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,

For a cool site to check out to help support our, oh so very important pollinators, the honeybees, check out

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.

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