The fall colors keep tempting me to fit little hikes in between appointments and events. I love going back to see what's new on a trail I haven't seen for a few months. This week I hiked the Homestead Trail. It's a CATS trail in Whallonsburgh that starts .75 mile from the Leaning Road, just west of Black Kettle Farm.
The trailhead begins heading south from a very inconspicous break in the woods through an area of spindly pole timber. The trail parallels a big stonewall on one side and eventually travels between stonewalls on both sides. These walls, now covered in moss and vines, must have taken months, even years, of labor from men, women and animals who were incredibly strong and persistent. The forest that's growing up litters the wall with fall leaves and game trails cross it at several points. It's easy to picture white-tails leaping up onto the wall or raccoons scrambling up and over.
The beginning of the trail zig-zags through a wet area but the first colorful leaves on the trees kept my attention in the canopy. I found gorgeous Virginia Creeper vines contrasting the wet mud and smudged brown leaves on the ground with perfect pink leaves. The vines on the trees were an even more brilliant pink--a color so unexpected but normal for that species.
Following the trail gently down a slope I veered slightly off to see the remains of the old building that must once have been the homestead farmhouse. There is still a foundation and what looks like a cold cellar lined with rock deep under ground. Throughout the forest there are stumps showing that the the farmland grew up to trees and was then logged at multiple intervals.
After a few hundred yards the trail joins the Beaver Flow Trail and I followed it back to the north. The birds were mostly quiet, a few jays and a crow from time to time announcing my whereabouts.
On the left there is an old beaver flow that seems to be getting some new action. The indomitable beavers have cut a new round of pole timber and made new assaults on some big trees they couldn't fell in seasons past. The opening they've made had pretty sunlight, lots of cattails and a few more birds calling. At the edge of the enlarging pond I found a bitternut hickory. I noticed it because it had dropped hundreds of nuts. They were littered everywhere, many chewed through by mice and squirrels, others still unopened. I couldn't see any reason why it would have shed so many nuts at once when others I've seen have been giving them up more gradually.
I moved on to through the tall hemlock section and crossed the brook that's at the outlet of the beaver flow, arriving back at Cook Road. I could have reversed and retraced my steps on the trail but I decided to walk up the road to return to my car. Cook Road is a wide dirt road with gentle grade. There were loads of asters and other late-bloomers along the roadside and the sunlight highlighted the pretty colors above my head.
The CATS website says this trail is closed during hunting season, Sept. 28-Dec. 15 so take a look this week or check back in December.