I like state forests. They're managed and therefore healthier for wildlife than most state parks, land trust properties, and even some exclusive "Wildlife Habitats" maintained by groups like Audubon (the ones where I can't go with my dog). A hands-off approach in a suburban forest, which some well-meaning people equate with being natural and therefore better, typically leads to low biodiversity and all sorts of problems for our plants and wildlife. I wish people would get that.
There is, of course, deer hunting, and while I don't much care for hiking while armed men are hiding in the trees, I do like seeing the results: food and shelter for wildlife. State forests are also logged, which creates these open brushy areas (above) filled with lots and lots food and shelter.
These numbered trees for a forest study are another sign of a managed forest. Lots of saplings were shading out the forest floor, but Sarsaparilla thrived.
Bristly Aster was growing along the gravel road. I associate this plant with the ridges of Sleeping Giant State Park, where it grows rather magically in bare rock.
After finding the letterbox, we walked further down the gravel road and came upon a pond held back by this berm covered in goldenrod.
The pond was mostly lily pads. Didn't see any sign of fish, but there were lots and lots of frogs.
The Many-flowered Asters were just opening up. These are pretty common. They're also called Heath Asters because their leaves look like needles, as do many heath plants. But there is another aster also called Heath Aster, so that can be confusing. Note how each little stem coming off of the main stem is just covered in a line of flower buds. That's very distinctive for the asters.
This tree growing right in the water is a Black Gum or Tupelo tree. I prefer to call it a Tupelo, and that dredges up a Van Morrison song in my mind every time I see it (the older folks will know what I'm talking about). It doesn't look terribly healthy with its leaves already turning red.
We enjoyed our quiet little walk. No other hikers or bikers, although we did note some ATV tracks (not legal). There aren't any trail maps that I know of.