Sunday, June 26, 2011

Passionate about Passionflower

I am currently enjoying the luxury of a Super 8 Motel just inside of Durham. I spent another good night at a church last night, the Little River Presbyterian, setting up my tent just behind the sanctuary with and just yards from the cemetery that was filled with many headstones dating back to the 1800's.

The heat has been challenging, but when soaked to the bone in your own sweat, the slightest breeze actually does wonders in cooling you off. I have also been graced with some kind of country store or at least a soda machine most days, sometimes multiple times a day, and so I find myself setting these as my "carrots" rather than the usual mountaintops or road crossings.

I've been doing big miles, 20+ a day, but with the increasingly flat terrain and the ease of pavement, my pace has picked up from 2.5m /hr to almost 3.5m/hr. However, in just a couple of days I will be back in the woods for another 2 days in the Falls Lake Recreation Area, which from what I hear, is beautiful - perhaps some good swimming will ensue.

The plants I have been keeping company with have been abundant but less diverse. I feel as if me and Wild Carrot, Common and English Plantain, Daisy, Greater Coreopsis, Red Clover, and Wild Sunflower are now a tight posse, and we're living "life on the road" together. However, yesterday a pretty new face poked her head out from a gaggle of tall grasses, poison ivy and virginia creeper, and boy was she a sight for sore eyes.


Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Passionflower is a vine bearing tendrils, leaves are alternate, toothed and deeply lobed (3-5 lobes). The flowers grow from the axils, single or in pairs, and have five petals, five sepals, and a this wild looking fringe in the center. It is like none other. However, there is a smaller passionflower (Passiflora lutea) that bears greenish-white flowers, bears a blue-black berry, and has different leaves. This is the only flower I have spotted on my trip, but once I saw this one and got to looking for the leaves, I saw this vine sprawling throughout a large area along the roadside.



Passionflower, a vine with 3-lobed alternate leaves and tendrils

Passionflower produces a yellowish edible fruit about the size of an egg, appearing anytime from summer to fall. I have yet to savor one myself, but hopefully will change that on this hike considering it is a fairly common vine of the south. From what I understand, you can peel the skin and eat the fleshy fruit inside, avoiding the many dark seeds.

I have however employed Passionflower as a medicine quite regularly. Using the above ground parts (so flowers, leaves, and actual vine), you can make a tincture by immersing the plant material in alcohol or make a tea by steeping for 5-10minutes. It makes for an excellent mild sedative and pain reliever. I find it helpful for nights when my brain is busy and I'm having a hard time going to sleep. I take one dropperful of tincture and within 20 minutes, I'm drifting off, with no drowsiness in the morning. It is also useful as a smooth muscle relaxant and an anti-spasmodic, therefore good in cases of menstrual cramps, and cramps due to gas or nervous stomach. I also feel that Passionflower has a connection to the heart, in easing heartache and sorrow.

Its name has its origins with the Spanish missionaries who thought that the flower's pattern resembled Christ's crown of thorns. Another interesting note is that this plant is believed to carry a "doctrine of signatures", meaning that the shape/design of the flower suggests its use. Thus, looking at Passionflower we can see a circular design in the arrangement of sepals and petals, as well as pistil and stamen and so this plant would be helpful in relieving circular thinking.

You made my day!

In this post I'd like to recognize a bunch of folks that made my day of walking a day worth walking for!

Hiking out from the Jesus is the Answer Deliverance Church just outside of Greensboro, I eagerly made my way down Hicone Street to a Subway for breakfast. Now, mind you, it seems some of the folks in this area can have a hard time smiling...just something I noticed...either that or they simply don't know what to make of a stinky hiker with dirt stained socks and a giant backpack...but as I entered the Subway I was greeted by smiling faces, not only by the girl working the counter, but another man enjoying his breakfast, and most of all by a man named Tony Westmoreland. Tony was on his way to work, getting some breakfast, and while waiting for his order noticed my backpack sitting beside me. So he mosied over and struck up a conversation. Working for the department of transportation, we could relate about being out on the road in the heat of the day on hot pavement, but it didn't seem to get him down. He was simply one of those people that shines. Thank you, Tony, for your friendly demeanor and donation. You paid for my breakfast!

Hiking on that day, I met another nice man, Harold. Harold was out walking his dog as I neared the end of my miles. He was the very first person to approach me by saying, "Are you hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail?" To which I exclaimed, "Oh my God! You know what I'm doing!" He had met another hiker along the road last year and so had come to find out it passed right by his house. I told him I was headed to the Union Ridge Church for the night, not more than 1/2m up the road and he agreed it'd be a good place to stay. I told him it was a pleasure to have met him and we said our goodbyes. Well, well, well, just as I'm about to head out from the church the next morning, who appears but Harold! He was there to take me to breakfast. I'd already eaten, but I could definitely summon up an appetite for a second breakfast at the local grill, McCory's, and with such fine company. What a treat to share breakfast with someone, as well as to be welcomed into the Saturday morning family at McCory's. I do believe I chatted with every person in there and the food was delicious. To top it off, Harold hiked on with me for two miles up the road, giving me my first local hiking partner and first company since the girls back in Asheville. He also helped me fend off a nearby not-so-friendly dog. It was a pleasure to hear your stories, Harold and to get to know you so well. Thank you for your gift as well - I'm putting it to good use right now! I'll let you know when I get to the beach!



Me with Tyler (one of the children from the Vacation Bible School), Harold, and Janice outside McCory's Grill

Speaking of the Union Ridge Church - oh my, oh my! The generosity and welcome I received here. As I strolled on up, without any notice of my coming, I saw a full parking lot and a crowd of children as well as a few adults filing out of the nearby activity building. I suddenly wondered if my presence would be a bother. I walked towards the sanctuary. Well, I'd hardly set down my pack, when several women approached me asking me if I'd like to come in and have some food, enjoy the air conditioning, and use the bathroom. Uh, yes, yes, and yes! I'm sorry I cannot recall everyone's name whom I met, but I do remember your faces. Deborah, you introduced me to everyone and made sure I knew where to set up my tent and showed me around. Janice, you provided me with all kinds of wonderful snacks, as well as greeted me at McCory's the next morning, serving me more wonderful food along with a smiling face and kindness. Pastor Dan, you opened up your church to a stranger and made them feel at home. Ginger, your trail mix and PB helped me along all the way to today- I don't know what I would have done without them! And the children - oh what fun it was to hang out with all of you. I had arrived during an evening of Vacation Bible School and the kids were preparing for their final musical presentation on Sunday. I got to sit in and watch them preform, led by a most talented woman (Donovan's mother), and later got to make friendship bracelets with them during arts and crafts time. What a thrill.

One special woman, Carrie, actually invited me into her home, allowing me to take a shower and cooked me my first home cooked meal since hitting the trail, with veggies from their own garden. I got to meet her husband, Blare who is chief at the Burlington fire department, and one of their dogs, Clyde. They also have two children who were over at grandma's house for the night. Carrie, your cooking was amazing and thank you so much for doing so much at the spur of the moment. Blare it was a pleasure to meet you, keep workin' on that CSA- it is bound to rain again someday! Carrie also presented me with a mug of coffee the next morning, at 6:45am on a Saturday! All I have to say is: WOW. Thank you for inviting me into your home.



Blare and Carrie

After leaving the church yesterday morning, I made my way on down the road, for another 15m when I came to a store called A Week in Treasures. Here I got a cold soda and was invited to come sit out back under the shade tree with owners Phillip and Rhonda, and good friend Grady. It was just the rest I needed. We sat and shared stories and laughs and got to know each other. It was fun to peer around the store and see all the different things Phillip and Rhonda had to offer- truly a treasure trove. And what fun it was to see you down the road later on that day while on  your way to the racetrack, when I was just 3m from my next church for the night. Grady, it was very kind of you to offer me a ride- and you sure did try and persist(!) - but being that I'm hiking the trail, I must hike it. Still a nice offer. Y'all made me feel like one of the locals, waving and saying hello like I'd been there in Orange County for ages. Thank you for the notebook as well, Phillip it will go to record many wonderful plants.



Phillip, Rhonda, and Grady
 And so to all of you...THANK YOU!!! You welcomed a traveler, made her feel at home, and made my day not only bright but FUN!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Black Cherry saves the day

Today, if I could have, I would have done this...


But unfortnately, though my pack might be big, it's not quite big enough for me to hide in. (Psst, I read that these box turtles can live for 80yrs!) You see, I guess I should have figured the Greensboro Greenway may have it in for me, considering such signs...


I think Alexander would agree, it may as well say "NO HAVING OF FUN."

You see, my morning started off grand, waking up in the woods and all and with miles of actual trail hiking ahead of me. I could hardly make my way down the trail as I stopped to check out the Hazelnut trees, Long Leaf Pine, enormous Birch, as well as the wild ginger and black cohosh that had returned on the scene. But due to the nature of this trail, "not being completed", the fate of one hiking it is, "expect to backtrack and very likely go the wrong way." Well considering that had been MST blazes all along the trail yesterday in addition to the blazes of the Greenway trail I was coinciding with, I expected there to be MST blazes today. I turned onto the Laurel Bluff Trail as indicated by my guide and kept my eyes open for a "tricycle monument" that was supposed to be on the edge of the trail in 1.25m. Well, I figured something as random as a "tricycle monument" in the middle of the woods on a designated "hiking only" trail would be hard to miss. So, 2m down the trail when I still have not seen amonument or a single MST blaze, I thought, "*@#!, I missed my turnoff somewhere." So I turned around and hoofed if as fast as I could back to where I'd started from, expecting to see a MST blaze shooting me off in another direction.  However, when I end up right back where I've started, only to find a glassed in map of the trail I was on not far from the trailhead, I see..."*@#!, I was going the right way!" And so, all that for nothing. I turned back around and did those 2m yet again, finally getting myself back on track about 11am and 4m extra expended.

But now, now, this is a blog of gratitude, right? And let's not forget yesterday's post..."HAVE LOTS OF FUN!" So, I must say, considering this was the last thing I saw as I went to bed last night, as well as the first thing this morning...


as opposed to the day before that when I slept behind the Disciples of Christ Christian Church...


I suppose I don't have all that much to complain about. That and the fact that I got to spend the day in the woods, walking soft trail, listening to the birds- oh the birds are different out here, I've never heard so many unusal "caws!" and "sqwuacks!" and "cheep! chcep!"- and got to nibble on some of these...



Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Which brings me to the plant of the day...Black Cherry (Prunus serotina). The fruit is edible (however be sure not to eat the pit and these smaller cherries do have a fairly large one for their size) and quite yummy being sweet but also astringent and the barks makes a good medicine for suppressing coughs and as a mild sedative. It is best not to use black cherry if you're trying to expell phlegm as the cyanic acid contained in the bark is excreted through the lungs and has a numbing effect, which is what suppressies the cough rather than irritating or encouraging the lungs to expell it.

The inner bark is the part that is used and this can be harvested by either cutting down a samll tree or a large branch and shaving off the bark until you reach the hard inner wood of the tree. These shavings can be combined with alcohol to make a tincture or simmered for 20minutes to make a tea.

Black Cherry is our largest native cherry, has scaley bark (or to quote Juliet) has "potato chip" bark easy to pick off, and when mature can often be found with a divided trunk. The leaves are alternate and finely toothed, dark green above and paler beneath. The tell tale sign of a Black Cherry is the rusty hairs along the base of the midrib (center vein) on the underside of the leaf, however bear in mind that these hairs will not turn rusty until later in the season, they are just beginning to now. Also, if you crush a leaf, really crush it, it should smell strongly of almond. This almond odor is the cyanic acid - NEVER use the leaves as medicine.


Prunus serotina leaf with rusty wool along midrib

Cherry bark has been used as a cough medicine for since the beginnings of "cough medicine." This is why so many of our syrups and throat lozenges are "cherry flavored" nowadays, although now they do not contain any actual cherry.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oh! The people!

Each day I seem to meet someone new. Someone whom I never would have normally crossed paths with in my usual daily existence. These meetings seem serendipitious, often times this person offering me the very thing I need, whether it be food, drink, a stout statement I can muse upon for the next so many miles, or simply some kind human interaction.

I only wish I'd taken more pics! I do intend from here on out to get more photos of the people, as lately, walking down the roadside, though there are still plenty of edibles/medicinals I'm coming across and intend to feature, I find myself writing down more names of people than plants to remember.

Sunset Park and Campground with a glimpse of a good pond for floating in an innertube in, in  the background. RV's and tentsites were just beyond
 Above is a pic of the little RV campground I stayed at in Danbury. For $15 I got a tentsite under a large shade tree, a hot shower, laundry done (thanks to the graciousness of the owner and his own personal washer/dryer), and above all, got to meet some wonderful people. Mr.Davie was my next-door neighbor for the night. He provided excellent company and a friendly smile, and made sure to send me on my way with a pack of gum (and offered a flashlight as well which I unfortunately had to decline due to weight). I met Maryanne as well, while chatting with Mr.Davie and she provided many a good story about folks out in the world exploring and doing what they love, she also helped me hunt down my missing sock (your missing sock is mucho important out here!), find some shampoo, and sent me on my way with a handmade necklace made of beads she'd collected while in Death Valley. Wanda was the caretaker here and made sure I had everything I needed. And of course, Allen the owner and his son were most helpful in making me feel at home as well. Let me not forget...I also had the pleasure of meeting Midnight and Sugar, the two campground kitties, one black, one gray, both with white feet. I enjoyed their company until Midnight decided he was going to swat at my tent in the middle of the night- no damage done.
Mr.Davie, Maryanne, Allen and family, and Wanda it was a pleasure to have met you. You provided a good place to get clean and visit with some friendly folks.

Next, while I was enjoying a bagel with avacado, tomato, and chedder cheese on the bench outside the Food Lion in Walnut Cove, I had company of Utz potato chip delivery man, Ed, and PET dairy delivery man, Greg. Ed kept me laughing and made me feel like a celeb, as every person who came out of the store whom he knew, he'd exclaim, "Tell them what you're doing! Go on, tell 'em!" And Ed, I must say, thank you for the bag of sour cream and onion chips! As soon as I came outside the store and spied your truck, I immediately thought to myself, "now why didn't I buy myself some chips?" Now, the very reason I chose that bench was because Greg's truck was providing some excellent ol' school Michael Jackson tunes (music is a big deal out here when your everyday soundtrack on the road is cars and breeze). I do believe I was literally dancing in my seat. Thank you for the bottles of ice cold water, Greg and all your encouragement. He said, "If I knew your route, I'd drive along and offer you bottles of water as you go and cheer you on!"

Then there was Richard. Richard offered me a ride as I was exiting Walnut Cove. However, as I'm walking the trail, this means I must walk. Though, I tell you, it was all I could do not to climb inside that air conditioned truck and say, "take me to the coast!" I do believe I had about half my body inside anyway as we chatted. He told me all about the dogs he used to show and the dogs he has now, one of which is a search and rescue. I passed onto him my blog and we said goodbye. Well who shows up 7m further down the road that day, as I walked with sweat pouring off of me and dreaming about an ice cold drink at the next gas station? Richard! He came up behind me, slowed down and yelled, "Hey! Want a gatorade?" We sat on the tailgate of his truck, enjoyed the cold drink, ate some snacks and watched the traffic roll by. Thank you, Richard, what a lovely reprieve. It was also a pleasure to meet Rowdy the english shepherd search and rescue dog and Blitz the much loved rottwieler.

A few days before this, while sitting on the bench outside yet another Food Lion, I met Ignacio. Ignacio worked at the nearby McDonalds. Although I speak little spanish, we managed to chat some and what  treat it was to simply share a bench with someone and watch the world go by. At one point, Ignacio disappeared inside the store and motioned for me to "hold on a minute." He returned bearing two liters of ice cold gatorade and a package of chocolate donuts that we shared. Thank you Ignacio.

On the day after I left my campsite at the Blackwater United Methodist Church, I hiked 3m in the wrong direction, not realizing until I came to a convenience store that was not in my guide. However, a nice older man, who played some good ol' Johnny Cash in his car and had gone to school in the one room school house that was now the Baptist Church I'd be soon to walk by, gave me a ride. I never got your name, but thank you, sir. Also, this three miles out of my way paid off, thanks to another man driving a little red car packed to the gills and perhaps on a journey of his own, who gifted me as well, just because he "I've heard of people doin' the kind of thing you are and I think it's pretty cool." Thank you man in the little red car, you helped pay for several delicious ice cream cones.

This same day, I met a man who went by the name of Mac. Mac is an international airplane pilot. Mac invited me into his home, offered me some cold water and regailed me with all kinds of interesting stories about far away places and people he's flown to and from their homelands. His stories gave me good food for thought as I hiked on that day. I also learned about Brut, his ol' rottwieler, whom I'm sorry I never got to meet. Thank you, Mac, if I'm ever in a jam and need a flight, I now know who to call.

And lastly, I'd like to close this blog with the words of a little boy Alexander. As I was walking down the street, watching the stubbly grass, roadside plants, and pavement move beneath my feet, I heard "HEY! HEY THERE!" I looked over to a nearby lawn and trailers and here came Alexander, running up to me wielding a stick as tall as him. "Are you walking?" He asked. "Yes, to the beach." I replied. "Why?" He asked. "I just thought it'd be fun. What are you doing?" I asked him. He shrugged and said, "Just trying to have some fun." We talked a little bit more and he offered to show me his car, but I had to be on my way. "Okay, goodbye!" He said and turned to run back to his trailer. However, as I was just about 25 yards down the road, I again heard, "HEY! HEY!" I turned to see Alexander back at the roadside where we had talked, swinging his stick. "HAVE LOTS OF FUN!" He yelled. Thank you Alexander, thank you for the reminder. I will.

And so I'd like to wish you all the same...whether hiking, working, vacationing, or just plain living...be sure to HAVE LOTS OF FUN!!! Because really, why not?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum spp.) - yum yum!

So before I venture out of the woods completely, I'd like to do an overview of Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum spp.) This is a plant that stumped me for sometime as there are 4 different species in our region, each looking rather different from one another, and when not in flower can be somewhat difficult to distinguish. But the good news is, once you have your feeler out for them, you can't miss 'em. I found three on my hike, unfortunately never meeting the Appendaged Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum appediculatum). All are edible and all are tasty. I have even tried them even when flowering and just past, and unlike many other greens, are neither too tough nor too bitter, but have a simple mild taste all the same.

Waterleaf will reach only 1-2' tall and likes to grow in moist woods and along streams. Many that I have found had combined the best of both environments - along a slender mountain stream running down an embankment or hugging edges of moist trail. However, I have also found it growing in more dry habitats laden with rocks; perhaps here they had found soil kept moist and damp in between. Often times, the leaves will be mottled with white appearing "water stained", hence their name. Flowers are 5 petaled, and more or less bell shaped, with protruding stamens and stigmas. Look for blooming flowers spring and early summer.

Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum)

Virginia Waterleaf in flower
 Above is Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum). These will grow long stemmed as single basal leaves or alternate on a stem and are thin with a tendency to kind of droop. Leaves can be lightly mottled as if waterstained, though not always, and are 5-7 pinnately lobed. Flowers are purple and somewhat nodding. This batch of flowers was the only one I spotted my entire trip - too early in the higher elevations and too late in the lower. This pic is taken on the trail close to Rattlesnake Lodge just outside Asheville.


Large Leaved Waterleaf (Hydropyllum macrophyllum)


Large Leaf Waterleaf, going to seed - as you can see I was late on catching this one in flower, however, there were some still hanging on, which were creamy white in color.
 Now if this Large Leaved Waterleaf hasn't earned it's name! Only as the plant reaches maturity, when in full flower, will it's mottling begin to fade. However, it should also be noted, that at this point, every plant I've seen has begun to turn brown and spotted and just not very appetizing. This is a younger leaf and as far as I know, would be hard to confuse with anything else. This is one of the first plants I noticed unfurling in the woods up by Sam's Gap on the AT early this spring. The leaf is very hairy as well as the leaf stems, which are weak like VA Waterleaf, yet at the same time more thick. As far as I have seen, this plant produces only basal leaves. Leaves are 7-13 lobed. And as long as you don't mind some fuzz, this plant is edible raw as well!


Broad Leaved Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum canadense)

Broad Leaved Waterleaf about to bloom
I saved this one for last because it is by far the most distinct of our local Waterleaf. It is also the one that perplexed me for sometime, simply because it strongly resembles a maple leaf at first glance as well as flowering red raspberry. But different from a maple sapling, it's stem will be green; different from red flowering raspberry, it will not have a wooly underside. Like Large Leaved Waterleaf, I caught this plant both before flowering and towards the very end, however it's flowers appeared to be a lavendar color. Newcomb's lists its flowers as white or purplish. They will hang in a loose cluster underneath the leaf (another feature which can make it tough to spot at first - but once you have your antennae out for it, you can't miss it!) Additionally, though the leaf is maple-leaf shaped, to me it's center lobe appears longer, and has long/wide lobes at the base that maple leaves do not have.
Broad leaf Waterleaf featured with wood nettle, sheep sorrel, dried shiitakes, and of course some good ol' liptons pasta side - get it cookin!

Overview: Beacon Heights - Danbury (170m)

Overview: Beacon Heights - Danbury (170m)

Day 23: Beacon Heights – meadow just past Holloway Rd (13m)
Terrain: trail through high elevation mixed woods
Plants: Sochan (E), wood lily, false hellebore, sassafras (E/M), witch hazel (M), broadleaf waterleaf(E)
Terrain: Meadow
Plants: daisy (E), common cinquefoil(M), prunella (M), sheep sorrel(E)
Points of Interest: Linn Cove Viaduct, Steven Tying Mather gift shop with running water and restrooms, large boulders, lots of water, trail through cow pasture, excellent camping in meadow

Day 24: meadow just past Holloway Rd – BRP and Green Hill Rd (15m)
Terrain: meadow
Plants: Chalk Maple, Hawthorne(E/M), Apple (E)
Terrain: trail through moist mixed woods
Plants: Black Birch (M), Sourwood (E), Spiderwort(E), Pedicularis (M)
Terrain: gravel carriage roads
Plants: Sochan (E), apple (E), pumpkin ash, mitchella (M), stoneroot (M)
Points of Interest: campground with running water/restrooms, Moses Cone State Park, pretty and easy walking carriage roads, gift shop and Manor House, lots of people and folks on horseback, notice to visitors not to eat plants or handle soil due to high levels of arsenic/lead from past pesticide use, intersection for Boone/Blowing Rock

Day 25: BRP and Green Hill Rd – Jesse Brown's Cabin (18m)
Terrain: BRP
Plants: spiderwort (E), yellow wood sorrel (E), smartweed(E), english plantain(E), yarrow(E/M)
Terrain: trail criss-crossing BRP through mixed woods
Plants: black locust (E), white pine(M), hog peanut (E)
Points of Interest: overlooks, large portion roadwalk, new well maintained/marked trail, Jesse Brown's cabins, restrooms with running water

Day 26: Jesse Brown's Cabin – Pond on Don Bare Rd (17m)
Terrain: trail through mixed woods criss-crossing BRP
Plants: spiderwort (E), indian cuke(E), spicebush(E), daylily(E), jewelweed(M), mountain saxifrage, mountain mint(E/M)
Points of Interest: butterflies, cool plant niches on rock faces on BRP, West Jefferson with restaurant and gas station, Northwest Trading Post giftshop with some snacks and restrooms with running water

Day 27: Pond on Don Bare Rd – Doughton State Park Picnic Area (16m)
Terrain: trail through mixed woods criss-crossing BRP and country gravel roads
Plants: spiked lobelia, bluets(E), thimbleberry(E/M), white pine(M), eastern hemlock(E/M), mitchella(M), lifewort(M), table mountain pine (M), pitch pine(M)
Points of Interest: Laurel Springs biker town with 2 restaurants, mini mart, 2 motels, and bar; rolling farmland, Doughton State Park with beautiful rolling open meadows/views and a shelter with view

Day 28: Doughton State Park Picnic Area – Welcome Home Baptist Church (20m)
Terrain: meadow through Doughton
Plants: yarrow(E/M), red clover(M), mullein(M)
Terrain: trail through mixed woods and pure white pine stands criss-crossing BRP
Plants: white pine(M), eastern hemlock(E/M), galax(M), halberd violet(M), black locust (E)
Points of Interest:Due to closure of Doughton park some poorly maintained trail difficult to follow (when open there is lodge/restaurant), bear, construction along BRP, Stone Mountain, restrooms with running water and soda machines at Stone Mtn State Park, beginning of piedmont road walking

Day 29: Welcome Home Baptist Church – Surry Inn (17m)
Terrain: roadwalk through farmland/by homes
Plants: asiatic dayflower, black-eyed susan, wild carrot(E), kudzu(E/M), elderberry(E/M), mullein(M)
Points of Interest: country roads, rolling hills, farmland, rural living, lots of barking dogs, town of Mountain Park with large community park and soda machine; intersection with I-77 with 2 hotels, Dairy Queen, diner, gas stations

Day 30: Surry Inn – Blackwater United Methodist Church (13m)
Terrain: roadwalk through farmland/by homes
Plants: goosefoot(E), daylily(E), daisy(E), english plantain(E), wild carrot(E)
Points of Interest: Dobson with lots of stores/restaurants and library, country roads(however with more traffic), rolling hills, farmland, view of Pilot Mtn in distance

Day 31: Blackwater United Methodist Church - 3m down Sauratown Trail (20m)
Terrain: roadwalk through farmland
Plants: wild carrot (E), bull thistle, greater coreopsis, blackberry (E), chicory(E)
Terrain: muddy trail through mixed woods
Plants: bloodroot (M), black birch (M), wild ginger (E)
Points of Interest: very friendly town with lots of stores/restaurants, heavy traffic walking into town, trail very damaged due to heavy horse traffic- lots of deep mud, rutted, manure, take consideration in gathering water from streams due to horses on trail and possible farm run-off (water was heavy with dirt), white MST blazes return

Day 32: 3m down Sauratown Trail - 1m past Tory's Den (13m)
Terrain: mixed woods trail
Plants: wild ginger (E), yellow root (M), agrimony (M), witch hazel (M)
Terrain: Dusty gravel road
Plants: showy tick trefoil, wild potato vine(E), mountain mint (E/M)
Points of Interest: creeks clear up a few miles in as does horse damage, significant trail reroute that is well marked with white blazes however does not correspond to Scot Ward's guide, trail center just off Rock House Rd with glassed in map and shelter (currently closed to cars)

Day 33: 1m past Tory's Den - Danbury (11m)
Terrain: trail through mixed woods
Plants: blueberry (E/M), carolina hemlock (M), sassafras (E/M), wild ginger (E)
Points of Interest: pretty trail that is well marked, observation tower with awesome views as well as large boulders to get views from, Hanging Rock State Park visitor center with educational displays, lake with concession stand, bathrooms and running water, town of Danbury has nice library with wifi (where I'm writing from right now!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Trail Magic and New Friends

As the trail has been leading me from isolated woods into more civilized areas, such as much-visited state parks on the Blue Ridge Parkway, down gravel roads through residental areas (though some still quite sparsely populated), and into tiny towns such as Laurel Springs with biker bars (oh, they did have the best classic rock and Texas Toast cheese sandwich I do believe I have ever had) and past rolling farmland with old folks riding bikes down country lanes and glowing beacons of fresh food (to a hiker!) produce stands, I have have met some people.

Some of the most kind people I have ever encountered.

In fact the generosity and trust these folks have offered me, has helped me to realize another reason why I love to thru-hike. It seems helping out a hiker, and perhaps more than anything, simply another human being who could use something- anything- brings out the best in people. The normal ways in which we interact, and by that I mean, quick to pass by others and quick to judge are swept aside, as I find myself interacting with others on a purely human to human basis...and all I can say is thank you.

Thank you Tulie, Ed (who trusted me to come in his house), Onie, and Mike!
Meet Tulie and Onie (and Tulie's son, Mike not pictured who shared many an entertaining trail story with me and drove me in the cart to and from the house). These women were amazing. A couple of nights ago, I was searching for a woman named Theresa and her pond, by which my guidebook claimed, she let hikers camp. Well, I never did find her pond, but luckily I did find another, and in turn, these folks found me! One minute I was sitting solo by my tent typing up a plant list and the next I was sitting in their kitchen, freshly showered, and enjoying fresh baked cookies and hot chocolate. Oh...and it didn't stop there. 6:30am the next morning , I awoke to, "Good morning, are you awake yet?" a warm washcloth to freshen up, a roll of TP and water to take on my way, and this spread you see here: hot coffee, real cream, a banana, and more cookies (on a silver platter). Needless to say, I hiked on one happy, happy, hiker that morning! 
Thank you RJ from Boone, as well as the other nice man who picked me up on the way back up the parkway, and the super friendly staff at Pizza Hut
And here, a more simple offering, but one equally appreciated. This is a tallboy Bud Light I received from a young man named RJ who picked me up and gave me a ride on my way into Boone. I hadn't even stuck out my thumb and he pulled over, to top it, off I was walking in the wrong direction and so he turned me around! He also drove me all around town, acquainting me with where I could possibly stealth camp.
 Thank you cow, well, for just bein' cows
And well, me and the cows, we've been hanging out a lot too. Most often, I'll stop to wish them a good day and they'll stand and listen to me chatter for a bit and , sometimes they'll even talk back, and well, only once did I set a whole herd running for the hills (literally).
 Also, thank you to the nice family from Charleston (originally Asheville) who gave me a PB&J, a bottle of water, and twizzlers. I ate that PB&J as the rain poured down, sheltered by my pink umbrella as I walked the last 2m to the church. I do believe it's what got me there!

And I just want to say, it's been awesome simply to meet so many different kinds of people and be continually reinforced what I already suspected, that people, for the most part, are good. I hope I can give back a little of what I've received.

Trekkin' into the Piedmont


So I have traveled another 114 miles from Beacon Heights to the Boone/Blowing Rock area, through Moses Cone State Park, down the parkway many miles, through Doughton State Park, onto Stone Mountain, and finally, following Zephyr Mountain Park Road into the piedmont. I revelled in easy walking on carriage roads through Moses Cone, relished the last of my multi-layered mountain vistas in Doughton (also spying my first bear on this trip- from afar), and pounded the pavement HARD for many a country mile on road.  Here, my surroundings have been open rolling farmland, delapidated old barns, and open sky. My plant friends have quickly transitioned from mountain flora to that of roadside and meadow. To keep my company, my animal friends such as the wild boar and falcons are now cows and horses. My soundtrack is less sing-song birds and hooting owls, but rather crowing roosters, barking dogs, and revving engines.



I said goodbye to the mountains (a view from Bluff Mtn in Doughton Park)


And hello to the open road. Not far down this road is the Welcome Home Baptist Church where I popped my tent in their woods late last night

Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum sp.) with tiny bi-labiate flowers (meaning 2-lipped), opposite leaves, and square stem. This mint was so fragrant, I wished I could dry some and take it with me to freshen up my pack. I did savor just a few refreshing leaves. Mint is excellent for soothing an upset stomach, as a carminative (relieving gas), soothing the nerves, and awakening the senses. This particular patch was rather large and enjoying the thin soil atop a wet rock outcrop.

Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) has been growing in abundance along the roadside.  I have not yet tried it as I wanted to check my sources first, as one should be careful when sampling from the carrot family (can be tough to ID), however, from what I understand when still young, the root is edible (becoming woody with age) and the leaves can be a nice addition to salad. Important points of ID include a hairy stem, deeply divided and narrow bracts below the flower umbel, and a single purple floret in the center. Know your other carrot family plants such as poison hemlock before harvesting this one.

  
Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana). I spotted these juicy berries just under a blanket of overgrown grass and vines. Keep your eyes open for these growing along the edges of grassy trails and woods, and throughout meadows. The fruit is tiny (about 1/2") and will be below the single divided (3 leaflets) toothed leaf. Where there is one, there is usually many, as this plant spreads by runners. See previous post: Mouse-ear Chickweed, Wild Strawberry, and Flowering Mustard, Oh My!  for more info on wild strawberry
Spiked Lobelia (Lobelia spicata), the only Lobelia I've come across on my hike thus far. There was a small section of woods trail where they were very abundant, but that was all I saw for the day. Lobelia inflata is a traditional medicinal, the whole flowering plant is useful for breaking up obstruction such as at the onset of an asthma attack or relieving stagnation such as a persistent headache, and just a few drops added to any tincture formula will enhance the action of the other herbs. I do not know if Lobelia spicata possesses similar medicinal properties.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Plants, animals, and civilization, oh my!

Oh, what a couple of days off will do for a weary hiker. True, I've got things to take care of here, but I've made a point to lounge out as much as possible, enjoying the Chinese Buffet, bottomless cups of coffee (though the caffeine now catches up quick!), and soon, a trip to Filo Pastries for some deelish yummies.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I will be back on the trail, beginning from Beacon Heights, and hiking two days to Boone and Blowing Rock. As there does not appear to be any good places to camp about 10m prior to and all road walk about 15m after, I am currently looking for a good place to stay while passing through, so if anyone has any suggestions, such as lawn camping or welcoming homes or cheap lodging...

First a couple of cool links to check out and some quick clarifications:

Check out the article by Johnathan Poston, about moi, "the foraging hiker", at the Mountain Xpress website,
http://www.mountainx.com/outdoors/2011/thru-hiker_foraging_solo_across_the_mst_by_jonathan_poston

For a cool site to check out to help support our, oh so very important pollinators, the honeybees, check out http://www.ashevillepollinatorweek.com/

I did enjoy views of Shortoff Mountain, but not from Shortoff Mountain. Also, I mentioned passing Pitch Pine, this was not the case as Pitch Pine has needles in fascicles of 3, whereas this pine had needles in fascicles of 2, as well as several other differences such as growth pattern and cone shape. The pine that I passed in great abundance just before dropping into the gorge and just as I climbed out was Table Mountain Pine (Pinus pungens). This pine is unique to the Appalachian Mountains from PA down to GA, and according to the National Audobon Society Field Guide, the only pine that is restricted to such a region- our own special pine.



Table Mountain Pine (Pinus pungens) - check out that fat round cone, whose scales are described in by Nat'l Audobon Guide as, "thickend and keeled with a stout curved spine."

Pinus pungens green cones still on tree; here you can also see the thick somewhat twisted needles on strong branches(these are not too kind to brush through when on trail, not soft and pliable like White Pine)


 And now for some more plant and fun trail pics...


Oh! I must show these off some, as I was surprised to see them so soon!
Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.)

And Serviceberries too! I spotted these on the 2nd day of June, quite appropriate as they are also called Juneberries...however the birds had already gotten most of these. A handy way to ID these is to break one open, finding many soft brown seeds inside, and the "crown" on the end of red-purple berry.


The intriguing flower of Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense). To find this flower, one must spot the leaves (see below) and then gently ruffle through the foliage at the base of the plant, where it usually lies covered and waiting for it's crawling curious pollinators.


Wild Ginger leaves- these caught my eye because of their white mottling along their veins, however, most that I saw were shiny green and to a degree resembled Galax. What easily sets them apart though, is their entire (untoothed) leaf margin and deeply heart shaped leaf base, as well as more pointed tip. This plant should only be harvested where in abundance and consumed in moderation as a spice. Use the root as you would ginger, though this one is more mild tasting.
Yarrow leaf (Achillea millefolium)
Trunk of Hercules' Club (Zanthoxlyum clava-hercules) - another medicine tree sure to due some damage to an open palm. This tree is also called "Toothache Tree", as the bark and foliage can reportedly be chewed to relieve toothache, though I have not tried it myself. This tree is closely related to Prickly Ash, a more well known medicinal tree.
This little guy was munching on some False Hellebore. As I got close to take his pic, he stretched his antennae as far as he could to make my acquaintance
Now there's some long legs, however I guess this walking stick hasn't evolved camo coloring for a Kelty backpack yet
Views of the Linville Gorge
a Harper Creek waterfall
Some nice easy walkin'
Yes, though I may love my Sedum and Smilax and Violets and Yarrow, I sure love me a frosty ice cold Coca-cola upon hittin town. As I strolled into Linville these were among the first signs I saw just outside the Citgo gas station. They asked, "Thirsty?" with pictures of refreshing pop-cap red cola bottles. This soda was the first thing I did and once outside in the parking lot taking my first long chug, I exclaimed, "Oh dear God!" forgetting there was anything else in the universe at that moment besides me and that soda, garnering the attention of a man getting gas, who remarked, "That good, eh?" Oh, yes...that good.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Overview: Folk Art Center - Beacon Heights (118m)

Here's another overview for y'all. I'd like to remind folks that these are just a smattering of the plants that stuck out to me or that seemed abundant in the area. Also the (E), (M), or (E/M) refers only to the plant which it directly follows, not all of the plants in the listing. This also does not mean that the whole plant is edible (often just a particular part) and the same goes for medicinal usage.

Day 12: Folk Art Ctr - Ox Creek Rd (6m)
Terrain: Deciduous woods
Plants: Solomon's seal (E/M), Wild Geranium (M), Wood Nettle (E), Spicebush (E), Monarda (M), Wild Hydrangea (M), Sweet Cicley (E), Large Leaf Waterleaf (E), Broad Leaf Waterleaf (E), Stoneroot (M)
Points of Interest: well maintained trail, large rock slabs with unique niche plants adapted to sun and little soil, lots of nice gradual ups and downs and some views into the valley

Day 13: Ox Creek Rd - Douglas Falls Trail (10m)
Terrain: Deciduous woods
Plants: Hawthorne (E/M), Blue Cohosh (M), Stonecrop (E), Virginia Waterleaf (E)
Terrain: High elevation deciduous woods
Plants: Large Leaf Waterleaf (E), Pin Cherry (E), Yellow Birch (M)
Terrain: Craggy high elevation woods
Plants: Sheep Sorrel (E), Broad Leaf Waterleaf (E), Red Flowering Raspberry (E/M), Rowan Tree (E)
Points of Interest: Rattlesnake Lodge, lots of wild edibles, views of North Fork Reservoir, Craggy Gardens Picnic Area, side trail to Douglas Falls, access to Snowball Trail, Hawthorne trees with large spikes on trunks (considered a ancient trait long ago adapted for protection from large mammals that lived in the area) 

Day 14: Douglas Falls trail - Old Railroad bed 5m prior to Mt.Mitchell (11m)
Terrain: Deciduous high elevation woods criss-crossing BRP
Plants: Hobblebush, Canada Mayflower, Canadian Violet(E/M), Wood Nettle (E), Wild Yam(E), Dandelion (E/M), Yarrow (E/M)
Terrain: Ridgetop with rhodos
Plants: Wild Strawberry (E/M), Bluets (E), Red Spruce (M), Fraser Fir (M), Smooth Blackberry (E/M)
Terrain: High elevation evergreen woods
Plants: Red Spruce (M), Eastern Hemlock (E/M), Yellow Clintonia (E), Usnea (M), Northern White Violet(E/M), Michaux's Saxifrage
Terrain: Descending mtn over rocky trail onto grassy level old railroad bed
Plants: various Blackberries (E/M), Yellow Birch (M), Sochan (E), Rowan Tree (E)
Points of Interest: Beautiful trail, steep climbs, ridgetop meadow, excellent views, quiet evergreen woods, Blackstack Knob, Promontory Rock, nice somewhat hidden and spacious campsite

Day 15: Old railroad bed 5m prior to Mt.Mitchell - Neil's Creek Rd (11m)
Terrain: Mixed Woods
Plants: Eastern Hemlock (E/M), Hawthorne (E/M), Yellow Birch (M), Sochan (E), Rough Cinquefoil (M)
Terrain: Evergreen Woods
Plants: Fraser Fir (M), Red Spruce (M), Eastern Hemlock (E/M), Northern White Violet (E/M), Bluets(E)
Terrain: Evergreen woods into mixed woods
Plants: Witch Hazel (M), Round leaf Violet (M), Fraser Magnolia, Galax (M)
Terrain: Deciduous Woods
Plants: Halberd Violet (M), Mountain St.John's Wort, Umbrella Magnolia, Smooth Cinquefoil (M)
Points of Interest: Mt. Mitchell with very informative museum, concession stand, and gift shop; Black Mtn Campground Office that carries ice cream

Day 16: Neil's Creek Rd - 4m after Buck Creek Gap (9m)
Terrain: Deciduous low elevation to high elevation woods
Plants: Wood Nettle (E), Black Cohosh (M), Blueberry (E/M), Turkey Beard, Mitchella (M),     Sourwood (E)
Points of Interest: low elevation thick vegetation woods, town of Busick with Effler's Grocery, beautiful ridgetop trail with views and flowering mtn laurel

Day 17: 4m after Buck Creek Gap - 2m after Woodlawn Park Picnic area (12m)
Terrain: High elevation rocky woods
Plants: Mtn Laurel, Blueberry (E/M), Smilax (E), Sassafras (E/M)
Terrain: High elevation dry sandy soil
Plants: Pencil flower, Flame Azalea, Serviceberry (E), Rattlesnake Weed (M), Black Locust (E)
Terrain: Clay soil into moist deciduous woods and meadow
Plants: Black Birch (M), Daisy fleabane, Lyre-leaf Sage, Sochan (E), Red Clover (M), White Clover
Terrain: Dry meadow
Plants: Low Hop Clover, Venus's Looking Glass, Tansy Ragwort, Greater Coreopsis, Deptford Pink
Points of Interest: steep climb, wide sandy trail, dry climate loving plants, sparse blazing, Woodlawn Park and Picnic Area with bathrooms with running water and electrical outlets

Day 18: Woodlawn Park Picnic area - Kestler Memorial Hwy (13m)
Terrain: Meadow and sandy woods
Plants: Smilax (E), Common Plantain (E/M), Yarrow (E/M)
Terrain: Woods bordering railroad tracks
Plants: Butterfly weed, Hairy Skullcap (M), Flowering Spurge
Terrain: Rocky dry mtn
Plants: Galax (M), Blueberry (E/M), Serviceberry (E), Sassafras (E/M)
Terrain: Deciduous Moist Woods
Plants: Primrose Violet (E/M), Crown Vetch, Yarrow (E/M)
Points of Interest: whippor-wills, meadow with logs of insect song, many switchbacks up dry mtn with gorgeous views, dry springs/streams when with little rainfall, poorly marked trail, phenomenal view of Lake James from campsite on road however also a littered site

Day 19: Kestler Memorial Hwy - 2m after Table Rock Picnic Area (13m)
Terrain: Rocky dry mixed woods
Plants: Sassafras (E/M), Blueberry (E/M), Sweetgum, Yellow Stargrass, Narrow Leaf White Topped Aster
Terrain: Fire ravaged high elevation woods
Plants: Bristly locust, Blueberry (E/M), Sand Myrtle, various Blackberry (E/M)
Terrain: Moister Woods
Plants: White Pine (M), Mtn Laurel, Rhodo, Fire Pink, Smooth Cinquefoil (M)
Points of Interest: great beach and swimming area at Linville River, deep and wide Linville River ford, steep and challenging climb with awesome views of Linville Gorge, Table Rock, and Shortoff Mtn, burned out woods with little water (however piped spring still running at top of climb), hard to follow trail due to fire damage and lack of proper blazing, lots of blowdowns, the Chimneys, Table Rock summit side trail, cool climbing areas, Peregrine falcons

Day 20: 2m after Table Rock Picnic Area - Raider Camp Trail Intersection (14m)
Terrain: Deciduous moist low elevation woods
Plants: Spotted Wintergreen, Wood Nettle (E), Eastern Hemlock (E/M), Wild Hydrangea (M), Hercules' Club, White Pine (M)
Points of Interest: great swimming holes at Buck Creek and Upper Creek, creek fords - none too deep, poor marking of trail towards end of section with lots of side ATV trails

Day 21: Raider Camp Trail Intersection - Hunt Fish Falls and Pools (11m)
Terrain: Creekside and Wooded Trail
Plants: Wild Ginger (E), Mitchella (M), Black Birch (M), Basswood (E/M)
Terrain: Beach
Plants: Fire Pink, Sochan (E), various Blackberry (E/M), Yellow Root (M)
Terrain: Gravel Road
Plants: Daisy (E), Turkey Beard, Fairy Wand, Black Locust (E)
Points of Interest: Harper Creek, 11 fords- most not too deep/difficult, waterfalls, swimming holes, popular swimming area at Hunt Fish Falls (lots of people)

Day 22: Hunt Fish Falls and Pools - Beacon Heights (7m)
Terrain: old forest service road through deciduous woods
Plants: Wild Hydrangea (M), Black Birch(M), Witch Hazel (M)
Terrain: High elevation mixed woods
Plants: Round leaved Violet (M), Indian Cuke (E), White Pine (M), Spiderwort (E), Smilax (E)
Points of Interest: uphill the whole way, but very graded on forest service road, becoming steep last couple of miles, beautiful trail walk in last couple of miles, plenty of water whole way

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Nettles!

*this post is about two days behind. I have just arrived in the town of Linville and will be taking 2 days off in Asheville to take care of some household needs. Soon to be posted- overview of this this section as well as more plant and fun pics!

The Linville Gorge has proved to be a true butt kicker. However, a butt kicker with magnificent views from Shortoff Mtn, the Chimneys, and Table Rock. But as I watched the hawks soaring through the valley below me I wondered, why wasn't I born with a pair of those feathery wings? I suppose it's a good thing I wasn't, I might look a bit strange.

The first couple of days consisted of winding around the the mountains on wide old sandy jeep roads and I marveled at how the moist soil I'd been treading upon for the last 170m quickly turned to pure red clay and then sand and rock. The vegetation changed along with it. Gone went all of my moist cool forest loving plant friends, such as Black Cohosh, Trillium, Violets, and Foam flower, suddenly replaced by Pitch Pine, Bristly locust, Goat's Rue, and Sand Myrtle. Besides the persisting mountain laurel and rhododendron, I wondered, “Where have I traveled to”, and then, “I guess I'm not in Asheville anymore.” The next couple of days were filled with steep ups and downs, the steepest yet, through fire scorched sandy woods in the blazing hot sun, with many of the creeks and springs dried up, however it was here that I was rewarded with the massive splendor of the gorge and its rocky walls, as well as my first swimming- the Linville River with sandy beach and chair and all. More cold mountain waterholes were soon to follow.

And finally, as of today, just when I thought I'd never see a wild edible green again, I have climbed out of the gorge and descended back into my wet thick deciduous woods, with running creeks and rain and clean cold swimming holes. I have never been so happy for such abundant water. I have been fantasizing about frosty bottles of Aquafina and cans of Coca-cola for the last two days- so badly that when I'd gaze upon a town in the valley or glance at a plane overhead, my first thought was, “I wonder what those people are drinking right now?” And the trail, well, if you ever plan to hike the MST, or at least this portion, though it's absolutely worth it, bring a map! No, you know what, I have a map, and that didn't even prevent me from wandering down some other trail or ending up bushwhacking through thick rhododendron at least once daily. Just remember this, “If you doubt that you're on the trail, check your map, check your guide, double back, check your watch, look for blazes anywhere you could possibly think to look – up, down, horizontal- and then just start walking and hope for the best.”

It's been an adventure, Linville, a beautiful, at times exasperating, adventure.

So speaking of wild edible greens I thought I might never see again. The first edible greenie back on the scene was Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis). Oh, yes Wood Nettle, goes good in a pot, goes good rolled in ball, goes good when stinging bare legs to take your mind off sore feet. Wood Nettle is edible, however not medicinal, at least not in the same sense as Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica). They are both considered true nettles and share the same family (Urticaceae or the Nettle Family), but not the same genus. Also, botanically speaking, they have some striking differences.

Wood nettle is the only true nettle with alternate leaves. Urtica dioica has opposite leaves, as does another nettle closely related called Slender Nettle (Urtica procera). So if you see a plant with stinging hairs and alternate leaves, this will already clue you in to the likelihood of Wood Nettle. 
Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis) alternate leaves and purplish nodes (although I've have seen wood nettle without the very purple nodes

  
And although both Nettles have toothed margins (outer leaf edges), pointed apexes (leaf tips) and a somewhat wrinkled appearance, the base of Wood Nettle's leaves are round, whereas Urtica dioica's are heart-shaped.


Wood Nettle leaves with round base, toothed margin, and pointed apex

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) leaves with  heart shaped base
Thirdly, we certainly cannot forget the stinging hairs of Wood Nettle, though Stinging Nettle bears the very word in its common name and in my opinion packs a more brutal sting, Wood Nettle still stings, possessing fine hollow hairs that act like needles. These are found on the stem, leaf stems, and leaves. When an unnoticing hiker brushes past, fluid at the base of each hair pressed is injected into the skin, releasing histamine, formic acid, and neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Now, whether our body actually processes say serotonin as serotonin, or breaks it down into something else, is unknown. However, I will say, as I breezed down the trail, getting brushed from this side and that, like a car through a carwash, afterwards, I felt quite alert and well, "charged UP!" The sting can leave a sort of itchy, shivery, sensation, but does not last all that long. It also seems as if different communities offer different degrees of sting. I have encountered Wood Nettle in which I've had to do all I can to receive a sting, and others where it took just a single touch.


Stinging hairs of Wood Nettle


 Lastly, when in flower, Wood Nettle will display both female flowers in the axils and male flowers terminally, whereas Stinging Nettle has male and female flowers on separate plants, hence the name Urtica "dioica" which means "2 houses" or in this case, "2 plants." The greenish female flowers will hang in loose clusters from the axils, whereas the male will reside in, more upright, at the top of the plant. Wood Nettle nor Stinging Nettle will not flower until Summer.

Wood Nettle is an incredibly nutritious food, high in vitamins A and C, magnesium, potassium, iron, and calcium. I also found it too be quite tasty. If grabbed with confidence and rolled up into a sort of tube, you must likely will not get stinged, one can also grasp a bit more carefully and roll up the leaf to the stem where you can pluck it off easily, also without getting stung. This does not always work, but I have found it does 99% of the time. I harvested some as I was hiking from this amazing patch you'll see below, and saved in a ziploc for that night's dinner. I added them to a pot of mac and cheese, letting them boil with the noodles and they came out quite nicely, a light taste and an easy addition. If you like to nibble while you hike you can also grab the leaves, rolled them up into tight balls and just pop them in your mouth. I did this as well and didn't get stung once. However, I recommend the smaller leaves for this, as the larger ones are more fibrous and better reserved for cooking.

Was some hungry hiker requesting greens? This patch as well as another large patch hugged both sides of the trail for about 0.2m