Being mid October we would not be seeing any of the namesake Trout Lilies on our hike today. As there was a relative time crunch in our lives, we opted for a hike closer to home, but in the end did not give up the opportunity to be awestruck. While there would not be any panoramic views or sightings of endangered species, we would feel peace in how the fall mid morning sun filtered through and silhouetted the tree leaves, dappling the forest floor with a gentle light. In addition, there was an abundance of nature’s colorful bounty on display, begging to photographed.
While this trail is not a formal “all persons” trail it is one of the most walkable trails that we have been on recently. It is generally flat, with few trip hazards or significant grade changes.
In addition, it is extremely well marked.
One feature I love about this walk is that if you include the Hepatica Hill Trail, you can transverse the entire network by always going right when you meet a fork in the trail, and still end up at the parking lot. Reassuring to the directionally challenged.
The trail works its way through a mature wood which unfortunately demonstrates the toll that Emerald Ash Borer took on our White Ash population. The floor is littered with massive Ash carcasses in varying stages of decay.
The uplifting mood of the day was set by the play of the sunlight through the trees, accentuating their architecture and colors.
In pastel, even Poison Ivy looked soothing.
As noted in these photos, we were just starting to see some color change in the trees (Dogwood, Sugar Maple, Shumard Oak).
This wood was a mature forest and had some trophy trees of multiple species, including Tulip-poplar, Pignut Hickory, Sugar Maple, Red Oak, and American Beech.
This canopy should make for excellent fall color in one to two weeks.
Another feature of the hike that should improve over the next few weeks is the view of the Ohio River from the overlook. The view is currently somewhat obstructed by the understory.
Fall can be a time of plenty in the woods and that was the case at Withrow Nature Preserve (Crab Apple, Dogwood, Burning Bush, Red Bud, American Bittersweet).
We did see a couple of less common sightings on the trail. The first was Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana), which is also known as Ironwood. Its wood is very dense and strong and historically was used for tool handles. It is a small tree and when you grasp it, it feels like a contracted or flexed muscle. I think that you can see that “ribbing” in this photo.
The second was this Pileated Woodpecker that was seen at the top of an Ash snag. With the extinction of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the Pileated is now the largest remaining woodpecker in North American, with adults measuring 15 inches.
The “Texture” of the day was the bark on this Hackberry tree.
Not all the sightings, however, were pleasant ones. Withrow does have an ongoing battle with a couple of invasive species which will out compete native wildflowers. There were isolated clusters of bush honeysuckle (no photo) and Purple Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei).
Trying to remove both is labor intensive and extremely challenging. Birds spread both plants when the seeds pass through their digestive tracts. Please do not use Wintercreeper as a ground cover in your landscaping.
New Plant of the Day
Evening Lychnis – also known as White Campion. It is a non-native from Europe that blooms at night and is pollinated by moths. It is a member of the “Pink” family but to me resembles phlox. Notice the morning dew on this specimen. The swollen calyx, as noted on the blurred second flower, is characteristic of this plant.
Photo credits to Peggy Juengling Burns.
Parking – excellent large asphalt lot.
Facilities – restroom in on site building.
Trail Conditions – excellent and well marked. The trail is listed as 1.7 miles but probably would reach 2 miles with the Hepatic Hill Loop. Certainly would rate this as an “easy” hike from a terrain and safety point of view. I also think that it is an excellent 4 season hike and would allow for good footing with snow.
Benches – two benches at the overlook (about 1 mile in) and another in the field walk/”old farm loop”.
Kids – Should do well as I think that there is enough variety to keep their interest.
Suggested Paired Hikes – The shorter Hepatica Hill Trail is known for its spring wildflowers.