Saturday, June 30, 2018

Summer 2018 Upcoming Events

A plant walk in Stokes State Forest with the Sierra Club of Skylands, NJ
Summer is here! The vibrantly colored blossoms of Red Clover and soft-ball size clusters of Milkweed are punctuating our green meadows, the palm-sized furry leaves of Burdock are now as large as palm fronds along our roadsides, and in the woods the white flat tops of of Yarrow and bright green leaves of Sweet Fern line the trail. We are in the height of growth, energy, and the light and there are so many ways to embrace it!
Take a look below to see a list of ways to hit the trail and better get to know and appreciate our regional plant life!

Crystal Springs Resort, Vernon NJ
Hikes recurring throughout the Season
Tuesday, June 26th, 10 - 12 pm
Tuesday, July 3rd, 10 - 12pm
Saturday, July 7th, 10 - 12pm
Tuesday, July 17th, 5 - 7 pm
Saturday, July 21st, 10 -12 pm
Tuesday, August 7th, 5 - 7 pm
Saturday, August 11th, 10 -12pm
Saturday, August 18th, 9 - 11am
Tuesday, August 21st, 10 - 12 pm
Saturday, August 25th, 10 -12pm
Saturday, September 8th, 10 -12 pm
Saturday, September 22nd, 10 -12 pm
Join me weekdays for a hike on a wooded Trail on-site at the Grand Cascades Lodge, identifying the edible and medicinal plants. On Saturdays, join me for a 30 minute presentation about our seasonal plants followed by a 90 minute walk on an on-site trail at the Lodge.
Cost: $10/person, open to the Public (you do not need to be a guest)
Pre-registration required, contact Crystal Springs Resort to reserve your spot:

Plant Walk and Presentation with Great Swamp Conservancy 
Canastota NY
Saturday, July 28th, 1:00 - 3:00 pm
Get to know the pristine wetlands located on the shores of Oneida Lake through a slideshow presentation and guided plant walk. Walk will be easy to moderate in nature and is open to all.
Cost: $10/person
Pre-registration required:

Plant Walk on the Keuka Outlet Trail, Dresden NY
Sunday, July 29th, 10:00 - 1:00 pm
Take a hike on a portion of the Keuka Outlet Trail - a lush greenway in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region - and learn about the edible and medicinal plants that call this region home.
No Cost and open to public
For more information visit:

Festival of Wood at Grey Towers Estate, Milford PA
Saturday and Sunday, August 4th and 5th, 10:00 - 5:00 pm
Visit me in the educational tent at the Delaware Highlands Conservancy booth. I will be there with a host of information about how to preserve our valuable land and signing copies of my two books offering tips and tricks in utilizing our regional edible and medicinal plants. Peruse the many artisan vendors with their array of unusual wares.
Free admittance and open to all ages
For more information visit:

Milford Plant Walk with Earthly Treasures
Milford, PA
Sunday, August 12th, 9:00 - 11:00 am
Join Hike Local for an edible and medicinal plant walk through the streets of Milford. We'll take a look at our useful and beautiful plants that enjoy the edges of civilization. No need to walk into the wilderness when these plants live in you own backyard! We will depart from and return to Earthly Treasures located at 149 Sawkill Avenue in Milford - the perfect place to procure all of your all natural and spiritual specialties!
Cost: $20/person, children under 13 are free
Pre-registration required
Contact Janine or Tiffany at Earthly Treasure to sign-up

Plant Walk with the Skylands Sierra Club and Angry Erik Brewing
Sussex County, NJ
Saturday, August 18th, 1:00 - 4:00pm
Back by demand and this time, the Sierra Club and I are teaming up for a walk with Angry Erik! Join us for a plant walk along the nearby Paulinskill Trail, a beautiful level greenway lined with wild plants. Departing from and returning to Angry Erik, we will finish our hike with complimentary draft beers served up by the awesome staff of Angry Erik! Learn tips for proper plant identification as well as methods for how to prepare edible and medicinal plants. Hike will be easy to moderate in nature, appropriate for both the beginner and expert plant enthusiast, and deliciously refreshing for all!
Cost: $25/person (includes 1 Angry Erik draft beer)
You do not need to be a member of the Sierra Club, hike is open to public
Pre-registration required, contact:
David Alcock at or Ashley at Angry Erik
For more information visit:

Firefly Picnic with the Delaware Highlands Conservancy
Swan Lake, New York
Saturday, September 15th, 4:00 - 7:00 pm
Hang with the Delaware Highlands Conservancy at their annual community picnic. There will be food, craft beer selections, crafts and I will be leading a guided plant walk on the property. A celebration of our land and community.
Cost is free but pre-registration is required.
For more information visit:

Plant Walks, Herbal Workshops, Long-distance Hiking Presentations
The Lodge at Woodlach, Hawley PA
Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays throughout the Season
As Woodloch's Naturalist and Certified Herbalist, I offer an assortment of activities centered around our natural world and holistic health. Book your stay and check out their outdoor activity schedule for list of dates/times at:

Book your next outing with Hike Local
Do you have a group that would like to learn more about the edible and medicinal plants through a guided hike on a local trail? Perhaps you and your family would like to take a walk on your own property to learn more about your very own plants? Do you have a group that has varying degrees of endurance? We also offer slideshows and workshops. Contact us and allow us to tailor a hike or activity specifically suited to you and your group. Great for children and school groups as well!
Visit: to learn more
Email us at to ask questions or schedule an activity

New hikes and events are still being added to the Summer schedule so be sure to check out for the latest info as well!

Looking forward to seeing you in the woods and on the trail!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Spring 2018 Upcoming Events

Plant walk in Stokes State Forest with the Skylands Sierra Club
Just when we thought Spring might have been cancelled this is indeed that time again! The season for tiny Chickweed sprouts beneath the damp leaf litter - I saw them the other day, it's true - Wild Mustard greens gathering their momentum to unfurl, and coiled fiddlehead ferns. The days have grown longer and the sun warmer, the Spring peepers are peeping, and the hungry awakening bear have already rummaged through our trash. A sign of good things to come! 
This Spring, join us in getting outside. Feel that sun on your skin, get your hands dirty, and eat some delicious edibles! Check out the upcoming events below!

Plant Walk with Crystal Springs Resort, Vernon NJ
Hike recurring roughly twice a month:
April 21st, 9-11 am
May 12, 10-12 am
May 19, 9-11 am
June 2, 5-7 pm
June 26, 10-12 am
Join me for a stroll through the woods and fields near Crystal Springs Resort, identifying the edible and medicinal plants.
Cost: $10/person
Pre-registration required, contact Crystal Springs Resort to reserve your spot:

Eating Wild: Identifying the Edible Plants in your own Backyard
Mother Earth News Fair, Asheville NC
Sunday, April 29th, 11:30 -12:30 pm
 Learn about our many edible springtime plants, aka the weeds, found just outside you doorstep. Attend a host of workshops on homesteading and peruse the many vendors.
Cost: $20/person, includes all presentations/workshops for the weekend

Spring Foraging: Easy to find Edible and Medicinal Plants
Food and Wine Festival, Vernon NJ
May 5th, 11-12pm
Take part in a slideshow presentation describing our regional and seasonal edible and medicinal finds! Learn how to forage and utilize your local plants. A wild-crafted tea and wild edible treats will be provided.
Contact Crystal Springs for more information:

Medicine Wheel Festival, Wantage NJ
May 19-20th, 10-6pm both days
Get into the Spring swing with a host of workshops and plant walks about our regional plants. Peruse the many vendor tables offering arts, crafts, and plants. I will be offering a plant walk on May 20th and will be available all weekend with signed copies of my books on wild edible and medicinal plants.
Cost: $7/person entry fee, workshops/walks included in fee

Herbal Weekend at the Lodge at Woodloch
Hawley, PA
Friday, May 25 - Sunday, May 27
Learn about all things herbal while in the lap of luxury! Throughout the weekend I will be offering seasonal presentations, workshops, and guided hikes featuring our edible and medicinal plants. Wild-crafted infusions and wild edible treats will be provided.
To learn more visit:

Plant Walk with the Skylands Sierra Club, Walpack NJ
May 26th, 10-1pm
Join me for a plant walk around beautiful Blue Mountain Lakes and learn about our regional edible and medicinal plants, with tips and tricks for harvest and use.
Cost: $20/person, children under 13 are free.
Pre-registration required, contact David Alock at

Plant Walk along the Finger Lakes Trail with Morgan Outdoors, Livingston Manor NY
June 2nd, 10:30 - 1:30
Explore a small piece of the 1,000 mile Finger Lakes Trail on a plant walk around pristine Alder Lake, located near Hardenburgh NY. Worry not, we will be walking roughly 2 miles on an easy to moderate trail. There are a number of rare plants that call this portion of trail home.
Cost: $25
Pre-registration required, contact Lisa at
For more information visit:

A Tale of the Trail at The Frisky Goat Coffeehouse, Milford PA
June 9th, 7:00 pm
Join me for some tales from our 400 mile hike along New York state's Long Path and sip some delicious coffee at Frisky Goat Coffeehouse's open mic night. A number of inspiring and unusal artists will also take the stage offering music and poetry - don't miss it!
Cost: free of charge

Girl's Hike Out: a plant walk with Frisky Goat Coffeehouse, Milford PA
Saturday, June 16th
Come for a plant walk with the ladies along picturesque wooded trail nearby to downtown Milford. Although this hiking group is predominantly women, men are not excluded and regularly attend as well.
 Cost: $20/person
Pre-registration required
Contact me at or call the Frisky Goat at (570)409-4848

Plant Walks, Herbal Workshops, Long-distance Hiking Presentations
The Lodge at Woodloch, Hawley PA
Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays throughout the season
As Woodloch's Naturalist and Certified Herbalist, I offer an array of activities centered around our natural world and holistic health. Book your stay and check out their outdoor activity schedule for a list of dates/times at: 

Book your activity with Hike Local
Do you have a group that would like to learn more about the edible and medicinal plants through a guided hike on a local trail? Perhaps you and your family would like to take a walk on your own property to learn about your very own plants? Do you have a group that has varying degrees of endurance? We also offer slideshows and workshops. Contact us and allow us to tailor a hike or activity specifically suited to you and your group!
Contact us at:
Visit: to learn more

Looking forward to seeing you on the trail and in the woods!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Hiking the Florida Trail

Hiking the Florida Trail has forever changed my perspective of the state of Florida. A born and bred northeasterner, I have always perceived Florida as a place for the weak and the elderly. As a girl who loves mountains, it was nothing more than flat and hot. I know, it's harsh and really terribly untrue, but my only knowledge of Florida before this was informed by my trip to Disney World when I was 8 years old and all those snowbirds I had encountered over the years who found the snow too much to bear. Allow me to personally extend a sincere apology to all those snowbirds, some of them dear friends and family, who I misjudged. Your state of Florida proved to be unimaginably and sometimes even indescribably beautiful. The people we met along the way were also so very friendly and honestly seemed a whole lot cheerier than we scowling people from the land of snow.

Scott and me at Florida Trail marker in Kissimmee Preserve State Park
So given this preconceived notion what made me want to hike the Florida Trail you ask? Well, firstly, I had learned from a fellow hiker and trail angel, Johnny Massey, when I was hiking the Mountains to Sea Trail, that this trail was over 1,000 miles long. Any trail of this magnitude catches my interest. Secondly, his tales coupled with those of my dear friend, Rachel Horn, whose love of Apalachicola filled my head with  images of completely alien plant life, plants on which I had never yet laid eyes, kindled my curiosity. Thirdly, Scott and I seem to be creeping ever closer to the ranks of the "weak" or perhaps in reality the "wise."  Quite frankly, these born and bred northeasterners have lost all interest in the snow. You tough souls can have it. So when Scott suggested we visit his mother in Sarasota, Florida with our few weeks of vacation, we got to thinking...we would be awfully close to that Florida Trail. Plus maybe it was time we looked into a trail we could hike in the winter instead of playing the painfully long waiting game until Spring to get our legs moving again. That was it...we were psyched. Florida or bust, baby!

The Cracker Trail Country Store in Okeechobee, Florida
We planned a 100 mile route from Okeechobee to Kissimmee through Central Florida that we figured would take us about one week to hike. After some help from folks on the Florida Trail Hikers facebook page, we decided we would ask permission from the owners of the Cracker Trail Country Store located just one mile from the trail if we could park my car there. The owners were easy-going and happy to oblige even when we told them our plan to hike all the way to Kissimmee, hop an Amtrak train and cab it back to the car eight days later. They didn't blink an eye and seemed used to accommodating we crazy hikers, "Better you than me!" said the woman working the register.

Roadside palm in Okeechobee bearing orange Florida Trail blaze
Our hike began with orange blazes painted on the smooth trunks of Palm trees lining an asphalt road that stretched on for miles. We hiked with heavy packs laden with eight days worth of food and over 12 liters of water between the two of us in hot sun for 9.5 miles, stopping roughly every two miles to collapse in the meager shade of a palm. Periodic 18-wheelers piled high with purple cabbage and sod rumbled by flinging cabbage leaves and grass at our feet. This first day was far harder than we had anticipated given our winter weary bodies that felt like they had just crawled out from a dark cave of hibernation seeing the sun for the first time in months. Yet despite the struggle we marveled at the expansive acreage of cow pastures filled with curious cattle that would lift their heads in unison, chewing their cud with an unflinching gaze as we walked by. With little else to look at, we found were doing just the same back at them.

 Just a couple of the many cows along roadwalk

Scott road hiking
Yet the thrill of beginning a long hike still filled our hearts and we reveled in passing these orange blazes on Palms and the first of both new and lesser seen plants along the roadside.

Woolly Paw Paw (Asimina incana)

Starrush Whitetop (Rhynchospora colorata)
The second day when we awoke in our tent at Oak Creek campsite to birdsong so boisterous and unfamiliar we reminisced on our time in Guatemala, we felt ready for a new day and when we stepped finally onto real true trail just a couple of miles later, we nearly skipped on down the path. Walking the woods of Florida was quite a different experience from walking the road. Above us was a canopy of interlacing grape vines and Spanish Moss tufts that hung so low from the outstretched branches of the Live Oak that they sometimes grazed our heads.

Scott on trail

We came to our first water source here, a pond filled with algae blooms - not ideal but water nonetheless - and the most incredible plant community that called it home. Carnivorous Sundews nearly blanketed the sandy ground, while here and there sparkled pink Meadow Beauties, succulent Saint John's Worts seemed luminescent, and waxy white flowers arose on tall stalks at the water's edge. After sticking our trekking poles in the water first, hoping the resident alligators would snap at those and not our arms, we dunked our bottles for water and rested by the shore eagerly flipping through a Florida Plant guide.

Sundew (Drosera)

Meadow Beauty (Rhexia)

Four-leaved Saint John's Wort (Hypericum tetrapetalum)

Bulltongue Arrowhead (Sagittaria lancifolia)

At some point in the day while hiking through the Florida jungle, a sweet gust of wind swept through the thick palms and Oaks, carrying the strong scent of Orange blossoms. We halted in our tracks when the wind blew and the scent remained. We looked around us intoxicated by the aroma and then saw them...bunches of ripe oranges hanging from the tree tops. Wild Oranges! They were not easy to pluck from the high branches but we were determined and sat down atop our packs to devour the fruits that left our fingers literally dripping with juice. We quickly learned that oranges gone wild revert to their sour state when they are no long tended to, but they were delicious none the less. We stashed away one in our pack before carrying on.

Scott beneath our found Wild Orange trees
We stopped early for the day after eating lunch at the pristine Starvation Slough campsite. We had failed to put on sunscreen until later in the day and were both feeling burnt and tired in the 80 degree temps. We had little desire to hike on after we had reclined on the picnic table and benches surrounding a fire-ring. We decided an early day with a leisurely dinner around a campfire later that evening sounded better. Through the palms golden prairie land stretched out to either side of us as the sun seventually set low behind our patch of palm forest.

re-enactment of battling the the wild jaguarundi
We were had just began eating dinner when we heard it...a rustle in the palms...then a charging a sudden halt. By the light of the campfire we saw the palms shake. It was probably just a deer...until the palms continued to rustle and whatever it was rushed again and halted. Okay...maybe a bear. We got to clanging our hiking sticks and yelling to scare it off. It proceeded around the edge of the palms now closer to our campfire. We clicked on our headlamps and shone them into the darkness only to see nothing but palm fronds. This curious animal continued to make a semi-circle around our camp as we jumped atop the picnic table and banged pots and shoes and hollared as loud as we could. This went on for over an hour as we shoveled noodles into our mouths as quickly as we could and hastily hung a bear hang. It then ran a circle around our camp. This was no bear...could it possibly be...a panther? "Get in the tent." Scott ordered. We scurried inside our nylon shelter and we listened as whatever it was seemed to run off into the brush. For two hours we heard nothing and so began to finally drift off to sleep when it returned running a full circle around our tent. Somehow that night...we did eventually fall asleep and awoke in the morning to find no evidence of any creature ever entering camp. We have decided it was a a rogue jaguarundi looking to eat us or play, whichever we were somewhat glad we never actually saw it.
Duck Slough - yes we did retrieve water from here!

Alligator along a slough
On our third day, our trail legs suddenly kicked into gear as we trekked 15 into and through the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve. Our morning began with alligators basking in the sun along a slough that ran parallel to a thin strip of trail and late in the afternoon we lunched along the boardwalk atop the magical Duck Slough, where the water was blanketed with duck weed and the all was shrouded in green. We ended the day with an seemingly interminable five mile walk down a sandy road termed the Military Trail with Saw Palmetto prairie stretching out for miles to either side of us, tiny ponds teeming with bird and plant life our only mileage markers.

Five mile Military Road

A prairie slough
In the evening we were rewarded for our efforts with a pristine campsite at the Prairie Loop Junction complete with a water pump providing our first water source in which we didn't have to first break the surface of green. The Kissimmee Prairie Preserve is nationally renowned for its darkness given the lack of light and air pollution and so that night we gazed up at the sea of stars, more stars than I had seen since my visit to Utah almost a decade ago, and teetering in our tininess amidst the immensity of existence.

Covered platform with picnic table at Prairie Junction Loop campsite

Dirty feet after three days of hiking
On our fourth day we hiked another 10 miles through endless Saw Palmetto Prairie, both of us wondering how we had never learned of the Florida prairie lands. Their vastness was breath-taking while at the same time psychologically challenging given that the landscape seemed never to change although we continued to hike.

Saw Palmetto (Serona repens) Prairie
So psychologically challenging apparently that we resorted to talking to that wild orange I was still carrying in my pack. We named him Reggie - think Castaway's Wilson the volleyball - and he became our traveling companion for the rest of the trip. He is quite the jokester!
Reginald aka Reggie the Wild Orange
The temperatures had significantly dropped, remaining in the mid-sixties all day with a wind that blew so strong across the open prairie that I had to wrap a bandana around my head to shield my ears from the ceaseless whooshing. I believe we found this wind more tiresome than the actual hiking. After hiking atop clods of grass and sand along a firebreak we finally reached the private road that lead over the S-65A Lock.

Crossing S-65A lock over the Kissimmee River
Looking out over Kissimmee River
We crossed the Kissimmee River on a marvel of human engineering - essentially a dam and lock system. The views were long here and we noted the multitude of birds that happily called this river home, each one perched atop its own bouy that floated on the surface of the water. Near the entrance to the lock sat a simple house all on its lonesome, and we wondered what it must be like to awake every day to river and its wildlife and nothing else.

Kissimmee River - a haven for the birds
Once on the other side of the lock, we walked through tall grass on a levee high above the Kissimmee. In the water below we could see evidence of alligator holes in the sand and we hiked a lil faster. It wasn't long before we encountered the free roaming cattle that also live their existence by the lock. Most all trotted away from us at first sight, all except for one big bull that mirrored every step we took towards him. He kept us busy for about 20 minutes as we tried to find our way around him, considering it was just us and him and a concrete weir with no where to go but through the marsh on either side. Finally in the setting sun, we scurried by him while he busy chewing on some grass and hustled our way to the Town of Kicco campsite.

Trail angels at Town of Kicco campground
This particular group of campsites abuts the shores of the Kissimmee and is actually the remains of a thriving cattle town that existed roughly a century ago. Remnants of the sidewalks and some metal pipes still remain, but sadly the last structures were destroyed some years ago. Here in this little cattle town we met three kind souls and a dog. We had no sooner got our tent set up for the night that a man from a nearby campsite walked across the way and offered us a giant ziplock of lo mein. We were running lower on fuel than expected and so his offer couldn't have come at a better time! To top it off in the morning, another one of these generous campers invited us back over to camp for eggs, potatoes, toast, and coffee. Way better than the granola bars we already had in our hands! We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and learned that every year this group of men meet for a week long camp at Kicco. This group has a number of members and formed through a meetup forum nearly a decade earlier. Each one of them was from a different walk of life with his own perspective, yet all had a love for the outdoors. We didn't realize until we left to hike our miles for the day, that none of us had ever bothered exchanging names even if we had exchanged stories. I guess names just weren't all that important.

Kissimmee River alongside cattle grazing land
Fueled by the best food we had yet had on our hike, we cruised along effortlessly. We walked a sand road through free roaming cattle, paralleling the Kissimmee River that shone clear blue, reflecting the cloudless sky above us. After a few miles, we spent the rest of the day criss-crossing a white sand road and walking through patches of shaded forest filled with Live Oaks, Palms and Saw Palmetto plants. The trail beneath us remained sand and it was easy at times to forget that we were in Florida and not out west in desert. Then we reached the dude ranch...

Teepees at the River Ranch Resort
Fellow the River Ranch Resort. This is the lap of luxury for all you country folks out there, complete with glamping teepees each with its own king sized bed and air conditioner. This place not only has a saloon, restaurant, cowboy clothing store (Scott did manage to pick up a hat here), general store, rodeo, adventure park, and golf course, but its own post office. Keep this in mind for your mail-drops...because to buy a resupply here will break your wallet...think $8.99 for a block of Kraft cheddar. Nonetheless we did enjoy a delicious reasonably priced pizza and the employees we encountered were friendly and accommodating, filling our water bottles for us and such. After a lengthy rest we hiked into the sunset, passing the resident buffalo along the way.

Buffalo at the River Ranch Resort

Scott donning his new hat near the River Ranch Resort
We climbed a stile into KICCO north and that night camped beneath the boughs of a Live Oak shrouded in Spanish Moss and adorned in air plants. From the evidence of the cow patties throughout the our meadow, we wondered if we might have moo'ing visitors in the night. We rested easy though and in the morning walked a grassy levee in the early morning sun, following a lone cow through the tall grass. The walking was pleasant until Scott had to literally run a black snake gauntlet the last tenth of a mile to SR 60. After catching our breath, literally, we then endured a 5 mile roadwalk along the busiest road I have ever hiked. 18-wheelers blew past our shoulders and cars zipped along our narrow strip of sloped grass, as we walked hemmed in by a fence shielding a gas pipeline its entire length. We counted the miles down and gritted our teeth, however along the way we still managed to admire a few of the native plants!

Pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata) - edible in herb proportions

Frog Fruit (Phyla nodiflora) - useful as a medicinal tea for easing an upset stomach.
We were relieved when we turned left onto a sandy gravel road that ran hot and long, leading us into a Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area. Within a couple miles we reached a surprisingly busy hunt check station that provided some much desired shade. It was the first morning of the youth turkey hunt and the hunters were out in full. However all that we encountered were friendly and talkative and even shared their ice cold water with us from the back of their pickup trucks while we lunched with the hunt check host - a fellow New Yorker who told us he now spent his days in the warmth of the Florida sun.

Walk through prairie in Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area

Burned Saw Palmetto (Serona repens) in flower - Saw Palmetto is true to its name with saw-like teeth along its lower stalk. 
From here we walked another three miles through vast prairie, much of it recently burned for management. Our last mile however wove us through pristine forest that felt more like a jungle with old growth Palms towering overhead, Live Oaks craning their branches for the sun like a spiderweb above, and dried Palm fronds and Oak leaves crunching beneath our feet. We were left speechless by the beauty of this ancient forest.
Scott in old growth forest

When we reached the Godwin Hammock campsite, we were rewarded with a recently built tent platform, picnic table and fire ring, along with another pitcher pump that gushed clear, clean water. This would be our last night in the wilderness and even after just a week, that bittersweet feeling of finishing our hike was already filling our hearts. Although our skin was puffy and red from sun and wind and our legs dusted in dirt, we hated to leave.

Godwin Hammock campsite
In the morning, we had a leisurely breakfast and hit the trail, walking through some of the tallest grass yet. Along the way we stepped over more than one rattlesnake skin and so kept our eyes glued to the ground, being certain to place our hiking sticks before our feet. When we reached woods and took a break in the shade of an Live Oak, we decided we would walk the sandy gravel roads for a bit with the prospect of catching a ride to cut off some miles. We were behind by half a day's miles given our slower pace earlier in the week and so we were looking at a twenty mile day. With the grass through the prairie so tall and the sun shining scorching hot, we thought a little trail magic might be in order.

Yellow Milkwort (Polygala rugelii)
We reached a white hot roadwalk and stopped within a couple miles for a lunch break.  We had no sooner set down our packs when a pickup truck came rumbling down the road. Scott gave a wave and the pickup truck slowed to a halt.

"Any chance, you're going to Canoe Creek Road?" Scott asked.

"Sure are." The man said from behind the wheel, two small children beside him in the front seat.

"Mind if we hitch a ride in the back?" Scott asked pointing to the bed of the truck.

"Sure. But we're looking for shark's teeth, so we might be awhile."

We hopped in. Turns out this is a common thing that locals do - looking for shark's teeth and fossils in the sandy roads. The man informed us that all of the now dry land that we hiked atop had at one time been underwater and so artifacts from that time remained. We ended up joining the treasure hunt and one of the little ones ended up uncovering the fossil of a snail body, once wet and fat now turned to stone. Afterwards that nice family ended up giving us a ride 20 miles down Canoe Creek Rd as we clenched for dear life to the low tailgate, our trailhead disappearing in the distance at 60 miles per hour.

And so after our drop-off, we walked another couple of miles to a nearby Shell Station, lunched on bean burritos and Dr Pepper on the cool pavement outside and then cabbed it another 10 miles into the town of Kissimmee. We managed to land a room at the luxurious Satisfaction Resort Hotel for just $65 and after very long showers hit the nearby Mexican restaurant, El Tapatio, for dinner. There we stuffed our faces full of fresh veggies and guacamole, and chatted for an hour with the family beside us. Even if this part of the city seemed rather seedy by appearance, the interactions we had were stellar. In the morning, our of hopping an Amtrak train didn't quite pan out when we were alerted that it was four hours delayed, making our five hour train ride's arrival in Okeechobee even later in the day. So on a whim, we called Uber. Within minutes our driver arrived, and drove us for the same reasonable price of $95, back to Okeechobee in just an hour and a half's time.  Our driver, originally from Columbia, told us of his mountains and we told him of our walk across the prairies of his present home. As we neared Okeechobee, he remarked..."Seems there are more cows here than people." Sure 'nuff.

Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) adorned in Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides)

And so our adventure on the Florida Trail was an adventure indeed. We trekked through jungle and prairie, across slough and sand, meeting new plant faces, encountering wild jaguarundis and alligators, relentless sun and blowing winds, and generous souls. Florida, you unveiled a world to us unimaginable and with it a new trail to further discover...our wheels are already turning and our feet itching to see what lies at the edge of the next prairie.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Herbal Love for the Heart

Linden leaf

February....the month of the heart. This is the month for giving heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and passing out love notes, for a candlelit dinners for two and romantic rendezvous, and for not only thinking of those that we love but for turning some love inward, caring for your own heart as well. Let the herbal world be your ally when it comes to both the emotional and physical health of the heart through the use of cardiotonics.

Cardiotonics is a broad term for a class of herbs that have an affinity with the heart and have a positive effect on the heart and larger cardiovascular system. The ways in which these herbs can have a gentle yet powerful effect on the heart are multitude,  from strengthening the veins to dilating the coronary artery to calming anxiety, and many of these effects are believed to stem from their high flavonoid content. Flavonoids are phyto-nutrients or plant nutrients essentially, inherent in all plants to varying degrees. Science is discovering flavonoids can do everything from strengthen the vascular system to boost the immune system to relieve depression. However, despite recent discoveries, science hasn't quite figured it all out yet, that is in just how these herbs have the effect they do. What we do know from experience, is that they do.

Hawthorn fruits

The first herb I would like to highlight is Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), an herb that has been both valued traditionally as a heart herb for centuries and more recently backed by science and embraced by modern medicine.

Hawthorn, a member of the Rose family, is a small to medium-sized tree and encompasses numerous species. Hawthorn can be found both in cultivation given its beautiful white flowers in the spring and scarlet fruits in the autumn, as well as naturalized in our forests and meadows. Because its leaves can be variable in form, I find it easiest to recognize by its four-seeded fruits and its one to two inch long sharps spines that are found on its branches and twigs.

Thorns of Hawthorn
Most of Hawthorn's medicine is found in its fruit, which can be eaten fresh as a food or dried and steeped in a tea. Hawthorn has the ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure while also reducing platelet activity and strengthening the blood vessels.  However in addition to these skills it has the superpower to gently increase the force of the contractions of the heart, in turn improving the availability of energy. This unique quality does not happen overnight but rather through consistent ingestion. Studies show that once the heart's pump has strengthened, it remains stronger over time. Additionally Hawthorn will dilate the coronary artery, increasing blood flow and nourishment to the heart. Thus, when we look at Hawthorn on a whole, it not only decreases the risk for coronary heart disease but quite literally is food for the heart, protecting as it strengthens.

Motherwort leaves found near base of plant

This next herb, Motherwort, has a strong affinity for the heart as evidenced even by its scientific name: Leonurus cardiaca. Even its common name suggests that its role is that of caregiver. Recognize it by its lobed leaves, maple shaped near the base of the plant and goosefoot shaped as they travel up the stalk. Leaves will be oppositely arranged and tiny flowers will be irregular shaped, both indicative of its place in the Mint Family. I have also suggested Motherwort for use in revitalization as well as relaxation. Therefore, although often considered a weed, common to old homesites and roadsides, Motherwort has a spectrum of medicinal qualities.

Motherwort flowers

The medicine of Motherwort is largely due to its inherent flavonoids and has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce platelet activity in turn reducing the likelihood of blood clots, stroke, and heart attack. It is a mild nervine, reducing anxiety and heartache. Given this cardiotonic/nervine combo, it is especially beneficial for those who suffer heart palpitations as a result of high stress. It is also indicated in general weakness of the heart after surgery or infection, having the ability to strengthen the heart without straining. Infuse leaves, stems, and flowers in hot water for 10 minutes, strain and sip.

Linden leaves, flowers (not yet open) and bracts
Lastly, let's take a look at Linden (Tilia spp.), otherwise known as Basswood. Linden possesses a number of species but is generally a tree strong in stature, often reaching tall towards the sky with widely spreading branches. Because of its attractive appearance it is not unusual to find Linden planted on lawns and in parks where it is well-manicured, as well as deep in the forest growing whichever way it pleases. I am most apt to identify Linda by its large hand-sized leaves with a heart-shaped base and uneven lobes. In the spring, it produces fragrant tiny flowers that hang on slender stems attached to bracts  - and therein lies its medicine.

Linden flowers (not yet open) and bracts

 Although here in the States, we may not be as familiar with this tree, it is well-accepted in Europe as a relaxing tea, calming to not only adults but children. A simple cup of tea made from its flowers and attached bracts (small leaf-like appendages) can quickly reduce blood pressure and after a few more sips calm the nerves and lift the spirits. Drink a cup or two daily to fight depression, support the heart, and even prevent hardening of the arteries due to those almighty flavonoids. Similar to Motherwort, this herb is particularly good for anxiety induced palpitations.

These are just a handful of herbs that show a little love to the heart. Drop in on my class at The Lodge at Woodloch titled: Herbs for the Heart, to learn more!

Be certain to consult with your doctor before consuming any herbs that may affect the heart. Some of these herbs may interact with other prescription drugs for the heart. Additionally, these are not safe during pregnancy.

Find my activities such as plant walks, herbal workshops, and hiker Q &A  on the weekly schedule at: This post will also be available at Woodloch's blog:

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Winter Foraging at Woodloch

I have been working with the Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, PA as their Resident Naturalist. The grounds are fantastically beautiful and maintained in reverence to nature. Find my activities such as plant walks, herbal workshops, and hiker Q &A  on the weekly schedule at: This post will also be available at Woodloch's blog:

Ferns in snow
Here at the Lodge at Woodloch, the first snowflakes of the season have already begun to fall, blanketing the bare tree limbs in a thin sheet of white and laying a soft white path to walk beneath the pale gray-blue sky. Yes, Winter is just around the bend. The season for skiing and snowshoeing, cozy evenings by the fire, shared meals with friends featuring preserves and cured meats and baked goods. We don’t typically think of Winter as the season for fresh food foraging. The plants have all gone into their long winter slumber, gestating seeds and building energy in their roots for the burgeoning spring. But what if I told you there were still wild edible and medicinal plants that could be found just beneath that chilly blanket of snow?

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) berry 

Venture through the orchard gate and onto the blue trail that leads you down a corridor of drying ferns and blueberry bushes with towering Oaks overhead, but don’t walk too fast or you might miss the scarlet berries at your feet. These are the berries of the humble looking Wintergreen. Wintergreen, also called Teaberry, is a low-to-the-ground evergreen belonging to the Heath family. It never grows more than 6 inches tall nor puts on more than a handful of paddle-shaped leaves. However, in winter it is as if this plant dresses up for the season, ornamented in perfectly round red fruits, reminiscent of tiny Christmas bulbs.

Kneel down to its height, pinch off a leaf and crack it in half, smelling its minty aroma. Better yet, pop a berry in your mouth and taste its minty flavor just as strong as your stick of wintergreen gum. In fact, this plant used to be used in the flavoring of gums and candies. Ever heard of Teaberry chewing gum? This lil’ plant gave it its name. However, I think the berries are best blended with oatmeal or yogurt or if you manage to collect a number, sprinkled into muffins or cookies. The leaves make a delicious medicinal cordial. That minty smell is evidence of its containing methyl-salicylates – a chemical constituent that has anti-inflammatory and muscular pain relieving effects. Place a few in the bottom of a mug, pour several drops of your preferred liquor overtop, muddle, and add steaming hot water. Place a saucer atop mug and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Remove leaves with a spoon, add honey and sip your way into relaxation.

White Pine (Pinus strobus) cone and bundle of 5 needles

 Walk further down the path and soon meet the green softly spikey sprigs of Pine saplings. Take a moment to notice that the blue-green needles are somewhat twisted and twined and bundled together in groups of five by a papery sheath at their base; this is your best indicator of White Pine. White Pine is our tallest Northeastern conifer and although native, was once planted extensively for its use in lumber because it grew so straight and tall. Consequently, White Pine is well-spread throughout our forests and abundant, common to many a Northeastern woods.

But just as valuable as White Pine’s wood are its sweet-tasting needles. Attend the Wild-crafted Medicinal Infusions class and make a Pine Needle infusion, which provides a Vitamin C rich, virus-fighting, warming tea. One mug will warm your bones, open your lungs, and leave your tastebuds happy. It’s flavor is both lemony and pine with a subtle sweet taste of sap. Look for these same trees when you return home and pluck some bundles of needles. Drop a bundle in hot water and with each sip be reminded of your time at Woodloch.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) roots with leaves attached

Let’s not forget the those nutrient-filled roots! Follow the wooded trail as it circles back to the garden. Although we may be a bit limited on just what we can grow this time of year in our neck of the woods there are some plants that grow nearly year round and require no attention at all…the weeds. Among these weeds, there is one particularly hardy fellow…the Dandelion. Throughout the year, Dandelion will put on fresh green leaves. During a warm winter spell you may even see a sunny Dandelion flower peering out from the melting snow. Dandelion’s name originates from the French phrase dent de lion, meaning tooth of the lion, referring to it’s sharp lobes that run along the edge of the leaf and the arrowhead-shape of the leaf tip. Its slightly bitter leaves provide a nice accompaniment to a greens salad, but its long taproot can supply its own host of nutrients.

Dandelion root naturally contains a healthy fiber called inulin. Take a look at the back of your yogurt cup and you may very well see it listed in the ingredients. Inulin acts as a prebiotic in the gut, essentially feeding your healthy gut flora or probiotics. Slivered Dandelion root can be steamed, sauteed, or roasted just like any other root vegetable. However it does have a bitter kick, so it is best combined with other sweet vegetables like corn, butternut squash, or sweet potato. If too bitter for your taste, simmer Dandelion root slivers in hot water for 10-15 minutes, remove root and discard, reserving resulting infusion. Sweeten with honey and sip, not only will your digestive tract thank you, but so will your liver which benefits specifically from Dandelion’s bitter quality.

These are just a few of the plants that you can expect to find while at the Lodge at Woodloch. Join in on an Edible and Medicinal Plant Walk, take a virtual plant walk through the Seasonal Foraging presentation, or even sip a cup of wild tea at the Wild-crafted Medicinal Infusions Class. To find these plants at home and prepare them for food and medicine, visit the boutique and take home a copy of my book,  A Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Mountains to Sea Trail. Most all of these plants can be found in your own backyard or favorite wild spaces!