Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Great Black Swamp

*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.

Many dead trees had holes in them, which we assume had initially been caused by woodpeckers, but large ants had taken up residence and were doing their part to help decompose the wood and enrich the woodland floor.

This was one of the largest trees we saw.

The elderberry bushes were in full bloom.

One of the many ferns in Goll Woods


Zig-zag bark

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.

More fungi

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.

*Information about Goll Woods taken from The Columbus Dispatch and Ohio DNR.


Jared said...

What a fun little day trip! I'm jealous that you got to go geocaching. It's been WAAAYYY too hot out here to do much of anything outside other than jump in a pool! Cool photo of the "Chicken of the Woods." Don't think I would have eaten it either though.


Jane O' said...

What a nice blog. Great pictures.
I was in the process of leaving a comment when a BIG thunder and lightening shut down the computer. I'm typing fast to avoid it happening again. We need the rain badly.
I plan to stop by again when I can stay longer :)

Muum said...

enjoyed your pics of the woods! Sounds like a great place

Naturegirl said...

I believe that your where in the enchanted forest where faeries
play hide and seek! This is your ~answer~ to the question you asked of me on my ~Faerie post!~
Loved this tour thank you for posting!Nature's miracles in all its splendor!! hugs NG

Jean said...

What a great post! I felt like I was on the walk with you (without sweating ot getting tired, of course). Thanks for all the beautiful photos!

Earth Girl said...

Are you sure you didn't photoshop that tulip poplar leaf? I've never seen one so big.

Kylee Baumle said...

earth girl, that's what a little moisture in the soil will do for ya! LOL!

Still waiting for rain here...

kate said...

What a lovely day you had - I love coming to your blog since the pictures are always spectacular. Reading about Goll Woods was fascinating - it is hard to imagine how tough it must have been for the early settlers.

I'm hoping you receive some good rain soon!

Unknown said...

OOOOOhhhhh... Kylee, thanks for letting me know about this post. I now have the urge to go back home and take a walk through Goll myself. Lovely pictures--I can't believe how big that tree is!

David (Snappy) said...

Kylee, That is a lovely looking place to Visit.I asked Blackswamp girl about the Black Swamp and she said revisit your post.I read it before, but it gets better with a second reading.I love your photos of the Chicken tasting fungus, a lilly nearly in Bloom, and the ants on a tree.
I hope you go back there and take more photos.I will visit one day im sure :)

Anonymous said...

I have been to Golls many times. After the leaves fall it a much improved veiw. With the lack of greenery, your sight depth increases. co. rd. f is a great view from your car down to the Tiffin river, its not the same when its all green and brushy.
I live in the belly of what was T.G.B.S. I have looked at maps and do not see how goll could be in those borders. But they claim it is the last remaining piece of it.
The trees are impressive, they go up so high befor the first limb. They make you feel very small, imagin taking an ax to that white oak you were leaning on. In the 1800s it was done day in an day out,until the land was cleared.It took 5to 6 years of sitting,befor the stumps could be blown from there earthly bond. They would burn the trees and take the ashes to town an get 15 cents a wagon load,lie was made from this ash.
Sycamores in Ohio were huge there are tails of them being 30' across and 200' tall,yes thats 80'+ around. WOW .. what I dont understand is why it all had to be distroyed just why?

Kylee Baumle said...

I'm sure Goll's is gorgeous right now, with the new layer of snow we've gotten. I'd like to see it in all seasons, so maybe a trip is in order! I can't imagine how hard the work must have been to clear this land out and make it inhabitable.

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