The Crosscountry Trail in Winter,
with a sweet gum seedpod in the upper left corner.
The Crosscountry Trail traverses open fields, mowed meadows, and mature red oak forests. Pine plantations from the Civilian Conservation Corps days dot the landscape and provide excellent habitat for barred owls. Hiking this trail at dusk may just allow you to see one of these silent, fascinating predators.
Near Armington Pond, the trail runs through a beautiful old field habitat with numerous asters, goldenrods, iron weed, Joe Pye weed, and milk weed. The milk weed in particular is important. Monarch Butterflies feed on milkweed; you may see them here in this field in the late summer, getting ready for their migration to Central America.
This field is also home to woodcock. This game bird is fairly uncommon in northeast Ohio. Its mating ritual includes an otherworldly whirring noise created when the male flies high into the sky and then plummets swiftly back down to Earth. If you are lucky enough to witness this spectacle, you will never forget it.
As you hike through the dry upland forests between Kendall Lake and the field near Armington Pond, you will be in a position to observe a forest in transition. If you look at the dominant overstory trees, you will see that they are mostly red oaks. Now, as you hike along, notice the midlevel canopy species. (For help in identifying trees, check out our winter tree identification pages). Most of the younger trees, saplings and seedlings, are maple, beech and ash. This forest is undergoing natural succession and will become a beech-maple forest some time in the next century.
What other observations can you make about this forest? Think about it as you hike or ski along the Crosscountry Trail.