. I love the flowing branches of the Woof Tree.

    1. Thank you, Peggy. It was amazing how I noticed that wolf tree from afar and as we got closer to it we were spellbound, just standing there gazing at those thick huge branches. My feet started to get cold!

  3. That last picture is amazing! I do love a purple sky. you taught me two terms in this post~wolf trees, and marcescence. I do see open grown oaks surrounded by crowded second growth quite often here, but have never heard them called that. And a few of our oak species hang onto their leaves all through winter and are pushed out by the new growth in the spring. I had no idea there was a name for that.

    1. Thanks, Melissa! That was the darkest purple sky I’ve ever seen. I just learned about wolf trees and marcescence, too — it’s amazing what one finds online in the information age. Seems like every time I do a little research one thing leads to another and I’m amazed at how much there must be left out there for me to discover. 🙂 Now that I’m paying attention it does seem like it’s the oaks and beeches that are prone to marcescence. My father’s chestnut tree did the same thing.

  4. Oh my–look at that violet sky! A gift from the Holy, for sure. 🙂 I have never seen wolf trees, how very fascinating. The simple pictures are so calming, aren’t they? Seeing the ordinary as simply being.

    1. That violet sky was the icing on the cake! A wonderful gift of Presence. I’ve seen wolf trees aplenty, since I live where they were created in colonial times, but I never noticed them before or wondered how they came to be. It’s amazing what wonders paying attention to the ordinary can bring into our lives. 🙂

  5. Lovely walk and sightings, especially the wolf tree, very cool! I’ve never heard of them before either. Happy to hear wonderful video calls were had, same here. Oh my goodness, your violet sky capture is stunning!

    1. Thank you, Donna! The violet sky was the icing on the cake after two wonderful days of walking in the snow, discovering a wolf tree, video calls with children and grandchildren, puzzle time with my husband. A very memorable Christmas!

  6. Barbara, your pictures are fabulous, as is the story that goes with it. I agree with you about the most magical snow scene, but the violet sky I’ve never seen before. That was stunning. Have you ever made your photos into jigsaw puzzles? I play with my photos made into puzzles on my computer. Have a happy New Year. 🙂 Marsha 🙂

    1. Thank you, Marsha, and welcome to my blog. 🙂 I’ve seen some lighter purple skies over the years but never one this dark and intense. It took our breath away. I’ve thought of making some of my photos into jigsaw puzzles but have never gotten around to doing it. 🙂 I didn’t know you could make them into puzzles on the computer. Maybe I’ll look into that first. Happy New Year to you, too!

      1. Thanks, Barbara. I enjoyed your genealogy chart, too, but there was no where to comment. A distant relative gave me my mother’s chart, but my dad had such a common name, Morris, that I gave up after my great-grandfather.

        The company I use for jigsaw puzzles is KraiSoft. You install an app on your computer and you can do free jigsaw puzzles of theirs on Fridays and upload your own any time. It’s best to use pictures that are not on the internet because they are too small, but the originals work well. Of course, there are many companies to turn your photos into cardboard jigsaw puzzles. Walmart does it most reasonably, but those take up space. 🙂

        Have a Happy and safe New Year. I look forward to more great times together! 🙂

        1. Ah yes, I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to have comments on the ancestor table. My thinking is that if someone is interested in someone in particular they would follow the link to the posts about that person and leave a comment there. That helps me to keep the different lines sorted out in my mind!

          Have you tried searching at They’re always adding new records and often new imformation pops up in the hints. My cousin just discovered a line for us stretching back four generations in a little village in Poland! (Haven’t added that info to this site yet.)

          Thanks for the jigsaw puzzle tips — will have to look into them soon. I think I have too many pans on the fire at the moment! 🙂

  7. Oh, that violet sky – what a wonderful gift from Mother Nature! Every photo along your walk was an education to me, with your land and seasons being so different to Australia. But my goodness, the sky tops them all! I love your jigsaw puzzle too. I have a few here that I might do over the next few days. I’m happy to hear that you and Tim enjoyed your Christmas. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Joanne! It was lovely to have you along for the educational walk — I learned as much as you did. 🙂 It’s been years since I’ve been able to take a walk in the snow and I was grateful to have gotten out there before it all melted away. That violet sky was a totally unexpected gift! I received two new puzzles for Christmas so I’ll be busy doing puzzles, too. 🙂

  8. Oh, that sky!! Stunning. I’ve seen that happen once, maybe twice. It’s amazing. I enjoyed your walk, too, especially since we see so little snow here. I have never heard of Wolf Trees, either. What an interesting term for them. I see them all the time, but never knew there was a word for them.

    1. The violet sky was a very stunning sight for sure! We hadn’t had a good snowfall in five years so we were very excited about this one.

      I’m still trying to figure out why they’re called wolf trees. 🙂 Found this today:
      “This terminology came from foresters in the late 20th century who believed that the wide-spreading, old trees were exhausting forest resources and should be eradicated to make way for profitable wood, much as wolves had been eradicated from the landscape because they were viewed as harmful predators that exhausted forest resources.”

  9. Your photos gleaned from this trip sure give a great overview of a Winter’s walk in the woods. The Thoreau quote as true … I saw lots of foot prints on the perimeter path today … the City didn’t plow, but many people had walked yesterday or early morning today. I likewise took pictures of the footprints, some animal footprints as well. I’m like you not wanting to step anywhere dicey, but I fell today … not on the ice, but forgot there was a slope, as it was covered in snow, and fell into a small snowbank. Not amused!

    1. With the way things have been going in recent years this may be the ONLY snow-walk in the woods this winter! I’m so sorry to hear that you fell — I hope you weren’t hurt. It’s surprising how easily we fall at this age and how cautious it makes us. I remember when my father started falling. At first he wasn’t hurt much but then one day he fell and broke his pelvis and femur and it was all downhill after that. I think I’m going to start taking his cane with me on my walks in the woods. Maybe I’ll start poking things with it they way he used to. 🙂

      1. We have freezing rain/wintry precip on our weather agenda twice this week (Tuesday into Wednesday and Thursday into Friday).
        It was my fault as it is a slope and I stepped out like I was walking straight, instead of stepping down as the snow was pretty high there. The snow had drifted in spots – this was one of them. And I had a difficult time getting up and was not going to let him help me, even though he offered (due to COVID). This morning my hamstring muscles were sore, still are and that is likely due to the awkward way I had to get up to avoid getting the camera wet and I had to plunge my flip-top camera gloves into the snow to heft myself out as I fell on my butt. I was very careful walking on the spots where it was slippery though while walking to/from the Park in the neighborhood – this was my fault also as I was distracted. I was pretty enamored with the ducks and also this young man had put a lot of peanuts and sunflower seeds on the top of this short wall and two chickadees kept singing and buzzing down to the ledge to eat the seeds, so I was in my glory and forgot about the slope. I may walk a lot, but am not limber so that is now my New Year’s resolution – I need to do stretching exercises going forward. I have not been able to haunch down in years – I think it is since I sit too much and that is part of why I began walking in the beginning. That’s a good idea to take a cane with you – even a collapsible cane. A friend of mine moved to New Mexico and he and his wife took up a walking regimen. They went into the mountains hiking sometimes. He saw a few snakes and so bought collapsible canes for each of them and when they get to more level surfaces, they just hang the cane on a belt or put it in a big pocket. I know when you get older, balance is a big problem. I am going to research some exercises for sure … it was scary to not get up right away, but if I had not had the camera in my hand and the snow was high so I couldn’t put it in my pocket as I was sitting in the snow, I might have fared better as I had to get up awkwardly and slowly!

        1. Sounds like your winter weather roller coaster ride has begun in earnest! Of course chickadees would be very distracting! They’re so adorable and friendly and polite, so photogenic, it would be very difficult to pay any attention to your surroundings and footing while trying to capture the moments on camera. 🙂 I love chickadees! And titmice!

          I think I mentioned it before but I found my yoga DVD very helpful as I was having a hard time getting up from the floor when I got down there to play with my granddaughter. After a few months I was able to get up and down off the floor with ease. And my knees stopped hurting so much. I also was now able to squat down to take pictures and get back up. The DVD is “Yoga for Seniors with Jane Adams.” It always amazed me that I could walk and walk and walk, yet have so much trouble getting up off the floor…

          1. Oh yes – the miserable Winter weather arrives tonight and again Thursday night … two inches of snow beginning at 10:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. followed by freezing rain in the early a.m. It is such a shame as it was gorgeous today – yes, just 22 degrees, but the sun was out and all of our Christmas and Saturday 4 inches total snowfall melted courtesy of Sunday afternoon’s rain.

            The chickadees were so cute – I’ve not looked at the photos, probably Friday morning when I can take my time at my old laptop where I store all my photos and not be looking at the clock. I am looking forward to seeing those pictures as those chickadees could not stay away from those sunflower seeds! The titmice also are cute with those big eyes and head tuft. We are lucky to see these birds aren’t we Barbara?

            I am glad you told me about the yoga – I remember you said you did yoga but I had no idea it would help with getting up off the floor. I am exactly like you!! I could walk effortlessly and sometimes hate to come home as I’m enjoying my walk (like today), but cannot get down on my knees or put anything in cupboards beyond the front of the cupboard, which severely gives me no room to store things, leading to all the clutter. I can no more imagine going and sitting on the floor, or cross-legged anymore. My knees are painful by the time I am ready to go to bed. I was starting to worry it was too much walking! I have blamed the knees issue on sitting so many hours at the table … had I known my work-at-home gig would become permanent, I would have gotten a regular desk a decade ago. I would not attempt squatting either. You have given me valuable information … I just went on YouTube to see if there were some examples and searched for the title – three times it was listed, but other yoga instructors apparently hijacked that title. I took a yoga and pilates class many years ago, but all the attendees had the instructor before and they knew what they were doing. You have given me hope Barbara … I have an exercise bike downstairs and had intended to start riding when the weather got bad. I’ve had the bike since the 90s, but since I began the walking regimen, I don’t use it as much. I think my time would be better spent doing yoga instead. I also have some free weights, but they are not heavy. I have to tell you that was scary and maybe just the wake-up call to begin a routine. What caused this lack of mobility … getting older? Too much sitting?

          2. We don’t have any snow in our forecast since the 8 inches event. I can’t say I’m surprised. But that freezing rain you keep getting is so awful to deal with. Yes, we are so lucky to have chickadees and titmice brightening our lives!

            I guess we gradually stop using our full range of motion somewhere along the line. The lack of mobility and flexibility creeps up on us. I hope you find the yoga as helpful as I did. Another thing I like about it is that I don’t need any equipment, except the DVD and a chair. 🙂

  10. I came here and remembered this post as I began reading ,,, happily you (and I) have bade farewell to Winter and am welcoming the Spring with open arms.

    1. Good riddance to that troublesome season! I suppose, though, it will be more difficult to spot wolf trees covered with foliage and blending into the woods. 😉

      1. Yes, for sure Barbara, though we are having 90-91 degrees the tail end of the workweek, which is too hot, too fast (in my opinion anyway). I despair that we have a shorter Spring every year.

        1. Say it isn’t so! 90-91F!?!??? I don’t think we’ve hit 80 here yet, though we’ve come close.

          1. Yes, isn’t that horrible? We hit 79 today and a week ago people were worrying about salvaging the annuals they’d already planted and underground sprinkler systems that were already turned on.

          2. These swings from too hot to too cold are so difficult to comprehend…

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