Written By Tom Pavlesich.

Posted on September 23rd, 2015.

Share it!

I step out of a patch of beech brush onto an over-gown dirt road marked by the subtle wheel ruts of old farm traffic. A flash of white on the ground catches my eye as I chart a course between the ruts.

I step out of a patch of beech brush onto an over-gown dirt road marked by the subtle wheel ruts of old farm traffic. A flash of white on the ground catches my eye as I chart a course between the ruts. Since I’m out for a hike with no real destination in mind a few moments seems like a cheap price to pay to indulge my curiosity. Broken pottery and a few rusty milk jugs poke out of last year’s moldering leaves as I bend over to brush a few aside. It’s mid-summer and the stagnant, humid air has me dripping sweat on those leaves in no time. A few swipes of my hand reveal dirt studded with the broken pieces of old Atlas mason jars from the 1920’s. I’m now aware of the grinding crunch of more broken glass under my boots as I shift my weight. I quickly find an old bottle whose thick, imperfect glass indicates it’s been around awhile. I can imagine an aging tractor chugging along that old farm road pulling a wagon, straining to make it this far up the hill. A young son on moms orders cleaning out the barn.

9.23.15 image 1

I’m intrigued by these bits of humanity scattered in the middle of the woods so on I go, clearing more leaves. I’m tickled when I move a shard of white pottery to reveal the translucent black body of a Spotted Salamander dimpled with yellow. These little critters can live up to twenty years. Every year they’ll find their way back to the vernal pool where they were born to mate again. That gets me thinking, how can I help this little gal out? Where is her vernal pool? They can travel quite a distance so I have some searching ahead of me. Making it more difficult is the fact that at this time of year I won’t find the pool she was born in. It’s long gone. Her vernal pool existed for a few weeks during those first warm, wet weeks of spring. For now I’ll look for small ravines and subtle depressions studded with the moss covered rocks that indicate moisture. They only have to hold water for a few weeks in the spring. It doesn’t take much for these areas to transform into life giving puddles filled with globs of wood frog eggs. I make a mental note of where I am with plans on returning in the spring to see if my guess is right. If I find the vernal pool I’ll know where not to route a new ATV trail. I’ll be able to tell a logger to cut trees elsewhere on the property because this vernal pool has a special job to do and it’s better left undisturbed.

9.23.15 image 3

A clap of thunder jolts me out of my thoughts. I collect the old glass jar lids and bottles I’ve uncovered and gently place them in my pack. Heavy rain drops begin to pound the leaves above my head as I huff and puff my way back to the truck.


Share it!