The Crooked Canes Journal


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A visit to Merck Forest & Farmland Center ~ May 6, 2015

Journal entry by Ray Bouchard



Well, between Joanne and myself, I believe this hike has been cancelled at least once a year for the past 3 years, but we were determined to make it happen. I scouted it out twice this spring, while Joanne and Barbara came once. We finally got the break we needed in the form of good weather and decent trail conditions. It was worth the wait. Wednesday turned out to be sunny and pleasant with blue skies smiling on us all day long. It sure made for a great introduction to Merck Forest and Farmland Center for those who had never been here before. A few blackflies buzzed us briefly when we reached the parking lot but that was the last we saw of them, in spite of our summery hiking attire. We certainly welcomed the gentle breeze as we trudged to the summit of Antone Mt. Mid 70s isn't all that hot, but it seemed warmer than that while we were climbing. Our timing was pretty good on two counts. First, we completed the 2.5 mile hike to the summit just in time for lunch, and second, we were greeted by about a dozen members of the Albany ADK, being led by none other than Virginia Boyle Traver. Not only is she a former student of mine, but she's also following in her dad's footsteps as an active member of the ADK. In case you still haven't made the connection, Virginia is the daughter of Irv and Eleanor Boyle, both of whom were members of the Crooked Canes when our organization was in its infancy. The ADKers were the first to leave. We followed about 15 minutes later with a goal of taking a slightly longer route back to our cars so that we could see the many wildflowers that I had spotted during my recent visit. As I recall, Joanne and Barbara never saw any while post holing through a foot of snow 3 weeks or so earlier. That certainly wasn't a problem today. The pictures will show that snow and ice and cold are just a distant memory now, but I'd like to mention that in the 6 days since I was here last, the Dog Tooth Violets (Trout Lilies) came into bloom. The Hepaticas have pretty much died back and the Blue Cohosh plants grew from 4" to 18" or more and were in bloom. It's amazing how quickly things change at this time of year. We made the 6 mile loop back to the barns around 3:00; visited the sheep, lambs, chickens, 2 work horses and one sow, then sadly, decided it was time to head for home. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the ladies managed to feed the horses some of their carrots without losing any fingers, but I believe Jo-Ellen was the only one to give the big Sow some of her stash. Reluctant to use the "hold your hand out flat" technique with a pig, she very wisely dropped the carrots from a safe height, hoping it would catch them in its mouth. Occasionally it worked, but any misses were quickly gobbled up. Nothing was wasted. Thanks to Ed, Margie and Jo-Ellen for joining Joanne and me on our little adventure. Ray 5/7/15 - Joanne Armstrong added 5 photos.

25 photos



The sign that greets you as you take a right off of Vt. Highway 315 onto their rather rutted, single lane driveway.



Here we are at the Visitor Center. Our first goal- hike 2.5 miles to the summit of Mt. Antone.



The next sight to greet you is the Sugar Shack. The main barn is on the opposite side of Old Town Rd. Note: All but the last two pictures were taken during my solo visit on 4/30. The fields had greened up quite a bit by 5/6.



You'll notice that the lambs have grown a bit compared to the "Teaser Pictures" that I included in the Wilton Wildlife substitute hike.



I was slowly walking along, quite alone, on Antone Rd., when I spotted this creature standing on it's hind legs nibbling small branches. I'm about 20' or more away but I don't believe it was aware of my presence yet. Notice how the quills on its back are laid flat.



Oops! Quills up, I've been made. My cover has finally been blown, but I did manage to get within 10' before it reacted.



I'm 5' away now, playing Peek-a Boo with a porcupine. No growling, hissing or chattering of teeth. It knew that I wasn't stupid enough to try to pet it, tempted as I was. It was a great experience.



I walked a few tenths of a mile down the trail to the old out house next to Clark's Cabin and found what I believe is porcupine poop. It's just a guess mind you.



Maple season is over. The lines have been cleaned and the plastic taps have been capped and left there, ready to be reinserted into the Maple trees next season.



The woods are laced with plastic tubing waiting for the sap to flow next spring. Notice the larger, black plastic line at the bottom of the run.



A field opposite Ned's Place, one of the cabins that is available to rent. We took a different route on the 6th so the group didn't get to see it. Can you imagine waking up to a view like this in the morning?



Ramps were everywhere. They numbered in the thousands.



White Hepatica blossoms.



Pink Hepatica. This is the only place that I have ever seen Hepaticas with this many "Petal Like" Sepals. Thanks to Jacki Donnelly's blog, Saratoga Woods and Waterways, and my reference book, I now know that a Hepatica blossom doesn't have any petals. Go figure.



One last Hepatica.



This is a small Blue Cohosh plant that had recently emerged from the ground. It was about 4- 5" high on 4/30. I didn't get a decent picture of one yesterday, but as stated earlier they had grown considerably and were in bloom.



A view of the main barn as I hiked back to the Visitor Center on the 30th.



The horses were in the field close to Old Town Rd. on the 30th. Yesterday they were in their stalls in the rather dark barn.



May 6: We are having lunch on the summit of Antone Mt.



Virginia graciously allowed me to take her picture for my scrapbook and of course for this report. Irv and Eleanor must be very proud of her.



Margie, Jo-Ellen, Joanne, Ed, Ray at the top of Mt Antone - added by Joanne



Views from the top of Mr Antone - added by Joanne



Trout lilies by the score!!!



Ray and Margie with the beautiful barn and farmlands below - added by Joanne



This mama pig thanks Jo-Ellen for saving some carrots for her! - added by Joanne



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