Thursday, August 19, 2010

White Wood Aster

It was already 77 degrees and humid when we headed out, at 9 a.m. High pitched crickets buzzed in the trees, still dripping from rain in the night, and invisible spider webs were strung across the path. I think my friend missed the webs, but I managed to get some of the sticky strands across my face and in my hair. If you've ever done this, you know how I felt. Even thought I brushed and wiped and rubbed my face and shoulders, it never felt like they were truly gone. I imagined the tiny spider on my back. On my neck. In my hair. The only way to deal with this is to STOP thinking about it. Walk on and focus on what's ahead... of course you should also find a nice forked stick to wave in front of you to remove other invisible webs! Once on the open field of the pipeline and its well worn path, there were no more worries of spider webs.

We hiked down to Meetinghouse Creek, up the hill and into the far woods, around the high, rocky ridge that runs along the river. Daisy and her beautiful canine visitor, Olive, raced ahead as I pointed out to Kaye interesting rocks, mushrooms, and box turtles, as well as some of my favorite moss mounds and wildflower patches. One particular patch was Elephants Foot (Elephantopus sp. - sometimes know as Devil's Grandmother), in full bloom in the light shade of high pines.

At the river's edge Daisy and Olive headed for the water while Kaye and I settled down to draw. I found these delicate White Wood Asters that were just beginning to bloom. I thought it strange that the leaf bases on one plant (left) were so varied. It's not like I didn't see things correctly. I always notice weird details, so who knows what was going on with that plant. All the leaves on the other one (right) had typical heart-shaped leaf bases and the arrow shape.

As we were leaving we noticed the itty bitty white mushrooms. They were everywhere - the more we looked, the more we saw all through the woods, up the hill, down the bank, thousands of mushrooms. Kaye found a twig with one tiny mushroom and two that were pin-head sized. Mushrooms are amazing in many ways. Go here to hear a mycologist discuss the possibility of these beautiful fungi saving the world!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hieracium (maybe) and an Arrowhead

Fog and cool temps made this morning a wonderful time for me and Daisy to hike to the river. We headed down the hill into a stiff, damp breeze that felt delicious after all the hot, dry weather we've had lately. Along the edge of the pipeline were long flowering mounds of Butterfly Pea vines crawling over grass and fallen logs, and swaying plumes of goldenrod. Yesterday's rain was puddled in the clay at the bottom of the hill near Meetinghouse Creek. Here were the blooms of Meadowbeauty, Joe Pye Weed, False Dandelion, Seed Box, Heal All, Monkey Flower, and Sensitive Brier.

After the Creek we headed into the woods by way of a newly rough-cut road that winds its way down to Lawson's Fork. No trucks or four-wheelers had driven here lately, so the grass at the opening has grown pretty tall. Once through, the path has a pleasant neglected look, but is clear for a good run for Daisy, and for finding an arrowhead for me! I always pick up pieces of milky quartz, just in case, and a couple years ago I found a beautiful point out on the pipeline in a place I'd been walking for 18 years. You never know when one will finally wash out of the dirt and sit waiting for you to walk by. The one I found today is not as finely worked as the last one, but it's whole!

Further down the road I saw the lovely combination of the delicate drooping leaves of one of the Hieraciums (I think) and the small red mushroom. I could hear the shoals on Lawson's Fork from there, as well as a Carolina Wren, a Pileated Woodpecker, and an Indigo Bunting. The high trill of crickets was background noise. I sat to draw in my journal while Daisy explored the woods around me. She finally came to sleep right in front of me. So sweet! I even used her as a table until a fly buzzed by and she leapt to her feet to snap at it. Yikes! Guess that wasn't a good idea after all.

On to the river! The water was high and very muddy, rushing around Helen and Susan Islands. Mushrooms were everywhere - tall and stately, tiny and button-like, and many in-betweens. Fringed Gentian was blooming along the edge of the low bluff over the river, and Christmas Ferns carpeted the rising slope behind us.

Heading back I made a list of all the flowers I saw in bloom. The fog was heavier, and beads of moisture covered the grasses and leaves all over the pipeline.
Fringed Gentian
Butterfly Pea
Spurred Butterfly Pea
Elephant's Foot
Sensitive Briar
Meadow Beauty
Daisy Fleabane
Joe Pye Weed
False Dandelion
Heal All
Monkey Flower
Queen Ann's Lace
Flowering Spurge
Dwarf Pale Lobelia
Wild Potato Vine
Grassleaf Golden Aster
Whorled Coreopsis