Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hiking The Jug End Loop, Part 1

I took both Thursday and Friday off of work. My plan was to hike on Thursday and to visit an Irish Dexter cattle farm on Friday. So on Thursday I drove to western Massachusetts to hike the Appalachian Trail to Mt. Bushnell. Alas, I never found the trail head. I did, however, find the trail head for the Jug End Loop. So that's were I hiked. This was the first hike which didn't include Casey and Wally. I've retired them due to their age. I thought they'd be upset but perhaps I was anthropomorphizing as they seemed quite happy to stay home and sleep.

The Jug End Loop is in the Taconic Mountains, one of my favorite places. The landscape is a mix of fields and wooded mountains, many of them with bald, rocky peaks. There's a wondrous mix of bird and flower species, including many which ordinarily would be found in more northern or southern places. In the above photo, you can see how the hike began. I walked along the edge of a woodland, with a field on my right and mountains just past the field.

Seamus, all 105 pounds of him, stops to smell the flowers. Reminds me of the story of Ferdinand the bull.

This photo was not the dogs' usual position. For the first time in my experience, I had 2 dogs which preferred to trot along at my heels instead of running ahead. So instead of calling them back, I was constantly nudging them forward to run and play. I suspect that their good trail manners are a result both of their Poodle genes and the fact that I've had them since puppyhood.

Seamus enjoys a chilly stream on a warm day. The reason that Fergus is not in the photo is not that he was lagging behind, but rather that he'd run full speed back and forth through the stream many times already and was back with me when I snapped the picture.

There were plenty of blackberries to eat but the raspberries were not yet ripe. And I never saw a single blueberry plant, perhaps because we weren't high enough up a mountain.

The fields were full of Common Milkweed, Asclepias syrica, a native plant which was just beginning to bloom. I saw no Monarch Butterflies, but there were hummingbirds galore enjoying the Milkweeds. You may not think Milkweed flowers are beautiful, but sniff them some time and you'll find their scent is heavenly. In this case, the entire field was full of their sweet smell, rather reminiscent of a florist's shop.

And Common St. Johnswort, Hypericum perforatum, the plant of myth, legend and herbal remedies.

These flowers were new to me, though I must have seen them previously while perusing field guides as I somehow knew they were penstemons. Indeed, when I looked them up I found that they are Beardtongue, Penstemon sp. Related to the famous Foxglove.

We'd had lots of rain in previous days, so some parts of the trail were rather wet. All the more fun for two young Poodles!

Another ubiquitous field flower was Black-Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta. It's a native flower which figures prominently in my childhood memories.

On the trail through a field, with forest immediately to the right and mountains to the left and rear. It was indeed beautiful.

And another stream. Neither dog had any lack of drinking water or cooling-off stations.

We came across an old cabin site with its beautifully built fireplace still standing. The dogs were not impressed with the masonry work, but did agree to pose for a photo.

Partridgeberry, Mitchella repens, a native plant with which I am familiar though I'd never before seen its flower. I was surprised to learn it's a member of the Bedstraw family. How can that be?!?

It's "Fern Dog, the Magnificent!"

The trail left the fields and began ascending steadily into the woods. We never found any scenic overlooks, but it was a pleasant hike with two well behaved dogs and beautiful scenery. My next post will be Part 2 of the Jug End hike.

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