The forest floor

IMG_9563.JPGThe soccer field at my elementary school in Springfield, Missouri, was nothing but a patch of bare, reddish dirt, and it was my favorite part of the place. I liked soccer just fine, but the real reasons for my affection were the thousands of dime-sized rocks caked into its surface. Almost all of them were imprinted with fossils: tiny grid-like bryozoan colonies, striated mollusk shells, cylindrical crinoids the size of pencil erasers, all remnants of an ancient sea. I was 7 years old and could spend half an hour after school crouched over the gritty dirt excavating these treasures with my fingertips, saving the most striking ones for my collection.

That’s all to say keeping an eye out for the small and overlooked underfoot has been my jam for pretty much forever. How could I possibly resist the yellow slime mold above? I’d only seen these weird organisms in textbooks before this moment. It might look like a fungus, but it’s actually the result of countless microbes literally fusing together into one huge cell that can move around and even learn, at least in some senses of the word.

Other denizens of Devil’s Den State Park’s forest floor don’t have the same flair, but I still love them.

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IMG_0020.JPGThis unsettling phenomenon seems to be guttation, which is apparently just the excretion of excess water — one more thing I’d only seen in books before now.

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IMG_0025.JPGAfter almost four years photographing the woods around here, they’re still surprising me. Thanks for looking.

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Two seasons

IMG_8071.JPGPlaces have moods, and it takes a few visits to really see them. The first time I went to the Goat Trail along the Buffalo River, it was cold, windy, overcast, quiet and slightly creepy. Somehow it was literally the complete opposite last weekend: warm, calm, sunny, full of people and a lot less creepy with the glow of autumn. Without the wind threatening to blow me off of the bluff, I also ventured a bit further along the 5-foot-wide trail. Slowly.

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IMG_8045.JPGI just love these junipers so much — strong, worn smooth with age and leaning into the steep drop of a couple hundred feet.

As the sun sank, a little bit of the old creepiness came out. I didn’t mind.

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Thanks for lookin’.

Dan

October color

IMG_7883.JPGThe birthday hike’s becoming a tradition.

This year’s was at a new corner of Beaver Lake, the Lost Bridge trail at its north end. Sunday was bright and warm. Acorns pelted the layer of fallen leaves. A southern wind whistled through the rigging and clanged the bells of the ships floating in the cove. A busted pier or two littered parts of the shore, with tiny pieces of Styrofoam lining the water. It would’ve been almost creepy if it weren’t such a beautiful day. I guess that’s fitting for October.

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IMG_7889.JPGThanks for lookin’.