Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Nature's Artistry

Sometimes it's hard to rouse myself from the pleasant lethargy induced by warm summer days. It's delightful in my backyard, where fragrant breezes waft over the hillside and masses of black-eyed Susans are in bloom. Nothing beats kicking back on my deck with a good mystery. Well, almost nothing.

A couple of days ago, E. and I wanted to do something a little more active. We decided to visit one of our favorite spots—The Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord. This gorgeous wetlands environment is known for wonderful birding, especially in the early morning and around sunset.

Despite my love of birds, I didn't manage to get up and out at the crack of dawn. I didn't even meet my much more modest aim of arriving in Concord by mid-morning. Instead, I slept late, then dawdled over the New York Times, so by the time E. and I hit the road it was almost 11 a.m. That meant we would get to Great Meadows shortly before noon. Nothing like taking a hike with the sun directly overhead on a hot summer day.

Our late arrival had its benefits, though. We found the small parking lot almost empty. And to our surprise, a gentle breeze cooled the long sunny Dike Trail that wends its way through the wetlands. A perfect time to visit.

The birds, however, had other ideas. I saw a lone red-winged blackbird, got a brief glimpse of a brown thrasher, and spied a great blue heron fishing far off amid a sea of yellow lotus plants. Other than that, I have no exciting bird sightings to report.

Nor did I come across much in the way of wildlife, other than a single small turtle making its way slowly across the trail. When it saw us, it withdrew its legs, apparently attempting to resemble a rock.

Purple loosestrife ran riot along the edges of the wetlands. Though an invasive species, its vivid flowers brighten up the landscape. In fact, the plant was brought to North America from Europe during the 1800's as a garden perennial.

Once we had traversed the wetlands, we took a brief detour down to the banks of the Concord River, which flowed so smoothly and peacefully that I wished I had a kayak handy.

Then we headed back to the trail, which took us on a loop around the outer edge of the wetlands. The breeze slacked off there, but just as the heat began to bother me, the trail entered a wooded area. We were still circuiting the wetlands, but now from within the surrounding foliage.

Once in the shade, we picked up our hiking pace and soon reached our starting point, having gone full circle. The total hike was about 2.7 miles. We agreed that, even during the heat of the day, we couldn't have found a lovelier place to walk.

I've tried to capture some of the beauty of Great Meadows in these photographs (taken with my trusty iPhone camera), but nothing can compare to the original, composed by nature.  Click on the photos to enlarge them.