My friend Harry stopped in today. I’ve been fishing with him since the mid-1980s. The water has been so low for so long that we thought it best to not go fishing. So he said he was going to go hiking up in the Algerine Swamp Natural Area. We talked about this for a little while and he invited me to go along. I’ve been restraining myself from fishing recently because of the low water conditions and a hike in Algerine sounded like a good idea. It’s true, I did not know what I was getting myself into.
So Harry says, ‘It’s a little thick through the first part, but it will clear up pretty soon’. If you’ve ever gone grouse hunting you might be familiar with thick cover. For this situation, quadruple the density of cover of young trees, brush, undergrowth, and whatever else you want to pile into this situation and you then arrive at a vague idea of just how thick this cover was. We did not flush any grouse.
Harry’s dog, Jack, joined us. He’s just a little thing but a real trooper! Considering for every step we took, Jack had to take perhaps 5 or 6, he got a real workout this day.
Somewhere soon after we did get through some think cover we saw some interesting red stuff growing on a downed log. I guess it was a fungus but I really don’t know what it is/was.
Harry saw a toad along the way and I spied a prickly pine cone laying on the forest floor.
The pine cone I believe may have come from a Table Mountain pine tree. I can attest that the pointed features on the cone were quite sharp as I picked it up – gently. We skirted along a swamp to try to get to our destination.
Close to where we were about to turn around and head back out I saw what I’ve called crab-apple trees.
At the cabin in Potter County, where my Father would take me each year, there were these trees lining the road that ran by the camp. My Father would mow around them and usually got scratched, poked, stuck and tore up so badly that he got rid of them and cut them down. These were quite prickly – just as I remembered them from the camp so many years ago.
We eventually made it to where we were going to turn around and head back – where Red Run originates. Red Run is a tributary to Slate Run and enters into Slate below where Morris Run joins. We walked through some thick sphagnum moss and ferns that were five to six feet tall for several hundred yards! This hiking was not a fast go of it as I know I had to ‘high step’ most of these conditions. There were places where I was wondering if I was going to take a step and sink into the moss up to my knees or deeper. Thankfully the drought this year probably played a part in not letting that happen.
We saw some pitcher plants on our way through the moss and ferns.
For those of you who don’t know, these plants feed on insects. The insect travels down into the plant attracted but some scent I believe, and most times never lives to tell the tale.
Harry had an ‘app’ he was trying out today. Unfortunately it didn’t tell us what direction to hike but it did tell us the distance to where we parked. So we got out of the thick sphagnum moss/Jursiac Park fern field and that meant we were now back into the thicker than what a grouse would enter thicket. You know, it was a real pain, but if Harry and Jack were doing this, I could do it. I don’t know if I would have taken this hike on my own once I looked at how thick it was. However, today I plodded through with the best of them.
I was amazed that we came out within twenty yards of where we parked the truck. Sweaty, tired, and hungry we headed back to the camp. Got a fire started in the fire pit and enough coals to start baking the potatoes and jalapeno poppers Harry had brought with him. About 45 minutes later we put the steaks on and laid the corn with their husks on to the grate. While this was the first time I had cooked over the fire pit, things weren’t perfect, but very edible. I didn’t hear any complains and we feasted. I know, I should of taken a few pictures – we were too hungry to stop to do that.
So, my first time in the Algerine Swamp and I made it back a live. That’s success enough, but with a good friend and a great little dog – it was a great afternoon!
Harry, Jack, and myself – we’re all going to sleep well tonight, I guarantee it!
Till we see each other again… I’m UB… the Unintentional Blogger reporting from Slate Run.