Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Two Trails

As often as I can, I explore the Ouachita and Adai Trails at Walter B. Jacobs. Their combined length is very nearly 1.5 miles. Though both trails are in the same patch of woods in the same little nature park, they have distinctions:

The first two-thirds of Ouachita is flat. The trail is frequently under water. The under story is sparse. After it digresses from the Caddo Trail, and passes another path leading toward Caddo, it turns west and follows Fordney Bayou. As the trail creeps closer to the bank of the stream, the vegetation gets denser. Just before the concentration of Paw Paws and Spicebushes, there is a bench. This is where I sit. I listen to the Acadian Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Summer Tanagers, Flickers, Pileated Woodpecker, and Downy and Red Bellied Woodpeckers. I have to tune out the chorus of cicadas, and often the screams of the American Crows as they announce the presence of the Red-Shouldered Hawk family - who screams back. When the chickadees and titmice join the cacophony, I have trouble singling out and identifying species. I am occasionally harassed by this dangerous-looking hymenopterid, and though I don't know what she is, exactly, I'm pretty sure she wants me to move along. So I do. Then I come back a few minutes later.

I'm here for the Paw Paws, and the Zebra Swallowtail butterflies they host. I have had very little success finding caterpillars and chrysalides. I saw the spring flight of adult butterflies, but then I missed the summer flight while busy with Earth Camp. Now I await the final wave of Zebra Swallowtails for the year.

Bayou banks and Paw Paws are features Adai has in common with Ouachita. Adai parallels the western bank of Fordney Bayou, passes the Yatasi Trail, and then turns west and south and follows Shettleworth Bayou. Adai is on higher ground, and climbs, peaking just passed the intersection with the Miracle Trail. Then it plunges down to the edge of Shettleworth. The three oldest Paw Paws are on this slope. The trees reproduce vegetatively by sending sprouts upward from horizontal roots, so the number and size of individuals are greatest at the center, and then decrease away from the center in a radial pattern. I've seen flowers on the three trees, but not fruit. I suspect they were quickly devoured by gray squirrels, opossums, raccoons, or gray foxes. So, I think the seeds get dispersed, too.

Adai continues to follow Shettleworth Bayou, through a second colony of Paw Paws, past the other side of Yatasi, and on until it converges with Caddo. It then turns left again. This section is low, like Ouachita, and like the area around Ouachita after the bench, it is surrounded by ephemeral ponds, Louisiana Palmettos, and Giant Cane. Interestingly, I have found no Paw Paws here. There is another Acadian Flycatcher over here. After two foot bridges, Adai crosses a big bridge over Fordney Bayou and unites with Ouachita. From here on, the one path has five trail names: Ouachita, Ozark, Adai, Caddo, and Miracle.

I spend approximately three hours on this figure-eight. I prune limbs and vines, and remove debris from the trail, but I use most of that time to look and listen. I could spend longer, but the lure of mosquito-free indoor plumbing calls me back at about that time.

No comments: