it was raining this morning, remnants of hurricane jeanne blowing her way up through the northeast. it was raining on a day that i picked to go out naturing, although a little moisture never stopped me before. unfortunately it was a lot of moisture, rain coming down so hard i almost couldn't hear myself think. looking outside into the backyard, i was debating whether to postpone my naturing for another day, perhaps go see a movie instead, because isn't that what you're supposed to do on rainy days anyway? still, once the rain looked like it was letting up, once i had my breakfast of a french bread pizza, i grabbed my gear and drove down to the blue hill reservations in milton/canton, and went to visit ponkapoag bog.
on a rainy weekday no one comes out here. i was surprised to find two cars in the makeshift parking lot by the entrance, but just when i was going in the people were leaving, two men who looked like they had some sort of official reservation business. the one other time i saw somebody was a lone middle aged jogger. other than that, i was completely alone. just me and some hungry mosquitoes, who kept away after my initial spray of repellent. the main trail was covered in gravel and sand and was wide enough to accommodate 2 lanes of car traffic. muddy puddles of varying sizes dotted the trail. right away i saw something interesting, a pair of elegant stinkhorns lying by the side of the road. at first i thought maybe they were discarded pens, but upon closer examination revealed they're actually mushrooms.
having been on hiking expeditions that've lasted hours, it was actually just a short while before i found the entrance to the boardwalk that would lead me into ponkapoag bog. from the information posted on the bulletin board i learned that ponkapoag bog is an atlantic white cedar bog. what's interesting is the changing zones of vegetation, starting with red oaks and white pines on the shoreline, changing into red maples, followed by atlantic white cedars, then blueberry bushes, into a clearing, then right out to the open water of ponkapoag pond. i don't know enough about trees and plants to fully appreciate the different environments, but just walking down the length of the boardwalk, the fact that your surroundings keep on changing is quite noticeable.
i came across my first pitcher plant rather soon in the red maple zone. it appeared to be a young plant, only a few green pitchers, similar to the ones renata and i saw at the ward reservation. here were also salmon entoloma mushrooms, which seemed to be pretty common, emerging from the sphagnum moss. sometimes i'd see ones that were faded in color, the rain having washed out the "salmon" from the mushrooms.
the second pitcher plant i spotted was hidden below some highbush blueberry shrubs. it was sort of off the path, at an awkward angle that i had to step off from the boardwalk and plant a foot on some sphagnum moss. with the umbrella i pushed away some branches, also providing some cover so my digital camera wouldn't get wet. it was at this moment that the rain, which had been constant throughout, started to really pour. i was crouching down with one leg sticking out as balance, as the rain poured off the umbrella and onto my exposed back. i got up and took out the disposable poncho i had in my bag and put that thing on. while adjusting my new transparent waterproof jacket, i saw another really beautiful pitcher plant specimen nearby. since this was a little bit off of the boardwalk, it seemed like dry land, so i knelt down to take some photos. i noticed my shoes were getting wet, but i was already resigned to the fact that i wouldn't leave the bog with dry shoes, so i just ignored it. after i was done phototaking, i looked down and saw that i had actually sudden into the bog, the sphagnum moss rising almost to my knee. i stepped out onto the relative safety of the boardwalk. looking back at spot where i saw the other pitcher plant, i noticed a very obvious footprint from where i stuck my foot out for balance. i went back and tried to repair the damage i'd caused to the bog, pulling up the wet moss which felt like a sponge and had a slight rotten egg smell to it.
the farther i walked on the boardwalk, the wetter the environment started to become. the boardwalk eventually came to a clearing, which reminded me a lot of the peacham bog at groton state forest, except there weren't any labrador tea. a little bit further up the trail, i came across some pitcher plants. it seems the deeper in get into this bog, the "healthier" the pitcher plants appear to be. the ones i saw early on were mostly green, but these that i was seeing now had very prominent red veins, just like the vermont pitcher plants. i took some photos, my butt on the boardwalk, my legs sticking into the water, umbrella overhead, me leaning forward to get as close to the subjects as possible without falling into the bog. at that point i was totally soaked, my wet jeans tightening around my legs. everytime i took out my camera i had to first wipe the lens off with a dry corner of my t-shirt underneath the poncho since it was fogging up. the warm camera in this damp, cold environment (about 60 something degrees today) was actually giving off steam. another thing i noticed is that the sphagnum moss were becoming redder at this part of the bog.
although i saw numerous pitcher plants, i still hadn't seem any sundews. i was starting to think that sundews were actually rarer than pitcher plants. almost towards the end of the boardwalk, while crounching down to take some photos, i suddenly saw the elusive sundew. looking around, i saw that they were everywhere, made easier to locate by their dried flower stalks. they seemed to be growing everywhere that sphagnum moss can grow, on tree trunks, on the wet forest floor, on the sides of the boardwalk even.
eventually the boardwalk comes to an end overlooking ponkapoag pond...
as rain continued to fall, i stood on the edge of the wooden plank and called people on my cellphone. i called renata to let her know of this great new bog that we haven't explored yet. i called my parents to let them know how beautiful the place was. and i called julie, who visited the bog back in the spring (when the boardwalk was flooded) to compare notes. i stood there for a few more minutes, soaking up the view, before walking back.
i noticed things going back that i didn't see when i was walking in. i saw many pitcher plants, seemingly more conspicuous now that i was leaving the bog and wouldn't be taking their photos. sometimes i saw them with sundews, a mixed community of carnivorous plants. i saw large red berries growing on top of the sphagnum moss that looked like cranberries. i wanted to take them home and eat them, but even if they were really cranberries, i don't know if i'd like the tart taste. and sometimes sphagnum moss, when they're completely submerged, appear to float on the surface of the water like balls.
walking towards where i parked the car, i was starting to feel cold, my thorough saturation finally getting to me. the rain would not let up, and fast moving rivers of muddy erosion ran down the path leading out of the reservation. i fantasized about finding a clean towel in the car to dry off, but the best i could do was to turn up the heat. i was hungry and ate my trail mix. on the radio i was listening to the WEEI sports show. i drove back to cambridge along I-93 right during rush hour, and rush hour in the pouring rain no less. still, i made it back to civilization in one piece. i briefly stopped off at my parents to pick up some food and to show them my photos. my wet jeans were so tight i had trouble sitting down. when i finally returned home, i peeled out of my wet clothes and took a hot relaxing shower, all while it was still raining outside. my feet were so waterlogged that my soles were all wrinkly. for dinner, some rice noodles, and i also watched the rest of cabin fever, followed by another exciting red sox victory. the yankees however did not play because of the rain.
speaking of which, i'm off to new york city tomorrow morning (actually, in less than 3 more hours). i still have to pack, but i'll do that tomorrow. right now i'm too tired and i want to sleep a little bit before i leave. there's a frog exhibit at the american museum of natural history that i really want to see.