Indian River Valley Hike

I had noticed a clearing in Indian River Valley from the top of Gavan Hill last time I was up there. The clearing looked much greener than the muskegs I could see and I thought it would be interesting to visit it. I had originally planned to try finding it last Monday when I went, but I ended up taking longer to explore than I expected and found it necessary to return home before I had a chance to specifically seek out the clearing. Today I decided to take a more direct approach and hike further up the trail before leaving it to explore.

Before heading off into new territory, I returned to a couple of the places I had been on Monday. In particular, I visited the dirt mound. I found that there were relatively fresh tracks in the dirt and I also noticed some deer hair. This made me wonder if perhaps the deer roll around here. If they do, it did not appear that the one that made the fresh tracks had. I followed the edge of the muskeg and passed through a short stretch of trees that separated the large muskeg I had started in from a smaller one.

From this smaller muskeg, it was basically an educated guess as to where to go. I knew the general direction of the clearing I was aiming for, but given the relatively small size of the clearing, I figured it would be easy to miss it. However, in the past I have had good luck finding my way in the woods when I had a general idea of where I wanted to go, so I figured I would give it a try. If it got too late, I would just head back towards the middle of the valley where I would find Indian River and Indian River trail and go home.

I followed deer trails that tended in the direction I thought I should go, but the deer must be about 2 feet shorter than me because I had to move aside a lot of brush that was in my face. The terrain was a little bit hilly, and although there were decent sized trees, the brush was fairly thick. While on my way, I heard a sapsucker nest. A short time later, I heard a sapsucker repeatedly calling from across a little draw. As I paused to decide which way to go, it flew over and landed in a tree very near to me and continued calling. It seemed to be curious about me or it was trying to tell me something. It kept calling and moving around the tree while it looked at me. At one point a second sapsucker seemed to be answering the calls back across the draw where the first one had come from. After a minute or so, it flew a little further away and began pecking at a tree. While I was still watching it, I noticed a humming bird fly up and do two or three brief fly-bys. I have heard that sometimes hummingbirds will follow sapsuckers around to drink sap from the holes they make, but I have never observed it. This hummingbird apparently did not find too much of interest, as it did not seem to stick around.

I went across the draw and walked up along the small rise on the other side. By this time it seemed like it might be getting kind of late and I thought about making my way back to the main trail. I checked the time on my camera and saw that I could probably wait a little longer before turning back. Around this time I noticed the sound of a fair amount of water moving nearby. I decided to, at the very least, go look at the water and then decide what to do from there.

I discovered that the sound of the water was from a small, relatively fast moving, stream at the bottom of the hill I was on. Not only that, but it looked like directly across the draw through which the stream flowed was the clearing I had been looking for. I crossed the stream and made my way up to the edge of the clearing. Right away I could see why it looked different than the muskegs from above. This clearing had a lot of grass growing in it. On the continuum from saturated marsh to dry meadow, this clearing a little further towards the meadow side than most of the muskegs around here.

A number of things stood out about this clearing. There were many ferns growing about the edge. There was also a lot of grass. I noticed many orchids blooming (there were two species, and I think probably at least three). I also saw that there were nagoon berries (Rubus arcticus). At first I did not pay much attention as superficially the leaves look like cloudberries (R. chamaemorus). Eventually, I saw one in bloom and recognized it as a nagoon berry and then I realized what I had been seeing all along. Cloudberries are quite common in the muskegs I have visited, but this is only the second time that I have noticed nagoon berries. Perhaps now that I know what to look for, I will see them more often.

On this hike, I noticed (and photographed) at least four species of plants that I could not positively identify. Of these, two were ones I had not previously noticed. Pictures will be forthcoming on my Summer 2003 photojournal.

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