Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Mildred Kanipe Park

Slowly, the predator stalked his prey, innocently standing in a meadow and totally unaware and oblivious to the menace creeping up from behind. Once within striking distance, it was time to swoop in for the kill, "HEY PATTY, what do you think of this hike?" Patty reacted pretty much like you'd think a startled cat would, leaping instantaneously into the air like a coiled spring suddenly being let loose, simultaneously letting out a feral shriek that sounded something like "Yowrk!" Gravity had no choice but to return its airborne prize back to earth and shortly after landing, that's when Patty hit me.

Fog envelopes the livestock pond

Our little Wednesday group of hikers were originally going to hike at Mount Pisgah, near Eugene, but the weather was predicted to be densely foggy and about as gray as an alien cadaver. Since the point of hiking to Pisgah's summit generally is to see stuff (which you can't do in the fog) from the top, it was decided to hike at Mildred Kanipe Park instead. I'm not sure what the exact point of hiking in Kanipe Park is when the same foggy blanket smothers the park (other than giving a friend a heart attack) but you have to hike somewhere, I suppose.

Fallen trees were a thing after this last winter

As we set out into the misty air, we noticed a few downed trees next to the trailhead. Winter had obviously had paid a visit and it looked like last December's snowstorm had claimed more than a few casualties. Fallen trees were a common sight all throughout the park and because we have all been hiking here for many years, it felt like we were bidding a sad farewell to old friends who had recently and tragically passed.

Trail through the oak savanna

My favorite part of Kanipe Park, which has many beautiful parts, is the oak savanna. Here, oaks grow closer than sardines crammed into a tin full of mustard sauce. This time of year, the oak trees were bereft of any leaves but lichen more than made up for the lack of foliage by draping off of everything that did not move. The narrow dirt path wove its way through the oaks and the woods were as quiet as a morgue in the wee hours of the morning.

Pathway through a glade of oak trees

Once the path burst out of the oaken woods, it began a nice little climb through a meadow of low-growing grass. I was feeling walky this morning so I charged up the hill, as eager and energetic as a dog that just heard the word "treat". The trail crested at a boundary fence in the midst of an idyllic and peaceful glade of ever ubiquitous oak trees and from here on in, it would be mostly downhill walking.

A moss-colored turkey-tail

The speed-walking was too good to last! So many interesting things on the ground and I soon stopped my mercurial pace to kneel and lie down to more closely examine and photograph the world at my feet. Spider webs, soaked by mist, were strewn everywhere looking like so many miniature trampolines for the wee folk. Dead oak leaves sported perfectly round galls, the wasp larvae contained within long since departed to commence their lives as adults. On a decaying log, a population of common fungi colloquially known as turkey-tail were all tinted green by moss. Much photography abounded!

Lichen thrived on the trees in Fern Woods

Our route led through the Fern Woods Loop and the pretty little woods were a little bit worse for the wear because of winter. There were a few more fallen trees than usual to contend with and the ferns that so overpopulate the forest floor were doing a fine job of encroaching the path. At least it wasn't as muddy as it can get here. Apart from my factual observations about trail quality, the woods were and always are quiet, peaceful, and eminently beautiful.

A little scrambling over downfall

We ran into half of our party hiking in the opposite direction in Fern Woods. Seems that there are two kinds of hikers in the world: those staid establishment types who hike a loop in a clockwise direction or those colorful rebels and misfits who hike counter-clockwise. Guess which group I was in! At any rate, this wound up being a short 4 mile hike that ended before noon, no matter which direction was hiked.

A pleasant little stand of oaks

Halfway through our outing, Patty did resume speaking to me long enough to apologize for her near-felonious assault upon my person in the meadow. I told her no worries, because she hits like a girl and also because I pretty much had it coming.

Tough and woody, just like me!

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.