Wednesday, May 18, 2022

May 17th -- Ladies Day

On a beautiful sunny mid-May day at 3200 feet elevation near the Appalachian Trail and about three miles from the Cloister at Three Creeks, I spent the day on another of my nature quests.

Today I was looking for the hard-to-find wild orchid known as the Lady Slipper. The pink variety, Cypripedium acaule is far more common here, and today I saw several dozens in three separate locations, including the deepest pink variety I've ever seen. It was almost red.

But today's big prize were the rare yellow lady's slippers, Cypripedium parviflorum.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Catawba Rhododendron blooming, declaring the beginning of summer

Yep, summer has arrived at the Cloister at Three Creeks, and its only early May.

No, don't give me any of your technical gobble-de-gook. Just open your eyes and look around. Listen to the birdsong echoing off the rich, fresh green forest canopy. Take a deep breath. Inhale the scents of the woods come fully alive again on a misty, damp May 6th morning ... and you *know*.

Friday, May 6, 2022

The strange, the scary, the sublime: May 5th

The strange: A Monster Violet plant.

The scary: almost stepping on a Rattlesnake, just minutes after photographing the first bloom of Rattlesnake Weed (how aptly named is *that* ?!!!)

The sublime: basking in the multi-sensory experience of the spring woods at the Cloister at Three Creeks.

Below are some of the featured photos from the video, for blog viewers to peruse at their leisure.

Daisy Fleabane, in the aster family: Erigeron annuus

Shagbark hickory

Wild Yam: Dioscorea villosa

Wild azalea plant in peak bloom, photo-bombed by a passing Black Swallowtail butterfly

Black Swallowtail at rest, sunning on a rock.

Rattlesnake weed, first bloom: Hieracium venosum

Very distinctive leaves of Rattlesnake weed.  It is such an aptly named plant--it shares an ecosystem with rattlesnakes and blooms at the same time that the reptiles come out of their winter dens.

First rattlesnake sighted right on the grounds of the Cloister.  I suspect this is the same one who frequented the grounds all last summer--a big old gal or fella with 8 or 9 rattle segments.

First Mountain Laurel bloom of the new season--this plant's bloom, for me, has always heralded the start of SUMMER!  But it's May 5th!

Second Mountain Laurel bloom, just opening

Oxeye daisy, Leucanthemum vulgare, an import from Europe

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Five feature flowers, and a photo bombing bug

Five short videos featuring five flowers.

The first is the size of Indian Pipes, with the same general form and shows no green, just like Indian Pipes, but it is not Indian Pipes. My internet searching at the time I made the video came up with no ID, but a more careful search the next day, after revisiting the plant and studying it, turned up the ID:

It is One-Flowered Broomrape, Orobanche uniflora. It is parasitic on herbacious plants such as asters and saxifrages.

The second is Mayapple, featured to celebrate May Day. Third is Anise Root, a member of the carrot family, whose tissue carries a strong anise/licorice scent. Fourth is a close-up look at Jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum. Finally I found a Mountain Laurel that is almost ready to burst into bloom, which was a surprise, and probably more evidence of climate change shifting the seasons.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Parental discretion advised: A chat with Bad Axe Jack at the Mean Boys' Pit

This is a big change from my usual material. Beware of the foul language.

Forest predation by humans (deforestation, both government-sanctioned and illegal, and tree poaching) is one of the most serious threats to our world, and unfortunately, it will never be solved by regulation or enforcement. If there's a buck to be made, no matter how hard you try to stop it, greedy people will operate outside the law to make it. Same as for pollution emissions in general and for the use of fossil fuels in specific. Sorry for the pessimistic point of view, but you can't regulate human nature.

There are so many threats to our forests. Invasive species, animal and vegetable and in-between, the aforementioned ongoing deforestation, fires and drunken forests (melting of perma-frost) made worse by climate change are just some of the biggies. If I stop to think about it, as I did today while a helicopter ran rampant above the valley of the Cloister at Three Creeks, I either get so depressed that my day is ruined, or, alternatively, I try to find a way to change the way I deliver my message, speaking for the trees. Today's video is an experiment with a new message. Did it work? Only time will tell.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

What do I do? A chat with my buddy 'Easy Listener'

Time to talk out my future options and plans. What comes next? Another long distance hike?

In the past twelve years, since I got my first GPS unit, I've recorded 20,000 hiking miles and counting. I've hiked from Katahdin in Maine to Key West, Florida, the Appalachians to the Outer Banks via NC's 1100-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail where I pioneered and was the first to hike a new 300-mile route called the Coastal Crescent. I've hiked from the AT at Harpers Ferry, WV west and north via PA's Standing Stone and Mid-State Trails to New York's Finger Lakes Trail then west via the North Country National Scenic Trail, Ohio's Buckeye Trail, and Michigan's Iron Belle Trail across all of Michigan's Upper Peninsula to northern Wisconsin, then south along Wisconsin's Ice Age trail to Illinois, then west across the Great Plains to the Colorado Rockies.

In those 20,000 miles I completed the goal of walking to the front door of every home that I've ever lived—almost two dozen of them.

But my wandering feet are not satisfied. They long to continue west from Colorado and stick my toes in the Pacific Ocean, and then to wander up toward Alaska and Canada's Northwest Territories to touch the Arctic Ocean too.

Big dreams. Along the way I would hope to continue to raise awareness of my nationwide ‘Fifty Trail’ route and advocate for building and establishing a network of connected trails in the US that could start to rival the amazing national trail network in Switzerland, which includes no less than seven different continuous cross-country trails.

I'd also hope to promote my AT-hike memoir, which I'm finally, ten years after the fact, finished writing and ready to publish.

Yet I'll be turning 74 this year. One of the things I'm usually good at is 'listening to my body' and understanding its needs and limits. At this age the art of 'resting' becomes as significant as the goal of staying fit and active. The scales find a different balance than they did ten years ago when I hiked the whole AT twice in one year. It takes longer to recover from a long hard hike. I hike slower, and when I do I find that I'm appreciating what I'm passing more than ever—stopping to 'smell the roses' in ways that I had not done before. But that means fewer miles per day—longer time needed to accomplish any goal.

So ... what should the next goal be? Or should I continue my hermit-at-the-Cloister lifestyle of retirement from cross-country hiking and just focus on full immersion in this amazing place?

In today's video I use the camera as my 'easy listener' - my sounding board to air out my thoughts while rambling through the woods on a gorgeous spring day.

At the end there's a report on the half-dozen or so new first blooms seen today, April 26th.

Below, as a bonus for those who come to this blog, here are the new blooms spotted the last two days. Enjoy.

"Fall Color" on the Cutleaf Toothwart.  They, along with the Spring Beauty, have gone to seed and are now going dormant.
First Jack-in-the-pulpit, April 25th.
Early Saxifrage, Micranthes virginiensis
Pussy Toes, Antennaria plantaginifolia
Ohio Spiderwort, Tradescantia ohiensis
Blackhaw, Viburnum prunifolium
Artsy shot of a Blackhaw bloom from the underside
Baby Blue Eyes, Nemophila manziesii, native to California but abundantly self-seeded in the east now after escaping from people's gardens.
True wild strawberry (as opposed to the mock wild strawberry with yellow flowers), Fragaria Virginiana