I saw a coyote out in the wild western edge of Portage County. It’ll be bucking broncos and tumbleweeds next, by gum!
The occasion was a “two-fer” local attraction activity, as the Kent Lions held their annual corn roast at Beckwith’s Orchard and farm market ( I’m a die-hard Monroe’s Orchard and Farm Market customer myself, so it was all about new horizons)AND the Portage County Park District was inviting the public to step off on the Portage Bike and Hike Trail which just happens to pass near there off Lake Rockwell Rd. Great opportunity to chow down on an iconic summer treat—not to mention the fresh-baked peach and apple pies—then walk off a few calories and learn a few things along the popular(and now supported) trail. Such a deal!
So, we’re off from the information board at the trailhead, led by our intrepid volunteer naturalist, Joe Malmisur, heading for another info board near Breakneck Creek(complete with a display explaining how the stream got its name); it was about a two-mile trek in store for us. We’re getting the lowdown on what kind of trees are along the trail, what kinds of flowers are in bloom, which ones are invasives, which are not, the various insects whizzing or fluttering by, miscellaneous tidbits of information on the whole outdoor scene. Somebody said, “Is that a deer?” Somebody else said, “Is that a dog?” Somebody else said. “Is that a coyote?” Just about everybody said, “Whoa! It is a coyote!” So, of course, we all looked—the creature in question was maybe a hundred yards to the west– and the coyote looked back and crossed the trail a couple of times, not particularly alarmed, but apparently not interested in forming any lasting relationships with a bunch of pale faces in his territory. Joe got out his binoculars and we could all try to get a better look before Mr. Wiley eventually decided that he had important business elsewhere. Pretty cool! How do you top that?
Well, it wasn’t exactly a downhill slide, even then, with few more fauna to accompany the flora. We got an explanation for the behavior of the “Quaking” Aspen, a look at some galls; a couple of turkey vultures circled overhead checking to see if we had expired yet, ready to have us over for dinner—or just HAVE us for dinner. We saw blackberry and black raspberry bushes, we listened for birds, we dodged bikers (What? They think that they get to use this space too?), we looked at—and avoided– the poison ivy.
Ah, yes, the dreaded Toxicodendrons radicans, (also known as Rhus toxicodendrons or Rus radicans)…poison ivy to us rubes. It sure is a healthy-looking plant, vigorous, even, and growing everywhere (It particularly likes edges of cleared spaces where there are trees and shrubs to climb and more sunshine than deep in the forest, but anywhere will do). Nobody got into that greenery but we did get some admonitory snippets of doggerel verse : “Don’t be a dope, don’t touch the hairy rope”, “Hairy vine, no friend of mine”, “Berries white, danger in sight”, “Leaflets three, leave it be”. I do usually get at least a couple of itchy bumps per year but they’re almost certain to be little gifts from some cat or other who has spent time out frolicking in the shrubbery by the creek bank then wants to cuddle up with somebody inside. That somebody is frequently me.
So…anyway…there will be more hikes of greater or lesser distance and difficulty over this late summer and fall—throughl November, I think—sponsored and led by the Portage County Park District and its volunteers (Joe Malmisur, Principal Factor)through six of the trails in the system(Some of them get used more than once). It’s the Wild Hikes Challenge, a program designed to encourage healthy recreation in the park system’s parks and trails; it’s a showcase for Portage County’s rich natural and cultural heritage. It’s also likely to be fun. Individuals who complete 8 of the hikes—verified—will earn a hiking staff crafted by workers at The Hiram Farm. Donations are suggested to cover costs.
Get the good on you. Give it a try. Take a hike.