One of the best aspects of hiking is that no two hikes are the same, even if the path has been walked multiple times. I have hiked some of the Five Rivers Metroparks a dozen or more times and each experience presents a unique adventure. Yesterday afternoon, I walked a portion of the Twin Valley Trail in the Germantown area. I started at Kercher Park, hiked to the connector trail, and enjoyed the loop around the Germantown MetroPark. According to my records, I have hiked this trail 16 times this year and yet this day in October held several special experiences.
There is a rather large meadow/field on the trail after the hiker crosses under the overpass of Rt 725. I have seen the transformation of this meadow from the starkness of winter with an open visibility to the entire field to an overgrown section of the trail filled with wildflowers and thick, tall vegetation. Yesterday, for the first time I came around the bend on the path leading through the meadow and was greeted by a beautiful white-tailed deer who quickly spooked into the thickness of the meadow and left me with only periodic views of her lovely tail as she leaped through the overgrowth and out of sight.
Stopping at Cedar Ridge Campsite for a quick drink of water and a handful of Mimi’s special trail mix, I removed my pack and relaxed for a few minutes. Having been at this site several times I was not expecting to see anything unusual but as I looked down at the table provided for the campers, I noticed a wonderful stick insect. What an amazing bug. I enjoyed watching his camouflage act while I refreshed on GORMP. Google-ing when I got back home I learned a few things about my newly found friend. Stick insects can shed a leg in order to escape attacks by predators. If a predator grabs hold of a stick insect’s leg, it simply gives up the leg, using a special muscle to break it off at a weak joint. The bug will regenerate the missing limb the next time they molt (http://insects.about.com/od/stickandleafinsects/a/10-facts-stick-insects.htm). There are approximately 3,000 species of stick and leaf insects and they can range in size for half an inch to over 13 inches long (the big ones are found in Borneo so no chance of seeing that that one at Twin Creek) (http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/stick-insect/). My friend was about two inches and was more interested in hiding than in conversation.
My biggest discovery on yesterday’s hike came in the form of mushrooms. Now I am not much of a mushroom guy and I don’t know which are good to eat and which ones with take you out, so I don’t make them part of my hiking cuisine. But as I came up over a hill that I had hiked numerous time before I saw some enormous examples of wild white mushrooms. The first one had the tabletop look to it – the kind that the little mouse hides under in children’s books.
The second looked more like a vanilla ice cream cone with crusted powdered sugar on top. I’ve included a few pictures, if anyone has some expertise is this area. They looked good enough to eat but I passed on by after enjoying their uniqueness.
My, how I love to be on the trail.