Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Walk Along the Wildflower Fence

This section of the Watauga MST is often missed. The entrance is precisely at the end post in this photo.
The next photo shows the same access point from the meadow side.
Yep, there I am pointing out the obvious ??? ;-)
When you look south along the fence line it is obvious what a beautiful wildflower fence this has become. I counted about a two dozen different varieties of plants in bloom on the day I was walking.
One of my favorites is Goldenrod, Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’. We have about 6 different varieties in these mountains.
Many people scorn it as a plant that has pollen which sets off allergies. But, it is not one of the strongest allergens that bloom this time of year, so blame may be inappropriately placed upon this beautiful golden cascading blossom.
The fence line provides a butterfly habitat that is amazingly perfect. The variety of tall and late blooming flora attract hundreds of flutterbys every day. Here goldenrod and ironweed are hosting a swallowtail.
The ironweed (Vernonia altissima) is the prettiest of the purple hued blossoms. It is richly blue-violet with accents of red.
I caught this fellow hovering above the ironweed. Isn't this a phun photo? :-)
Joe Pye Bloom (Eupatorium maculatum), stands tallest of all the summer bloomers. I have seen 16 foot tall plants with blossoms the size of basketballs. It's common name is Joe Pye Weed. But I think any plant this glorious should not be called a weed. So I call it Joe Pye Bloom.
The butterflies love it and seem to work it constantly. I seldom see any blossom without a butterfly attached.
Or sometimes several!
This vine is one of our native clematis and has white blossoms early in summer. It is known as Virgin's-bower (Clematis virginiana). It fills in at ground level and up the fence posts.
You will notice the fascinating swirl of the blossom which creates a puff of complexity.
Even the thistle is a joy along this fence line. Attracting butterflies and blooming the prettiest of pinks.
Like the goldenrod, thistle is often disparaged for its thorns. But the blossom is a treasure and a contrast in beauty, like a rose with thorns, it only makes the blossom more desirable. And along this fence line is a perfect habitat and location for enjoying the beauty.
And of course there is the added gift of the thistle seeds as they take wing on the wind and delight us with a sense of flight. I have seen a breeze stir across this meadow and a trail of thistle blossoms weave across the trail.
Another vine that is a beauty and found along this fence line is morning glory. This pretty and simple pink and white blossom blooms but for the day. The vine refreshes itself every morning in glory.
From the south end looking north this length of trail is a beautiful sight. When groomed by the leasers and in full summer bloom this meadow is a wildflower delight.
I hope it is never weed-whacked or groomed all along the fence line. It is truly a wildflower and butterfly habitat.
I am reminded of my favorite notion about wildflowers as I ponder this stretch of noxious weeds, rambling vines, and thickets of flora.
Always remember,
"one man's weeds are another man's wildflowers!" :-)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

~ ~WARNING ~ ~ SNAKE ~ ~ ~~~~~~~~~~~ Don't Look!

We were working on Section 5. There was a dirt mound adjacent to a very old tree fall. As we began to cut into the dirt mound (you can see our cut) we disturbed someone from their resting habitat beneath the mossy log.
What is Callie Looking At??
This serpentine beauty moved up to the highest point on the stump
to see what all of the chopping and raking was about on the ground.
He took up a perch and settled in to watch us work.
For all of our time spent digging and even chainsaw cutting the stump.

Notice the red dirt on his head, we rustled him out of the ground with our digging.He just set there watching.
What a beauty, blue or black? This shot shows where the real name for this black snake comes from. "Eastern Blue Racer" or
Coluber constrictor constrictor.
I was intrigued by the way she had looped into a coil and stepped up to photograph. You can see my boot in the top right corner of the photo.
I think this is an archetypal image. The masculine and feminine forms.
Adam and Eve in one.
Some thing to ponder in the beauty of NATURE.

08-08-09 On the trail, sweet rest, and volunteer efforts

I was happy to have my favorite trail companion with me for this walk about. Callie is my daughters dog and is the best trail dog ever! A reminder, dogs on the parkway trails are permitted only if leashed and under command at all times. This photo was taken at the top of Section 2 on the north end, east side of the parkway. At the top is the perfect resting place, try to make it to there on the walk through, as Callie shows, its the place to rest your dogs.... (see below for where to rest your tired dogs (feet) ;-)
So me and my shadow, my doggie and me, began the ascent from the north to the south on Section two. Light and shadow will always catch my eye and on this day it was a real treat to watch.
No, my head is not really that big, it is the shadow of my brimmed trail hat while I was taking a photo!
I thought this was a precise and clean cut edge. It looks so simple, but there were many stones to be dug out of this stretch.
Some of which had been left in this switchback. Finally they were removed
and this nice tight step less turnaround was accomplished in the second switchback.
The trail progress through a really huge fern forest.
Making a gentle climbing curve through ferns that are knee deep.
And above and below trail for the entire hillside.
This is an example of one of the stones that had to be dug out of the trail. Only the top portion, just above the white strike mark in the center was sticking up out of the dirt. At first it had been left as a step up. But we decided it needed to come out and first tried to break it with a sledge hammer (making the strike marks). That did not work and eventually after digging clear, a long enough lever was found and used to move this massive boulder to the trail side.
Maneuvered into position below trail with a little effort (a fulcrum and lots of leverage) I was able to create a sitting stone!
To give you scale, here Callie sits upon the sitting stone on the edge of the fern forest.
Upon reaching the top you will step out into a pine forest. The open flat top is a relief to the hiker and an invitation to enjoy the quiet of the mountain top.
I think a pine forest is one of the most peaceful places. The straw on the ground seems to damper all sound so that the quiet is noticeable different. Here Callie sniffs out an animal scent. There are obvious deer trails and night beddings on this flat top. I have often watched their white tails bounding as I stepped into their domain up there.
This locust log bench seemed to fit in this space perfectly. I chose this spot based on first photo in this posting. Perhaps I should say Callie dog chose this spot! There were several possibilities. From the bench I wanted to be able to see out in all directions, to be close to the fern patch, and to be at trail side.
Callie walked with me around the top and settled down in this spot to dog rest.
So that is how I decided where to build the bench. Hope you agree with our choice when you find this sanctuary.
Our volunteers came in on Saturday and begun to finish up the last 100 yards. This descent has a nice serpentine curve.
Helping to complete this section were Barry, Gloria, Marietta, and our newest volunteer, Steve. Thanks for coming out and helping us finish up a beautiful section of our Watauga MST. We appreciate all our volunteers!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wildcat Road August 6 2009

At the end of section three there is an old farm road in the forest. We follow that out and cross over Wildcat Road.
As you step out, you will see on the right Bill Stewart's fabulous wood pile.
Now that is a wood pile to take pride in!
After crossing Wildcat Road you will descend onto a private drive that has an easement right of way within the Parkway boundary. It well landscaped with hosta, perennials, and shrubbery by the homeowners. This unusual arrangement IS on Parkway property, so you are ok to cross and utilize the driveway for accessing the MST.
About 30 feet down the drive you will spot the trail head on your right. Callie dog saw it right away!
The first descent is a gentle "S" curve through a forest fern patch.
The cut edge on this trail is sharp and true!
As you descend there is a beautiful washout (oxymoron?) that is covered on all sides and above in forest ferns.
On the South end the ascent is delightful. A steady but short climb opens right into the parkway!
Before stepping out onto the road, look left then right!
This truly is a nice experience to come from underneath the shade and cover of the forest and step out into the light of an agrarian view on the parkway. Across the pasture there is an orchard, a barn, and distant blue blue blue ridge mountains. Simply one of those "OH WOW" moments.
As was this shot, one of my favorite of all times. I did not mean for these few posts to be dog shows, but I was hiking with my favorite trail companion and she always stays ahead of me. This shot was too perfect to not include. Like I said above, it is a nice experience stepping out of the shade of the forest into the light.
I think she gets it too. ;-) woof