Hognose Snakes

I met my first hognose snake of the year with the tip of my brush cutter.  Darn it!  I watched helplessly as it writhed in pain, snarling angrily at me.  I’m on the lookout for them now!  When you encounter one on the trail, The Springs feel more wild.

Carl Koch captured these wild hogs at The Springs last year.


Sue Hrobar caught this hognose displaying its classic defensive posture: “When threatened, hognose snakes will flatten their necks and raise their heads off the ground, like a cobra, and hiss.” (from Wikipedia)

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I’m getting more intimately familiar with every square foot at The Springs as I continue attacking garlic mustard with my brush cutter.  Guiding a brush cutter focuses your attention to detail much more so than waving a poison spray wand.  In many cases I found the garlic mustard amidst many diverse flowers and grasses.  Using the brush cutter definitely causes less collateral damage than spraying a non-selective herbicide like glyphoste.  Rich Csavoy suggested this approach and it will take a few years to judge its effectiveness.

Over 5 days I have worked at all of the locations where I sprayed garlic mustard in previous years and I have to note that, in some cases, particularly on the cut-off trail, the poison significantly reduced the amount of garlic mustard.  Last year the area near where the cut-off trail merges with the main trail at the marl pit factory was carpeted with garlic mustard and this year there was barely a plant or two, and the forest floor is alive with sedges and flowers.  I’ll speculate here that this area did not have as much garlic mustard seed in the soil as others areas where the mustard came back strong after spraying.

Sunday I worked on the south end of the loop trail in and around the bowl with the vernal pond.

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It was a peaceful day and I did a little yoga on the marl pit bridge to unwind at the end.  Here is the view from the old barn site.


I returned yesterday to work in the area around the old hotel site, then near signpost #13, and finally, along the cut-off trail.  It was a blessed warm, sunny, bug-free day with fragrant breezes blowing in from the northeast.

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Garlic mustard on the hillside at the old hotel site.


As I was finishing up at the hotel, I heard the sound of heavy machinery working on Hwy 67; they were taking down the black locust trees I girdled back in March. I was headed that way to signpost #13 with my wheel barrow and stopped to check it out.

I don’t know what this machine is called, but I think Hognose is a fitting description.

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The operator of this hydraulic hercules was a virtuoso, and I could have watched him for hours.

I’ve never seen forestry done like this before.  Below, Steve Tabat cuts the base of a tree and his partner pushes it over.  Check out the snout on this hog and the way it chews off logs and spits them out at the end of the video.

I returned to admire their work after cutting garlic mustard all afternoon.

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Again, the person operating this log loader was an adept and it was a pleasure to watch him drive that huge machine through tight spots and skillfully manipulate the log picker.




The corner of Hwy ZZ and Hwy 67.

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I’m glad to see the black locust go and I have a lot of respect for the hard-working foresters, who were paid for their efforts in wood; the coin of the realm.

From there I headed over to the boat landing at Ottawa Lake to check out the brush and tree removal the DNR did there this past winter.

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Above you can see the shadow of the mighty oak below.



These nice improvements compliment the buckthorn clearing we have been doing on the east shore of the lake, which you can see in the views from the fishing pier and boat launch dock.

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My new favorite place to hang out, meditate, and do yoga after working is the observation deck at the handicap accessible cabin.


The Emerald Spring is really looking the part these days.  This past winter was a hard one and I often saw ducks feeding and staying warm in the river.  I wonder if the algae bloom might be fueled by duck poop?


Sunset at the marl pit bridge.


See you at The Springs!

Soul Power

It’s been a hard winter season as measured by local history, but certainly not hard by the standards of arctic explorers or those hardy folks “up north”, who endure much more severe trials.  I’m lucky to have a buoyant spirit and to be motivated by desires above the comfort of the physical body, such that this has been a season of opportunity at The Springs, and not one of complaint or stagnation.

You may have noticed a few recent enhancements to the home page of this site such as the Blog Roll where I share websites that offer inspiring and informative content.  The Peace Revolution Podcast is one of the most valuable resources I have found to aid in my personal growth and development and the most recent episode (linked above) features a brilliant lecture by Manly Palmer Hall.

This is the food that nourishes and sustains me through challenging times and reinforces my commitment to give my time and energy to rehabilitating the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail.  In the words of Manly P. Hall:

Man represents (more or less) a Soul Power in the material world: the power of inner consciousness, inner dedication, inner understanding and realization to transmute and transform the outer environment into an appropriate and proper place for the development of life.

…The human being is able to take over his own destiny.  This is something that sets him entirely apart from every other kingdom of nature.  There is no other kingdom that we know that can create a future destiny for itself by intent, that can take the rough materials of life and ensoul them with purposes beyond survival.

And so I carry on at The Springs, through thick and thin, eschewing the accumulation of additional financial “security”, and instead, gaining understanding of real value and creating wealth to share.

Last spring I notice the extent to which Black Locust was dominating the northeast part of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve.  The DNR initiated an effort some years ago to check the spread of this invasive tree at The Springs by girdling hundreds of black locust trees in the south section of the preserve.  The wood from these standing, dead, trees is a valuable resource as firewood and many of us are actively harvesting it for that purpose.  So, with the approach of spring, I decided to spend a couple days girdling black locust while it is still dormant.  I didn’t get all of them and will revisit this project again next winter, as even one live tree can propagate a whole new colony.

The area I worked is marked in red below.


I began on Tuesday along Hwy ZZ and turned the corner south and began working along Hwy 67.

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DNR Trail Boss, Don Dane, provided the Transline poison I applied to the girdle cuts.  The conditions were challenging and I had to dilute the mix with water to keep it from turning to sludge in the cold weather.

Thursday, which was hopefully the last cold day of this winter season, I was back at it continuing where I left off on Tuesday working south all the way to the old barn site.


I pulled my sled from the parking lot on Hwy ZZ east along the north side trail (formerly known as The Buckthorn Alley) and noticed that Andy Buchta had again piled all of the brush that I cut the last time out.

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Thanks Andy!  When I got near the east end of the trail, I cut through the woods to set up my base of operations just below Hwy 67.  There is a drainage here carrying water from the opposite side of Hwy 67 that leads down to the abandoned cranberry bog adjacent signpost #13.  I had never visited this section of the property before and was impressed by the huge, open grown, oak trees that are being overtaken by the black locust colony.

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The cold temperature and deep snow made it a challenge and I was pretty exhausted by the time I ran out of poison around 2:30pm.  This will be a multi-year effort, I didn’t get them all, but I want to switch gears and burn as much brush as possible while conditions permit.

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I took a walk around The Springs after work and was joined by Ben Johnson.  Ben has built dozens of bird houses, with more to come, and we talked about where to place them as we traveled the trails.

The marl pit bridge views.

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Views from the gaging station bridge.



The old barn site.


The Hotel Spring bridge.

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And sundown at the Indian Campground.

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See you at The Springs!