Intervale Preserve Walk with Mocha and Sadie
Michael Fralich, March 6, 2023
My Ukrainian flag on Cyra’s fence was flapping vigorously as I loaded Sadie and Mocha into my car for the short drive to the Intervale Preserve by the train tracks in the bottom of the valley. We had walked it yesterday. I had not worn snowshoes. The snow was deep after the recent storm. I had to work to break the trail. By the end I was glad that the loop was only 0.5 miles. I suspected that today’s hike would be a little easier but not much. That was alright with me. I take these walks relishing the challenges they present.
Parking was tricky at the preserve since the storm. The informal dirt parking lot was under over a foot of snow. I have parked at the railroad crossing which does get plowed but also not since the storm. I pulled our Subaru parallel to Route 231 with two wheels in the snow. I hoped no one clobbered me while I was out on the trail. With Mocha and Sadie’s leashes firmly gripped in my hand, I let them out onto the road when the coast was clear.
When we got to the info kiosk put there by Royal River Conservation Trust who own this parcel by the marsh, I unclipped the two leashes and said the magic words, “Okay, Go!”. Off my two canine friends bolted down the trail, mindless of the ragged footing and deep snow. The boot prints in the trail were mine. I am not sure they did me much good but I didn’t care. The wind in the trees was speaking to me. It filled me with the joy that being out in the woods with Mocha and Sadie always brings me.
We passed by a young beech tree. It clung to its leaves, now bleached tan by death and the sun. The wind caused the tree to shiver in the winter air. Our tracks from the day before made it clear that we were the only ones who had been out in the preserve since the storm. To our right beyond a sparse buffer of vegetation I could see the Intervale Marsh, pristine in its fresh layer of snow. Cattails poked up brown cigar shaped seed heads pointing up to the azure sky. I flashed on a walk we took here last summer after a fire had come from the marsh up into the woods. Then the forest floor was black from the charring of the fire. Now the scene was different. The woods lay under a carpet of untracked snow. The wind was a constant companion on this hike. It bit at my cheeks, reminding me that March is still winter.
We came around a bend in the trail and took the spur that led to the stone bench that overlooks the marsh. This bench was carved by the son of good friends, Debra and Douglas Smith. Their son, Jordan, sculpts in stone. He created this bench for RRCT for this very spot. He donated it to be used by all who come to sit and take in the view of the marsh. Mocha and Sadie sat by the bench, as I often sit here with them halfway through our walk to settle into this beautiful space so close to home. The bench sits on a point of land in the forest, wrapped around by marsh on two sides. In little more that a month red-winged blackbirds would be singing their koo-kaa-ree song here. Now the only song was that of the wind through the trees behind us and the reeds in front of us.
I gave each pooch a treat for being so patient with me. I gave them their release words and off we set back through the pine woods to the car. There are some pines in this stand well in excess of twenty-four inches in diameter. In one place on the return trek we passed two such big pines spaced just three feet apart which I have dubbed, “The Gate”. Gate to what? Good question. I just like to name places out in the woods I roam.
Soon we came a place where the train tracks are snug up to the woods of the preserve. I have often seen trains parked here or running by. It adds a whole new set of sensations when that is the case. The base rumble of the big diesel engines seems to go right into my belly as they pass by. No trains were keeping us company on this windy winter day. When I could hear cars whiz by on 231, I clipped the girls back onto their leashes, waited for a clear road, loaded them up and headed home.