shortly after waking up at 10am, i received a call from julie. surprised that i was actually awake, she asked me if i'd be interested in going with her down to freetown (near fall river) to check out a state forest where she'd be setting up a course for her running group. i had every intention of staying home today and working, but the fact that it was saturday and the weather was too good to just stay inside quickly changed my mind. i took a shower, microwaved an instant cheeseburger for breakfast, before julie's arrival.

we drove down to freetown, puffy white clouds in the blue sky. once we got to freetown state forest, julie wanted to take a survey of the place and drove around. that was quite an experience as some of the roads deep inside the forest weren't very well maintained, as the car swerved around crater-sized potholes and uneven driving surfaces. occasionally we'd see the entrance to some trail, which apparently snake throughout the whole 5400+ acres of property. the forest had a pleasant smell, a pleasing fragrance reminiscent of the wilderness, the aroma of wildflowers mixed with the scent of forest soil. we wandered into the town of fall river, then swung back around, eventually parking the car by the side of the street on copicut road after crossing some train tracks.

the entrance to the white marker trail greeted us from across the street as we proceeded to enter to the woods. both julie and i sprayed down with bug repellent, she went with some all natural brand, i fell back on my trustworthy DEET spray. i had my outdoor adventure bag stuffed with basic survival gear (beef jerky, flashlight, umbrella, camera equipment, bug repellent, water), julie just had water bottle, a compass, and a trail map of the state forest.

julie was there on business, figuring out the best trails for her run, while i was there more for pleasure, usually straying behind to take photos, occasionally hearing julie call my name to make sure i didn't get lost (since she was the only one with the map and a working compass). the thing i was most surprised about was how little mosquitoes there were. true, this place doesn't have the swamps of the places i usually visit, but when it was over, i left without a single mosquito bite, despite wearing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts (plenty of exposed skin).

i saw a few new insects i've never seen before. occasionally i'd find animal droppings filled with colorful beetle shells (particularly fiery searchers). it seems ironic that i have a hard time finding beetles in the forest, and here are these animals who have no problems finding them at all and eat them for food. as to what animals were eating these beetles, i'm not sure. if i had to guess, i'd say birds.

fiery searcher shells in scat

shell detail

weevil with parasites

we also found a large area colonized by allegheny mound ants, so named because they build large mounds in which they make their homes. they're fairly aggressive and would crawl up our legs to bite us, so we left that area as quickly as possible.

allegheny mound ants (they bite!)

ant mound

orchard spiders courtship

i was also searching for monarch caterpillars whenever i encountered a patch of milkweed. no luck in finding monarchs, but i did see some harlequin caterpillars (milkweed tiger moths), which were these hairy things. i wasn't sure if they were poisonous so i left them alone, didn't try to take home a specimen to raise. i was also surprised to find caterpillars other than monarchs that feed on milkweed.

pearl crescent

harlequin caterpillar

harlequin caterpillars (milkweed tiger moths)

late summer is about frogs and we saw some in the forest. walking on the trail, occasionally a small toad would hop out of the way. nowhere near the same density of amphibians as ravenswood park (gloucester), but toads were probably the most common animal that we saw.

toad face

green frog

pickerel frog

as far as plants go, we at some blackberries and i came across two plants i haven't encountered before: the pink flowering steeplebush and the carnivorous bladderworts. freetown forest is worth a second visit just to study these bladderworts some more.



swollen bladderwort (carnivorous)

our tour of the forest ended at an abandoned quarry, where we snacked on beef jerky and watched frogs and fish swimming in the water. later, we climbed to the top of the quarry for a bird's eye view of the whole state forest. that particular spot seemed to be a popular teen hangout, as the rocks were covered with graffiti and there were evidence of past parties.

after trekking through the forest for hours, we made it back to the car with one goal in mind: to get some food. i recommended henry's root beer stand in neighboring taunton, a place that i'd read about and always wanted to visit. we found the place, just outside of taunton town center, across the street from a graveyard. i had the linguica sandwich and a black cow (root beer mixed with vanilla ice cream), julie went with a cheese burger and we shared some fries. service was very friendly, composed of mostly high school kids. there seemed to be a lot of people behind the counter, like they expect to get very busy, although there were only a handful of customers when we were there. the decor is very old-timey, a lot of parking, with outdoor seating (and maybe indoor seating as well). vaguely recognizeable murals of red sox players adorned the glass windows, even one of number 5 nomar. as we sat and ate outside, occasionally we'd hear the loud roar of some suped up vehicle (apparently that's what the locals do for kicks around here). after i finished my meal, i ordered up a single large root beer so i could really taste this homebrewed elixir. it wasn't anything special, but i was so thirsty, and the fact that i was getting root beer from this place that specialized in the stuff, made it taste that much better.

later in the evening renata dropped by to return some of my china books. though she said she had to leave soon to do her homework, she ended up staying for half an hour, smelling my candles ("my favorite scent is fresh cotton," she revealed). after she left, i had a late dinner of korean ramen from a cup and somehow rationalized it to myself that i could finish all of my code work tomorrow.