Hiking a mountain trail brings to mind distant stunning and beautiful vistas, but smaller sights near at hand can also impress. A tree-shaded slope covered with ferns as far as the eye could see was my first unforgettable vista. On another slope bright red strawberries were growing everywhere; being wild they didn’t have much flavor, and the fact that they were overgrown by a beautiful three-leafed, red-stemmed vine also made me wary to enter the patch.
Look closer and you see the varieties of color in wildflowers, each adjusted to different altitudes in the landscape, and in a seasonal succession. Trillium in red, purple, pink, yellow, and white, in various sizes, some as large as a foot and a half across, are always easily identifiable. The daisy family is well-represented almost everywhere. Others need that reference book that is too heavy to carry on a long-distance hike. What was that 1 ½ inch, four-petaled, red blossom with a yellow center, that stood on a four feet tall stalk, with leaflet whorls every eight inches? I don’t know, but there were a lot of them half-way up Burnett’s Mountain.
The lichens that make their homes on boulders are as impressive on a miniature scale as any multi-acre landscaped garden. Every color is represented in the microcosm, and the boulders appear to be covered with these multi-colorful furs, velvet black underneath where something has peeled a section loose.
From a distance we saw what looked like a kindergarten of plastic children’s toys. The objects were perfect primary colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple, in rounded and flattened shapes. As we came closer we saw that they were varieties of mushrooms clustered in this one damp, warm area. We just stood and looked at them in amazement.
The birds deserve attention in the arena of smallness, though the vultures, hawks, owls, and falcons are often sizable. The birdcalls of early morning resonate throughout the woods like an orchestra. Most of the sounds then and throughout the day remain nameless to my untutored ears. Bluebirds, tanagers, pileated and downy woodpeckers, grosbeaks, and warblers were easy enough to recognize, when we took the time to look at them.
A copperhead was the only snake we saw on several trips, though he had been sunning himself on a forest service lane, run over by a truck, and appeared to be dead. We didn’t check too closely. My notes make mention of only one insect—a two inch long, one inch wide, black beetle, that rooted and dug into the ground at every foot of its course, as if surveying the ground; it was headed away from our tent, and I was grateful.