Cowassoc Woods and Ashland Town Forest
“The most important thing I learned came from a native elder of Cherokee descent, Stan Rushworth, who reminded me of the difference between the western settler mentality of “I have rights” and the native mentality of “I have obligations.” Instead of thinking that I was born with rights, I choose to think that I was born with obligations to serve past, present and future generations, and the planet itself.
—Etv and Farooq Chuhan
In preparation for the next Finley adventure, I joined the Sudbury Valley Trustees’ guided meanders through some of the many trails in Cowassoc Woods and Ashland Municipal Forest. I thought this was a great way to celebrate Earth Day 22. A partnership had been formed between SVT and the Town of Ashland to protect and preserve Cowassoc Woods and the nearby Ashland Town Forest, forming an area of 700 acres. I was thrilled to see the debut of The Forest Health Audio Tour, created by SVT. Facing each QR code mounted on a wooden pole, a narrator provides interesting information about the forest and its inhabitants.
I couldn’t wait to bring Finley to these woods for his late Earth Day frolic!
Immediately, he began running through an area known as “Invasive Alley”. Invasive plants are non-native, aggressive plants that grow faster than native species and are far less nutritious to wildlife. I’ve seen stands of the horrible shiny buckthorn and Asian bittersweet vines climbing and strangling the trees. Invasive species thrive where the forest has been cleared or, at the very least, disturbed.
Finley and I passed a few standing dead trees (snags) which on the plus side provide habitat for birds, bats and other wildlife. We saw tits fly out of a cavity in one of the snags in our own backyard. Many birds build nests in these protected cavities.
We stopped to listen to the loud pecking of a Pileated Woodpecker on a Great Snag, looking for carpenter ants to eat. These unmistakable sounds never fail to grab our attention. Measuring 18 inches in length, the pileated woodpecker is the third largest living species of woodpecker in the world.
Finley and I crossed the bridge over the seething Cowassoc Brook. A large clump of marsh marigolds (bright yellow) stood in the wetland, a perfect visual clump for our walk.
From the snags in the woods to an abandoned 1950s early 60s car in the woods…
“It must have been a party,” I thought. Finley rushed to investigate the rusting vehicle; he didn’t stop to greet the man who put his hand in it, taking numerous photos from inside the car.
“How come?” I asked. His wife loves old cars but couldn’t be with him today.
“This car is a passion project,” he intoned.
“I think she’s way beyond that,” I replied.
Fin and I left the corroded car behind and came across another anomaly, this time a fire hydrant about 40 feet up the path. We headed there. Rob St. Germain, yesterday’s co-group leader and SVT steward of these woods, told the group about a 35-acre development to be built here where Finley and I are currently located. But the developers were unable to move forward with their project due to SVT’s efforts to protect and preserve the land.
“At least we’ll have water in case of a forest fire!” said Rob.
Needless to say, invasive species were also evident here.
I did not mention that families fleeing the horror of the Salem witch trials of 1692-1693 sought refuge in this desert; they lived in collapsed caves in the forest of Ashland Town.
Just before leaving the woods, I told Finley that we would definitely explore these caves when we got back.
Finley wagged his tail, looked at me and smiled….