Week of January 7, 2024 – January 13, 2024

staff member Anna Stunkel Environmental Educator

by Anna Stunkel, Environmental Educator

When I think of my favorite areas of Baltimore Woods, there are so many special places. From the bubbly waters of Boulder Brook to the fragile fens teeming with rare and unusual plants, this preserve is filled with diverse and beautiful spots. Thanks to the variety of places here, visitors can enjoy many different programs and activities to deepen their connection with nature.

One of my very favorite areas is new to the preserve as of April 2022– the old gravel mine that is across from the north field. This place is especially exciting because the habitat is so different from other parts of Baltimore Woods. It is a huge open space, with scattered trees and shrubs along with small pools and wetlands. Mining has happened here since before 1939, and it has gradually been returning to a more natural state since the 1990s.

Earlier last week, our staff gathered to hike parts of what will become a brand-new trail that meanders around the old gravel mine, which will be open to the public later in 2024. There is a quiet, wilderness-like feeling along the trail since the mine created a small valley that seems somewhat secluded. This will provide opportunities for people to pause and enjoy the expansive views. Along our hike, we saw distant deer and observed sparrows and juncos fluttering along the ridge.

In my adventures around the gravel mine, it’s been special to watch the changing seasons. There are often beautiful patterns in the ice here, such as wavy bubbles and crystalline formations on dried wildflowers. In spring, the voices of peepers and toads echo through the night and predacious diving beetles become more active zooming around puddles. A fine vibrant green mist of new leaves and flowers will grow in the treetops. In summer, Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks circle high overhead on thermals and orb weaver spiders create their webs. And as the fall returns, well-camouflaged sparrows take refuge among the asters. These happenings in the area have so far been enjoyed by staff, volunteers, and program participants, and we are very excited to share them with the general public.

Soon, we’ll be sharing more updates about when new trails are opening in the gravel mine and across the newest 90 acres of the preserve. In the meantime, we would love to hear from you about ways you might want to connect with new spaces at Baltimore Woods as we plan out trails, and you can email us at [email protected] to share your thoughts.