Thursday, June 11, 2015

30 Days in June: Day 9, San Felasco Hammock State Park

Big Beetle
For me, being in nature is about more than the beautiful locations or the wonderful things I see. It's also about the companionship--having someone to share the experience with. Some of my best memories of taking a perfect walk in the woods were times that I can't even remember what I saw. But what I remember is walking and laughing with my husband or with my daughters or with a friend, catching up on each other's lives, supporting each other through hurt and sorrow, milestones and the mundane. You walk together surrounded by the earth's beauty, wherever it is, and soak in the air and sounds and colors, even if you're not paying close attention. These "forest baths" bring us back into alignment. They are renewing and restorative and reinforcing. Connecting. Bonding.

Netleaf Leather Flower Seeds (Clematis reticulata)

Tuesday was a day like that. It had been a long time since my photo buddy, Maralee, and I had been able to get together, and we only had a short time to hike, so we met at San Felasco State Park and just headed out to see if we could find anything. Maralee is a much better birder than I am (she was a co-winner of the June Challenge last year) and she knows where to look for them and how they behave. She was trying to help me see an Acadian Flycatcher, a Yellow Throated Vireo and a Summer Tanager.

Summer Tanager

I think one reason that we like to go hiking together is that both of us tend to get distracted by anything that catches our eye. We're not the dedicated birders who sit for hours and watch. We are generalists who look at everything! Butterflies, birds, flowers, fungi, snakes--you name it. The first thing we saw was a very fat Fence Post Lizard. Then we found Kidney Leafed Rosinweed flowers. But not too far along the trail, she heard the Summer Tanager. She played a call and a territorial male came right up to check us out. Ding! Another for my list!

Big Fat Fence Post Lizard

Kidneyleaf Rosinweed (Silphium compositum)

We walked along the trail, catching up on the past month or so and stopping periodically to listen for Flycatchers or Vireos. We heard plenty of White Eyed Vireos and Great Crested Flycatchers, but not the birds we were searching for. Mostly, we heard each other. It's good to talk and to listen. And if you get to mark off a good bird or wildflower along the way, all the better. But sometimes that's not the most important thing.

A Nice Day for a Walk
Just at the point where we decided to turn around, we discovered that we were in a magic place in the forest, filled with Tiger Swallowtails. They seemed to be wafting out of the woods. We saw the bright yellow males and the darker, almost black, females. I think we counted 6 or more in that spot and more along the path back. We were both so thrilled to see them. It is nice to be with someone who get excited about the same things you do. We never found the Acadian Flycatcher or the Yellow Throated Vireo, but it didn't matter. It was just nice to hang out together. I know I'll meet new people when we move, but I'm sure going to miss my friends and the memories we made here.

Tiger Swallowtail Resting in the Woods

The Magic Place

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