The steep slope Daisy and I explored today faces south and drops down to Meetinghouse Creek at its confluence with Lawson's Fork. We crunched through the brown leaf litter that covers the hillside, and although Daisy bounded up the hill without a pause, I had to take careful steps so I wouldn't slide, and grab small trees occasionally to pull myself up. Boulders large and small are scattered about, some making ideal resting spots with a great winter view! From there, through naked trees, you can see across Meetinghouse Creek to the other high, rocky ridge. Also, through tall mountain laurels, you can see Lawson's Fork and across to the ridge beyond.
While resting I noticed a wildlife track leading up the hill at an angle, so I followed it. We topped the ridge and I was about to follow Daisy into the mountain laurel thicket when she stopped short and started barking like crazy at something I couldn't see. No telling what it was - I've seen her bark like this at strange dogs who've wandered into her territory, but also at a bag of garbage I put beside my car to be taken off. Anything "new" that she's not expecting. But I trusted that there was something there, so I turned around and headed back to the creek.
I discovered the tiny black mushrooms growing along this ridge. While investigating I brushed the leaves away to expose strange yellow stalks, the larger only 2"long. I read later in my field guide that they are Cordyceps capitata, common name Headlike Cordyceps, and they arise from an underground, truffle-like fungus. Interesting note: these are hallucinogenic mushrooms, used by shamans in Mexico for divining the future!
No luck in identifying the leaves without a flower to help. I'll keep an eye on them this spring.
Lawson's Fork - looking downstream