Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dutch Gap Conservation Area

I’ve not been sleeping well lately, so I decided that if I slept in today, so be it, but if not, I would just get up and go on a nearby hike. Last night, I set some hiking stuff out just in case, and when I woke up at 5:45, that was my signal to give up on sleeping in for a change and to just get moving. I shaved and dressed, brewed a mug of tea, slipped a Mozart piano concerto – so beautiful – in the car’s CD player, and started driving to Dutch Gap Conservation Area, about 28 miles away.

The trip information I read said that the park opens at daylight, and my goal was to get there as close to sunrise as possible, now that I was awake early on a Saturday. So I was pleased to be driving down the road to the park as the sun was rising over the horizon. This is supposed to be a wildlife rich area, and early morning is the best time to see animals of all kinds. Imagine when my surprise when I made the turn onto the final approach to the park, and there was a closed gate, and a sign saying “Opens at 8:00”. It was now 6:50!

“Well,” says I, “I’ll just walk to the trailhead.” I put on my “waffle-stompers”, got my small day-pack on, and walked around the gate, hiking down the road. There were pretty views of wetlands to the left of the road, and I saw some rails at one point. A little later, there was a view of a couple of dozen egrets and three deer out in the marsh. Two of the deer were six point bucks. In this photo, the white spots are egrets and there is a doe in the lower right of the photo, just to the right of the little tree:

After a mile and a quarter walking, I came to the park entrance. It was blocked with a tall solid fence, with a securely locked gate, with no way around it. In frustration, I admitted defeat, walked back to my car, and drove to a Hardees to get a drink. Then I drove back to the park, getting there at 8:00. On the drive back, I rescued a box turtle crossing the road, my second such rescue of the summer. About 30 seconds after I did so, a car came zipping by doing about 60, and I am guessing that Mr. Turtle would have been road kill without my intervention. A park worker arrived a few minutes later to open the two gates, and in I drove. I parked the car and hit the trail, having already walked 2.5 miles for naught, in heavy hiking boots no less. But saving the turtle made it all worthwhile.

The trail is pretty, with lots of varied water views, and very level. It is mixed use for hikers, runners, and bikers. It is a loop that covers 4.4 miles, the loop being made possible by a bridge that was put in this year. Before that time, hikers would hike 3.9 miles, reach the water, and see the trail that led back to the parking lot just 100 feet away. Then they would turn around and hike the 3.9 miles back.

I didn’t see as much wildlife as I’d hoped, but on this hike today I saw five white-tailed deer, a cotton-tail rabbit, egrets, the two rails of some kind, a blue-winged warbler, an osprey, a great blue heron, a couple of cardinals, a bluebird, Canada geese, a few ducks that I could not identify, a toad, and another box turtle. And on the way back out, I rescued a baby turtle of some kind – it looked like a type of mud turtle. I ended up walking about 8 miles total due to the fruitless early walk and a number of side trips to see water views, and ended up giving myself a couple of blisters. I think these came from (1) only wearing one pair of socks and (2) the easy trail made a faster hiking pace possible, which puts extra pressure on one’s feet.

It was a great way to start Labor Day Weekend! Here are some photos from my hike.

Water view near the start of the hike:

This new bridge turns a 7.8 mile out and back hike into a 4.4 mile loop:

Pretty flowering bush:

This flower was about five inches across:

A toad along the trail:

This view was typical of the loop that I hiked, although some of the path was out in the open and not wooded:

Interesting mushroom, about six inches in diameter:

Box turtle along the trail, she didn't seem too scared of me:

Pretty flower:


  1. I only ever bought Mozart cds so if I ever recognized a bit of classical music I could say 'oh, sounds like Mozart to me' and always be right!
    Love the toad and turtle.

  2. Can't go wrong with Mozart!

    I'm glad you like the photos, Steve. I have been fascinated with animals since I can remember, and probably before that, and have a especially strong interest in turtles. Box turtles are less common that when I was a kid, and it was great to find two in one day, saving one in the process.

    Since you sculpt animals, check out the frog sculpted on the memorial on my Monday post of Back Bay.