Winter in our State Parks, by Rebecca Roy
I saw a red fox hunting mice in a snowy field in Allis State Park recently. I was out for a trail run in the snowy woods, and popped out into a meadow area. I caught the fox by surprise; it hid behind some winter weeds, and then made a mad dash for nearby woods.
Later, at a tracking workshop, I learned that red foxes not only use their keen sense of hearing to hunt for mice underneath the surface of the snow, but they also use Earth’s magnetic field to increase the accuracy of their pounces on prey. When foxes pounce in the Northeastern direction, they are successful in catching a mouse 73% of the time. In other directions the success rate is 18%. It was very exciting to see that red fox, and even more interesting to learn more about them soon afterwards.
(Here are the details on that interesting research: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2011/01/11/foxes-use-the-earths-magnetic-field-as-a-targeting-system/#.VrIns9IrLcs )
This was an adventure of learning and exploration sparked by an experience in a state park, and you can enjoy the same inspiration and curiosity by visiting your favorite state park in the winter too. Seeing that fox was made even more meaningful because foxes are the favorite animal of my four year old daughter, Alice.
Speaking of Alice, winter trips to parks are made even more meaningful by sharing them with her. This week we went to Boulder Beach State Park in Groton, and enjoyed all the things we love doing there in summer. We had a picnic, explored the playground equipment, played on the beach, and went sliding off the boulders. Okay, we do not usually bring a snow sled during the summer, and we normally pack swimsuits instead of snowsuits, but winter visits to state parks are just as fun, and even more special when the gates are closed.
We found extra secret spots that I never experienced in summer months, and we pretended to be explorers in the empty park. Besides the maintenance technicians working on improvements to the bathhouse, we were the only ones there that day. It felt like a secret treasure, a beautiful place all to us. If you are looking for midwinter inspiration, or your own grand adventure, bring a friend or relative to your favorite state park.