Friend of the Middle River, Roger Robinson, begins a journey to traverse the entire length of the Middle River. FOMR Kate Guenther joins him to capture the sights and sounds as Roger takes the first leg of his trek.
Follow these links to see videos:
Middle River Adventure – A field journal by Kate Guenther
5/22/13 – Day 1 – Headwaters of the Middle River
Roger and I take pause at the water that rises gently out of the ground besides an old concrete watering trough which contains very small fish. This is the headwaters of the Middle River (GPS 1). Horses use this area, standing around in the shade of what will be one of the first hot days of summer, topping out at 86 degrees. The nascent stream is full of watercress in bloom. Jewelweed, yellow dock, burdock and mint are scattered around the area. Buttercups and wild rose are in bloom. Roger greets the horses.
We walk a few hundred yards downstream to a pond that the spring feeds where we meet a Canada goose family, and some other pairs of geese. Meadowlarks can be heard in the grasses, a sound that continues throughout the day. We walk on though a large stand of white pines planted in rows. Roger inspects the 2 inch minnows hanging out in the shade of the pines. We flush a white egret as we leave the shade. Cattail is coming up and red-wing blackbirds flit around. Red-wings, too, are a constant companion to us through the day.
We cross onto the Earhart property and see teasel, cleavers and mustard which is still blooming its bright yellow. The first incoming spring stream (GPS 2) enters from the east (right) and minnows are spotted again in the pools. We encounter two more Canada Geese families with large goslings on another pond. A painted turtle suns itself on a log. In the grass we spot wingstem, henbit, milkweed, thistles, and white phlox all jumbled together. We listen to a bullfrog and mallard ducks. At this point in the journey, the river is still only a one foot wide in most places, moving in a straight line like a ditch, and is lined with cattails.
Another spring comes in from the west (left) (GPS 3) and the first obvious drop in the river is seen. Wild cherry blooms. As we approach Schemeriah Church on the hill—founded in 1831— we are watched over by a welcoming peace sign carved out of a tree overlooking the river. As we walk, our footsteps release intense wild mint scents.
Skunk cabbage grows near another spring that enters the Middle River from below the church (GPS 4). We hear towhees, grackles and domestic chickens in chorus. Garlic mustard blooms. Crossing a barbed wire fence onto Sweet’s property we see black willow and black walnut trees in bloom. A spring (GPS 5) flows in from the west, creating a small waterfall and substantially increasing the flow rate of the stream. At this point the stream is about two feet wide, rapidly increasing to four feet wide in a short distance with the added volume of water. Tulip poplar rises out of tree tubes. Virgin’s bower is sprouting up. Roger takes my picture as I sit in a large patch of buttercups in bloom.
We come to our first substantial cobble bed on the bottom of the stream. Tent caterpillars hang in the black cherry trees that are blooming their white flowers. We see the first autumn olive tree of the day, a loner. White chickweed blooms near a spring that arises out of a hole in the ground (GPS 6).
We can hear crickets chirping in the eastern red cedars. Lots of mouse-eared hawkweed blooms yellow dots that look like a dandelion patch. Then a larger spring enters from (GPS 7) what must have been an old road with a culvert. Again, the area smells strongly of mint as we walk through the knee-high plants. Just a little further down and we come to another major spring entering from the east (GPS 8). Now the river is almost ten feet wide and has riffles. With the addition of these 2 large springs, Roger thinks this area might at this point be able to sustain fish since these springs appear to run year-round. More evidence for that is that the area has much horsetail in the grass, indicating wet soils.
After Roger pulls a tick off him, we spot our first dragonfly. Many tiger swallowtails fly around and a red-eyed vireo is singing from the tree tops. Then Roger makes the best discovery of the day, the final track of a whitetail deer—its skeleton— who died underneath the shade of a dense tree just a few steps from the river. The skull indicates it was a buck with 2 point antlers.
We enter the Land of River Birch, with many mature birches displaying their beautiful scaly bark. Roger comments that it looks like good mink area. Barn swallows flit around, as well black swallowtails. We hear the “gunk, gunk, gunk” sound of a green frog. Then Roger spots it briefly—a mink!—heading for cover in some trees. We try to spot it again to no avail due to the waist high grass, but instead, Roger discovers a perfect reed nest built in the tall grass. The red-winged blackbird alarming behind us tells us it belongs to them. No eggs yet!
We pass onto the O’Brian property and scare a few snapping turtles off the bank which dive into a small pond. Another spring (GPS 9) comes in from the west where the O’Brian house is being built. The stream is very curvy now, winding back and forth on itself. Kingfisher nest holes and muskrat holes are seen in the stream banks. We get to watch a particularly calm frog sun itself.
At the first place the road crosses the river (GPS 10) we head into Cow Country on Jimmy Callison’s property. Maples, willows and hawthorns dot the open grass. Roger spots the white bone pile of a dead cow. We flush a green heron out of the deep grasses along the water’s edge. It won’t be long before we flush out the day’s only blue heron, too. So the fisherbirds are here and that means fish! We stop for lunch on a step wooded bank of cow trails and maple roots.
Another spring (GPS 11) off a tree farm property enters from the west. An old trout pond existed up Cale Spring Road, so Roger wonders about the rumor that trout might still be in the waters downstream of where this spring enters. He tries some fishing just downstream of this inflow, to no avail. An amazing song of an unidentified bird—later identified by neighbor Bobby Whitescarver to be a northern oriole— is heard. For the first time today, we walk through sedges mixed in with the grasses. True riffles are occurring now in the river. Wood pewee sings. Roger is excited to dig up a large hellgrammite to use as bait.
Crossing onto the Landry property we flush some more mallards off the creek. Then the road crosses the river for the second time (GPS 13) right before we cross onto the final property of the day—Ferguson’s. Another cow –this time recently deceased— lies in the field across the creek. Another spring comes into the Middle (GPS 14). Stout blue eyed grass is blooming amidst the grass and sedges as is a lot of Star of Bethlehem blooming white. The creek splits into two fifteen foot wide channels, forming large grassy islands. We’ve been walking awhile now in the baking sun, with no shade. Roger thinks the creek looks like “smallmouth bass water” and puts in his soggy hellgrammite. After a few tries, he hooks what he believes is a creek chub, about 4-5” long, but just as it clears the water it jumps off the hook. Northern cricket frogs click in the background. The banks of the creek are now mostly made up of sand and cow dung. The creek joins back together.
We walk on through the cow field. “Never get between a cow and her calf,” Roger describes as he marches ahead and I looks back to see a large all-black mamma trotting straight towards her in earnest. A few quick steps remove us out of the way and allows mom to rejoin with her baby. We end our day one of Roger’s Middle River adventure where Ferguson’s property meets the Christian’s line.
|Total 5.42 miles hiking|
|2:33 hours walking|
|walking average speed = 2.1 mph|
|overall average speed= 1.2 mph|
Stay tuned. We will post updates from Roger’s adventure as he traverses the Middle River.
[2nd revise 5/27/13 11:33 am]