Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Hey Folks, Its time for a Big Dig! Each year for the last three we have hosted a FMST fellowship and trail building weekend in these mountains.
This year we will be working near Blowing Rock off of the BlueRidge Parkway near milepost 291.
Temperatures are cool in the evenings, sometimes as low as mid 60s!
The daytime temps reach a soaring high seldom above 84.
You can expect afternoon showers that sometimes drop the temperature as much as 15 degrees in 10 minutes! Generally they pass quickly.
You will have noticed, the Rosebay Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum) are in full bloom now through mid July. (click to enlarge for best viewing)

Rosebay Rhododendron, also known as Greal Laurel or Great Rhododendron is a multi-trunked small tree or large shrub that is very common in the understory forests of slopes in these Watauga Mountains.
Rosebay Rhododendron blooms in early summer.  Flower color ranges from light pink to white, though white is most common.
But the most remarkable color can be found in the budding blossoms. The flower buds are pinker than the opened flowers. The leaves are large, leathery, and evergreen.
There is a remakable symmetry to the blossoms ~ this one reminds me of fireworks exploding.

A newly opening bud is called a crown.
Seen from above and the side you can easily understand that term. My favorite "Crown" is the next photo, click to enlarge it to see its sweetness and moisture laden beauty~ Yummy eye candy!
We will be working in a Rhododendron thicket during the BIG DIG.... sometimes known locally as a Laurel Hell (though not truly a laurel) or sometimes called a Rhododendron Slick. Often they are 12-20 feet tall and you will look up to see the blossoms at this location along our trail.

Lest we crane our necks looking up and miss some of the finer discoveries found below.
This woodlands salamander was found along the trail at creek side near AHO this week.
This little critter is one of many species of Southern Appalachian salamanders.
Click to enlarge and you will notice this little fellow has a heart shaped spot on his side! In fact, all of these photos of this set are much more enjoyable to view in a large format. Check out the last one~
Time to move on along his way as he marches back toward a crack between the rocks.
There are so many wonders, large and small to discover within the Watauga forest
along the Mountains to Sea Trail.

I regret I will not be able to particpate in the Big Dig this year.

I have photographed our Big Dig events and covered them in this blog over the years. I hope you will take time to peruse the following links for an idea of the joys of trail fellowship and volunteer effort we share on the trail.

Big Dig October 2009

Big Dig part 2

Bridge Building Big Dig

Thunderhill area day two

Big Dig area to be worked on this year

Bid Dig area to be worked near Shoals Creek in July

I truly hope some of you will send me pictures to share from this event, please send me your photos.
You may email me photos to I will compose a blogpost of your experiences soon. Thanks! I'm counting on you!!!

Have fun and enjoy your gifts of service to our MST~ 

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