A certain acquaintance says that, "If you don't get wet, you don't have no fun." I had a lot of fun on Sunday, Aug. 2.
I was on the trail to Fish Ponds south of Baker's Mills by 8 a.m. knowing it was probably going to rain by afternoon. I had my "Blackjack" 12.5 pound canoe over one shoulder, a too heavy back-pack on my back, holey "cross-trainers" on my feet, and a net shirt on (the deer flies banging at the window while I was still in the car were scary-how do they know you are in there?).
On the trail I slowly opened the hiker's register, wondering if the deer mouse was still living there in a leaf nest. Yup, with a squeaky family. Right away I had to wade through water in the trail (you can't bushwhack easily carrying a ten foot boat). I was so glad I had dried my shoes overnight. This early wetting made the rest of the trip easier as I didn't try to dance around puddles.
The trail was open hardwoods, with many big white ash, which need to be appreciated before the Emerald Ash Borer gets them.
There is a major effort to contain this very destructive insect in western New York but there is very little hope of doing this. It will kill all the ashes of many species if it gets loose. Those big purple hanging things have attractant in them. Seven percent of our forests are ash, though it must be higher along this trail.
By 9 a.m. I was on the water of Upper Fish Pond. The point of the trip was to check the status of the beaver dams between the two Fish Ponds in preparation for a possible through trip by boat to Cod Pond, about eight miles south.
The water was high because of many small dams, often possible to get over while sitting in the boat, the others not usually too much of a problem either. It still took an hour to go the half-mile before I was on Lower Fish Pond partly because of taking time to look at the flowers (all natives, a rare and wonderful situation these days) and to figure out what the small dark duck was.
This involved taking off my life-vest and the put-on-backwards net shirt (duh) so I could use my binoculars effectively. She obliged by swimming back and forth, chirring agitatedly the while because her young were in the sedges calling to her.
I managed to get a really good look at her before she flew back to them. White-eye ring, solid jet-black bill, raised feathers on top of head, but back at the house nothing fit the bill (is that where that came from?). The bill on a ring-necked duck is supposed to have a white ring, but it had to be that. They are always a treat as they are not very common.
The lower pond had the same pH as Upper but it was loaded with buttonbush, usually thought of as a higher pH indicator. Sometimes plants have a mind of their own.
There was one tiny peaty island covered with bog plants-rose pogonia, pitcher plant, cranberry, bog buckbean, sedge. Most of the rest of the watercourse was lined and filled with typical marsh plants, including swamp rose, verbena, steeplebush, meadowsweet, swamp milkweed, one spectacular white water lily, and big areas of yellow water lily, mostly beheaded by beavers.
The fog against the ridges was lovely, the sounds only those of the birds that belong there, including the "Hic, three beers" of the three olive-sided flycatchers, good to see as they are declining most places. Not even small planes disturbed the wildness (they had more sense).
The only man-made object I saw from the water was a huge right-side-up aluminum scow which I am pleased to report does not leak--it was full of water. Fishermen, bring a bucket.
As the next few dams were small and the sitting kind, I just kept going. About a mile down the outlet I would have had to stand up to get over a slightly bigger dam and the stream narrowed, so I stopped and ate lunch at 10:30 a.m. and saw the first sprinkles on the water.
Luckily, it didn't rain hard until I got off the water on the upper pond at the campsite. Small boats fill up quickly. But, I was thoroughly soaked before too long, the rain pounding noisily on the carbon fiber of the canoe. (I'll have to complain to the maker.) By the end I was carrying an extra ten pounds of water soaked into everything.
I had intended to just check out the first pond outlet but one easy dam leads to another. It felt like an "adventure", though as I always had my life vest on and the weather was warm, I wasn't really in any danger. But it was almost too much "fun".