Upper Wister Draw -> Oxbow Swamp -> ? -> Crum Meadow
If yesterday morning was the most relaxing walk I’ve taken this semester, this afternoon’s walk was by far the most ridiculously insane. Absolutely hands-down. What began as another tranquil stroll gradually turned into the most surreal series of events I’ve possibly ever experienced.
After Orgo lab, I went through Upper Wister Draw trying to relocate the morning’s Black-throated Green Warbler and Ovenbird. Neither were successfully found, though the place was swarming with Yellow-rumped Warblers. In the midst of all this, a man was loudly whistling and clapping, with two dogs on leashes calmly sitting at his side. Apparently he lost a third dog. But it was a truly bizarre soundtrack to a birding walk, and the warblers seemed equally perplexed.
In the midst of the Wister Forest, I was able to locate two Belted Kingfishers, and a pair of Mallards. Then, two middle-aged men whose race I was not able to determine began to speak to me in broken english.
– Seen anything interesting?
– Well, maybe you’ll see that…woodpecker. Yes, the Ivory one.
– (laughs) I sure hope I’ll get that lucky.
After a long walk, I inexplicably ran into them again, in a completely different part of the Crum, nearly 45 minutes later. What.
– Any luck?
– Nope, no luck.
– No luck, no luck…that’s how it always is. That’s why you need to go back and…get an education.
Because I felt like the lighting could be good, I decided that I’d go hop over to the other side of the creek, and check out the oxbow swamp. Over the ford, I decided to head towards the meadow and see if a path would lead back towards the swamp, and sure enough, I stumpled upon a path that led directly underneath the railroad bridge, and straight towards the swamp. And sure enough, just as the Natural Lands Trust promised, there was a true marsh in the depths of the Crum. A ring of skunk cabbages surrounded a large stand of reeds and cattails.
I began to wonder if there might be a small pond in the center of all this, so I tried to find a way of entering the marsh. I ended up climbing one of the bridge’s supports and carefully working my way towards the marsh. While on the supports, a train rumbled overhead, which was an absolutely thrilling/terrifying experience that I (don’t) look forward to experiencing again.
I wasn’t able to get far enough in, but I doubt there’s a pond, only a very small creek that likely tapers out in the middle of the marsh. In the process of discovering this however, I got sucked into the mud several times. On the way back to the main path, I was able to observe several of my very deep footprints throughout the marsh, which made me laugh.
Knowing that I’d heard a singing Wood Thrush opposite Crum Meadow yesterday, I decided to see if I could locate it, and follow the creek down the meadow. Sure enough, the thrush was still singing, and I ended up getting great looks at my first singing Wood Thrush of the year.
Since the lighting was so good, I went to find a path into the floodplain forest opposite the Crum thickets. But the path I followed ended up making a sharp turn up the hill, and I suddenly found myself climbing up an incredibly long and steep hill. It was completely unexpected, and I found myself gasping for breath from the surprising steepness, and I was unable to strain my neck to see the top of the hill. But eventually the ground began to slowly level off, and so I looked up, and was stunned to discover that I was suddenly at the foot of what appeared to be the ruins of a massive stone temple.
Intrigued, I cautiously approached the ruins, and found two stone pillars marking the entrance to a stone patio, which opened up into what looked like a small ampitheater. This was straight out of some videogame like Zelda or Mayaquest, it was so completely hardcore and intense. Working my way around the edge of the ampitheater, up to the top, there was a short path that led to a tall stone wall. Following the wall to its edge, I peeked around, and found myself looking at…the highway, with cars hurtling by 20 feet away.
I just started laughing. Of all the things I was expecting to find on the other side of the creek, I was not expecting to find a nice marsh underneath the railroad bridge, much less a set of ancient stone ruins, much less a path onto the highway leading from those said ruins. Actually, the path had led to a sidewalk that appeared to parallel the highway for quite some distance, and I’m very curious to know how many people use this sidewalk (who takes a long leisurely stroll beside a busy highway?), and whether any of those pedestrians had similarly stumbled upon the ruins. There was a lot of graffiti on the stone wall, but very few on the ruins. Overhead, two Northern Rough-winged Swallows flew in figure-eights over the mouth of the path, a great prize for my discovery. I stood and watched the traffic for a while, including a screaming ambulance hurtling past, forcing every car off to the side, and also watched the two swallows, before beginning my way back home, as it was getting close to dinnertime.
Back at the creek’s ford, the water level had inexplicably risen 3 or 4 inches during my excursion, which was not good for my socks and shoes. At least it cleaned off most of the mud. With the adrenaline rush dying down, I didn’t even bother to bird Skunk Cabbage Hollow, and just headed out of Crum Meadow, noting that yesterday’s House Wren was still singing from the Holly Collection. Telling Luis of my adventures back at the dorm, his response was:
(16:45:27) Luis Hernandez: sounds cool, give me the exact directions and ill take a girl there this weekend, perfect make out place im sure
What a surreal walk that was. I’m exhausted.