Monday, February 6, 2012

Springfield Lake/Greater Ozarks Audubon Trail Hike

I've often been of the opinion, if it's close to town, less than four miles long and has paved trails, then it's not worth walking it. But, yesterday morning, having just a couple of free hours, I drove about ten minutes from my house to the nature trail at Springfield Lake boathouse. I was pleasantly surprised.

With the winter weather hovering in the upper 30's at 10 in the morning, I didn't have any problem with a crowd. One of the best things about hiking when it's cold out is that you don't have to contend with a constant stream of people while you're trying to enjoy getting away from them. Bugs and poisonous plants are mostly a non-issue, as well.

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I started the trail at the boathouse, heading counterclockwise around the loop. The trail immediately heads up a small incline to a nice overlook above the lake. I'd been curious about the spot since I last paddled my outrigger canoe through the area and saw a handful of people waving down to me.

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A heron was fishing in the near-freezing water below us. Photo Feb 05, 10 39 40 AM_s

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From the lake, the trail winds up through a dense wood bordering a fairly nice neighborhood. Since it's still leaf-off, an occasional house can be seen in the background. But they didn't detract too much from the experience. There was a slight hum from machinery and traffic present that you don't hear when further out of town.

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One thing I really liked about this trail were the markers on select trees to tell you what species they were. I'm quite ignorant when it comes to tree and plant identification. A lack of skill that I'm trying to make up for.

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Every wood needs a large creepy oak. At least I think this is an oak.

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There was quite a bit of elevation change for a nature trail. If someone fairly out of shape walked it, they might have a rough go of it until they got back down to lake level, along the James River Greenway portion of the trail.

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Possibly wild onion.

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I had forgotten Maggie's collar and only brought her leash and harness, so there were no jingling tags to announce our presence as we walked through the wood. Maggie is fairly surefooted and makes very little noise heading down the trail. We managed to get within 15 yards of this large deer. I'm guessing a buck by it's size, but it didn't have antlers. I don't know what time of year they grow and lose them. At one point, it just seemed to pose for me. Maggie eventually growled at it and it snorted it's discontent, crapped and ran off.

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Patches of fern dotted the densely wooded spots.

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Luckily the power plant wasn't always in view.

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Prickly pear cactus.

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Maggie, attempting to flush a chipmunk that had recently hid itself in a clump of leaves toward the center of the pic.

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Either bluebirds or indigo buntings kept flitting from tree to tree ahead of us, along the last stretch back to the car.

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Maggs, after our little 2.5 mile walk in the woods. She hopped in the car and was out like a light for the short drive home.

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