i just couldn't get enough of the whitney and thayer woods. although i was severely attacked by mosquitoes, yesterday was a successful outing in that i saw a lot of new things i've never seen before here in the area. with a copy of the trail map, i realize there are a lot more things i didn't see yet, so i wanted to go back. this time i would take precautions like wearing a waterproof jacket to prevent mosquitoes from biting (i didn't mind the added heat, as long as it kept me from being bitten).

after a breakfast of eggs, i left an hour earlier than yesterday to cohasset/hingham. traffic was lighter but there was still mild congestion in the tunnel and on route 3. i parked on turkey hill again. before i entered the forest, i sprayed down with bug repellent: arms, hands, neck, face, and even my hair.

i went east on turkey hill lane, my GPS deciding to give out on me (dead batteries) so i would be navigating blind, which meant i had to be careful not to get lost, but the trails were clearly marked and lined with crushed stones. at trail marker 15 i walked west into an area where supposedly there was an american holly grove. here i found a wood frog, caught my attention when i noticed something jumping off to the side. this was a much less traveled trail and i couldn't be sure if i was going the right way, until i came across the holly grove. it's not a very large area, maybe 50-70 trees at most, but it's definitely something you don't see everyday. holly leaves are evergreen and make for interesting ground cover since they're so dense they prevent anything from growing through, like a dead zone.

speaking of ground cover, here are the the different kinds of ground cover encountered in the whitney thayer woods:

holly leaves

oak leaves


pine needles

pine needle humus

pine needles & rocks

i continued east until i hit marker 16, then followed "one way lane" south until marker 17, continuing in a southeastern direction to 18, the start of the milliken memorial path. in the 1920's arthur milliken dedicated the path to his late wife mabel, and planted azaleas and rhododendrons throughout the length of the path. unfortunately peak blooming season for those plants are over, although a few late season bloomers were still displaying pale pink flowers. walking down the trail, i kept on thinking, "he must've loved her very much," as i admired the extent of his work (i found it very touching). it'd be nice to return here next spring, hidden in the middle of the forest, this kind of man-made natural treasure.

i kept on going until i hit marker 19, then northeast to 20, followed by 21, home of the rooster rock, because it looks like a cockscomb, and it's balanced on a much smaller rock. actually in this area (eastern half of the reservation) are many such large boulders, either strangely shaped or positioned in an awkward way. like back in milliken's memorial path, there's a large stone disc that looks like a crude sundial, held upright by another boulder.

i think the second half of the summer is peak mushroom season, as i'm starting to see more and more fungal activities in the places i visit. a particularly cool mushroom that grows in these woods is the variable russula, which can get as large as 6" across and come in this pale shade of green. i've never seen a green mushroom before.

variable russula

there were other kinds of russula as well, i don't know which ones they are, but some of them were maroon:

(maroon russula)

while other were red. the red ones were definitely the most common mushrooms i saw in the forest. at first i thought they were kind of cool, but when i started to see them everywhere, i quickly became jaded. they might've been emetic russulas, which are poisonous. i'd rather see some amanitas, which have the stereotypical mushroom look (with a skirts and flecks of white on the cap), and which are also deadly.

emetic russula

emetic russula

(brown bolete)

wolf's milk slime

wolf's milk slime

red tree brain

(brown gilled mushroom)

beside the wildflowers and the mushrooms, the only thing that added a bit of colorful to the forest were the occasional flash of butterflies fluttering through the air, or more often i'd scare one away while it basked along the sunlit paths. i used to think it was impossible to get good butterfly photos, they're harder to capture than dragonflies. dragonflies have that keen eyesight, but i don't know what is it about butterflies that make them so alert to oncoming danger (vibrations in the air? sense of smell? eyesight?). they are very skittish and because they're good flyers, chasing them is out of the question. but if you're patient, sometimes you can catch one basking in the sun. so now butterflies are my new thing. you don't have to go to costa rica to see exotic looking butterflies: we have plenty of them here in new england. the most common ones i saw were eastern commas (that's right, they're called "commas"). occasionally i'd see a large blackish butterfly which i thought were black swallowtails but they're actually red spotted purples, which i've never seen before (or maybe i have, and always thought they were swallowtails).

by that point i had walked almost 2 miles into the forest, and in order to get back, i had to walk another 2 miles. i went north to marker 4, then west to 5 followed by 7, then northwest all the way eventually to turkey hill lane. i was tired and sweaty, with my DEET slowly wearing off, which eventually brought back the mosquito attacks. every so often i'd feel a bite, and then i'd stop and spray myself, but my sweat would just wash off the repellent soon afterwards. i walked fast, but kept scanning the forest floor for anything interesting. sometimes i'd stop to grab a photo, the mosquitoes buzzing in my ears a reminder that i have to hurry up.

when i finally made it back to the parking lot, i was so relieved, and made a promise to myself never to come back to this cursed place, at least not this season. i hopped into the car, taking off the warm jacket finally, then driving back home with the AC turned on. as i was leaving, i saw a large bird head poking out from some tall grass along the edge of the road. at first i thought maybe it was an immature goose, but then it emerged from the grass, this large wild turkey. i immediately grabbed the camera and took a few photos, as it crossed the road and hid in some shrubs. goind home, i listened to the final few innings of the red sox game on the radio. the red sox ended up losing to the angels, unable to complete a sweep of that team before the all-star break.

i came back to cambridge, took a shower, then drove out to belmont, where i retrieved the motorcycle and rode back to cambridge. how long has it been since i last rode the bike? not since i came down with the coughing, which breathing in all that pollution while riding didn't help with the healing process, so i haven't been on the motorcycle since then.

for dinner, i made spaghetti and meatballs, and watched that new miniseries 4400 while having a late dinner. it's a good series, i'll admit that after the first 2 hours i was hooked and can't wait until next sunday to find out what happens.