On our first trip out of the neighborhood after liberating the car from the snowpacked driveway on Saturday, Sasso and I ventured out to Carolina North Forest for a brisk and slippery morning
Carolina North Forest is owned and operated by UNC Chapel Hill and is right in the middle of Chapel Hill (okay, north of downtown and the main UNC campus), but feels remote. Carolina North’s impressive array of hiking trails double as single-track mountain biking trails, complete with bike bridges and slanted boardwalks to make the turns easier. It’d be enough to get me to take up mountain biking . . . if I didn’t have a dog to walk.
That dog and I parked by Seawell Elementary School and explored the icy, snowy trails of the western half of Carolina North.
You can see a better map here.
Did I mention it feels remote? A little wild even?
Yeah. We saw that big ol’ bird of prey on the dirt road about 200 feet into the forest. Hanging out on a branch by the road, chomping on the remnants of some critter or other, visibly unconcerned about me and my pet predator until we got unnervingly close (unnerving for me, perhaps not for him).
When I moved to the East Coast in 2003, my parents sent with me their copy of the Audubon Society Nature Guides to Eastern Forests (copyright 1987!). I held onto the book while I lived in Ithaca and DC and first cracked it open when we moved to North Carolina and bought a house with front-row seating on the forest.
Based on that book, I can say with only a tiny bit of authority that I think that bird is a Cooper’s Hawk. (Any thoughts? Mom? Nate? Aunt Sarah?) Which it turns out like cities almost as much as forests. So much for my claims of taking a walk in the wilderness.
Sasso and I moved on past the bird’s now-vacant branch, Sasso trotting with tail wagging happily, me shuffling along slowly to avoid wiping out. The snow had melted slightly and refrozen, making the trails treacherous and the usually stunning forest a little grungy.
But the details were striking, like the patterns in these ice puddles.
And of course I’m pretty fond this “detail” I brought with me: