An Afternoon Hike
Wren and I were up north of Paul Smiths the other week and we took advantage of the trip by hiking into Grass Pond. The trail is quick and easy (about 4 miles round trip), and makes a short outing for those who are interested. The afternoon was warm and breezy creating a quiet backdrop as we set out with the smell of sun baked pine needles leading us down the trail. After all, the woods were initially dominated by a few species of pines - a trend which would come and go throughout the hike.
Birds and Jewelwings
Birds were largely quiet at that time of day, but I began to check off Hermit Thrush, Pine Warbler, Ovenbird, Nashville Warbler, and Red-breasted Nuthatch, among others, as I walked. The trail was level with a few gradual rises so we made quick time along it. By the time we reached the bridge across the Osgood River, Wren was already warm and panting and she plunged in on the side of the river to cool off. Although just a narrow snaking stream at that point, the river was running fast and swollen thanks to our wet June, and I watched the churning black water as Wren shook off.
The Grass Pond Trail branches off the Hayes Brook Truck Trail just beyond the Osgood (a half mile or so from the parking area) and we were soon making quick progress along it. The trail to the pond is likewise flat and fast and we kicked along through bracken fern in places where the trail narrowed. The bracken and blackberry bushes could be somewhat thick in sunny spots along the trail as well, and I watched ebony jewelwings flit and flash around in the bright light.
A Ruffed Grouse Act!
Not far from the bridge I heard the flapping of wings in the bushes and spotted the round bodies of two young Ruffed Grouse fluttering unsteadily to low perches. Wren heard them too and stood erect watchfully listening. We moved slowly along the trail listening to high pitched warning calls being traded between members of the grouse family, and I kept Wren with me so she wouldn't be convinced to chase anything. We soon spooked another chick, and then another, for cover. The two already in the trees flew down and back into thicker cover while their mother made agitated sounds while fanning her tail and fluttering her wings.
The idea of this maternal charade was to attract our attention to her while her chicks scurried or flew to safety. She put on quite a show in this manner - drooping her wings and flashing bright colors on her tail. Many species of birds give such distraction displays - as they are generally called - to attract a potential predator to them while allowing their young to seek refuge. As soon as the young were gone she stopped her pantomime and ran back to join her brood. Wren still wanted to nose around where the excitement had happened, but I made her move on.
We were soon at the lean-to which sits above Grass Pond in a picturesque spot. It was unoccupied, but Wren inspected the area for smells and food. It looked quite clean. We walked down to the grassy shoreline of the aptly named pond and I stood for a spell taking photos and listening for any birds from the boreal habitat surrounding the pond while Wren continued her examination of the place. Satisfied with that, she raced back up towards the lean-to and from there we began our hike out. The hike out went rather quickly, and we paused at each stream crossing again for Wren to take a drink and a dunk. We were soon on the road for home.
Folks looking to explore the region for easy hikes like the trail to Grass Pond, or for more difficult challenges, should check out our outdoor recreation pages. Plan for your upcoming visit now by checking out our dining and lodging pages!