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: 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.