In just over a week, September 22, 2022, to be exact, Fall of 2022 will officially begin. Where the heck did the summer go anyway? For some unknown reason it simply seemed shorter than usual this year and, somehow, just slipped away. I suppose part of that is that when you keep busy, time has a way of speeding by, and I reluctantly admit that part of the acceleration of the passage of time is the inevitable fact of growing older. As each of the seasons draws to an end and a new season is about to begin, I enjoy taking a hike, finding a quiet spot in the woods or along a mountain stream, and reflecting on the many wonderful things that I experienced in our great outdoors. This past summer was no exception.
Reflecting back to June, it was very telling to observe from a distance the difference in “leaf-out” of the trees on the hillsides, noting the areas that were sprayed for gypsy moths ( now the “politically correct” term is spongy moths!) and those areas that were not sprayed. For many of those forests that were not properly treated for the infestation, the trees suffered a double whammy as the summer unfolded and a lack of sufficient rains persisted. Those trees struggled to produce a second crop of leaves; thus, those oak trees will not be producing any acorns this fall. One more spring of gypsy moth invasion could be fatal to many of the trees.
Early in June, during a visit from my son, Todd, and his lady friend, Ashley, we witnessed something I have never seen before.
While I have often come across newly or recently-born fawns in May and June, I have never actually watched the birth process. As luck would have it, during mid-day on June 3rd, a single doe slowly eased her way through the taller grasses in the nearby field and stepped into the yard in easy view of the kitchen window. She took a long time approaching, stopping often to scan the area and listen for any approaching danger. She was acting oddly, and just as I began to say, “I think she is going to…” she gave birth to a single fawn before our very eyes! What a neat thing to actually witness. Within a very short few minutes, it was standing, the mother was licking it profusely, and it began taking a few wobbly steps, then instinctively began nursing from the attentive mother. No more than 7 or 8 minutes passed when the mother began to walk across the yard, and the fawn cautiously followed behind her. It was amazing to see just how quickly the newborn developed its balance and sought nourishment from its mother.
In mid-June, my two sons, Todd and Tim, and I joined up to fish for two days in the Florida Keys. It was a trip we had been talking about for several years and finally came to fruition this year. Our first day of fishing focused on fly-fishing for tarpon — and, much to our dismay and frustration, produced no fish! We quickly discovered just how technical and difficult it was to hook into one of these elusive giants, which ranged to well over 100 pounds. But it was an enjoyable day of learning and whet our appetites to return and try again next year. Our second day found us on a charter boat pursuing blackfin tuna and dolphin (mahi-mahi). Success at last, as we hooked and landed our limit of the tuna and caught numerous mahi-mahi that we were able to bring home for some fabulous meals. That evening we took several tuna and mahi-mahi filets to a local restaurant where they cooked our catch in several different ways, presented them to us with local flair, and then shared with us the recipes for their dishes.
As the summer pressed on with a continual lack of rain, small mountain stream trout fishing gave way to habitat improvement work that filled the days of sunshine and pleasant weather. All-in-all, a very satisfying amount of field and woods habitat work was accomplished throughout the summer months, and it was a rewarding feeling to reflect on the work.
As we wrap things up for the summer, I hope you will take time to reflect on what wonders of nature you might have encountered these past few months and lay out a plan for what you hope to accomplish next summer as well.