Monday, June 18, 2012

Hikin' In Afton

Let's face it, if you really want to hike your fanny off, you can do it in Afton. In the early days, when Dennis and I first arrived, there was only the main park, and the hill that butts up with the Risman farm. Now, the park extends all the way across McGurr Road, to the south. This is still being developed, of course. there are plans to extend the wetlands.

But, today I'm gonna tell you about my walk.

I enjoy these walks. They clear my mind, and get the old heart pumping, and also, I enjoy the flowers, birds and solitude it brings me.

Today the breeze is stiff out of the south. If you doubt me, check the big wind turbines to the southwest of here. Warming up very quickly, so I headed out after 8 a.m., to avoid all dog walkers, should there be any.

I start out behind the barn on the trails that wind around the oldest portion of the park, the "trial" wetlands, which is pretty much grown in with willow in one, and a lot of cattail in the others. I decide to continue on a straight south path, heading for South Afton, toward the new shelter. I notice there is no one parked there, and gladly head that way. I make note of the various flowers along the way. The milkweed is blossomed out, and lends a wonderful sweet aroma to the air as you pass. Butterfly weed is also in full bloom, and their bright orange blossoms appear most abundant just south of the trees, near the wetlands, but a bush, here or there comes into view along my trail.

South-bound I walk. The red wings are done with nesting, and so are not as aggressive as they've been in the spring. However, I manage to pick up one killdeer who escorts me the whole way, for some reason. When I reach the end, I decide to continue past the parking lot, turn east onto the path that takes the bridge over the waterway. The cascades are not as strong, but there's some water flow. If you're quiet you might be able to watch a few water fowl on the rock. The spotted sandpiper came winging in, and landed on the rocks below the bridge. This bird frequently tips it's tail up and down, and stays on the rocks to feed. He's a most interesting bird. I almost wanted to join him in the water, but I continued up to the hill.

As I continued on, and my noisy escort also walked ahead on his long legs, complaining the whole way, the low pinging of a wind chime from the Risman farm enchanted the air. I turn the corner, watching the birds as they flee ahead of me, and I guess my noisy escort gave up.

The tallest hill this end of the park has a new bench. So, if you desire, you can sit and take in the wetlands below and farmland that surrounds you. I've climbed up this hill from the other direction, many a time in the past. I found the spot relaxing, and it seems to energize my soul. Now that there's a bench, I no longer have to sit on the ground. It sits rather high, which is fine, I swing my legs and sip on my now-warm water from the bottle I brought.

King birds make a racket above me, I ignore them and try to see if I can spot the blue heron. Nope. He must be over on the main side of the wetlands at the moment. Geese, although abundant in the spring, have thinned out. No reason to stay, those with no goslings have gone on to new territory.

I begin down the hill and three king birds to an aerial ballet above me, the wind pushing at them. I have to hold my hat on, as it might fly off. A good windy day keeps the deer flies at bay, so this is a good thing.

Once upon a time, I'm told that this whole hill was planted with a thousand trees. Then, the drought of '88 came and that did them in. Also, I think there was a fire, but I can't remember the story at the moment. At one time coyote roamed, but apparently someone took exception to this predator and obviously had to exterminate them. But once in a great while you may see a fox, if your lucky. Woodchucks, skunks, and weasels call Afton home. WE have a couple of woodchucks up around the house. One got the under ripe watermelon we couldn't eat. She was grateful, I could tell. And the skunk in one of the catalpa trees keeps us well away with the constant "fragrance".

Continuing down the hill, I make a plan to head back the quickest way, and where the wind is still able to reach me. I spy a loan fisherman down along the stream of Little Rock Creek. I'm doubting he's having much luck, unless he's going for catfish.

I make my way across two bridges, picking up some one's water bottle who didn't feel like carrying it to a trash receptacle for some reason. I carry it all the way up along the south part of the woods to throw it in our own trash.

If you are a frequent visitor, I hope you enjoy the park. It has lots of vistas to enjoy, and plenty of places to get off by yourself. The south prairie seems to go on and on. I'm told they are building a small shelter to go beside the last bridge down there. They've planted trees, but these will be a long while in creating shade, so there will be a shelter to duck under for shade and rest for the weary wanderer.

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