Thursday, May 28, 2009

Goshen Creek ~ A Rhododendron Slick

There is a roar to the waters rushing out of these mountains. A thunderous stream of cascading waterfalls that overpower the sounds of all but the elements of nature.

There are very few places left in this county, this state, country, even on this planet ~ very few places left where when we quieten our internal chatter all that can be heard are the sounds of nature.
Goshen Creek is one of those pleasure places.

And as this photo above shows, our MST trail will meander within a few feet to the right of the edge of the river.

There is nothing so lush as the greens of the ferns and the mosses which have colonized every available surface. This is a particularly primeval forest.

John, Chris, Marietta, and Gloria worked on the first clearing of the trail on Sunday May 24. They cut and removed rhododendron and scrub growth.

The trail was survey flagged about a month ago by Allen and Shelton and John. In this photo you can see that the trail meanders with the creekside through the ferns and mosses.
There is very much work to be done, and it is no where near being safe or even ready for hiking. But someday, oh yes, it will be a delightful section to experience.

These waters are cold,
These waters are refreshing
These waters are bubbling, gurgling, surging, and splashing
These waters are flowing, crashing together,
These waters are powerful and these waters they flow through us all.
Long a favorite fishing creek, there are many locations that have been fished for generations. Look closely in the center of the photo above. In his place in his world this fisherman is emerged with the nature of this river.
This river makes the trail through Watauga County a treasure.
I think most people think our section of the trail is a hike on the mountain tops. But, there are moments in the valley, moments by the creeks, that make the Watauga MST unique.

This little video will give you an idea of how intimate the river is to this section of the MST. At times, it is within a couple of feet of the trail.

This is the sounding of waterfall power!

Milepost 276.5 May 23,24 2009

Allen DeHart gives a thumbs up on the progress of the day! This is going to be a sweet stretch of trail he is designing.
Working with a crew of 6 we were above the parkway on a steep slope.
But oh what a sweet cut has been made. You can see in these two photos the curve and the straight away that winds around the ridge.
The foot tread lays level and the ascent is gentle as we worked across the ridge.
Locust log and stone cribbing was used to reinforce the edge of the trail.
Here Allen puts a finishing rake to the cut and level work of the crew.
There is a satisfying sense to the smell of the rich dark earth in these Blue Ridge Mountains.
John moves ahead to the next job to get done. John is our Task force co-ordinator for Watauga County.
Allen holds back and coaches the crew as they demonstrate their work effort.
From knee deep in forest floor ~ to knee deep in the trail grading
~ this section is leveling out to be a beautiful stretch.
And then it was time for lunch~!

Monday, May 25, 2009

May 15 Volunteer work

I found this tree form to be as gracefully animated as a dancer in motion; seeking balance, extending limbs, and remaining still; in position, as the symphony of nature accompanies the dance in harmony with the elements.
I thought that was a beautiful oak and really appreciated the design of the trail that echoes the curve of the tree above in the foot trail below that winds around the behemoth.
On Saturday trail volunteers Ted, John, Shelton, and Gerry worked to develop this curve around the base of the oak tree above. Working in another section on that same day we cut a new trail through a tall pine forest. The new trail avoided a confusing "S" curve that could be eliminated by sweeping the contour wider around the area.
Most of the tall white pines are dead and we did a good bit of chainsaw work that day removing dangerous trees adjacent to or in the trail passageway.
Questions arise regarding why these trees on this hill top are dying off. They seem to be 60-80 years old. Discussion goes to "pine beetles" or forest fire or "acid rain from Ohio Valley industry".

Please leave comment if you have an opinion to share.
But, beneath these dead tall pines there is an abundance of maple, birch, and cherry saplings working their way to define their own canopy and habitat.
All of these hillsides were timbered as the need for wood in the Piedmont reached the mountains. Many at these ridges were cut completed down and left as barren around the beginning of the 20th century leaving them looking much as we see and call clear cutting today. As is true for ecological succession, the next growth of forest species develops.

I find myself pondering if this trail we are building will remain in place as long as the oak tree we worked around. Will the foot treads carry forward an hundred years from now?

Our trails provide access to nature and provide opportunity for developing awareness and conservation values in appreciation and protection of our natural heritage. A walk along a trail gives us moments for contemplation of such notions and for pondering our experience.

Building a trail is a noble effort which provides a pathway for future generations to protect, enjoy, and conserve our natural environment. Take a kid on a trail and see what questions arise. Better yet, take a kid on a trail and teach them how to build a trail! :-)
Thanks to all our trail volunteers in Watauga County!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wildflowers Spotted this Week on Watauga MST

We have around 20 varieties of orchids that grow in the Appalachian mountains. I spotted this beautiful pink lady's slipper in a rich woodlands patch along the MST.What a fine specimen of a truly unique flower form!
Trillium are in abundance now all along the trail. Red, White, and Pink varieties have been spotted. This is a small one, a painted trillium. The red and pink in the center looks to be brush stroked into the throat.The red trillium have large leaves, I am not sure if this is a wake robin or Catesby trillium. I will look that up soon to confirm. Trillium have three leaves, three sepals, three petals ~ hence, Tri-llium.
The native columbines are in full glory along sunny spots near the trail and parkway. This is another unique flower form, it has a crown of four and turns down instead of upward facing.
Cursed as a weed when it appears in your yard, this wildflower caught my eye not in flower form, but in seed head. Found over in Blowing rock in Cone park area on Sunday. I enjoy the shadow beneath the seed head. There is beauty to be found. Always remember," one person's weed is another persons wildflower!"
Hope enjoyed the flower pics. I will try to keep you posted on the current bloomers along the Mountains to Sea Trail through Watauga County!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

May 10 Moving on South

Chris and Marietta have been working as a couples team on the west side of the parkway near MP278.6. Like forest elves, they come in and do their good work and move on. On to the progress ~

You may recall this photo from the April posting.
Click here
They begun the work at this point at the bottom of the ridge near the road.
Today they picked up at the top of the ridge (see line ;) and continued up and over to the traverse.
A good cut was made and the trail is extended another 200 feet.
Also a number of safety flagged dead trees, limbs, and other hazards were removed. Thanks Chris and Marietta and all the volunteers who are moving the MST forward, step by step, inch by inch southward! One of these days I'm going to get a photo of those elusive woodlands elfin!

Dogwoods Habitat on the MST

May brings Dogwoods to this part of the trail. They have bloomed out downstate but we are in the peak the first week of May.

There are not very many large habitats of dogwoods left in our part of the high country. Most have been destroyed by encroaching development and blight.
However, there is a magnificent stand of ancient dogwoods on the south east facing side of the BRP near MP 282.
Walking a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail I stopped in the early morning to capture this beautiful light and form.
The sun was still low in the eastern sky. A warm morning light down low put a glow on the blossoms a clear blue sky up higher cooled the air.
Elk Valley emerges below from the morning fog in this view from the crest of the blue ridge.

~ enjoy ~ wildflower season is blossoming!

Click here for more photos
Dogwoods along MST on BRP

The First 10 days of May

These first two weekends in May have brought good rains and soft trail work. It is refreshing to have soft fresh earth to work on after the rains.
These two Saturdays have also brought out some new volunteers! Ashley and Craig joined us May 2nd to work near BRP MP 278. Thanks and come back again soon!
John (above), Shelton, Ashley and Craig worked to eliminate a stretch of sloped trail.
On Saturday the 9th a new volunteer came out to help. Gary was on the crew for the first time. He walked the full 16 miles of our trail in sections with Shelton back when it was barely pink survey flagged. Now seeing the progress we have made Gary comments, "this is going to be a fantastic trail someday".
I think it is well on the way to being just that! Here Gary and Shelton make progress cutting in a curve.
In May thus far we have appreciated our volunteers Marietta, Chris, John, Shelton, Ashley, Craig, Gary, Gerry, and Gloria. THANKS!
Hope to see you next Saturday, May 16. Meet as always at the Deep Gap Post office between the mini warehouses at 8:30 am. Or at any time later you can look for the orange MST WORK sign on the Blue Ridge Parkway and enter the trail at the orange cone.