An adventure and a mysterious vine

Published 9:55 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2017

By Susan and Biff Andrews

At the end of “The Matchmaker” by Thornton Wilder (later made into the musical, “Hello Dolly”), the youngest character, Barnaby, gives the definition of adventure, saying it’s one of those things which — when you’re out having one — makes you wish you were sitting quietly at home, and which — when you’re sitting quietly at home — makes you wish you were out having one.

Recently, we had a “super-vine” adventure.

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It began unwittingly, as most adventures do. We ran into J.R. Ruggiero, the park superintendent at Lone Star Lakes. We asked him about trails in the park we might not have taken.

He suggested we follow the horse/bridle path at the north end of the park — watching for “road apples” — so we did.

Our first walk there was intriguing. He had promised “a fine cedar grove opening out into hardwoods.” That’s exactly what we found.

But our second foray at the north end was even more delightful. Instead of following the horse trail, we went straight on the hiking path at the north end of the park.

Again, it was a lovely arched cedar grove, but about a quarter mile in, we found something we’d never seen before.

Along the fence at the north end and bordering the farmer’s field, we encountered a medium-sized tree covered with small ivy — no big deal — but next to the tree was a vine. A big vine. Not just a big vine, but a huge vine.

A huge vine is not just extra-ordinary, but unbelievably extraordinary.

The base of the vine was 12 to 15 inches thick. That’s far larger than many trees it might climb. At about eight feet in height, it split into about seven vines of 5 to 6 inches each. One of its babies dropped into the dirt and ran next door to the neighboring tree.

So we asked the park super about it. He said, basically, “It’s one of those big vines we get around here,” but even he was impressed by it.

So we called in a friend — a tree and botanical expert — big-tree hunter Byron Carmean, and asked him. He basically said, “It’s one of those big grape vines we get around here.” We’ll try to identify it when it leafs out.

So there it is. On a whim we asked for a new walk, and we’ve wound up with a huge vine we can’t identify. Discovered by accident. An adventure. But the major lesson here is the process, not the product.

First, think of an “adventure,” something new and different — a place you haven’t been, an experience you haven’t lived. Then try and re-try the “new” next route. Keep your eyes open to what’s around you. Ask, seek, question.

Somebody will know what it is, eventually. When the leaves come out. Maybe. We hope.

But what a vine!

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at