April 18th, 2018
It is another dismal grey day, the odd speckle of rain strikes my glasses, leaving the tiniest of water droplets on my lens. It is not enough to deter me, but enough that I keep my camera stuffed inside my zipped-up raincoat over top my puffy jacket, over top my fleece. Did I mention it is still cold?
Mounds of granular waist-high snow, black with street dirt, rim the parking lot. The landscape looks just defeated, covered with last season’s leaf litter; trees naked, without so much as a hopeful bud. What my mind’s eye remembers from last summer is not in agreement with what I am looking at. This could be harder to sell than I thought. I’ll start with the entrance sign and move inward.
I head up the first access path to the arboretum, hoping for inspiration from the trees. I remember there are plaques marking all the native trees of New Brunswick here. Odell Park has one of the finest old-growth forests in eastern Canada and many of the trees are more than 400 years old.
I have chosen a bad path to follow. The melted snow has left a a slurry of ice. I penguin -walk across to the first plaque. It seems water-logged and is virtually unreadable. I can make out Large-tooth Aspen. The identification lists information about this species of tree – height, stem, bark, crown, leaves and bud. Every tree around me looks the same, straight trunk with scraggly limbs. This won’t do, I say to myself, and exit the path.
The map of the park has winter access and summer access marked. Below the map are plexiglass pockets filled with lost and found mittens, gloves, hats and a single tiny snowshoe. Up the hill is the duck pond, still frozen over. I leave the pond and trek up the middle path toward the washrooms.
I meet a man with an orange vest. He doesn’t greet me, just says, “The toilets are gone.”
“What?” I wrench out my answer as if it is the craziest thing I have ever heard.
He reconsiders what he said.
“Oh, I mean we are re-tiling the floor, the toilets have been taken out till we are finished.” I walk away shaking my head.
Beside the building a stand of decorative cedar is twisted and bent. I walk between their wiggly trucks. It is like a funhouse of limbs, and it makes me smile as I exit the far side.
I hear water gurgling and I am drawn to it. A small flowing stream trickles between its banks over rocks and fallen limbs. I squat down and reach into the cold water to grab a plastic bag hung up on a rock and deposit it in a garbage bin.
I head further into the woods, even though the trail is snow-covered. The young balsam fir trees shine with green shoots and their colour tells me there is life emerging.
The decaying snow is littered with cones, needles, twigs and seed pods that were shed from their parent trees, all of which are useful forage for squirrels, chipmunks, mice and birds.
I follow the main trail back down the hill. I stop to listen to the chirps and tweets of birds, the clucking of squirrels. I also hear a low murmur of voices behind me.
Usually I am friendly to those I meet while I am out hiking, but at this moment I am annoyed. I had the whole old-growth acadian forest to myself and I am resentful of the intrusion by these two young people chatting, away disturbing my peace. I stop and they pass me as if I am invisible. I wait a few moments before looking their way again and on cue they reach out for each other’s hand, totally absorbed in the other’s company. Ah spring love. My annoyance melts away.
At the top of the park is the botanical garden. Obviously not worth seeing today, but all summer and late into the fall you can see gardens fill with colourful flowers. (Photos from September 2017)
Also in the botanical garden is a sculpture called Roda, handcrafted by James Boyd from Hampton, New Brunswick. Please read Humanity Found in Hampton, NB and It All Started With Love to find out more on Hampton and sculputures by James Boyd.
Just as I am leaving, I spot a single white pine off in the distance, its many limbs dividing off the main trunk. It is very impressive and I have to get a photo of it. I tiptoe through the saturated ground, my shoes are wet and socks are soaked. As I get closer I think, this tree is enormous. The one limb that has been trimmed off would be the size of a normal tree trunk. I look around to find something to balance my camera so I can get a photo of myself beside it for scale, but nothing is available. You will have to trust me when I say it is a very large old tree.
Down the bank I side-step around snarled roots of a tree that appears to be crawling away, reaching out to the field. Years of erosion and foot traffic have laid the roots bare but the tree is tall and proud and makes a grand feature photo. Odell Park is not all about the trees, but they sure know how to capture your attention.
Please join me on my next instalment of city parks.
If you missed the first three here are the links:
Until next time cheers and happy travels from Maritime Mmac.
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