Sunday, February 26, 2006

A beaver gets busy

After so many hikes, in and out, the beaver pond is the reason I still enjoy the Zealand Trail. I love the way the trail changes--winding around the ponds, through birches and over bridges. I think it best in new snow just as the sun peeks over the ridge and this week, in the early morning snow, I met a new obstacle, a delightful surprise.

December 27, on my very first hike into Zealand as caretaker, I was new and nervous, filling my head with expectations for the new position, bold projects I would, in three months time, accomplish. Rounding the curve after Z-bridge, I met the signs of a beaver, and was reminded that I was no longer in Houston. He had gnawed a 12 -inch patch into a tree of even greater diameter. Did he really think he would fell it, and if so, how would he put it to use?

Hiking out, a week later, I noticed more signs, as he'd begun a number of new projects (and I had yet to begin any of mine). He'd scoped out a few trees more proportional to the one felled by the beaver in Lady and the Tramp, and I marveled at how he'd move the trees without the Tramp's converted muzzle. They were on the uphill side of the trail, a good ways from the water.

Fellow hikers have helped charting his progress, and I've thought of taking bets on which tree he'll fell first. One group of visitors in January spotted him swimming lazy circles in an ice hole in the middle of the pond. Another lucky pair must have startled him at work. No sooner had they noticed his ambitious projects, than they saw the go-getter crouching below near the water. I've not been so lucky, but the stories have made me take time to look up from my commute in the hopes of seeing my erstwhile companion.

This week, coming upon what I now think of as his section of trail, I eagerly looked up and about. It was a good thing, too, because even though I didn't see beaver, I was just in time to stop before an enormous birch, thigh height, blocking my path. He fell first a birch, more than a foot in diameter, uphill from the trail. He's well on his way in Phase I of construction, and how far have I come in my novice ambitions?

This week in books:

The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth
Persepolis: The story of a childhood, by Marjane Satrapi
The Sot Weed Factor, by John Barth
Prodigal Summer, by Barabara Kingsolver
The New Transit Town; Best Practices in Transit-Oriented Development, edited by Hank Dittmar and Gloria Ohland

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