Willard Brook in Townsend

This afternoon I took a short walk along a nice local trail. It starts just below Damon Pond at the Willard Brook State Forest in Townsend, Mass., and follows the brook downstream for about a mile. Several short spur trails connect to other trails that run along the ridge above the brook, making for a nice loop back to the parking area.

At this time of year the brook has usually dried up to a trickle, but with all the rain we’ve had the brook is swollen and fast-moving. The woods are littered with fallen trees and branches from the storm two weeks ago, but nothing was blocking the trails I was on.

Looking around, there were the marks of many other similar events, including a big old, moss-covered hickory log that probably fell twenty or more years ago, and was still intact.

Down by the brook, the air is cool, and eastern hemlocks are the predominant tree. When I climbed up the ridge a short way, I noticed something curious. The air was noticeably warmer, and the predominant tree on one side of the trail was white pine, while on the other it was mostly black oak, with relatively few hemlocks.

It was a good example of how just a few degrees difference over a relatively short distance can change the whole mix of vegetation.

The white pine were all about the same age, and there were almost no other types of trees, which would indicate that area was a clearing 40-50 years ago, maybe the result of logging or a forest fire.