Vernal Pools at Muscoot

Our spring break has been pretty soggy as we’ve had two solid days of cold rain and drizzle thus far. Thankfully we were greeted by some drier weather this morning for our Wacky Wednesday vacation hike to visit the vernal pools at Muscoot Farm–and the days of rain left us with lots of mud and puddles in which to splooge and splash. In fact, the farm’s ducks were treated to a little pond as their barnyard play area was so flooded they were swimming in it instead!

After spending some time visiting with Muscoot’s chickens and goats, our ample group made it’s way along the farm road, past the sheep and up the hill toward the 7-miles of trails on the property. Our destination today–three of the farms’ vernal pools where we would spend some time exploring.

As I described in last year’s trip report, vernal pools are bodies of water which are fed primarily through melting snows, rains, and overflow from nearby wetlands. There is no stream or creek bringing them water and, subsequently, they dry up with the summer heat. Because of their relatively brief existence, fish cannot survive in vernal pools making them ideal, preadator-free breeding grounds for our amphibious friends, namely frogs and salamanders. We visited Muscoot’s pools last spring as well.
The recent rains left the trails overflowing with water and the pools were sure to be brimming as well. Little rivers flowed down trail and the kids found delight in walking “upstream” into the woods. Everyone came prepared in good, high boots leaving them free to wade and jump with abandon.

The hike to the pools is a gradual uphill walk of less than a mile. Upon arrival we joined as a group to talk about some of the creatures we might see up there and how to treat them should we spot any. I encouraged the kids to gently roll aside logs and rocks along the forest floor to find salamanders, to rustle carefully among the leaves for tiny spring peepers and to look closely along the pools’ edges for egg clusters. The pictures will speak for themselves about our discoveries. This hike is sure to become an annual favorite for Kids Unplugged.

Many thanks to Barbara Allendorf for today’s fantastic photos!

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