|(the trail is narrow with surrounding foliage)|
The last of our guests have gone, and it is still only 10:30 on Sunday morning. We had perfect weather for our family picnic the previous day and lots of quality visiting. Now it is time to get out of the kitchen, and go for a walk. I remember my plan to go to nearby Bennett Hill in every season of 2017, and summer is in full swing.
|(leaves frame the farm scene)|
Temperatures in the 70s and low humidity beckon. I say to Bill, "I'm going to go to Bennett Hill. You're welcome to join me." Bill can be a reluctant hiking companion, so it's helpful if I put the idea out there without any pressure.
|(the corn looks good from here, although it may not be high as an elephant's eye)|
I hear Bill upstairs in his sock drawer, as I go up to get my own hiking socks, but when I arrive his whole drawer has fallen onto the floor and dumped its contents. Not the best start. Still, a few minutes later, he comes up the cellar stairs with his hiking boots in hand, socks from upstairs in the other. I know he is on board with my plan. Sometimes we operate like this -- say little and watch.
|(a new bridge since Spring)|
In fact, this is the perfect day for Bill to go along. He is a very leisurely hiker, but, if I have camera in hand to take pictures for a blog post, I become the one lagging behind and his pace is just fine.
|(jewelweed, poison ivy's companion)|
As we approach the trail's beginning and I see how this year's rains have made all the growth huge and lush, I realize that I have never before been to Bennett Hill in the height of summer.
|(all the rain we've had and not a drop in the tub?!)|
As always, I take time to look through the trees at the farms along the way. They never disappoint -- always a few heifers in the field, and a pastoral view to the hills beyond. I think of my mother who, remembering that I get my milk from our food co-op, has asked me, "Do the cows that produce your milk go outside?" It bothers her to see cows in barns all day, never walking the hills. My milk comes from here at Meadowbrook Farm, and I answer, "yes." Nevertheless, I always only see heifers outdoors on this hike. Maybe I should confirm that the milkers actually do go outside.
|(Was there an open farm field here when this tree was young and spread its branches far and wide?)|
As the trail enters the woods, evidence of our very rainy spring and summer shows in the abundance of fungi. I have mushrooms in my own backyard, so I should not be surprised that there are lots of them in the woods. I scan the ground as we walk.
|(lots of tiny orange mushrooms)|
I don't know anything about fungi. There are lots of things that I don't know about in the woods. When Thomas was 13 and went to Merck Forest for a week of camping, counselors taught the kids all about edible woodland plants. Later, he pointed them out to me there. If any of these fungi are edible, I wouldn't know.
|(such a pretty smooth white against the purslane)|
|(and this one all notched as if in petals)|
I raise my eyes as we approach the summit plateau. The flat top of Bennett Hill is my favorite part of this hike. I love the winding trail along the plateau's edge, through ground covers, scrub pine, and the occasional white birch.
|(the summit plateau trail offers variety and views)|
In two locations the trees open to a view to Clarksville below. But where has the town's defining road gone? Have the lush greens of summer hardwood trees arched over signs of man so much that the road and most of the buildings are invisible from above? Such a green season!
|(the view of Clarksville is almost obscured by foliage)|
Along with the birch tree hugging the edge the of the hill, I am attracted to the young oak in the foreground. Then I notice the bright yellow of goldenrod. Goldenrod is beautiful, with numerous tiny flowers on arching stems. It gets a bad rap because people confuse it with highly allergenic rag weed, and because it signifies that August is on the summer horizon.
|(a splash of yellow goldenrod peeks from behind a young oak tree)|
|(wild blueberry plants)|
I had to email my friend and naturalist, Jackie Donnelly (saratogawoodswaters.blogspot.com), about the berries hanging in a loose cluster in the photo below. I was not surprised when she answered me right away, "That pale aqua color leads me to think they couldn't be anything but deerberries." Jackie has made a life-long study of nature's flora. Once I knew the name, I looked online for more information. As it turns out humans can eat these berries, but they are most often left for the animals.
Eventually, the trail leaves the openness of the plateau, and heads back into the woods. Long stems of purple break the pattern of greens; knapweed's name does not give even a hint of how delicate a flower it is.
|(knapweed makes a show of pastel lavender)|
Bill waits for me by the rock pile that I pictured in my spring post. From there, we walk together back down the hill through the forest, past the heifers in the field, and to the car. We both feel relaxed after our woodland walk with all of its gentle beauty and quiet. Before long, I will return to record the autumn changes at Bennett Hill.
|(purple flowering raspberry)|