Triad Park: Through the Seasons

Triad Park, as I have stated numerously before, is beautiful any time of the year. It is interesting to go into my archive of photos and compare images from the same part of the trail taken at different times of the year. Through analyzing these photos, the many transformations that a forest goes through during a one year cycle become apparent. From the browning of green in autumn to the brightening of the plants in the spring, there is never a boring moment on the trail.

Triad Park in early spring. (Photo by Ben Clark)

The photo above was taken today during my daily run on the trail. It happens in an instant; the trees go from bare to lush in what feels like no time at all. What’s fascinating about Triad Park in April is how the leaves on trees and the grass on the ground seem to be creeping out of hiding, starting in patches but fanning out into what we see during the summer months. Once everything is fully grown, the forest is like an entirely new entity when compared to photos of it during the winter.

Wildflowers outside of the trail. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Another thing I love about Triad Park is how there are wonderful natural sights to see outside of the main hiking trail. For example, directly outside of the trailhead are patches of “johnny jump up,” also known as Viola tricolor or wild pansies. These pleasant-looking wildflowers also tend to grow in the yard outside of my house, so seeing them around the trail at the park are all the more special. These flowers usually spring up from March to mid-April. Whenever I see them in the grass, I know that spring has arrived.

Ice on the trail during a cold winter morning. (Photo by Ben Clark)

While wildflowers and sprouting vegetation are always pleasant to see, winter is nevertheless an awesome time to go hiking in the Triad Park woods. Evergreen trees such as the loblolly pine still add pigment to the forest, and if you time it right, you can see some icy creations such as the one in the photo above. It is also important to note that the crunching sound that occurs from walking on the icy soil is very, very satisfying.

Icy soil. (Photo by Ben Clark)

These things serve as a reminder that winter is *not* a time to avoid frolicking in the natural world. While, yes, the temperatures can sometimes be quite frigid, I still prefer cool and crisp weather to the hot and humid climate that is so common during August here in North Carolina. Plus, without the freezing temperatures, I could not have captured cool icy photos. Winter also is a good time to appreciate the beautiful imagery that the warmer months provide.

The Triad Park woods in June. (photo by Ben Clark)

The photo above is a big contrast to the more bleak-looking photos of the Triad Park forest during winter. In June, the woods are like a luscious wall of green. If the color green makes you nauseous, you’d probably throw up. It is such a sensory overload that one lap on the trail is a great way to become mindful. When in the midst of such a sea of green, it is easy to forget one’s own worries and float away on the sights of the forest.

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)

Triad Park: My Natural Wonderland

Triad Park in the fall. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Since I was a child, my family brought me to Triad Park anytime the sky was clear and the air was warm. I have fond memories of playing on the playground with my sister and my friends. So many school field trips were spent at the local patch of wild. Throughout the years, Triad Park became my place to go whenever I needed the comforting reminder that nature is right beside me all the time, and that life is carrying on.

There are many things to do at Triad Park; you can hike on the numerous trails scattered throughout the landscape. Or if you are not in the mood for hiking, there are many places to sit and absorb the natural sights. My favorite activity to do there is walk on the main nature trail, which is a giant loop that showcases beautiful trees and a calming creek. Within the forest, there’s a network of wildlife; deer that teach their young how to use the forest to their advantage while avoiding humans. Along with deer, I have seen snakes, raccoons, and hawks enjoying the safety of a protected patch of nature.

Animals prints on the trail at Triad Park. (Photo by Ben Clark)

In the springtime, my mom always points out the call of the Wood Thrush, her favorite bird, when we walk on the trail around sunset. Because it’s her favorite bird, whenever I hear its call, I think of Mom. Traditions like these help make the park have ties to my family.

I oftentimes go to Triad Park with my best friend on days when both of us have nothing better to do. We know that no matter how exhausted we are of the semester, a walk on the trail will renew our vigour and encourage us to keep trudging through homework and other trivial (in the greater scheme of things) tasks. When we don’t feel like hiking on the trail, we often lazily prop ourselves over a picnic table and take photos of ourselves to prove to social media that we don’t just live in our rooms like aging hermits (we do). Even when we do this, nature still encapsulates us on all sides; a blanket of green that shields us from the world of asphalt.

A fond memory from the park that my sister and I often recall is when we got lost in the forest after getting a burst of child-induced courage and ventured off of the trail in the goal of exploration. I only lasted fifteen minutes. My sister lasted thirty. I got the familiar mental tug to go back to my mom, because I knew she must have thought that the bears had gotten to us by now. After voicing my anxiety to my sister, she mocked my fear (valid) and told me to go back if I was so scared. So I did. I eventually found familiar ground which led me back to the picnic area that my mom was lounging at. When I told her about my adventure, she became worried about my sister’s whereabouts. Around ten minutes or so later, my sister resurfaced from the wall of trees, littered with bloody scrapes and a pouty face. Ha. This is only one of a collection of childhood stories that stem from Triad Park.