evergreen hemlocks, deciduous trees, and snow covered ground

First Snowfall, November

It is sixty degrees today, as we close out November. It’s hard to believe that the holidays are so close. We aren’t yet shoveling and gearing up just to go outside to get the day’s mail.

We had a first snowfall a few days before Thanksgiving. The timing was perfect, and made the holiday cozy. I was glad to get out and get some pictures.

Park bench and leafless trees in first snowfall
Even with snow, the park invites visitors to linger.

Ready to take the asphalt path up from the valley, I spied some fellow hikers in the roadway. That was a signal that the path was icy.

I had hiking sneakers on, so I decided to take the trail rather than the paved options. I know that I should do this more often – it is easier on the feet.

sunlight peeks around bare trees
The climb uphill promises a great view.
path through bare trees
To the top, and the ridge

The path was muddy, but the ice and leaf carpet helped to keep clumps of soil from sticking to my shoes.

trees with fall foliage, and ground with snow
Brown leaves still cling to the tree branches.

The sunlight made the scene look surreal, and kept me from feeling too cold. When the temperature changes so quickly, it is hard to adjust. Not to mention the fact that those cold fronts can bring strong winds. Today, though, was perfect for a hike.

Mossy rock covered in snow
Moss covering a rock looks out of place in the snowscape.

Other than the hemlocks and pines, there wasn’t a lot of green on my hike, except for patches of moss-covered rock.

I’ve always been fascinated by moss; it’s like Nature’s velvet. My best friend and I kept little cups of moss in our desks one school year. They were our miniature gardens, until the teacher found out and made us get rid of them. Why do teachers do such things?! Maybe, it’s just adults in general that don’t know how to have fun.

As a fourth grade teacher, I learned that moss is an evergreen plant. Also, it is nonvascular, meaning that it doesn’t draw nutrients and water up through tubes like many other plants. It gets these necessities directly through its tissue. That’s why moss grows better in shade and cool temperatures – it is less stressful. That’s why it also peels up so easily. It doesn’t have roots.

crosscut of tree trunk showing layers
This crosscut tree trunk shows the protective layers of bark and the cambium.

The landscape included many fallen trees from a major wind storm a week before. The maintenance crew had been busy clearing the hiking paths of tree trunks and branches. The photo above clearly show the difference between trees, which are vascular, from moss, which is not. Here, you can see the layers that make up the tree’s anatomy.

There are the outer and the inner bark layers. Then, the cambium layer, which is so important to the tree. The cambium layers produces the cells that enable the tree to grow. Damage to this layer from mowers and string trimmers can be fatal to the tree.

Finally, you get to the tree’s wood layers. Here is where the tubes are located that carry nutrients and water. Contrary to intuition, the innermost wood layers (heartwood) are actually the oldest, and non-functioning.  They don’t decay, though, because they are protected by the outer layers.

tree bark with snow and moss
Tree bark with snow covering
novemberhike8
Rhododendron on the hillside

Another evergreen plant is the rhododendron. There are few rhododendron left in this park. The deer eat them, unless they can grow tall enough to escape the browsing.

evergreen hemlocks, deciduous trees, and snow covered ground
Evergreens make the landscape look alive in winter.

Headed back, the contrast of the evergreen hemlocks, the deciduous trees, the snow cover, and the sunlight catch my eye and remind me how much more satisfying a hike in the woods is than a session on the treadmill!

Enjoy your day, and try to get out there.

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