The five of us who took to the woods Saturday couldn't have asked for a better spring afternoon to walk off lunch by exploring results of a management program now in its third year on steep slopes bisected by mighty ravines west of the South Chariton River down in Wayne County.
The top photo is there just because I liked it --- Bonnie Friend (left) and Jan Ledyard, looking the part of experienced wilderness guides.
But forester Duane Bedford (left), who developed the management plan for the woodland and implemented its first phases with assistance from his son, was the real guide. Mary Ellen Miller (center) owns the woods. Bonnie, Jan and I were grouped around here before heading in.
Bonnie, Wayne County's conservation director, is dressed in camouflage because she had been stalking turkey before lunch as the last of the spring seasons nears its end --- and returned to hunting late in the afternoon. Jan also chairs the Wayne County Conservation Board, but neither was here in official capacity, rather as friends. Ilsa, who claimed she was terrified by ticks, remained at the house to straighten up after lunch (and take a nap); Ed had to head back to Centerville, so he missed the walk.
When some of us walked this way about two years ago, the containment dam that now halts the rapid flow of runoff down then-eroding ravines had just been built, but areas of the woodland, neglected for years, were virtually impenetrable. Invasive red cedars, honeysuckle, multiflora rose and other troublemakers walled the margins and with other opportunistic growth had invaded the woods themselves. Fine oaks, some estimated to be 150 years old or more, hickories and other desirable trees had been overtaken by underbrush.
Managing this, and making the woodland accessible to critters other than deer, sometimes involved tough decisions, Duane explained. Here, for example, a couple of healthy shagbark hickories were killed and will be taken out because they had grown up through the canopy of a mighty oak and were threatening it.
We were looking, too, for Green Dragons (rarer cousins of Jack-in-the-Pulpits) that Duane had spotted earlier while working in the woods, but failed to find them. I was happy to find violet wood-sorrel, however.
Back at the house, Bonnie's friends --- two of the best-behaved canines I've run across lately --- were waiting for us in their beds in the back of her truck (parked in the shade on a cool day with hatch fully raised). Hunter, the chocolate lab, was still napping --- but Gus, the terrier, was ready to go.
We then finished off the afternoon with strawberry pie and champagne before Bonnie headed back into other woods with her shotgun.