The start of the Fall season has been quite beautiful up here at Camp Earth Connection. I say “up here” because the elevation at Hammond Hill’s State Forest reaches approximately 1700 feet, which I believe is one of the highest points in Tompkins County. Although I don’t think I am at the highest point sitting by the wildlife pond at the camp.
As I prepared to begin my pondering, the first thing I noticed when I tried to find a “sit spot” in the forest overlooking the pond – was the reflection of the trees and plant life on the pond. It’s quite amazing that we can look at a pond and also see the forest. After a bit of trying to get comfortable in my chosen spot next to an Ash tree – I noticed Druid jumping in surprise. I started to get up and caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a small mammal trying to hide. I didn’t actually find it, but wondered, could it actually be a young beaver?
Thinking of beavers, reminded me to check the trees around me as there have been so many dead trees falling in the forest. Lo and behold, for the 2nd time this season, I realized I sat myself right under a tree that could fall in a heartbeat. This tree had been chewed through by a beaver, and it was held up by some not so big Hemlock branches. Phew! The first time I found myself under a dead tree, was during my backpacking trip at Shindagin Hollow. I had put up my tent right under a totally dead large tree! I must to be more mindful!
I repositioned myself under another group of trees – that felt much safer – mostly White Pines. I always get the sense that the White Pines are protectors. They circle the main camp and many of the cabins.
Finally I was ready to write my reflection of this past season. I acknowledged that I have been able to relax more and connect a bit more with the guests and my surroundings this season. I’ve spent hours each day walking with Druid both on the land that Camp Earth Connection sits on, and the trails of the forest. Using a bird app, I have learned to recognize many of the bird songs of the local winged residents. In addition, with help from visitors and friends at Camp Earth Connection, I have been able to increase my repertoire of wild edible mushrooms that I can identify. To date I have identified and eaten 6 species, and learned of a few not to eat.
This season, I have also found that a deep sadness has lifted somewhat. I say somewhat because it seems to return periodically. The sadness was carried forward from the past couple years of losses and changes in my life. I do believe my time in the forest has helped me heal. But it has been bittersweet. I also noticed and have learned of the plight of some of the predominant trees of this forest. The White Ash, being decimated by the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle, the Beech Leaf disease (results of a nematode) which kills Beech trees and the Hemlocks are being threatened by the Wooly Adelgid. All of these threats to trees in the forest have been identified at Camp Earth Connection and the Hammond Hill Forest.
With that said – it seems to be an amazing year for the White Oaks, dropping millions of acorns which feeds so much of the wildlife, and the Black Cherry also dropping millions of black cherries, which will also feed many birds and mammals Proof is in the scat! The fruits of the elderberries and the not so native autumn olives are also abundant.
Overall, I will say I do have an overwhelming amount of gratitude for the gift of being able to live here on Hammond Hill. I look forward to continuing to share this space with those who are looking for a deeper connection with nature and time in the forest, during their visit to Camp Earth Connection in the Hammond Hill State Forest.
With Peace and Gratitude,
Eshay & Druid