Sunday, May 18, 2008

Big. Rock.

On the way to the aforementioned Asparagus Festival in West Brookfield on Saturday, we passed some signs indicating the Rock House Reservation. We stopped to check it out on the way back down Rte. 9.



I was expecting a rough, rocky trail through some generic central Mass woods. But surprisingly, the reservation, part of a network of places maintained by the Trustees of Reservations, has an almost park-like atmosphere to it. There's something very beautiful about these trails. They are nice and wide, and the forest has a cleaned up, open appearance, with less than average scrub-brush and thickets clogging up the understory.



And what's immediately apparent about these trails, is the prodigious amount of HUGE glacial erratics, scattered everywhere. The Wisconsin Glacier had a party in these woods.







A short ways in, you come upon this beautiful little pond. From the approaching angle, the boulders in the water seem to form giant arrowheads:



It's called Carter Pond, named after the man that dammed up a stream to create it. Immediately to the left of the pond, are these impressive rock formations, the 'Rock House':





As we walked between titanic boulders, we saw this opening, inviting us in to explore. Or rather inviting me in to explore, as Kelly insisted I go first...



The narrow passage opened into this incredible overhang/cave like area. Native Americans lived here. You can count on it.





We scrambled up the sides to the top of the overhang, where there is a nice view of the surroundings. I wondered how many Native Americans must have sat here, quietly scanning the forest for game and enemy, while their families prepared food, and huddled around a fire below...

Nearby, a stunning example of an immovable object, a rock; in a slow, epic struggle with an irresistible force, life...



The trail then goes around to the back of the pond, where there is an old 1930's vintage cabin overlooking the water from a rise. On the walls are some geological artifacts, and posters with information on the wildlife and glacial history of the area.



Near there, is a small, solid rock bordered amphitheater, and just beyond that is 'Balance Rock'. A big boulder teetering on the edge of a drop-off. A little trick left for us eons ago by a receding glacier, maybe a mile high.



Some of the giant rocks have smooth indentations way up high, reminiscent of the glacial potholes of Shelburne Falls. I would guess a raging torrent of water came through here, for a very long time, and a long time ago. Possibly water rushing from the heights of the melting glacier?



Beauty And The Beasts

The trail ambles north, to some power lines crossing the land. Underneath the high voltage wires, the Trustees who take care of this reservation have created a butterfly garden in the opening between the woods.



Among some Lilac bushes, Kelly called me over to see a large black butterfly, but I missed it. I was on the other side examining this weird bug going from flower to flower:



I thought, Hmm, looks like some kind of hummingbird/moth combination. Looking it up later, apparently that's exactly what it was, a Hummingbird Moth. I got over to the other side, but Kelly's butterfly was gone. I did catch this guy though.



Wild Strawberry, Bluets and Dandelions competed for space in the bright sunshine.



Bluets, one of my favorite hallmarks of spring.



A couple more wildflowers. Hopefully I got their identification right...(dang it, I have to find that missing flower book...!)

An Eastern Starflower,



and a lone Buttercup.



These leaves had some kind of red something growing right out of them. Perhaps someone (looking at you, Mary Carey and Brian) has an idea what it could be?





These leaves nearby seemed to have a more advanced version of the red menace on them.



Update: The red growths above are galls, produced by the leave's enclosure of a feeding Eriophyid mite nymph. Though aesthetically not very pleasing, the parasites are not particularly dangerous to the plant...

I had no trouble identifying this critter though, a pesky Deer Tick, plucked from one of the ears of the dog, before it latched on.



The trail goes on from there, up a hill to what once must have been a nice little summit look out. The trees have grown in though, blocking the views. This whole northern section of trail, though still nice, isn't quite as 'cleaned up' as the southern section. There's a lot of the natural thicket and dead wood scattered about.

I looked up from the trail just in time to avoid swallowing this guy:



He seems to have strayed far from his brothers:



At the top of the trail and hill, is this magnificent tree, surely home to a tree house for the local farm children at some point in it's long life...



All of this Reservation land, like much of New England, was at one time clear of trees and given over to farm and pasture land. Rock walls are numerous on this northern section.



It was a great, long day in West Brookfield, but it was time to head back to our valley.



We'll be back here again, for sure...

8 comments:

Tommy said...

Brilliant photography.

Tony said...

Thanks Tommy.

Mary E.Carey said...

Brian says that a plant is called cinquefoil.

Tony said...

Thanks Mary and Brian...I took it from there and found out the red things were some sort of mite gall...

VanDog said...

I forgot all about Rock House Reservation. Haven't been there since it opened sometime in the early 90s. Having a flashback here.

Tony said...

It seems a good place for 'flashbacks'...

Michele said...

Very nice overview. I visited within the past week and there were loads of Lady Slippers and Jack-in-the-Pulpits (aka pitcher plant?), as well as hundreds of chipmunks (interestingly, no gray squirrels). It was my first visit, as I hadn't ever heard of it before last week (despite the fact that I have lived within 1/2 hour of the reservation for over 20 years)!Surprisingly, I encountered only two other "wikers" the whole time.

Tony said...

It does seem to be a relatively unknown gem, We didn't see more than six people when we were out there, and that was on a beautiful weekend...