After hiking Bishop’s Bog, I decided to try hiking another trail. The next day, I went to the West Lake Nature Preserve to hike their Marsh Trail. The park had very nice facilities with bathrooms and a picnic shelter and clear signs leading to the trails. I grabbed my walking stick and fanny pack with my first aid kit, camera and water and started out. I was surprised to find a short trail named for a family friend who passed away a number of years ago. Our family used to get together with the Bushey family every labor day for boating, swimming and barbecue.
The trail wandered through the woods, at first paved, then using wood chips to mark out the path. I saw another deer, but this one didn’t stop to check me out. When I got to the Marsh Trail I was surprised at how much more varied the plant life was than at Bishop’s Bog. Flowers that I originally thought were Arrowhead were blooming but I was wrong. Arrowhead flowers are white and look like this. It took a lot of online searching but I finally figured out that the purple plant was Pickerel Weed. The leaves can look very similar to Arrowhead plants.
I also spotted this strange flowering shrub. I later figured out that it is called a Button Bush. It’s latin name is Cephalanthus occidentalis, also called Honeyball. This is a native plant, important for the wetlands as the seeds provide food for various water birds and the blossoms provide nectar for butterflies and moths. It is the host plant for the Sphinx moth, a large and impressive looking moth.
The marsh trail had the same plastic docking so my shoes and pants were quickly soaked again. Still the day was warm and mostly sunny at this point so getting wet didn’t matter much. This area, unlike Bishop’s Bog had lots of purple loosestrife; a pretty flower but a nonnative invasive that is crowding out the natives and upsetting the balance of the environment.
The trail wandered back into the woods where I found a bench to rest. I noticed a cryptic note taped to lower area and realized that I had stumbled on to a letterboxing trail. Cool. I’ll have to come back another day to follow the clues and try to find the box. But not today.
I moved onto the bog trail and though the view was similar to the previous day’s hike with tamarack trees and a peat floor, I was able to find blueberry bushes and cranberries. I didn’t realize that cranberries grew on these weak little plants. I grabbed a few handfuls of blueberries – delicious, but the cranberries weren’t ripe yet.
I was excited to also discover pitcher plants growing in the peat bog near the trail and excitedly searched for Sundew plants, the other carniverous plant that was supposed to grow in this bog. Sadly, I couldn’t find any. When I kneeled down to get a closer photo, the smell of decay hit me. Maybe this is how they attract bugs to eat.
The trail ended at West Lake, surrounded by large homes. Coming out of the wilderness and into suburbia was a bit of a shock. At this point, looking across the lake, I noticed that the clouds were taking over the sky. It was starting to look as though it might rain. I was a couple of miles from the picnic shelter area and my car so I made my way back at a quicker pace.
I wasn’t fast enough. While I was in a more open part of the trail it began to rain. I was walking along the forest edge so I hugged the trees and shrubs along the side of the trail and was able to avoid the worst of it. I got back to the picnic shelter and from there I ran to my car. The adventure was over. At least for the day.