Triad Park: A Place for Everyone

Triad Park has been around since the 90s. The idea of the park has existed since the 60s. However, the land dates back far before any human came up with the idea to develop upon it and give it a name. Since it became a park, countless Triad-based and other individuals have flocked to the patch of land to practice mindfulness and enjoy the beauty of nature. I’m grateful to have such a nice place so near my home.

Triad Park; a great place to look at the sunset. (Photo by Ben Clark)

One of my fondest memories of Triad Park is spotting a flock of wild turkey during an October hike in the woods. Meleagris gallopavo, as science calls them, are actually pretty common around the Triad area. They have been spotted numerous times in the field near my house as well. However, I never thought that I may see some at Triad Park. It was a treat, to say the least, one of which I won’t forget.

A fun fact about wild turkey is that they are the same species as the domestic turkey. This makes sense, given that the ones that I saw on the trail were just as big as the turkey I have seen in captivity (or on the dinner table–too soon?). My best friend Alee has a fear of wild turkey, so I took all the more pleasure in informing her that wild turkey was migrating in the general direction of her house.

Another fond memory of the park involves sliding down the steep hill part of the trail while it was covered with snow. I ended up faceplanting in the snow, but it is still a memory that I will not forget. It is interesting to compare the memories I have of the wildlife around the Triad Park area with general memories of my interactions within the space with my friends and family. The memories are not in a short supply, that is for sure.

Another view of Cooper, the local Cooper’s Hawk. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Remembering the good times at Triad Park would not be complete without discussing the park’s local Cooper’s Hawk. Cooper, as I like to call him, can be seen usually during the afternoon calling from a tree branch somewhere usually out of sight. One of my favorite memories of Cooper is when he got close enough to allow me to take pictures of him. Normally Cooper’s Hawks are wary of human presence and fly away at the sight of us. However, the hawk pictured above did not seem that shy as I walked by him.

Cooper watching me. (Photo by Ben Clark)

I am very thankful for the times that wildlife has presented itself to me during my hikes on the trail. From white-tailed deer, who are usually seen traveling in packs, to the Pileated Woodpecker, who are more rare to spot than the deer, but are commonly either seen hopping on the ground or flying from tree to tree. It’s no surprise that so many people enjoy coming to Triad Park; it really has everything a human or non-human animal could it. It truly is a place for everyone.

Triad Park at sunset. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Triad Park: Spring is Setting (Here Comes Summer)

The Triad Park Woods. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Every year, one of the best treats nature gives us is the sprouting of the vegetation that has been dormant all Winter. At first, it creeps up, coming out like a sluggish student out of bed at 8:30 AM. But once it gets some “coffee” in it, it flourishes with life and purpose. Well, I think the trees have had their coffee. What started as a slow crawl has become a canter. When this begins to happen, I reflect on everything that I love about the park. I’ve been going there since I was a kid, and soon I will be a senior at Guilford College. Time is a weird phenomenon. But as the woods convey, time is nothing but a cycle; it pushes things along until they reach their end, and then new life appears and the process starts again (hey, I’m not being pessimistic here–it’s actually quite beautiful!). As I contemplate all of the memories that are within the gates of the park, a few human-animals come to mind, one of which is among my favorites.

An “Alee.” One of a kind. (photo by Ben Clark)

The animal pictured above is sometimes referred to as an “Alee.” However, after hours of contemplation, I came to the conclusion that she is a human female. Humans, also referred to as Homo sapiens by science, are actually (the only) members of the subtribe Hominina. We are unfortunately an invasive species. Humans tend to take everything for themselves and only give to things outside of their human-realm if it is convenient for them to do so. Alee must be a mutation though, because she is actually pretty awesome. We seem to be compatable, as she has not left my side since I was 12.

Wildflowers around Triad Park. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Wildflowers are the second factor that keeps me coming to the park, other than the park’s variety of trees. The ones pictured above makes everything around them glow purple; it was truly a magical moment. Whether its common blue violets or dogwood trees, Triad Park is rich in floral. Once Autumn arrives, the normally green leaves transition to different colors, making leaves almost appear like flowers in the treetops.

Fall colors. (Photo by Ben Clark)
A rough green snake enjoying the fall festivities. (Photo by Ben Clark)

The Autumn colors seem to bring out life, much like Spring; for example, I encountered a rough green snake while hiking last October. The colors were peaking, and the snakes were peeking before hunkering down for the chill of Winter. Every season brings its own magic to the forest; Summer brings intense yellow and the Wood thrush, among other awesome migratory birds. Fall paints the forest in oranges, reds, and yellows. Winter chills the air and erases the harsh humidity of the Summer, and sometimes lays a white blanket of snow over the trail. The snow melts in Spring and the green comes back out to play, along with many human and non-human animals.

Triad Park: Spring is Springing

Triad Park in the month of April. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Triad Park is beautiful any time of year. During the winter, although the trees are bare, you can still smell the crisp air and hear birds chirping. Luckily, the chirping of birds is a natural luxury that remains all year long. One of the most fascinating times to walk the trail at Triad Park is during the transition months; those between summer and fall, or winter and spring. It is specifically fascinating to see during the transition into spring because seemingly-dead limbs erupt in greens and pinks, giving a sense of rebirth to an already thriving forest.

The area around the creek. New growth is becoming visible. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Around the area of the creek, Dark-eyed Juncos tend to hang out in the branches of the smaller trees. The Junco hyemalis is an adorable small bird who appears to be almost as playful as the Carolina Wren. Dark-eyed Juncos are a species of sparrow and are one of the most common birds in North America. This fact is surprising given that I rarely spot juncos around the Triad Park area. It’s always a fun experience to see them.

While the juncos are jumping around trees and other wildlife prepares for the water months, trees such as the Virginia pine appear virtually the same throughout the year. Pinus virginiana, as science cleverly calls them, are a species of tree that are common around the eastern part of the United States. What makes these trees fascinating around Triad Park is that they are a preferred roosting space of the Pileated Woodpecker. Whenever I spot the tuft of red on the woodpecker’s head, the bird is usually someplace on a Virginia pine. What I love so much about evergreens, in general, is that they retain color whilst other trees become barren during the colder month. Perhaps this is why birds such as the Pileated Woodpecker are so fond of pine trees.

Green erupting around the trail at Triad Park. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Triad Park transforms numerously throughout the year, as I have already stated. When winter takes a bow and allows spring to, well, spring, what first becomes glimpses of green and pink become fireworks of leaves and petals, painting a patch of land that was previously lacking color. This is what makes springtime at Triad Park so memorable. It is also a reminder that life is still bustling during the winter; that so much is going on behind the curtains that many people dismiss as “death” or “depressing.” Winter is one of my favorite seasons because it is a reminder that new life is always on the horizon, and that something that looks dull is can be pretty exciting if you pay enough attention, and look past what you can see.

What makes spring different from the excitement of autumn on the trail is that the new growth of spring is a reminder of the return of lusciousness to the forest, whereas autumn represents the decline of it. Despite autumn being my favorite season, spring is special around Triad Park because I am reminded that new growth is coming, and will be staying until the air gets a chill once again.

Triad Park: The Shades of the Forest.

Triad Park during the month of August. (Photo by Ben Clark)

As much as I would like for the leaves to be constantly green, the sun constantly shining, and the air constantly warm, that is simply an unrealistic request. The air cannot be constantly warm, or the sun constantly shinning, and the forest reflects this reliable evolution throughout the year. In spring, Triad Park is speckled with flashes of pink, light green, and blue. The air smells naturally sweet (not artificially designed to be sweet), and the sound of Cooper (Triad Park’s local Cooper’s Hawk) calling for someone to have adult-hawk interactions with rings in the air. While Cooper calls, Spring Peepers backup his sound up in a contradictory yet beautiful chorus. These peepers, or Pseudacris crucifer as Science likes to call them, are small frogs that are native to the eastern United States and Canada. Spring Peepers get their name, as one can guess, because of their iconic sound that usually occurs at the beginning of spring. When I am walking on the trail and hear Spring Peepers, I make a note that spring is coming–fast.

During the summer months, Triad Park is lush with green. It’s usually warm and a bit muggy, especially in August, but the sights of the forest are worth being drenched in sweat for. Nothing is better than a walk in the forest during the summer; the leaves are fully grown, green, and there for the enjoyment of all critters. A bird that seems to be particularly fond of summer is the Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus). During the warmer months, these little Wrens flitter and hop between branches and on the ground, whether it be to gather materials for a nest, grab a bite to eat, or just explore. There are a number of Carolina Wrens around my house, and one of them likes to nest in a coffee mug that my family decided to hang sideways from a hook under the eave of our house. We put a sock in the mug, too, so the little Wren is undoubtedly cozy in there. The fact that these small birds enjoy resting in little places such as a coffee mug is a big reason why the Carolina Wren is one of my favorite birds.

Triad Park during the month of November. (Photo by Ben Clark)

During the months of fall, Triad Park explodes with color in a way that is similar to spring. It differs, though, in that it is not representative of the beginning of new growth, but the end of the year’s cycle. However, new growth cannot begin until the current growth reaches its end, so it does not depress me when the leaves begin to fall. The fall colors are always so rich on the trail; I try to hike there every day, especially when the leaves are colored with autumn. The season also serves as a way to identify the different species of trees that make up the forest. For example, if I were to look at the ground during autumn, I would see maple leaves accompanied by oak and beech. Fall serves as a way to memorize leaf patterns in order to understand the forest on a deeper visual level. I hope to one day be able to see a specific leaf and instantly match it to a tree. I’m getting there. Maples and oaks are the easiest. A good rule for oak identifications; red oak (Quercus rubra) leaves have sharp edges, while the leaves of white oaks (Quercus alba) are rounded at the edges. My mom taught me this, and I thought that I should pass it on.

Triad Park: Thriving in Culture

Something that has me always coming back to my spot of green is its richness in culture. Triad Park is a brilliant representation of the state of our culture. Well…of sorts. So many trees. So many birds. So many frogs. The culture is outstanding! One cannot help but leave the park feeling so cultured and ready to soak it all in again! Upon my early arrivals to the space, I remember feeling awestruck at the towering trees above me, and peaceful when the gentle singing of the spring peepers filled my ears. Triad Park seriously is a sensory experience. But let’s, for now, dive into the park’s thriving culture.

American Beech: a type of tree that thrives at Triad Park. (Photo by Ben Clark)

The American Beech, or Fagus grandifolia, as it likes to be formally called, is one of the many species of trees that live at the park. These trees are native to the eastern United States, so it makes sense that Triad Park is plentiful with these stalky friends. Although the one in the photo looks a bit puny, the tree can actually grow to impressive heights and achieve some eye-popping thickness. From my own experiences with Beech trees, I usually catch them when their leaves have the classic post-life appearance. However dead these trees may appear, rest assured that they are still bustling with lively vigor. While I have seen some Beech with their leaves green in color, I usually walk by ones whose leaves look like those in the photo above. Nevertheless, I am just as grateful to spot a Beech as I am a graceful and study Oak. The American Beech does not conform to the law of green! It does what it wants (much like nature itself)!

The ever-watching Cooper’s Hawk. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Triad park is rich in its tree culture; that’s for sure. While I am looking at an American Beech or one of the Evergreens, I hear a scream erupt from somewhere. There is nothing human about it; it has too much life and composure. I look up and see a great bird of prey watching me with all the grace and readiness of a great white shark. After taking a photo (as close as I could get), I came to the conclusion that it is a Cooper’s Hawk. Much like all the photos on the internet which claim to have captured a UFO, this photo is blurry, grainy, and leaves a lot of the key information out. However, the bird’s rounded tail gives it away, try as it might to hide its mysterious identity.

I’ve named the hawk Cooper. Whenever I have lost myself in the wondrous cover the forest, Cooper swoops in, sits on a branch of some long-dead tree, and watches me. He probably is baffled at why a human cares so much about a tree, given that another one is not so far away cutting one down. I hope Cooper knows I’m an ally to him and his cousins. Cooper is like a ghost. When I am least expecting it, he lets his presence known. He’s so silent that he could be a few feet above me and I would not realize it until he flies away. I’m glad I was able to capture a few photos of Cooper before he grew bored with my presence and decided to go eat a mouse (its diet includes small mammels and small birds) instead.

Cooper. (Photo by Ben Clark)