Ephemeral Ponds and Evidence of Settlers

The west side of this path offers a glimpse into the past. Evidence of a settlers’ cabin, built in the 1830s and later abandoned, exists in the form of a rather large hole that may have been used as a root cellar for winter storage of fruits, vegetables and grain. The black locust trees initially planted by settlers were prized for their rot-resistant hardwood to be used as fence posts. Unfortunately, they are an invasive species which push out other native hardwood trees. Volunteers of the Friends of Lapham Peak, such as Mike Fort, have attempted to remove them through a process called girdling. This process whereby a groove is cut around the tree keeps the cambium (or living layer) from being able to transport carbohydrates to the roots and can be seen in the trees and in the pictures below. 

An ephemeral pond across the way fills with snowmelt and rainwater in the spring but tends to dry up some in the heat of summer. This pond probably functioned as a water supply for grazing cattle. A variety of critters can be found in this area. Woodpeckers and wood ducks can be seen and heard throughout the year. Listen for spring peepers as the weather begins to warm up and watch for turtles sunning themselves on trees that have fallen into the pond. Salamanders and skinks are sometimes found underneath rotting trees around the pond. Ephemeral ponds are important ecosystems for these creatures. There are no fish in these ponds, so no predators for eggs and tadpoles. Be very careful to replace those trees if you lift them up so as not to disturb the insects and other creatures that live there.

If you venture towards the pond, be sure to watch for poison ivy and stinging nettles (see photos below.)