Monday, May 25, 2009

Hiking the West Dike Trail

As noted in my last post, the west dike trail has never been open before in all of my visits to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. So I got up early Sunday to hike it, arriving at the refuge parking lot minutes after 6AM. The sun had only recently come up:

I reached the start of the west dike trail about 0.7 miles from the parking lot, and started down the path:
Along the way were pretty views of marshes and impoundments, some with egrets, great blue herons, and other water birds.

Beside one of the dikes was this pretty flower, with Team in Training colors of purple and green:

Although I was seeing some wildlife, the dominant animals were once again mosquitos and deer flies. I endured a little suffering from them along the way, but didn't let it spoil the experience of hiking a new trail. The most common non-insect was the cheery red-winged black bird with its distinctive call:
I found this lonely dead tree along the edge of the marsh rather striking:

Other pretty views of wetlands were common along my hike, which ended up being about 3 miles in and 3 miles back.

At the spot where I had originally decided to turn around, an inviting track led towards some woods, so I followed it:

It went through a thick pine forest with a live oak understory - very park like. It is amazing what a tiny difference in elevation can mean in an ecosystem - something to keep in mind with all of the discussions of rising sea waters.

During this part of the hike, the deer flies and mosquitos were going crazy! "Hey, girls - fresh food is here! Let's go get some blood!" I finally applied insect repellent after being bitten numerous times. After about a quarter mile on this track, it became a path with tall grass. Having already picked up one tick along the hike, and not eager for more, I decided to turn around at this point, even though it was tempting to see how far the track went.

I reversed my steps on the way back, and the biting insects lessened quite a bit upon leaving the forest. Other than several rabbits, I didn't see any major wildlife on the return until I left the west dike trail. There, along the edge of an impoundment, I came upon this large common snapping turtle. My guess is that she had come up to lay eggs. I snapped her photo, then left her to her duty to her species. It was a nice end to a fun hike in a slightly different area.


  1. That looked like a great hike. I love the red winged black birds - so pretty with that touch of red and yellow on the wings.
    It's so much fun walking down a new road - I love to do that.
    Great shot of the turtle!

  2. It was a lot of fun, HappyOne. Always fun to take the path less traveled. I always wonder what I will see around the next bend, etc. And even if there is nothing there, then there is always the next bend. :)

    I love red winged blackbirds. I always associate them of happy memories of exploring wetlands as a kid. Being a suburban kid, wetlands seemed as exotic as a trip to Africa, and the RWBB were always so prominant.

    Seeing a big turtle face to face was pretty cool.

    thanks for stopping by. Art