Autumn is nearly here. Mornings are chilly and dew-dripping. Breezes freshen and the air feels drier, seems more transparent. The earliest touches of fall color are showing in the trees and even on the forest floor. Nights are noticeably longer. Autumn is nearly here and there are signs all around.
On a whim we decided to explore the Royalview Trail section of the Cleveland Metroparks’ Mill Stream Run Reservation. Upon arrival we discovered that the park is a haven for local mountain bikers! Single-track, packed-earth trail ranges in difficulty from moderate to advanced and travels through the reservation’s beautiful hilly woodlands. Small streams are crossed, ravines traced and traveled, and narrow wooden boardwalks bridge the park’s softest and most sensitive soil.
Cyclists, trail runners, and walkers were friendly and even helpful. Why not? Surrounded by beautiful natural settings on a warm and beautiful day –one of the summer’s finest– it was hard not to relax and be happy. Cyclists enjoyed the physical and mental challenge of the trails but there was plenty for slower-paced visitors to discover, things missed at a faster pace. At one point I left the trail to photograph the beautiful light reflecting red on a fallen tree’s now-bare trunk. On my way to the tree I looked down at another fallen log and discovered a tiny creature, about an inch in length, standing ever-so-still on the moist surface. It was an Eastern Red-spotted Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) in its Red Eft phase! I’d never seen one in nature and shot a good many photos of it. Owing to the deep woods and shade, photography was difficult and only one image turned out at all well.
Later in our walk, She Who Must Be Obeyed said, “Look at that!” On the ground, just off the trail, lay three “brains,” or what looked like brains, in the leaf litter. I’ve seen many woodland fungi in the region but never one like that. Looking closely at the growth to photograph it, I noticed it was very popular with the local slug population! I don’t know what they found so appealing but the slugs seemed to like the “brains” very much. We identified this one as Sparassis crispa — the Eastern Cauliflower Mushroom.
It was a splendid and enjoyable time and I’m sure we’ll visit again, perhaps this fall when the colors are likely to be amazing. Perhaps sooner!
I'm preparing for a special public event tonight: Perseid Meteor Watch. The participating park system assigned us to a tiny county park. If we get a decent turnout, we'll be turning people away! Weather looks good. Must remember: telescope and all components (for looking at non-meteoric objects), camera, tripod, descriptive hand-outs, etc. The event runs from 9:30 to 11:30 PM so I'll probably be getting to be at about 1:30 AM tomorrow. I took today and tomorrow off.
As for the Canon Zoom Lens EF 17-40mm, f/4 L USM lens … well, let's just say I'm not thrilled with its performance now that it's back from a $100+ repair trip to New Jersey! My nature hike/test images today do not tell a happy story. The lens has significant chromatic aberration, does not seem to focus well across its field of view, and does not seem to consistently auto-focus. It works best in close quarters but not for panoramic landscapes. I've no choice but to use it tonight, hoping for a bright meteor streak or two but I'm not encouraged by what I'm seeing thus far.