Friday, July 16, 2010

An "End Of The Trail Mystery" on a Creek Ramble

Hands-on learning comes in many shapes and forms. Woodshop class and woodcarving are most certainly a powerful catalyst for extending a child's eduction to a higher level but they aren't an exclusive end to a well balanced curriculum. These pictures are from a creek ramble that I joined on a wet, moist morning a couple of days ago with one of our more adventurous groups.

This mountainside forest was prime for discovery after the previous days warm rain. As seen in the picture to the right, the mist was heavy as we walked up the small stream to it's source. Our 900 acre campus is a true mountainside ecosystem that is a very fragile environment as it is the upper limits of the watershed source that feeds life to the land for hundreds of miles from the mountains to the sea.
This is a special place hidden in a deep Blue Ridge mountain hide-away deep in the forest which is full with life... and the kids know it. All of our creeks follow the steep mountainous terrain upwards and end with the discovery of a cold trickling spring where underground cracks and shifting rocks determine the changing course of our streams over time. This is prime environment for the birthplace of deep woods life and these creeks have it all. Everyone loves to ramble in the water where a new discovery awaits with every step. Just look at the salamander cuddling an acorn in the picture to the right.

During this creek ramble we found crawdads, frogs, spiders in their webs ridden with early morning dew drops, red newts, lizards, salamanders, a garter snake,thick cushy mosses, plus the lichens and fungus which clinged to the outcrops of exposed rocks gradually breaking them down into new soil over thousands of years. Such discoveries are a teachers mecca where potential lessons can be found in abundance and where a kid can learn answers that he won't forget.

The greatest discovery this morning was found in the pictures shown below. On a gravel bar beside the creek one of the boys discovered a pile of animal bones which was complete with skull, jaws, ribs, and legs. Although the bodily tissue had decayed, this was a relatively recent "end of the trail" for one particular animal. This was definitely a raccoon and looking at the evidence which also included bits of fur, this woodland bandit had most likely expired approximately 2 to 4 months ago while also considering that spring floods hadn't dispersed the evidence left behind.
From Wood Trails - Dave Brock
Finding the final spot where an animals life has ended is a rare and special event that has always been one of my greatest anticipations whenever I enter the forest. Such finds usually don't last long since Mother Nature has a very quick way of cleaning herself up. Field mice gnaw away bones and antlers quickly just as a creek side track is washed away with the first rain. Most hikes into the woods will reveal the "parts and pieces" to the puzzle of an animals mysterious life trail, such as tracks, feathers, disturbed vegetation, or a freshly dug hole but none of these compare to the thrill of finding a place like in the picture above.

This is the "end of the trail" for one animals life and this final place (sort-of) brings full circle the mystery found in a pile of bones. The complete mystery of that animals life still can't be completely solved but it causes one to pause and to consider that animal and its part in the web of life. The woods are full with lessons about both life and death but you have to get your hands dirty and your feet wet to discover them.

Note: All of the pictures above were taken during the course of the one-hour creek ramble described above.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Dave,
    Thank you for sharing this walk with us here in cyber space, I only wish that my own clumsiness upon the trails would stop preventing me from seeing such a diverse range of fauna.