Thoughts from a #NaturalistOnLockdown

The author at McAfee Knob, VA during her 2010 Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Back when you could just do stuff like that.

Well, here we are, in unprecedented times. The Stay at Home order is preventing me from backpacking anywhere or hiking outside of Philadelphia.  Luckily, I managed to squeeze in an overnight before the mandate was announced.  I realize I could now be fined for not being on “essential business”  if I got stopped on my way to Central PA where I like to backpack.  I wouldn’t have to stop anywhere but for gas, hike out on state forest land, socially distant the whole time, but I am doing my part to flatten the curve and stay home.  However, the PA Game Commission somehow thought it was okay to announce Opening Day early, and it’s okay to crowd everybody fishing on the banks of the Wissahickon and other streams like it. End of rant. I realize this is revenue for the state.  So now, I am hitting up my favorite places to go around here solo, as I probably would have been anyway but with renewed enthusiasm.  I am so grateful to be outside these days.

Trout lilies are everywhere in the Wiss.

What a fantastic spring this is…We have had some amazing days. That little groundhog was right, spring came on early this year.  I am loving the blooming trees and spring ephemerals. Did you know the slope along Forbidden Drive in the Wissahickon between Kitchens Lane and Jannette Street is simply covered with Trout Lilies right now? I see way more Spring Beauties and Bloodroot than I ever have before.  The other day, I was surprised to notice a bunch of late winter Helleborus blooming right along Forbidden Drive.  Maybe I am just noticing a bit more.

I took up jogging since the gyms are closed.  I am enjoying early morning runs along Kelly and MLK Drives, the Manayunk Towpath and the Wissahickon.  I run as the sun comes up and then a little after. By 8am, I am back in my car, heading home.  It starts to get too crowded after that.  But I feel “good”.

I am using my time to “nerd out” and learn and do stuff.  I am working my way through an online geology textbook, there is a free textbook online at www.opengeology.org/textbook if anyone is interested.   The other day, I watched a birding presentation by Ruth Pfeffer on the Friends of the Wissahickon website. Great information for backyard birders. Also, I participated in an online intro to invasive plants in the Wissahickon “workshop”.  I saw a great video on how to prune rosebushes on the Morris Arboretum Volunteer online newsletter.  (I don’t even have rosebushes).   My closet is full of binders and books and notes of classes I have taken and it’s time to go through and refresh. I also had the opportunity to record a presentation of my own on my 2010 Appalachian Trail experience. It should be posted soon.

Sunset over Roxborough Reservoir.

I am getting out some nights around sunset with my camera. The Roxborough Reservoir and the Schuylkill Center are a couple of my favorite places. Did you know that there are 3 remaining 1st order streams (flow directly into the Schuylkill naturally) in Roxborough? Two of them border the Schuylkill Center.   I like to sit at the Reservoir when it is dark and listen to the toads singing and watch the bats.  This is time of year that the toads migrate from the woods around the Schuylkill Center up the slopes of the Reservoir into the wetlands to breed.  There is even an active volunteer group that counts the toads and help them cross the road, as most of them tend to get run over by cars.

Speaking of volunteering, I can still “solo” steward in the Wissahickon. Some of the crew leaders like myself are out there picking up trash, letting the FOW staff and each other know what areas we will be working so we can cover more ground.  I see lots of people in the park NOT social distancing.  I worry this could cost us the privilege of being able to go there or am I just being paranoid?  It is obvious that people are coming to the park because it’s the only place you can go. If they did not have an appreciation for it before, they will now.

Sweet Gum seed pods look just like the coronavirus!

Besides photography, I enjoy doing mosaic art.  I am working on a multi-media piece right now I am calling the Corona Solar System.  Did you know the seed pod from the Sweet Gum tree looks like a coronavirus cell?  Check it out. The tree is a common one here and the seed pods are everywhere.  I see no reason not to use this event as a muse…maybe that sounds weird. My family thinks I am morbid….

But I am just a #NaturalistOnLockdown.