Fall is such a beautiful time in the forest. The sun slips in at an angle and lights the leaves on fire. Mushrooms and other fungi dot the forest floor in clumps, like wildflowers in the spring. Because their colour and shape change as they mature and decay, fungi can be difficult to identify. But what names they have! Dead man’s fingers. Cotton candy slime. Gem-studded puffballs. I’m still hoping to see a “destroying angel” one day.
Fall also shows marshes and lowlands in a new light. Last weekend, we paddled kayaks into a marsh we visit often throughout the year. A large number of ducks had begun to gather, in preparation for migrating. Beavers had just built a dam upstream, so the water level was much lower than it normally is. Even our kayaks, which draw almost no water, became stuck on bottom from time to time.
Just a couple of metres from us, a snapping turtle the size of a dinner platter warmed itself in the late afternoon sun. With its head pointing into the reeds and its spiked tail sitting just out of the water, it was the same greenish brown as the mud it rested on. Apparently, snapping turtles can grow to a length of 40–50 cm in Ontario, and can live for over 100 years. We paddled closer. This turtle was indeed close to 40 cm long, and showed no concern whatsoever about two humans drifting slowly past.
But all things come to an end. Later this month, our kayaks will be put away for the winter. The sun will become weaker, the turtle’s metabolism will slow, and it will retreat to the bottom of the marsh until the water warms up again next spring.