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Archive for August, 2010

Mariton – Canoeing by the Sanctuary

CANAL-RIVER 8.29.10 004 This past Sunday, Maureen and I teamed with Jim and Lisa Andrews to paddle in front of Mariton – twice.  Now that the canal (part of the Delaware Canal State Park) has been re-watered I have been wanting to check the feasibility of doing a round trip using the canal to paddle upstream, and then switch to the river to paddle downstream to the starting point.  Jim and Lisa were game, so we set off.

We started below Riegelsville at the Durham Lock (Routes 611 and 212).  The landing there is a too high above the water to make getting into kayaks easy.  The walkway to the landing is also too narrow and winding to make carrying boats to the landing easy.  But the bank and canal bed is solid, so we were able to improvise.

CANAL-RIVER 8.29.10 005 In the canal, you are always paddling against a current.  It is a very mild current and it isn't difficult paddling.  If you want to take a break, you just pull into the weeds along the edge.  In some ways it makes it ideal for exercise paddling.  (The canal gets narrow in a few places and the current gets strong, but we all managed.)  We didn't have a problem with the current, but some folks might.  While there is vegetation growing in the canal, it didn't impede paddling.  In time, I think the water will drown most of the vegetation.

CANAL-RIVER 8.29.10 008 The scenery is actually better than I expected, considering you are actually lower than the towpath.  It gives one a different view of things.  Paddling by the houses in Riegelville was really charming.  Looking up at Mariton from this perspective was kind of exciting for me.  We were just far enough away that you were looking up the fall line of the hill, instead of at the hill. 

CANAL-RIVER 8.29.10 039 When we reached Groundhog Lock, we pulled out at the landing.  This landing matched the water level to allow easy exits from our boats.  We had lunch there.  Then we carried our boats down to the Delaware.  In the Delaware, we had the current helping us downstream.  We paddled by Mariton again in one of my favorite parts of the River.  Jim saw an immature Bald Eagle.  We also saw several Red-tailed Hawks.  When we got back to the Durham Lock, we had to get our boats up a steep bank to where we were parked. 

Overall it was great trip and we enjoyed ourselves.  But it isn't a trip for everyone.  The accesses at the canal and River in Riegelsville is challenging.  Not everyone would be comfortable paddling upstream for two hours.  So, I don't think that Mariton will be offering it for groups.  But there are some great views.  Including this bridge at Frys's Run.

CANAL-RIVER 8.29.10 009 

Crow’s Nest: Camp for Adults (& their kids)

Every year we hear the parents of summer campers say, "I wish I could come to camp!"

Now they can.


On Saturday afternoon, September 11 parents of kids who came to summer camp this summer are invited to participate (with their kids) in the kinds of activities the kids did at camp.

Bring your bathing suit and creek shoes, a towel and change of clothes. We'll walk across the wire bridge and play in the creek, and we'll have a hayride. Bring your own family's snacks.

The event is free and runs from 1 to 4 pm. Please call us for more information.

Crow’s Nest: In the movies

It is the intent of our nature programs at the preserve to get the kids to experience nature directly—nothing mediating between the children and their experience of nature.

Having said that I admit to watching some really great nature films this summer. There have been many nights where I had to let the night cool off before going to bed, ideal for watching a bit of a video.

We watched some of our favorites: Jacques Perrin's Microcosmos and Winged Migration. Then we watched again the David Attenborough-narrated Planet Earth that aired on PBS last year. This series displays the wonders of earth, many of which are stranger than fiction.

We are also now watching the Ken Burn's documentary, America's National Parks – America's Best Idea. Also accompanied by spectacular cinematography this film demonstrates how the preservation of these lands, accessible to all, are a manifestation of democracy, part of America's contribution to the world.

Crow’s Nest: Blooming now


Some of the early goldenrods are blooming now at Crow's Nest, though their peak bloom in sweeping masses has not arrived yet. But there is a lot of yellow now in our savannah.


Here's a plant that I like, at least until it sets seed—the bristly ticks that stick you your clothing. It is Desmodium canadense, the showy tick-treefoil.

In our meadows off of Northside Road and elsewhere you can see the tall stalks of Rudbeckia laciniata, cutleaf coneflower.


Bees are going nuts over the flowers of sweet autumn clematis (Clematis virginiana) twining around other plants in our meadows (here growing over raspberry canes).

There is also some cardinal flower still blooming as well as great blue lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica, both in sunny wet meadows. The New York ironweed looks great right now and blue vervain is still blooming. Joe Pye weed is past peak but still attractive with dusty pink clusters of flowers.



Alvernia College volunteer day at Hopewell Furnace


On Friday I helped out with invasive plant management that incoming students at Alvernia College were performing at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. Nearly 100 students came to Hopewell to work; other students were doing trail maintenance and other projects elsewhere as part of a day of service required of all freshmen students.

The students divided into small teams and fanned out around Hopewell Village. Our team was pulling Japanese stiltgrass and wineberry from a steep bank above the ironmaster's mansion—an area that was once part of the ironmaster's garden and included a stone wall (in the background above) of its greenhouse. We also cut vines off of the trees above. (The ironmaster's garden was used to feed the house staff and furnace workers and so was an important part of the village.)

The day's work was organized by the National Park Service's Mid-Atlantic Exotic Plant Management Team.

Since invasive species know no property boundaries we can be more effective in managing them as a regional effort. It was worth my time to work with a group near Crow's Nest Preserve because we are affected by many of the same species. Most of the organizations that manage open space in our region belong to the Hopewell Big Woods partnership which facilitates cooperation on work such as this.


Crow’s Nest: Raising the roof(line)


Last week Building Stewardship milled tuliptrees (cut down as part of the oak regeneration demonstration project here at Crow's Nest) into rafters for this next job. Now they are preparing to raise the roof on the rear addition of the lodge house they are renovating. They will raise the peak of the nearly flat roof; it will give the rear apartment a little more headroom and the steeper roof should weather time a little better.


Crow’s Nest: Protecting ash trees


We were recently given this beautiful black ash (Fraxinus nigra). Natural Lands Trust member Rick Webb donated it to us and I planted it near a wetland along French Creek. The temporary fence is to protect it from the deer.

There is another threat to ash trees that we are likely to confront: the emerald ash borer. We will continue to plant ash trees as they are an important part of our native plant community. But we are also evaluating what methods we might use if—some say when—EAB arrives here. We are making lists of ash trees we'd like to save and gathering information on treatments.


This is one our the ash trees we'd like to see survive.

What can you do to protect ash trees? It's easy. Don't move firewood. The primary vector for the beetle is in wood that people move.

Crow’s Nest: New spur trail

New spur trail cropped

It wasn't all fun and games at summer camp. The kids at the 7th & 8th grade camp built this spur trail leading to an amazing outcrop of rocks (and likely to become a ridgetop bypass for the Deep Woods Trail someday).

Mike McGeehin processed the GPS data the kids collected and sent me this image. The green is the Deep Woods Trail that Mike Watson built for his Eagle Scout Project a few years ago. The red is the new spur the kids at camp built.

I am impressed that the image reveals that the original Deep Woods Trail—built before we had access to GPS technology but now documented with it—really does traverse the two least steep sections of hillside according to the contour lines. It was just Mike Watson and I bushwhacking through the forest with red ribbon until we liked the trail route.

Here's a photo from along this new spur trail:


Camp Cleanup

We are cleaning up from summer camp this week: disassembling the parade floats, returning the kayaks we borrowed, deflating inner tubes, mopping the floor (you'd be amazed how much creek sand ends up in the visitor center), and tidying up. As one counselor noted, it is a bit like taking down the Christmas decorations.

And this week both of our summer interns, Erik Stefferud and Meredith Mayer, are leaving us, soon to return to their college coursework.

But it won't be long until we hold our fall WebWalkers, Spiderlings, and WebWigglers programs. Stay tuned!

Mariton – Meteor Showers

Tonight is the peak of the Perseid Meteor Showers.  This phenomenon graces the summer skies from mid-July to mid-August.  Last Saturday night, we had neighbors over to sit around a campfire and watch for meteors.  Everyone got to see a few.  Tonight is the peak of the showers, and there should be lots of chances to see one if you live in area of dark night skies and the clouds are gone.  Get a comfortable chair or blanket.  Have some bug repellent on hand.  Turn off the lights and and enjoy.  The combination of "shooting stars", fire flies, and chirping katydids is wonderful.  If you have to get up early tomorrow, or it is cloudy tonight, don't despair.  Go out any night this weekend and you should still see some (if not many). 

I will be camping this weekend with friends.  Although I love watching the flames of a campfire, I will be watching the skies as we chat  and listen to the katydids.

Over the years I have witnessed many wonderful Perseid displays.  The best was the summer Maureen and I were married.  We were camping at Tahquamenon Falls, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The moon was New, and the skies bright with stars.  We laid on a picnic table and saw a shooting star on average every 45 seconds.  If that was not good enough; a Whip-poor-will called only a few dozen yards away from our campsite. 


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