*Note that left-clicking on any photo will bring up a full-sized version.
The northwest corner of Ohio was the last to be settled, with most towns and villages being founded in the latter part of the 19th century and after. This is because within its borders lies The Great Black Swamp, a flat, marshy wetland area that took years and years of toiling to drain it and make it inhabitable and useful. Today, much of that land is used for farming, since the terrain and the rich soil are conducive to producing high yields of corn, oats, soybeans, and wheat, its main cash crops.
Today, Romie and I traveled northeast of Our Little Acre for about an hour, to Goll Woods. This 321-acre nature preserve is believed to be the least disturbed woodland area in this part of the state and is home to 200-to-400-year-old trees, some of which have trunks four feet in diameter. Before we left, a quick check of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website for information suggested that a visit to Goll Woods be taken prior to mosquito season.
This is the last week that Romie has off work following his surgery, and this was one thing he wanted to do before he went back. So we packed the Off!® and some light jackets to help protect us from the little suckers and went anyway. We did some geocaching along the way, and didn't arrive at Goll Woods until 4:00 p.m.
Thirty-two acres of this land was first acquired by the Goll Family in 1834, immigrants from France. Their farm grew to include 600 acres and was owned by the family for five generations. In 1966, the state acquired it from Peter Goll's great-granddaughter and in 1975 the nature preserve was dedicated. The Goll family's pioneer cemetery is contained within the preserve.
We started out on Toadshade Trail, wound our way around the west side of the woods to Cottonwood Trail, Burr Oak Trail and continued in a circle around the perimeter via Tulip Tree Trail. Combined, there are 4.25 miles of trails to be explored.
We could see how each trail received its name, especially Tulip Tree. I don't know when I've ever seen so many of them (Liriodendron tulipifera), or any that had such large leaves! Our little "Mount Vernon" tulip poplar at home has a lot of growing to do before it looks like any of those.
It was rather cool in the shade of heavy canopy there in the woods and all that leaf cover and undergrowth had a muffling effect on any noises. Now and then we'd hear a car go by somewhere, or a plane flying overhead, but other than that, the only sound was of birds calling to each other. We were well aware of the peaceful quiet the woods provided.
I kept my eyes peeled and was constantly scanning the trail, left and right, for anything that interested me and that might be a photo op for remembering our excursion. I found many, but even as I was trying to capture on digital media what I was seeing, I knew that it would pale in comparison to what was really there.
We were walking along and as we rounded a turn, there before us was the most shrieking shade of orange made even more so in contrast to the various shades of green and brown surrounding it. It looked like it just didn't belong.
I presumed it to be a Sulphur Shelf fungus (Laetiporus sulphureus), otherwise known as "Chicken of the Woods." A quick google when we got home confirmed it. You can eat this stuff. And no need to take a bite to know just what it's going to taste like either. Or at least that's what they say. We actually had some of this growing on our old oak tree a couple of summers ago, but it was a bit paler than this. We didn't eat that one either.
Romie and I talked about how humid it was, even though we're somewhat in a state of drought. We can only imagine what it would have been like had we been receiving a normal amount of rainfall all along, and never mind how it must have been for our ancestors who cleared land just like this in order to settle here. I think I would have gone further west, like to Kansas maybe.
There were mosquitoes, to be sure, but as long as we kept moving, they really didn't bother us, and that too was due to the lack of rain. We could see many areas that normally would have been very swampy, but now were merely damp and black with rotted leaves and other organic material.
Several large trees had fallen, which I'd read was due to lightning and wind storms. Seeing a trunk that was three-to-four feet in diameter lying on its side was not uncommon. We saw some pretty large ones standing upright, too! Most of the largest ones were oaks, but there were some tall sycamores and cottonwoods, as well as several types of pines.
It was well past the spring wildflower season, but there was Elderberry (Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis) blooming, along with Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), Swamp Roses (Rosa palustris), and every now and then we'd see a purple Wild Petunia (Ruellia L.). I recognized the foliage of wild ginger, Solomon's Seal, and violets just about everywhere.
Goll Woods is considered to be one of the best spots in the state for observing wildflowers and native shrubs. We observed numerous raspberry thickets and as the berries are just now coming into season for picking and eating, I did. There's nothing better than to snack your way through the woods during berry season! There were other berries we saw (small red ones), but we didn't think it wise to taste test those.
Butterflies flitted along the trail with us, never stopping long enough for me to get an image on the camera, with one exception, just before we made our exit. It was a small white one, and I'm not sure whether it was a butterfly or a moth, although we both suspect it was the former. It let me get in close, but in a dark environment like the woods and the butterfly being stark white, the camera had a very hard time with auto-exposure. I tried different focusing methods and was never able to get a satisfactory (to me) result, but there it is.
To give you an idea of how dense the tree canopy was, there were many times when I couldn't take a photo without a flash and hold the camera still enough. A portable tripod would have come in handy.
We saw just one squirrel, a few chipmunks, two downy woodpeckers, and evidence of deer, but the woods was pretty quiet on this day. It seemed the wildlife were laying low, out of the heat. There wasn't much else to disturb them, as we only saw a few joggers shortly before we left for home.
Goll Woods is a local treasure and we'd like to return in other seasons. Just after a winter snow, the beauty of this place must be breathtaking. And in April and May, when the wildflowers are putting on their show, I want to be there to see it.
The elderberry bushes were in full bloom.
One of the many ferns in Goll Woods
Romie wondered how I saw this, since it was growing low to the ground, and the flower hangs below the leaves. I was looking for things like this the entire time we were there and something orange really stands out!
Pine cones fall where they may...
Lichens were plentiful.
Pine cone mine field
One of the large trees that have been felled by storms
This lily was on the verge of blooming. I'm not certain what it is - perhaps a Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense). We only saw just this one.
I was amazed by this carving from 1968, but at the same time disappointed that the tree had been defaced in this way.
A natural allée
We saw these spikey things throughout the woods. I don't know what they are either, but I was fascinated by them.
EDIT: Identified! They are Hystrix patula - Bottlebrush Grass, a native woodland plant.