Saturday, January 28, 2006

An Afternoon Walk

After a full day of work yesterday, Julie, Liam, Chet Baker, and I went on a long walk around our farm and onto our neighbors' land (80 beautiful acres owned by our friends Sherm and Beth).

We saw some amazing things, and although it was pretty cold, the sun kept our spirits high. Down in the creek bed, at the bottom of the valley, we visited the place we call Beechy Crash, where several old beech trunks have fallen into the bottom of the hollow. The trunks and the large sandstone boulders in this part of the creek are covered in bright green moss. I couldn't resist snapping several dozen images.Liam and his dad (The Hotdog Brothers) posing in Beechy Crash.

Farther down the creek, which empties into Goss' Fork (called "Gossy" by most local folks), we visited the amazing ice cave. This cave gives me the overwhelming feeling that people have lived or sheltered here in the past. Native Americans? Probably. Early settlers? Likely. Escaping slaves following the Underground Railroad route? Perhaps even more likely, since we know the route went right through our township. Until 1863, the state across the Ohio River from us, just 10 or so miles away, was Virginia, not West Virginia as it is now. And the Ohio River was considered a boundary between "slave" and "free" states.

I always expect to see flint arrowheads or even cave paintings in the ice cave, though I've never found either one. Chet explored the nooks and crannies while Liam broke off and tasted icicles. Jules and I just soaked up the moment inside the cave, and admired a perfect phoebe nest from last summer, built in the only part of the cave wall that a black snake could not get to.
Chet sniff the entrance to the ice cave.Inside the ice cave, looking out. The sunlight in the icicles was brilliant.

After a tough slog up the western hill, we found some serious pileated woodpecker workings. Our entire walk was accompanied by a soundtrack of pileated (and other woodpeckers') drumming and calling.
My shadow pointed out some pileated workings on an old rotted log.

We've been monitoring the pileateds' work on an old sassafras tree near our southern fenceline. One male pileated was drumming so loudly and sharply that it sounded just like a machine gun being fired. He's found himself a really resonate drumming site. We can hear him for a mile.
This pileated woodpecker has been busy. They seem to love sassafras. Does it have more carpenter ants?
Zick insisted on sticking her hand in the cavity. Note the sassafras twig she's gnawing on.
Liam was sure there was a bird hiding in there.

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