Week in the Woods (6 X 19)

Though most of the week was unseasonably hot, reaching nearly ninety degrees Fahrenheit, Fall arrived at last this past weekend. Long sleeves and wonderfully brisk air in the forest made my hikes with Cassie extra fun.

A cool mushroom on the cool wet forest floor at a state park in SW Pennsylvania

Some much needed rain also brought new mushrooms bursting from the earth.

The dramatic rocks of McConnell's Mill loom over the trail, which runs alongside Slippery Rock Creek.

A large snapping turtle spotted on our hike.I helped this lovely orange newt from the trail after my family and I had a good look at him.

My wife Katie joined us for an adventure at McConnell’s Mill State Park, where we saw a big old snapping turtle, a lovely newt, and…

… lots of lovely mushrooms of all shapes & sizes.

Our luck finding fungus continued throughout the week. Somehow I always manage to stumble across one or two species I’ve never seen before.

I once again made myself useful as I tromped around the woods.

Cassie & I found a bumper crop of young chicken of the woods in two different parks.

We took mushrooms home both Saturday & Sunday.

And whipped up a delicious meal for the family.

My beautiful daughter helps me inspect a hen of the woods mushroom discovered on our hike.

We had our eyes on a little hen of the woods but decided it was still too small.

My daughter is strapped to my chest, ready to explore the great outdoors.

I was very proud of my little naturalist when she spotted a woodpecker all by herself. She pointed off to the left and I assumed she’d seen a squirrel, but when I looked for myself a downy woodpecker was busy hunting grubs about thirty yards away. We watched him together for several minutes before he disappeared into the trees.

Though the hours for hiking are shortening every day, I’m looking forward to a wonderful Autumn full of shared discovery and quiet togetherness in the forest. I’m profoundly happy I can spend so much time in Nature with my kid, and I hope her spirit continues to feel at home there as she grows older. Cassie’s already getting very good at tracking noises and locating animals in the underbrush, and she loves pointing out the interesting things she sees. Sometimes she just swings her little arms and points everywhere; I understand how she feels.

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