Road Walking, Urban Walking, USA
Comments 16

I Christen Thee the Woodpecker Trail

G’day, folks, and thanks for all the good wishes I received after my first New York-based post.

I’ve been here a little over a week now and am acclimatising in more ways than one — Americans say acclimating: there’s another thing I have to acclimate to — and I haven’t been troubled by cold since that cry for help about frozen fingers in the last post.

I’m getting used to the snow…

Driveway Traffic

Driveway Traffic

..although there’s a snowstorm predicted for tonight which could cause intense suffering if there’s no school tomorrow.

Temps have been tolerable — it’s minus 6C outside and that doesn’t even sound bad for me now, particularly if there’s sunshine, as there is today, creeping in the skylight and across my toes.

Kate and her girls are back in school (Kate’s learning how to cut hair and did her first sideburn trim on a live target — me — the other day) and I am typing this at my new stand-up desk. We’ve been turning this end of the upstairs room into a garret-like study that serves Moe the Cat and I well as a place of refuge from occasional tantrum squalls downstairs.

There’s been lots of cleaning, Amazon and IKEA catalogue perusal and arranging. Numerous trips to Home Depot…

First Ascent of Mt Depot by Shopping Cart *

First Ascent of Mt Depot by Shopping Cart *

..and I have a new Dieffenbachia sharing the skylight illumination — call it an indoor- or houseplant rather than a pot plant in these parts and avoid the raised eyebrows.

But I knew I had to get some walking in each day, despite the snow, if I was going to emerge in Spring sane-ish and relatively slender. A few days back I walked the three miles to our regular coffee place, which helped me orient myself to my new urban environment. And soon afterwards it was time to try something a little more woodsy. Like, say, some woods.

There’s this green and inviting ridge near our place. Nobody I asked knew its name or the legality of walking it, but on Google Earth it looked glorious:


All Will Be Explained

We’d driven past a side-road called Hilltop Drive that looked like a way in, and as luck would have it a Dunkin Donuts lurked nearby to snare week-willed passersby such as myself. As a hiker, one of my highest priorities when I move to a new place is locating the nearest source of decent caffeine-and-donut-based nutrition. So: free afternoon, two birds, one rock.

Off I ambled, past some woodpecker condos…


..keeping my head down…


..till the ridge came into view…


..then turned left on Rt 9 towards you-know-where, stopping for two Old Fashioneds and a latte, of sorts, that convinced me that the three-mile walk to Panera, our usual place, is worth the trouble.

Then, cradling my bounty, up the side-road…


..which ends abruptly at a turnaround at the edge of the trees.

A rough, snow-carpeted track with plenty of footprints. No signs, except those little ones telling you to clean up after your mutt, so it at least appeared open to the public. Good enough for me. I wandered in there and immediately surprised two deer that bounded off up the path, white tails flashing brilliantly in the dim light.

I didn’t go far. Kate would be home soon, and if I’m not ready with a foot massage when she slams the door she gets kinda scary. But I wandered in far enough to note that this place was Woodpecker Central:


Like bullet holes down the trunk


Frozen Stream


Highly organised and literate woodpeckers:

No, I Didn't Write It. I Wasn't Sure Where I Was.

No, I Didn’t Write It. Blame Woody.

A little research suggests that the likely culprit for those neatly spaced holes, above, is the yellow-bellied sapsucker, which can actually kill trees in its search for sap and insects. The Department of Agriculture found that when sapsuckers dropped by for lunch, there was…

..a mortality of 67% for Gray Birch (Betula populifolia), 51% for Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera), and 40% for Red Maple (Acer rubrum).

So this forest is obviously a work in progress.



Excited by the possibilities of the path — now christened the Woodpecker Trail — I went back with Kate the next morning, wisely bypassing Dirty Dunkin’ D:



Here’s the trail entrance — if trail it is:


Another short wander — Kate’s boots need re-waterproofing (one of today’s tasks) — but we went a little further. If anything, the woods were even more beautiful this time:







More woodpecker architecture:


Again, no frostbite, no amputations, and I was even walking bare-handed for short spells. Am I in danger of enjoying myself in the snow?

Well, yeah:


We are now taking orders for our forthcoming “Winter Hotties” calendar.


Back Out in the Open


"children at play" sign & jumping man

* Shopping trolley in the Queen’s English

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


  1. Great photos. Numbers six and seven from the bottom show Horehound (Marubium vulgare). First loved for its flavor, now hated for its invasive nature, this plant is the bane of socks and furry pets.
    Thank you.


    • Thanks again, Garry! Sorry for the lateness of this reply as always — I never look at the blog if possible for a couple of days after posting something.

      Appreciate the plant identification! I am really lost with a lot of plants/trees here, will need a good guidebook so I can do better than “Look at this pretty tree! So leafy and tall!” Interesting that the U.S. has its share of invasive flora. My home country has always seemed like a world-beater in the feral plants and animals department.

  2. Great stuff Ian!A new travelogue and we can enjoy the snow from our air conditioned comfort!
    Thanks Gary! Wonderd what that plant was..

    • Cheers, Barb. I foresee a short series of posts about snow in the suburbs — or maybe a long one. We just got up and I asked Kate, “How’s the weather looking for today? Looks good through the window.” She looked at her weather app and replied, “Minus 17 C. Oh, but sunny, looks nice later on.”

      • The temps are mindblowing!
        It will take a great mind(and body)shift to get used to it..

      • I think I’m adjusting! It’s amazing to me that I now look at the current temp and see it’s, say, minus 8 C, and think, “That’s nice.” Right now it’s 7:18am and apparently minus 19C — not quite used to that yet!

  3. Love the photo of you and Kate in the snow! I remember traveling in that part of the state of New York. Of all the places in the country I had been that summer (starting from my home state of California), it stood out as a place I would like to live. Something very good in the air and the earth there.

    • That’s great, Am! After my initial phase of weather-whining, I am now finding my feet and even enjoying the cold. My latest hobby is snow-shovelling, it’s weirdly satisfying (so far).

    • Sorry to disappoint you, SW, but I’ll be keeping my shirt on. And any pictures of me in my swimming togs (as we call them in Queensland — it’s “costume” or “cozzie” further south) could kill my blog stone dead in a single shot.

  4. That shopping cart is a riot! For some reason, I always get a chuckle out of the sign “DIP”. Just sounds to cute. Wonder why they didn’t call it De-Bump, Under-Bump, or Still-Gonna-Bump-Your-Rump. My favorite sign of all? Butte Creek. Saw that one in the South somewhere (Georgia, Alabama, or Louisiana). Funny post!

    • Yeah, the delinquents in these parts apparently have a sense of humour. Street signs and weird place names are a passion of mine in my American wandering, too.

  5. Mm… I think I’ve always secretly admired your ability to be a drifter and successfully survive! I wonder if others do? Your blog is a lesson in Vagabond 101.

    I’m interested in your upcoming awake in the States travels. The question is, has the Goat being tamed…? 🙂

    • Tame the Wild Goat? Never! Really enjoying slowly shifting the perimeter of what is “known” to me in the local area. Lots of road-walking involved, but it’s paying off!

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