Ecosystem Explorers Traverse HCT’s Cold Brook Preserve

Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Outreach and Administrative Coordinator Halley Steinmetz

August 1, 2022

The morning’s much needed drizzle of rain paused for our gathering of Ecosystem Explorers on the first day of August. Temperatures neared 80 degrees with an incredible blue sky, beautiful, abundant cloud formations, and a welcome gentle breeze blowing from the South.

Ten Explorers with their Nanas, Grandpas, Dads, and Mamas met for a shared adventure at HCT’s Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve in the heart of Harwich Port. Bird songs filled the air creating a peaceful soundtrack and there is an abundance of blooming blossoms in various shades of pink, purple, white, and yellow with busy bees working to pollinate.

As our curious Explorers started down the trail, we were gifted with a wealth of sun-ripened black raspberries for a nature snack! They had sweet, tangy, sour, and sometimes bitter tastes, and we commented on the gritty, grainy texture of the seeds.

Next, I shared some details about the mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds that live in or visit the Preserve such as coyotes, deer, otters, foxes, box turtles, frogs, birds of prey, and songbirds. The trail was lined with incredible flowers, including fragrant blooming buttonbush. Each Explorer and caregiver paused to inhale the sweet scent and describe what it reminded them of.

We rambled toward Cold Brook and took a peek down a hill toward the slow-moving water. Along the slope, the yellow-orange orchid-like flower of jewelweed was spotted. We also saw poison ivy, which we practiced identifying and learned not to touch.

Down the trail a bit further, we came to a bench and sat cozy with our families to learn some facts about the elusive river otter and white-tailed deer. Curious and inquisitive Explorers studied a deer skull I had brought along and shared excellent comments and questions as they took turns gently holding the skull.

I read Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari with assistance from my older Explorers, who took turns reading aloud some fun facts to the group. To supplement our reading and learning, I played an audio clip that I had recorded just over a week ago of coyotes howling, yipping, and yelping just outside my bedroom window.

Up ahead, there was some shade along the path to settle under for our art project. Each Explorer took turns using stamps with images and tracks of a fox, squirrel, rabbit, frog, deer, hawk, mouse, and owl to make impressions in homemade play dough. Each friend brought home awesome and unique designs with these critter and track prints.

We continued along on our wonder wander and focused again on our sense of smell while sniffing the leaves of bayberry, wintergreen, and the white blooming fragrant flowers of the sweet pepper bushes growing at the Preserve. We admired the sweet joe pie weed and watched a gold-brown dragonfly and a red dragonfly flit about along the trail’s edge.

What an absolutely wonderful way to start the morning in the company of curious youngsters and their families learning, sharing, and admiring the beauty found along the way. May the rest of your August continue to be filled with moments as sweet as the fragrance of buttonbush and sweet pepper bush flowers and as happy as your children’s precious smiling faces. Thank you for sharing your morning with me.  

Happy Exploring,
Miss Andrea