Spring is finally here and it’s time to hit the trail! Lucky for you, CLC has miles of stunning trails open to the public at our Public Conservation Areas scattered throughout the county. To make it even easier, we have compiled a list of the can’t-miss walks and hikes of the season. What’d we miss? Let us know in the comments!
Blue/Stockport-Greenport Trail (Greenport Conservation Area)
After grabbing lunch in Hudson, take a walk near the Hudson River along the Stockport-Greenport Trail. Once you pass through fields of wildflowers, cross streams, and traverse forested slopes, you will be rewarded with breath-taking views of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains. To access this trail, follow the Access for All Trail until you reach the Blue Trail. This is a moderate out-and-back route around 2.6 miles.
Yellow to Blue Trails (Harris Conservation Area)
A great walk for families—follow the blue trail from the parking lot and find yourself walking upland into a beautiful hemlock forest. After connecting with the yellow trail, which will eventually loop you back around to the parking lot, you will pass a tranquil woodland pond, multiple active vernal pools, and an old stone wall. This site is rich in biodiversity, so while this walk is only one mile, you could spend hours here admiring the cool habitats and even cooler creatures.
Blue Trail to Green Trail (Drowned Lands Swamp)
Start on the relatively flat blue trail and skirt along the edge of the swamp. Your proximity to the wetland will be perfect for wildlife viewing, as well as catching sight of spring ephemeral wildlflowers. On your way back, you can take the Cross Trail to get to the Green Trail, which will lead you to the summit of Old Crocken where you will take in beautiful views of the Taconic and Catskill Mountains. This shorter walk is suited for visitors of all ages.
Green Loop Trail (Ooms Conservation Area)
This trail is beautiful at any time of the year, offering an almost two-mile walk around Sutherland Pond. Be sure to bring your binoculars because the rolling grasslands around the pond provides habitat for grassland birds, including the bobolink and several different sparrows. We’ve also seen eagles at the site, and heard rumors of osprey! If you get tired along the way, take a seat at one of the benches you pass or at the gazebo, which offers Catskill Mountain views to your west.
In 2014, the CLC’s Farmer Landowner Match Program helped Mark and Miriam find landowners in Pine Plains to start their vegetable farm and fruit tree nursery, Full Circus Farm. The farm, still happily on that same piece of land, now grows organic produce to feed 40 to 50 local CSA families, as well as local markets and restaurants. They also supply fruit trees to gardeners and orchardists across the Hudson Valley.
Full Circus Farm is having a Spring Fruit Tree Sale on April 15th from 10am to 2pm. Their apple, pear and asian pear trees saplings and are certified organic and are both grafted and grown right on the farm. Mark and Miriam will donate 15% of their sales to CLC if you tell them you found them through us!
One of the exciting apple tree varieties they have this spring is Esopus Spitzenburg– an heirloom dessert apple that hails from the town of Esopus, right here in the Hudson Valley and it is rumored to have been Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple. In addition to fresh eating apples and pears, Mark and Miriam also grow apple varieties that are rich in tannins and ideal for pressing into hard cider.
Mark and Miriam use a team of draft horses to plow, spread compost and cultivate the soil. The horses are lighter on the land than a tractor, add fertility to the farm system, but most of all, they are just a joy to work with! Sandy and Sunshine, their pair of Haflinger ponies, are finally getting some exercise again now after a long and restful winter. They also have a small herd of cows, including a family dairy cow, and a small flock of hens.
Before the birds come back from their tropical vacations, and before many spring flowers have poked their heads through the cold ground, there’s a raucous party happening in the woods that you might not be aware of!
Some people may have heard a peep or two from their first spring peeper on one of the warmer days recently, or what they thought was a duck quacking back in the woods (probably a brave wood frog waking up). This is just a hint of what’s to come, though – what we’re really waiting for is the Big Night.
What’s Big Night? It’s the night (or several nights) when the conditions are right and mother nature gives the signal to some amphibians, like wood frogs, spring peepers, and mole salamanders to wake up from their frosty slumber in the leaf litter and get moving! In order to do so the conditions must be right: a warmish rainy evening when the temperatures are above 40 make for the perfect conditions for these sensitive critters to move. The frogs and salamanders often travel up to a half mile to get to woodland pools for breeding.
Some species, like the wood frogs and spotted salamanders, are dependent on very specialized temporary wetlands to breed in. These small wetlands are created when the winter thaw and the spring rains fill up depressions in the woods. Because these wetlands generally don’t have an inlet or an outlet, they do not support fish, so they are essentially little nurseries for the frogs and salamanders that are successful in making their way there to lay eggs.
Unfortunately, these habitats are often fragmented by roads, and it can be a dangerous expedition for these small amphibians to make. But you can help the frogs and salamanders by being a citizen science road crossing guard, with the Amphibian Migration and Road Crossing project! If you have seen a stretch of road where on a rainy night it looks like a wave of frogs coming out of the woods, please think about taking some time to stop and help these little critters safely find spring love! For more information on the project watch this video and contact John Horton for an informational packet.
Here are some other interesting tidbits:
- The male frogs are the ones making all the noise, trying to attract females to the pools
- Spring peepers are the smallest frog we have, at about an inch, yet the females can lay between 750-1500 eggs each year
- Wood frogs are typically between 1.5 to 3 inches in length, and lay up to 3000 eggs in a season
- Once they breed and lay their eggs they move back to the forest where they spend the majority of the rest of the year, you might be lucking enough to find a spring peeper hanging out in trees and shrubs or wood frogs and spotted salamanders might be found in the leaf litter or under a log
- In winter they dig down into the leaf litter or under logs and they have an anti-freeze like substance in their system which allows them to endure freezing winter temperatures
- The secretive spotted salamander, a 6-8 inch long dark grey salamander with bright yellow spots; these chubby creatures spend most of their adult lives underground in mixed hardwood forests, laying around 100 eggs.
Click here for more information, or join us for our Full Pink Moon Walk at Hand Hollow April 28!