Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Wildflowers, Books, and Beer

Hyssop Skullcap (Scutellaria parvula) - A member of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae) and close relative to Scutellaira lateriflora traditionally used in herbal medicine as a mild sedative. I am uncertain of the medicinal qualities, if any, of this Skullcap, but it still serves as an excellent means to learning to identify Skullcap. Notice the two-lipped (bilabiate), irregular flowers, the lil' cap on the calyx (the green sheath that holds the petals) of each flower, and opposite leaves.  
The last few days have been filled with all things good...miles of trail abundant with wildflowers and edible greens, well-attended book events, and local brews in downtown Durham. What more could a hiker possibly ask for?

I have completed the Falls Lake Trail since I last wrote, treading trail blanketed in soft pine needles, crossing brand-new sturdy bridges erected by hard-working trail crews, and doubling back on the regular when I go breezing by a botanical beauty.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) - by far one of my most treasured plants. The leaves can be added to salads for an extra zing, the flowers and leaves make a tea helpful in dilating the peripheral blood vessels or in other words, bringing heat to cold fingers and toes. One can also make an infused oil using olive oil and above ground plant parts, applying to sore muscles to relieve inflammation and pain. Or most easily, make a spit-and-chew poultice using the leaves and apply to a bleeding cut to prevent infection and reduce blood loss. Read more about my experience on the first hike with this herb at my post: http://thebotanicalhiker.blogspot.com/2011/06/hikers-wound-wort.html or read more about it in A Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Mountains to Sea Trail

The incredible bridge built over Falls Lake, crossing the bridge you cannot help but feel like you are simply walking atop the water. 
No this is not a flying saucer descending upon the trail but Striped Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata). This is a small plant that stays close to the forest floor. Leaves whorl in groups of three around a single stem that support a trio of flowers. It is highly tolerant of the acidic soils of pine woods and quite common in Piedmont forests (I have seen this plant rather frequently in the Mountains as well). It has been traditionally used as a diuretic and in treating urinary tract infections because of its containing arbutin, an antiseptic constituent. However, because there are large areas in which this plant is endangered, I strongly recommend leaving it be.

On Saturday, I took my first complete day off the trail to attend my book signings at FullSteam Brewery in Durham and Great Outdoor Provisions Company in Raleigh. At Full-Steam I enjoyed the energy of all the young folks milling about as well as a "Working Man's Ale" while signing books, evidence that its appropriate for hiking ladies as well. And at GOPC in Raleigh the enthusiasm was contagious, as not only were folks there for the signing but for the FMST raffle drawing. I also got to see a host of new friends I had made over the last couple of weeks!

Exectuive Director of the FMST Kate Dixon, myself, and Robin (she was the host who put out the clever sign not to eat the flowers), drawing the winning raffle tickets! And I must mention...notice that book in Robin's hand?
In the evening, I celebrated by exploring downtown Durham. What a vibrant city! I found my way to a "Best of Downtown Durham" event in the city's central park, listening to a live band, called the Cottonmouth something or others (sorry that's the best I can do) and enjoying a delicious wrap from a local food truck called Vegan Flava. I have no idea what I ate, I believe it was a walnut puree expertly seasoned with yumminess, but what it was it was good! When the show ended at 9:30, I made my way over to James Joyce Irish Pub and enjoyed this incredible microbrew as well as a basket of cheesefries. Hey, a hiker needs her grease.
The Big Black Bear Stout made by Republic from California - the only black bear I'd want to get this close to on the trail.

While in Durham I had the pleasure of finally meeting the incredible JoEllen. JoEllen is the Outreach Coordinator for the FMST and the woman that helped me find my way out of Holly Shelter Gamelands. JoEllen took me in for the night, transported me to and from my events and provided me with a lovely banner for my book signings. She has been invaluable to the success of this hike, helping me to coordinate my hiking with my book events, and rides to and from the trail. Plus we simply had a lot of fun! Thank you, JoEllen! The second night I stayed in town, I stayed in the Historic Tobacco District, renting a room from a young couple. The apartment was hip and chic and provided a perfect home-base from which to operate while in the city. Durham, you were not easy to walk away from!

An abandoned overgrown railroad bed that the Falls Lake Trail passed over.
However, once back on trail, I soon found myself passing through areas people had long-ago walked away from. The trail eventually left the lake, zig-zagging through dense woods, less frequently traveled than the more eastern sections of the trail, and alongside railroad tracks, some still in use and some as you can see above, abandoned and left to be overcome by the forest. I could see that not far from these tracks, houses had once stood, as I past the heaps of weathered and dismantled cabins and outbuildings. However, some bits and pieces were still in fairy good shape...

I wonder where this gate once led...
And so now, I find myself in the smaller city of Chapel Hill, transported by the helpful Toni, who had the brilliant idea to stop at a Whole Foods on the way to my home for the night where I loaded up on all kinds of yummies including a gourmet hard cider. Thank you, Toni! I am presently staying with an absolutely lovely family of Shawn and Charlotte and their 2 boys last night and tonight as well. You'll be sure to hear about them in the next post! I have already had one event at the Internationalist - a radical and progressive-minded bookstore and community center downtown - and was pleased to have a packed house, and most all of them plant geeks like myself! I learned a thing of two from them as well.

Tonight I will be at Great Outdoor Provisions Company here in Chapel Hill at 7pm as well as out Weaver Street Market in Hillsboro tomorrow night at 5pm...I'm looking forward to seeing y'all there!

The Internationalist Bookstore and Community Center - a source for activist books, pamphlets, and rare reads!

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