Bob Pickett

1997 Field Notes:


DATE: December 13, 1997

LOCATION: SNP, North District, Fraser Hollow

WEATHER: Clear, 32 degrees.

GEOLOGY:Mainly Catoctin Greenstone, but crossing over Stanley Fault onto Pedlar granodiorite.

ROUTE: Starting at Beahm*s Gap, bushwhacking down into Fraser Hollow, then back up on Hull School Road to Skyline Drive.

BOTANY: Secondary growth deciduous forest. Area was largely clear at the time of the Park establishment in 1935. Primarily reforested by even age/size (12 - 14" dia) tulip poplars.

Canopy - Tulip poplars, basswood, white and Virginia pine, white, red, chestnut oak, black gum, white ash, black locust, black and mazzard (sweet) cherry, black birch, yellow birch (along streams), a few butternuts along the Thorton River, slippery and American elm, beech, sycamore, mockernut and bitternut hickory, black walnut, red, striped, and sugar maple, hemlock.

Shrub layer - Lots of coral berry near the Drive, spice bush most prevalent only about three or four seen with fruit, with some witch hazel, mountain laurel (principally on one north-facing slope with other conifers), pawpaw, ironwood, hop hornbeam, persimmon, sassafras, hawthorn, blueberry, deciduous azalea, staghorn sumac, chestnut, dogwood, redbud, smooth blackhaw viburnum, wild hydrangea.

Groundcovers and vines: Grapes, rattlesnake plantain, spotted wintergreen, partridgeberry.

Herbaceous flowers - too many garlic mustards, black snakeroot, tall meadowrue, butterfly weed, milkweed, blackberries, raspberries, early saxifrage, goldenrod.

Ferns - Christmas, polypody, ebony spleenwort, hay-scented.


Mammals - three deer on the road; one dead 8-point buck in the creek ( a good reason not to drink even apparently safe stream water), a short-tail shrew missing it*s head, laying on a rock, some bear scat (old scat with cherry pits, more recent scat with persimmon seeds).

Amphibians - none

Reptiles - none

Birds - Six turkey; two large, four smaller, juncos, titmice, chickadees, crow.

NOTES: Trip with Steve Bair and Len Wheat. Saw some excellent stone walls along the old Fraser Hollow road, a cemetary, and a few homesites. Also found a buck dead in the creek - perhaps shot by hunters and returned to the Park before dying. Most hemlocks were severely affected by wooly hemlock adelgids. Found a large concrete basement (10 x10)near where ice used to be cut and stored (below Hull School/Thorton River trail junctions) - possibly this was a summer storage for the cut ice.

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DATE: November 28, 1997


WEATHER: Cloudy, 50 degrees

GEOLOGY: Old Rag granite, with Catoctin Greenstone intrusions

ROUTE: The normal 7 mile hike starting at Weakley Hollow parking lot. Up the Ridge trail, over the top, down the Old Rag trail to the former town of Old Rag, and back along the Weakley Hollow fire road. Too many people on this day-after-Thanksgiving day.

Canopy - Secondary growth of chestnut and red oak, black locust, and Virginia pine on drier slopes; tulip trees, hemlock, white pine, basswood, big-tooth aspen and red maple on more moist soils; umbrella magnolia, black walnut, sycamore, and white oak on lower elevation alluvial soils. Black and a few yellow birch, with table mountain pine are found on rocky outcrops. Interesting view looking downslope to the west from on top shows a grove of hemlock halfway down with a population of red maple (white bark) and bigtooth aspen (yellow-brown bark) just below; apparently responding to some springs surfacing in the area of the hemlocks.

Subcanopy - Witch hazel, sassafras, striped maple, red maple, black and (a few) yellow birch, staghorn sumac, American chestnut, service berry, dogwood, and smooth alder.

Shrub layer -Wild hydrangea, mtn laurel, winterberry, deciduous azalea, blueberry.

Herbaceous flowers - Blackberries, raspberries, wood asters, goldenrods, evening primrose, sweet cicely, garlic mustard.

Groundcovers - Trailing arbutus, early saxifrage, dwarf cinquefoil, rattlesnake plantain, clematis.

Ferns - Christmas, polypody, intermedia, bracken, hay-scented, Lycopodium digitatum, and ebony spleenwort.

ZOOLOGY: Mammals - Amphibians - Reptiles - Birds - One tulip poplar in the first moist saddle on the ascent before reaching the first rock false summit (on the inside of the right turn) has been riddled from yellow-bellied sapsuckers. (Tulip poplars, with their copious amounts of sap - a symptom of a fast-growing tree - are commonly preferred by sapsuckers - our winter woodpecker. This moist area supports a large population of large-flowered trillium, not visible now.) Raven, turkey vulture, titmice, chickadees and golden kinglets were also seen.

NOTES: Up to a dozen moths were seen over the course of the hike. The witch hazels, many in bloom at this time, are fertilized by these, normally nocturnal, insects. For my records, a hike on Nov 15 to Overall Falls, found a large population of walking sticks, primarily on large tree bark (some had counts in the twenties on a single tree.)

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DATE: November 2, 1997

LOCATION: Sugarloaf Mountain, MD

WEATHER: Partly cloudy, high of 55 degrees

GEOLOGY: Sandstone monadnock in piedmont physiographic region

BOTANY: Several different habitats. Approaching the summits (drier and less soil), the beech and white oak drop out with chestnut and red oaks dominating with red maple. Highest (and rockiest) had same three and table mountain pine. Mountain laurel was commonly found in both areas, as well as in lower, more mesic conditions.

Canopy - Beech, tuliptree, red maple, black cherry, sassafrass, hickories (pignut and mockernut), Oaks (black, white, chestnut and red), Pines (Virginia, white and table mountain), (drier saddle had red and chestnut oak and red maple)(top of ridges and rock outcrops have same last three plus table mountain pine and black birch in rocks), basswood.

Subcanopy - Witch hazel, shadbush, blackgum, mazzard cherry (P. avium), American chestnut, black locust, Tree-of-Heaven.

Shrub layer - Mountain laurel, deciduous azalea, blueberry, huckleberry, deciduous holly, green ash, southern arrowwood viburnum.

Herbaceous flowers - Garlic mustard, skunk cabbage.

Groundcovers - Trailing arbutus, partridgeberry, striped wintergreen, and tree clubmoss (L. obscurum).

Ferns - Royal, interrupted and cinnamon; all in same wet area. Also, Christmas, New York and hay-scented, lady, bracken, sensitive.


Mammals -none
Amphibians -none
Reptiles -none
Birds -none notable

NOTES: One wetland was found with all three Osmunda ferns (royal, interrupted and cinnamon), sensitive and lady fern. (This area is a short distance up the blue blazed trail from the parking lot on Mt Ephraim Road. Unique shrubs growing in the same wet area included green ash and deciduous holly. Most noteworthy were the emerging tips of skunk cabbage, up to three inches high --- all in the same area. Also, two daddy long-legs were observed attached face-to-face engaged in either a mating ritual or some kind of act of aggression.

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DATE: September 14, 1997

LOCATION: Appalachian Trail at Blackburn Center to Buzzard Rocks

WEATHER: Partly cloudy, about 75 degrees

GEOLOGY: Weverton Sandstone

Canopy - This short hike was along the sandstone ridge that makes up the Blue Ridge from the Shenandoah National Park to Harpers Ferry. Such ridges as this are typically dry habitats, with most available moisture quickly percolating through the nutrient-poor thin soil layer into cracks in the subsurface quartsites. Dominant canopy species included chestnut oak, red oak and pignut hickories. This area is mainly young growth, with many locusts, black gum, sassafras (some with mature fruit), red maple and a few tulip tree and Virginia pine. A couple of sassafras seedlings had five lobes instead of the usual three (or less). A few moist areas included black and pin cherry, slippery elm, black walnut, hawthorn and black birch. Among the rocky scree areas, several large American chestnut trees had enough sunlight to produce a good crop of fruit ("large" to me means that I can't close my hands around the trunk; i.e., at least 6" in circumference). Sleeping in the woods, we constantly heard the dropping of hickories (about one every five-ten minutes).

Shrub layer - As with most sandstone, the shrub layer was limited to mainly ericaceous members such as blueberries and huckleberries. A few mountain laurel and pink azaleas were found as well. A few witch-hazel were beginning to bloom. Down at the Blackburn Trail Center is a population of paw-paw which, due to the shady environment, showed no maturing fruit. Within the moist areas described above in the canopy section were numerous spicebush (even on the ridgetop) in fruit. Patches of blackberries and raspberries were abundant. Fruit was found on winterberry holly.

Herbaceous flowers - White snakeroot, smartweeds and wood aster were found throughout the area. Also occasional starry campion, Asiatic dayflower, Sweet-scented Joy-pye weed, and an uncommon occurance of Tall rattlesnake plant (Prenanthes genus), usually found in PA and northwards. Fruit was found on abundant black snakeroot (black cohosh), garlic mustard, and an occasional whorled loosestrife. A few Woodland sunflowers, wild sarsaparilla, tall bellfowers, peppermint were also found. A few Jack-in-the-pulpits were in fruit. Down in the valley, spotted touch-me-not (the orange one), several species of yellow daiy-like bidens (Spanish Needles and Tickseed sunflower), evening primrose, a few New York ironweed, great lobelia, Queen Anne's lace and goldenrods dominated the ditches and fields.

Ferns - Mainly hay-scented fern, with some cinnamon fern in moist areas and bracken in sunnier areas. Also a little rock polypody and ebony spleenwort.


Mammals - Grey squirrels

Amphibians - none

Reptiles - This area is known to have a good population of rattlesnakes. This time of the year, the snakes are returning to their "hibernaculums". The young have been born in August in nearby rookeries and have followed the mothers' scent back to the dens. The weather was ideal for sunning (above 80 degrees is too hot to sun on the rocks). Six adults and six new borns were found among the rocks. Of note, all of the snakes were found at the very top of the scree piles, and all but one were found along a line no more than fifteen yards long. Most were the dark phase, but the largest (just over three feet) was a beautiful lime green color. The only one with observable rattles had ten, indicated it was probably four years old. For more information on rattlesnakes, see the MAY 14, 1997 trip.

Birds - Carolina wren, titmice, a flicker, turkey vultures and chickadees.

NOTES : Several walking sticks were found (Fall is when they congregate to mate). (This hike followed the Hike Leader training workshop held over the weekend at BlackburnTrail Center.)

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DATE: August 17 - 23, 1997

LOCATION: Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness Area, Colorado

WEATHER: Sunny to partly cloudy, highs about 80 degrees

GEOLOGY: Metamorphic sedimentary rock. Red clays of shallow ocean bottom give the maroon color to the formation.

BOTANY: NOTE: Common names will be those used by our primary field guide; Guide to Colorado Wildflowers, G. K. Guennel (Volumn 2: Mountains).
Canopy - Spent the week hiking just above and below the timberline (11,500'). Trees seen nearest the timberline included Engleman spruce, alpine fir, Douglas fir, Colorado blue spruce and quaking aspen . Lower elevations (under 10,000 feet) included ponderosa pine, western red cedar, Rocky Mountain maple, cottonwood, and limber pine.
Shrub layer - Willows were present throughout region, with groundcover species up to timberline. Shrub layer was notably absent for the most part. Colorado currant, Rocky Mountain alder, red elder, blueberries, twinberry honeysuckle and wild rose were found in very limited situations, with shrubby cinquefoil, dwarf rabbitbush, sagebrush found in lower elevations.
Herbaceous flowers - A bonanza of alpine bloom.
Meadows at 11,000 feet were carpeted with blue larkspur, lupine, columbine (blue and white), monkshood, common harebells, flax, tall chiming bells (a species of mertensia-like our Virginia bluebells-only it blooms midsummer here-like most of the alpine species), yellow senecios (alternate-leaved), arnicas (opposite-leaved), Indian paintbrush, white cow parsnip, lovage, tall valerian, bistorts, geraniums, yarrow, red Indian paintbrush, purple fireweed, pink asters and five foot spikes of green gentians.
Wet areas at 11,000 feet had monkey flower, cowbane, King's crown, Rose crown, little red elephant, marsh marigold (white-flowered), Parry's primrose, gentians (star, little, mountain and fringed), speedwell, bog and brook saxifrage, white bog orchid, bittercress, death camas, globeflower, scouring rush and common horsetail.
Plants found nearest the timberline included purple fringe (phacelia), sky pilot, moss campion, alpine avens, alpine sulphur flower, snow buttercup, alpine spring beauty (same genus as our spring beauty), alpine mouse-ear (a chickweed) and arctic gentian (both high elevation and wet areas).
Others seen during the week included jacob's ladder and wood nymph (in spruce woods - the wood nymph was the only heath family member seen all week), mountain blue violets, alpine milk vetch, three-nerved fleabane, tall penstemon, fairy trumpet (aka scarlet gilia), Parry and dwarf clover, nodding onion, subalpine buckwheat, alpine sorrel, alpine fireweed, alpine and pink pussytoes, yellow stonecrop, sibbaldia, bur avens, avalanche (or glacier) lily, bracted lousewort, mountain parsley, Gray's angelica, nodding sunflower, alpine sunflower, thick-bracted senecio, orange sneezeweed, lambstongue groundsel, alpine goldenrod, tall false dandelion, subalpine and heart-leaved arnica, spotted saxifrage, wild strawberry, cornhusk lily (we call false hellebore-different species from our eastern plant), sickletop lousewort, thimbleweed, Colorado thistle, pearly everlasting, and a host of unknown grasses and sedges.
Ferns - Only saw one all week - looked like a dryopteris (wood fern).

Mammals - pika, marmot, porcupine, long-tailed weasel, mule deer, red squirrel chipmunk and mice (who were the only ones that would eat the dried papaya sticks-including us). The porcupine was followed off the trail and observed up close in the shrubs. The long-tailed weasel visited our campsite at dusk, departing quickly when we were discovered. Pikas, more numerous than marmots, go eek, while marmots make a much louder peep. Of the four mule deer, three were male; one single, one pair, and one pair of male and female.
Amphibians - None, not even a toad.
Reptiles - None
Birds - Golden eagle, white-throated sparrow, broad-tailed hummingbird, Wilson and chestnut-sided warbler, gray jays (aka camp robbers - some ate from my hand at the campsite-the only ones that would eat my pancakes - including us), pine grosbeak (eating twinberry honeysuckle fruit), Clark's nutcracker, raven and various chickadees, juncos and nuthatches.

Our hike itinerary was a loop, starting at the East Fork trailhead of the West Maroon Pass trail. We travelled counter clockwise over the West Maroon Pass to Crater Lake, over Buckskin Pass to Snowmass Lake, over Trailrider Pass to an abandoned beaver dam, over Frigid Air Pass back to the West Maroon Pass trail. The trail from Maroon Lake (just beyond Crater Lake) over West Maroon Pass to the East Fork trailhead is a popular day hike, with shuttle drivers being reserved and paid anywhere from $15 to $50 dollars per trip. We hiked about 6 to 7 miles per day. With the elevation changes, altitude, heavy packs (mine started out at 65 pounds), and keying out wildflowers, this was certainly enough for us.

Also of interest was a herd of approximately 1,000 sheep that graze these alpine meadows, passing over the West Maroon Pass trail every ten days. Although this is a designated Wilderness area, this has been specifically identified for grazing by the Forest Service. Closer observation of the meadows after a pass actually showed relatively little damage, with the sheep walking in many columns (following the leaders) pushing over the flowers with their bellies, not apparently causing substantial damage. My crude guess was that a 5% loss may have occurred by this passing. I visited some of the Swiss and Austrian Alpine Meadows three years ago during what was supposed to be the peak time of the Alpenbloom, and I would have to say that the best of the Maroon Bells area had a more impressive display of flowers, specifically including parts of this grazed area. Noting this, I can't presume that the grazing (which I assume has been going on for generations) is having a deleterious impact on the meadows.

This area is adjacent to the Rocky Mountain Biological Station in Gothic, established in 1928. (970) 349-7231. They confirmed that the domestic sheep have been grazing the upper meadows for years. But they are only grazed near the end of the summer and keep them moving, thus minimizing the impact. In fact, they confirmed that this area is noted for the best floral display in the region. They haven't specifically addressed the impact of the grazing on the vegetation. The person I spoke to had no definitive answer as to why this area was so profuse. One comment was that this area had some northern and southern species at their respective southern and northern limits, but I've heard that applied to many places. Soil type, moisture, exposure---all of the usual suspects were also mentioned.

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DATE : August 10, 1997
LOCATION : Shenandoah National Park, Central District; A loop including the Dark Hollow Falls, Hogcamp Branch-Rose River, Appalachian Trail and return through the Big Meadows Swamp.
WEATHER : Partly cloudy, high 85 degrees
GEOLOGY : Mainly Catoctin greenstone, a little Pedlar granodiorite

habitats : typical second growth hardwood forest with hemlock in the wetter ravines.
species :
Herbaceous plants in bloom include rattlesnake plant, Canada violets, tick trefoil, Indian tobacco, spotted and pale touch-me-nots, white sweet clover, selfheal, horse balm, hairy wood mint, wild bergamot, large houstonia, pokeweed, New York ironweed, tall bellflower, yarrow, columbine, white avens, agrimony, yellow wood sorrel, garden phlox, bouncing bet, common and poke milkweed, galinsoga, nodding wild onion, panicled hawkweed, oxeye daisy, daisy fleabane, chickory, woodland sunflower, common burdock, stinging nettle, black snakeroot, white snakeroot, thistle, eastern joe-pye weed, and early goldenrod.

Woody plants in bloom include common elder, swamp rose, and spirea, the latter two in the Big Meadows swamp.

Ferns included cinnamon, interrupted, bracken, christmas, marginal, intermedia, spinulose, silvery spleenwort, lady's fern, polypody, maidenhair, broad beech, sensitive, marsh, hay- scented, New York, and fancy. (17) A NEW RECORD for just ferns (not including fern allies). This, even without the common ebony spleenwort and the maidenhair spleenwort that I've seen along the Dark Hollow Falls trail.

ZOOLOGY : An American toad, mountain dusky and red-backed salamanders, a few deer, and a black bear. The black bear was apparently a yearling, meaning it had just been chased away from it's mother that it spent the last year and this past winter with, and is now out trying to find it's own territory. It caused a bear jam in the morning as we were just starting out and was seen a second time (presumably the same yearling) in the late afternoon just below the Big Meadows Swamp. It didn't show any fear of humans and let me get to within fifteen feet before turning and walking away from me. Also noteworthy were the number of rocks, both small and large, that had been turned over along the trails, presumably by bear looking for grubs, ants, etc.
Birds included red-eyed vireos, chickadees, scarlet tanagers, American redstarts, eastern wood peewee, phoebe, Acadian flycatcher, and downy woodpecker. Almost all heard, not seen.

NOTES : This is an excellent six mile hike, although it was heavily used on this August weekend. (This was also the weekend that Camp Hoover was open for visitors.) Excellent stream valley habitat, good geology (including the old Blue Ridge Copper Company mine) some cultural sites (for winter hikes), an amazing variety of ferns, some good swimming at the Rose River falls, and a very interesting area around the swamp. Be forewarned that bushwhacking to visit the swamp can be difficult, especially in the wet seasons. It can also be a hard place to find, with no large open body of water to focus on. But it does hold many unusual species of plants and animals. We found broad-leaved spirea and swamp rose in beautiful profusive bloom together. Rushes and blue-flag iris were also found (not in bloom) among the gray birch, found here, about as far south as it gets. A small population of pyrola was also found nestled among the sphagnum mosses and dewberries. Springtime brings many species of frogs, toads, and salamanders to the swamp for egg laying. Animal tracks indicated that this is also a popular place with the deer, racoon, and bobcat. The beaked hazelnuts, black cherries and cow parsnip provide good food for the bear population as well.

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DATE: July 20, 1997
LOCATION: Rapidan River, Shenandoah National Park
WEATHER: Sunny, 85 degrees

GEOLOGY: Pedlar granodiorite with some Catoctin greenstone intrusions


Canopy - Typical deciduous hardwood forest with chestnut and northern red oak dominating. Also, tulip tree, mockernut hickory, and sycamore along the stream. Other trees include white ash, basswood, black birch, sugar maple, beech, white and Virginia pine.

Subcanopy - Sassafrass, black gum, red maple, black cherry, dogwood, American elm, hackberry, hemlock (badly defoliated by wooly hemlock adelgid), musclewood, serviceberry, black locust, red mulberry.

Shrub layer - Redbud, witch hazel, mountain laurel, shrubby St. Johnswort (in bloom), azalea, wild hydrangea, spicebush, blueberry, mapleleaf viburnum.

Herbaceous flowers - In bloom include gray beardtongue, evening primrose, bluets, mullein, tall bellflower, rough cinquefoil, wild blue phlox, bouncing bet, white campion, galinsoga, thimbleweed, turk's cap lily, wild lettuce, nipplewort, chickory, daisy fleabane, thin-leaved sunflower, lizard's tail, white avens, asiatic dayflower, and tick trefoil. Other non-blooming include skunk cabbage, jack-in-the-pulpit, horse balm, garlic mustard, Indian pipe, pokeweed, venus looking-glass, jimsonweed, partridge pea, dewberry, daylily, common burdock.

Ferns - Marginal, christmas, sensitive, bracken, and polypody.


Mammals- none

Amphibians - American toad, two leopard frogs, overwintered green or bull frog tadpole.

Reptiles - northern water snake

Birds - Wood thrush, chestnut-sided warbler, eastern peewee, scarlet tanager, common yellowthroat, northern towhee.

NOTES: PATC hike along the Rapidan River. The river shows the tremendous scars from the June 1995 floods. The red bacteria which thrived in the water shortly afterwards is gone from the main body of water, but is still found in the slow-moving swampy tributaries.

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DATE: July 19, 1997
LOCATION: Patuxent River Park --- Jug Bay, Maryland
WEATHER: Sunny, 85 degrees

GEOLOGY: Unconsolidated coastal plain sediments


Canopy - Mainly deciduous, with oaks (white, chestnut, northern red, and scarlet), sweet gum and beech. Also Virginia pine, tulip tree, mockernut hickory.

Subcanopy - American holly, sweet bay, musclewood, flowering and silky dogwood, witch hazel, smooth alder, red maple, black gum.

Shrub layer - Shrubs in bloom include buttonbush, swamp rose, common elder. Other shrubs include mountain laurel, viburnum (possum haw, mapleleaf, black haw, and southern arrowwood) , highbush blueberry, wild hydrangea, strawberry bush, sweet pepperbush, smooth and shining sumac, hercules' club, winterberry.

Herbaceous flowers - In bloom; pickerelweed, spatterdock, spotted touch-me-not, tall meadow rue, water parsnip, white avens, trumpet creeper, and lizard's tail. Other plants include skunk cabbage, jack-in-the-pulpit, groundnut, enchanter's nightshade,, toad trillium, partridgeberry, large houstonia, wild sarsaparilla, striped wintergreen, dodder, poison ivy, moonseed, arrow arum, common arrowhead, common cattail, halbeard-leaved tearthumb, and wild rice.

Ferns - Cinnamon, royal, netted chain, New York, hay-scented, and christmas.


Mammals- Deer, grey squirrel.

Amphibians - Heard green frog and cricket frog.

Reptiles - Saw two painted turtles and a box turtle.

Birds - Including cormorant, great blue heron, great egret, turkey vulture, ospreys (many nesting on man-made platforms over water), killdeer, forster's tern, mourning dove, yellow-billed cuckoo, chimney swift, ruby-throated hummingbird, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, eastern wood-pewee, acadian flycatcher, eastern phoebe, eastern kingbird, barn swallow, American crow, tufted titmouse, Carolina wren, Carolina wren, eastern bluebird, wood thrush, robin, catbird, mockingbird, starling, white-eyed vireo, red-eyed vireo, northern parula, prairie warbler, common yellowthroat, hooded warbler, scarlet tanager, cardinal, indigo bunting, eastern towhee, field sparrow, red-wing blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, American goldfinch, Nashville warbler, blue grosbeak, and a yellow-breasted chat.

NOTES: Plants above in bold are commonly found in the coastal plain (rarely found in the mountainous regions). This was a USDA Natural History Field Studies class led by Jeff Swinebroad (Summer Birding).

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DATE: July 4-6, 1997
LOCATION: James River Face Wilderness Area
WEATHER: Typical summer
GEOLOGY: Chilowee Sandstone (same as south district of SNP)


Canopy - Oaks, such as chestnut and northern red on most moderate slopes. Pitch and mountain pine, dominate drier slopes. Best soils contain sugar and red maple, tuliptree, beech, hemlock, black locust, scarlet oak. Other occasional canopy trees include walnut, ash, white pine, sourwood, black birch, cucumber magnolia, black cherry, basswood, post oak, and serviceberry. Noteworthies include Carolina hemlock and eastern chinquapin.

Shrub layer - Minniebush, spice bush, paw-paw, redbud, viburnum (including blackhaw, northern wild-raisin, southern arrowwood and mapleleaf), mountain laurel, flowering and alternate-leaf dogwood, scrub oak, winged and staghorn sumac, sweetfern, blueberries, chestnut sprouts, azaleas, maleberry(B), smooth alder, wild hydrangea(B), witch hazel, catawba rhododendron, pieris, striped maple, New Jersey tea(B), mountain holly, hawthorn, indian currant, white elderberry(B), hop hornbeam and snowberry. Noteworthies include beaked hazelnut (in fruit), wild rose and dwarf spirea (both in bloom).

Herbaceous flowers - Most common are dwarf cinquefoil, striped wintergreen(B), bush clovers, rattlesnake weed, tick trefoils, toothed white-topped asters(B), whorled and greater coreopsis(B). Others IN BLOOM include large houstonia, deptford pink, yellow stargrass, wild indigo, basil balm, cow wheat, grey beardtongue, white avens, false hellebore, indian pipe, black snakeroot, whorled loosestrife, sweet white clover, heartleaf and hairy skullcap, Virginia waterleaf, columbine, hairy-jointed parsnip, yellow wood sorrel, common, four-leaved and poke milkweed, wild geranium, figwort, quickweed, lopseed, flowering raspberry, cow vetch, spotted knapweed, Queen Anne's lace, wild lettuce, teaberry, and butterfly weed. Others NOT IN BLOOM include wild grape, galax, partridgeberry, both evergreen and common ginger, pink lady slipper, trailing arbutus, hairy angelica, wild yam, alumroot, greenbriars, poison ivy, indian cucumber root, wood betony, dutchman's pipevine, lily-of-the-valley, tall meadowrue, horse balm, bloodroot, perfoliate bellwort, chickweed, false and true solomon's seal, nettles, impatiens, joe-pye weed, indian hemp, wild sarsasparilla, jack-in-the-pulpit, spikenard, goatsbeard, bowman's root, thimbleberry, and bush-clover. Noteworthies include Canada Lily and wild quinine in bloom.

Ferns - Christmas, New York, hay-scented, polypody, cinnamon, braken, maidenhair, ebony spleenwort, and rattlesnake plant.


Mammals - The usual chipmunks, deer (heard overnight at campsite).

Amphibians - Six green frogs at Sulphur Springs.

Reptiles - A dozen or more fence lizards in dry pine habitats. Also, a water snake along a creek.

Birds - Solitary and red-eyed vireos, chestnut and hooded warblers, wood thrush, ovenbird, scarlet tanager, nuthatch, eastern peewee, indigo bunting, goldfinch, eastern towhee, whip-or-will, red-tailed hawk and barred owl.

NOTES: Area is typical sandstone habitat. This means very rocky, steep slopes, poor soils, dry and potentially very hot in summer. Many dead pines from southern pine bark beetle. Devil's marble yard is a large area of car-sized sandstone boulders. Found one small oak with two dozen oak-apple galls-all parasitized by long-gone invaders.

This area, just north of Roanoke, has several members of the plant community that identify it as a little more southern than our SNP. These include galax, Carolina hemlock, and sourwood.

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June 14-28, 1997

The following is a trip taken in mid-June of 1997.  Not following the standard format, this highlights a two week trip into North Carolina.

I have often read about the beautiful balds of North Carolina with their blooms of catawba rhododendrons and flame azaleas.  But, in the past, I have always driven past this area on the way to the ultimate goal; the Smokies.  This year Janet Dombrowski and I decided that the balds and neighboring areas would be our destination.  The following is a brief description of our two week trip through the mountains of western North Carolina.  The timing of the trip was to coincide with the bloom of the rhododendrons and azaleas, starting June 14, 1997. 

We chose a varied schedule of day trips and overnight backpacking trips to meet our goals.  The following are the days and locations of our trips: 

Saturday - Monday  Mount Rogers National Rec Area/Grayson Highlands State Park, VA

Monday  Grandfather Mountain

Tuesday - Thursday Linville Gorge Wilderness

Thursday  Mt Mitchell

Friday   Mt Pisgah

Saturday - Tuesday Shining Rock Wilderness, Pisgah National Forest

Wed. - Thursday Harper's Creek, Pisgah National Forest

Friday - Saturday Roan Mountain 


(Approx. 10 mile loop trip) 

Itinerary: Started at Massie Gap in Grayson Highlands going north along the Rhododendron Gap trail, camping Saturday night at Rhododendron Gap.  Hiked up to Mount Rogers summit Sunday am, returning to Rhododendron Gap and continuing  along Pine Mountain trail to the Appalachian Trail before reaching Scales and camped in the Little Wilson Creek Wilderness area, still on the AT.  (The best campsite is above the AT, on the western border of  the LWC Wilderness area, in a large clearing, near the intersection with the Scales trail.)  Continued along AT back to Massie Gap. 

The highlight of the trip was the wild ponies.  Every bald had it's own population of ponies- some very bold and pettable (and used to being fed).  We saw approximately sixty during the three day trip.  From time to time, we left the trail to meander along the balds and the ponies. 

BIRDS - Chestnut-sided warbler, yellow throat, northern junco, chickadee, song sparrow, towhee, winter wren, wood peewee, and hairy woodpecker. 

MAMMALS - PONIES, red squirrel, deer, and a few cows. Understand that the large, flat, wet areas of the Grayson Highlands are former buffalo wallows.

NOTES: Also saw a few mourning cloak and tiger swallowtail butterflies.  This trip may have been our favorite of the two week vacation.  Beautiful weather, gorgeous views of surrounding area.  Met a couple thru-hiking; his trail name was emanon-"no name" backwards. 


Itinerary: Hike from visitor center 1.5 miles to Alpine Meadows and return. 

In the clouds the whole afternoon - no views.  The hike is difficult and different with it's use of ladders and cables.  The ladders taking you almost vertically up are exciting.  Some sloping rock slabs have cables to help walk with.  They are not optional equipment with wet rocks!  Quite an adventure even with no views.  Must be outstanding on a clear day.  A $9 day use fee (no overnight camping allowed) gives you access to a very nice natural history museum and "natural habitat" enclosures with black bear, river otter, deer, and mountain lion.  Sheer cliffs and exposed precipices abound, as attested by the local TV crews there to take note of the woman who fell to her death from a major tourist viewing outcrop two days prior to our visit.  A short suspension bridge over a deep chasm has some interest additionally.  Elevation along the ridge is from 5600 to 5949 feet. 

BIRDS - Golden kinglet, winter wren, northern junco. 

NOTE - Under better weather conditions, a linear 2.4 mile trip along the crest to Calloway Peak ( and back 2.4 miles) would be an ideal day trip.  Also, the famous Linn Cove viaduct is located a mile from the exit for Grandfather Mtn on the Blue Ridge Parkway. 


(An approximately 9 mile loop) 

Itinerary - This wild and primitive area is suitable for a several day backpacking trip.  However, a shuttle is required if backtracking your route is not desired.  It is basically a very narrow valley from a mile and a half to three miles across with the stream at 1800' and the ridge at 3400'.  Based on the recommendations of the Wilderness ranger, we chose to park at Wiseman's View and walk back up the road to BabelTower trail, take that down to the Linville Gorge trail, following it downstream and coming  out on the Conley Cove trail before having to walk back up the road to Wiseman's View.  (The ranger said the road was too rough for non four-wheel drive vehicles below Wiseman's View, due to recent storms, severely limited our options.  I believe he was overly conservative.) 

We took a leisurely three day, two night trip to cover this distance.  Ample time was given to sunning and playing along the stream on both afternoons.  Other than seeing a group of twenty who were totally not prepared for the afternoon shower that drenched them on the Babel Tower trail, we say no one until nearing the end of the Conley Cove trailhead.  Of the many trips we made over the two weeks, this is one I would not highly recommend.  This is mainly due to the many low limbs that constantly caught my pack and the general closeness of the dense shrub layer that precluded many open views.  Keep in mind that we did only one small part of the 11.5 mile gorge.   

NOTES - The highlights of the trip were the herps.  Four water snakes and a garter snake were found along the stream.  Other herps included American toads, red-backed salamanders, spring peepers, and several dozen red-spotted newts in some isolated pools in the boulders surrounding the creek.  Eleven were in the largest bathtub-sized pool while four sink-sized pools each had only one resident newt in charge.  Once out of the valley and at Wiseman's View, we "viewed" two copperheads and a five foot black rat snake.  Interesting plants included the devils' bit and Carolina rhododendron. 

BIRDS - Oven bird, northern junco, phoebe, vireos (solitary and red-eyed), rufous-sided towhee, pileated woodpecker, warblers (hooded, northern parula, black-throated green),  


Itinerary - A short, 4 mile hike along the Black Mountain Crest trail from Mt Mitchell north over Mt Craig to Big Tom and back.  Elevations are mainly above 6,000 feet, with the summit of Mt Mitchell peaking at 6684, the highest peak in the eastern U.S. 

NOTES - Another example of northern boreal spruce forests.  The Fraser firs have been decimated by the introduced woolly-balsam adelgid; an aphid-like insect.  Red spruce, mountain ash (not a true ash), yellow birch and red elderberry dominate with wood sorrel and yellow-bead clintonia covering the mossy ground. 

BIRDS - Winter wren                                    

Saturday - Lunch at Skeeters (Umbergers) in Wytheville, VA.  (From Blue Ridge Magazine-Wythe CO., May/June 1997.  Hot Dogs on a paper napkin.  Start trip with a three day, two night backpack loop in the Mt Rogers Recreation Area of Virginia.  After checking in at Visitors' Center, hike to Rhododendron Gap.  Love the wild ponies.  Take pictures with rainbow.  

Sunday - Up to Mt Rogers summit which is wooded with spruce.  Then, back to packs, through Scales, and overnight in the Little Wilson Creek Wilderness.  Left the trail for roaming across the balds, checking out the ponies.  Many were approachable; some even touchable.  Found great campsite further ahead at Wilson Creek and A-Trail intersections.   Black maples are in the area. 

Monday- hike out, had lunch in Boone, and drove down to Grandfather Mtn.  See animal habitats on bear, mtn lion, deer, river otter.  Hike over cabled rocks and ladders over MaCrae peak to Alpine Meadow.  Cloudy and foggy.  Met TV crew at suspension bridge re: girl who feel to her death on Saturday.  Janet's boot fell apart, and we went back to Julian Price campground for the night.  Watched a dense small population of fireflies with males hovering three feet aboveground; females responding in the grass.

Tuesday - Drove to Boone, got boot glued, bought tape recorder, got food and drove to Linville Gorge.  Got no response to giving us a ride to end of gorge.  Met Forest Service employee, who gave us old stick candy, and recommended Babel Tower-Conley Cove loop.  Dropped car off at Wiseman Overlook and I walked mile and a half to Janet at Babel tower trail head.  Soon got into good downpour which ended as we got to the Tower.  Low branches everywhere made trail progress slow and somewhat exasperating.  Spent night at bend in trail in cove.  Took hike after dinner, finding "comfortable" rock in creek, finding several northern water snakes along creek. 

Wednesday - Hike on to old hunting lodge site and camp at Conley Cove trail intersection. 

Thursday - Climb out of gorge.  Janet hikes back  to car, I key out plants.  We drive to Wiseman's View, see two copperheads and Carolina rhododendron (Rhododendron minus).  Hear whistling car sound as we leave parking lot. Drive down to MT Mitchell, hearing sound off and on along Parkway.  See turkeys crossing Parkway.  Drive up to Mt Mitchell and hike to Mt Craig, a mile away.  Craggy Gardens was two weeks from rhododendon peak of  bloom!  Due to car, drive to Asheville and spent the night at Boulder Creek trailer park.  Drive into town and have dinner at Possum trot grill.  I had crawdad dip, Janet had tomato and cheese salad.  We had cheese cake for dessert.  (Mine chocolate, Janet's mango.) 

Friday - Fix car (replace front brakes), drive to Mt Pisgah campground and meet Jean and Jim Renfro (Jim is the meterologist for Smokies National Park).  Wait out hour long hail and rain storm in tent before hiking  up to top of Mt Pisgah (mile and ).  Got a fire going, we had dogs and chili, somores. 

Saturday - Start four day backpack in Shining Rock Wilderness. Nice balds.  Hike to Shining Rock.  Outrageous!  Shining Rock itself is about a 40' by 200' white quartz boulder.  And this is just the exposed part!  At Flower Gap, I hike back to old mine.  Find old  growth Catawba rhododendrons and Pieris floribunda that I can't put my two hands around.  Mountain laurel about same.  Saw double sunset on June 21 (Setting sun fell under low cloud line, reappeared and disappeared again at horizon. 

Sunday -  On to Cold Mtn for a day hike and found three-leaved cinquefoil mentioned so prominently in Maurice Brooks' book 'The Appalachians'.
Monday - Pine crossbill at Shining Rock campsite before we leave.  Got lost on Dog Loser Knob.  Hike north to Tom's Cove.  Get a ride.  Swear never to bushwhack behind Janet again (just joking - for the most part).  Continue hike from Big East Fork, see Carolina allspice and find ideal campsite along creek near the beginning of the trail.  Enjoy last rays of sun, swim, watch fish hunt from edge of rock.  It was interesting noticing how the biggest fish had the best fishing spots; the smaller the less desirable sites.  Walk after dinner and notice abrupt change of habitat once over rock outcrop separating moist stream side from dry hardwood forest.   

Tuesday - Notice backpack is flexing on frame.  Backpack actually breaks.  FORTUNATELY, we were less than a hundred yards from the Blue Ridge Parkway (South Spring Top) and on our last day (car parked at Black Balsam Knob parking lot.  Drop off packs along BR Parkway, do rest with day pack.  Lots of new prefab bridge walkways.  Drive back, pick up backpacks, camp at Lake Powhatan outside Asheville. 

Find rhododendrons at Craggy Gardens still in bud---probably two weeks behind schedule (Now about June 22.) 

Wednesday - Go to NC Arboretum, fail to find national champ mountain laurel.  Buy new pack.  Drive up to Harpers' Creek in Wilson Creek drainage basin.  Stay at overused campsite.   

Thursday - Find super double cascade and pools.  Go up to high falls and walk up cascade rock.  Almost get lost (this time I don't follow the bushwhacker) - get soaked.  We leave packs at end of loop and pick up packs and spend night at double cascades - again, kinda dumpy.   

Friday - Drive up to Coffey's Store and find out info about flood, drownings, photos of suspension bridge construction, she being his sister, not wife, and her, not having time to take hikes through area.  Mtn laurel is called ivy, rhodos are white and pink laurel.  Drive to Roan Mtn.  Find Robbin's ragwort in bloom (Senecio robbinsii).  Find rhodos are going to peak probably on 4th of July.  Hike up to shelter on A-trail.  Spend the night with guy from Tennessee working for the state DNR advising on forest management.   



Alder, Smooth

Ash, White

Azalea, Flame

Azalea, Smooth


Beech, American

Birch, Black

Birch, Yellow

Black Gum




Bush-honeysuckle, Northern

Carolina Allspice 

Carolina Silverbell

Cherry, Black

Cherry, Fire

Cherry, Pin

Chestnut, American

Chokeberry, Black

Cranberry, Southern Mtn.

Currant, Indian


Dogwood, Alternate-leaved

Dogwood, Flowering

Elderberry, Common

Elderberry, Red

Elm, American 

Fir, Balsam





Locust, Bristly

Locust, Black

Hercules' Club

Holly, American

Holly, Deciduous

Hop Hornbeam

Hornbeam, American




Magnolia, Cucumber

Magnolia, Frasier

Magnolia, Umbrella

Maleberry (Lyonia)

Maple, Black

Maple, Mountain

Maple, Red

Maple, Striped

Maple, Sugar


Mountain Andromeda

Mountain ash

Mountain laurel

Mountain Pepperbush


Oak, Red

Oak, Black

Oak, Chestnut

Oak, Scrub

Oak, White



Pine, Red

Pine, Pitch

Pine, Table Mountain

Pine, White


Rhododendron, Catawba

Rhododendron, Great 

Rhododendron, Piedmont


Sand Myrtle




Spruce, Red


Strawberry-bush (Euonymus)


Sweet Gum

Sweetbells, Swamp (Leucothoe)

Sweetbells, Upland (Leucothoe)





Viburnum, Arrowwood

Viburnum, Smooth Blackhaw

Viburnum, Hobblebush

Viburnum, Maple-leaf

Viburnum, Northern Wild-raisin

Walnut, Black

Willow, Silky

Witch Hazel



Allegheny Pachysandra


Angelica, Hairy


Arbutus, Trailing

Aster, Wood

Baneberry, White

Beardtongue, Gray (Penstemon)



Bellwort, Perfoliate

Bishop's Cap


Black Cohosh

Blue Cohosh

Blue-eyed Grass

Bluets, Common

Bluets, Creeping

Bowman's Root

Buttercup, Creeping

Buttercup, Hispid

Buttercup, Tall

Canada Mayflower


Chickweed, Mouse-eared

Cinquefoil, Common

Cinquefoil, Dwarf

Cinquefoil, Three-leaved


Clintonia, White

Clintonia, Yellow

Cohosh, Black

Cohosh, Blue


Cow Parsnip

Cress, Mountain


Dandelion, Common

Deptford Pink

Devil's Bit



Dog's-tooth Violet

Dutchman's Pipevine

Evening Primrose, Common

False Solomon's Seal

Field Sorrel

Fire Pink

Fleabane, Daisy

Fly Poison



Geranium, Wild

Ginger, Wild

Ginseng,  Dwarf


Golden Alexanders

Greenbrier, Common

Hawkweed, Field

Hawkweed, Orange


Hellebore, False  


Hepatica, Sharp-lobed

Horse Balm

Horsetail, Common 

Indian Cucumber root 

Indian Pipe

Iris, Crested



Large-leaf houstonia

Lily of the Valley

Lily, Roans'

Loosestrife, whorled


Mayflower, Canada

Meadowrue, Early

Meadowrue, Tall

Meadow Parsnip, Hairy-jointed





Orchid, Cranefly

Orchis, Showy

Ox-eye daisy 

Parsnip, Cow


Pearly Everlasting  



Pink, Deptford


Poison Ivy


Pussytoes, Plaintain-leaved

Ragwort, Balsam

Ragwort, Golden

Ragwort, Robbins'



Rattlesnake Plantain

Rattlesnake Plant

Rocket, Dame's


Rue Anemone  

Sarsaparilla, Wild

Saxifrage, Lettuce

Saxifrage, Michaux's


Sheep Sorrel


Skunk Cabbage

Snakeroot, Clustered

Snakeroot, White

Speedwell, Common


Spring Beauty


St. Johnswort, Dense-flowered

St. Johnswort, (mitchellanium)

Star Flower

Stitchwort, Lesser

Stonecrop, Wild

Strawberry, Wild

Sweet Cicely



Teasel, Common


Touch-me-not, Pale

Trillium, Large-flowered 

Trillium , Red

Trillium, Vaseyi's


Turtlehead, Pink

Turtlehead, Purple (cuthbertii)

Umbrella leaf

Venus Looking-glass

Violet, Common Blue

Violet, Halbert-leaved

Violet, Marsh

Violet, Northern White

Virginia Creeper

Water Hemlock

Waterleaf, Broadleaf

Waterleaf, Virginia


Wood Betony  

Wood Sorrel



Yellow-eyed Grass  





Broad Beech



Common polypody

Ebony spleenwort





New York

Rattlesnake Fern  

Silvery spleenwort


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DATE: May 31 - June 1, 1997
LOCATION: Blowing Springs Recreation Area, VA
WEATHER: Cloudy, cool, rain on Sunday

GEOLOGY: Mixture of localized limestone and sandstone


Canopy- (Mixed hardwood) Linden, ash, beech, sugar, black and red maple, white and red oak, chestnut oak and hickory on drier slopes. One butternut hickory, several chinquapin oaks.

Subcanopy - cucumber magnolia, blackgum, amalanchier, dogwood, ironwood, hop hornbeam, paw-paw, black cherries, hawthorn, redbud, both American and slippery elms.

Shrub layer- Maple-leaf and blackhaw viburnum, bladdernut, blueberries, huckleberries, Russian-olive, rosebay rhodo, flame azalea (in bloom-orange), euonymus, witch-hazel, spicebush.

Herbaceous flowers - Lots of squawroot, hog peanut and desmodium foliage (tick trefoils). Also Seneca snakeroot (Polygala senega), aconitum foliage, wood betony, sweet bedstraw (G. trifolium), small skullcap (Scutillaria parvula), gray beardtongue (Penstamon canescens), groundnut foliage (by creek), canada mayflower foliage, dame's rocket, watercress, foamflower, lettuce saxifrage, wild sarsaparilla, goatsbeard foliage, water hemlock, spikenard foliage, heart-leaved alexander and yellow pimpernel, columbine, virginia waterleaf, creeping phlox (Plox stolonifera), four-leaved milkweed, wild stonecrop, sharp-lobed and round-lobed hepatica, blue-eyed grass, (yellow stargrass, lily of the valley foliage, white clintonia, fairy bells, large-flowered and perfoliate bellwort, solomon's and false solomon's seal, nodding wild onion-all in the lily family), blue cohosh and black snakeroot foliage, clustered and short-styled snakeroot (Sanicula canadensis), heuchera villosum foliage.

Ferns- RECORD DAY --- 18 ferns and fern allies - Royal, interupted, bulbous, spinulose, marginal, maidenhair, broad beech, christmas, fragile, walking, bracken, sensitive ferns, ebony, maidenhair and silvery spleenwort, rattlesnake fern (botrychium virginianum), common horsetail and scouring rush(equisetum hyemale and arvense).

Mammals - chipmunks
Amphibians - red-spotted newts, and a night walk yields a long-tailed, dusty, seal and spring salamander. Also a southern leopard frog.
Reptiles - none
Birds - red-eyed vireo, cerulean and worm-eating warbler, ovenbird, scarlet tanager, noisy ravens, maybe a least flycatcher and a pileated woodpecker. Birds are getting quiet!

NOTES: Weekend trip sponsored by "Virginians for Wilderness", a local group who primarily oversees Forest Service timbering contracts. Two leaders were very knowledgable. Bob Mueller, a geologist related vegetation to geology. For example, alkaline plants of limestone preference include large-flowered bellwort, chinquapin oak, sharp-lobed hepatica, redbud, bladdernut, moonseed vine. Acidic plants include beech and red maple, round-lobed hepatica, and perfoliate bellwort. Robert Hunsucker (HC 64, Box 266, Hillsboro, WV 24946) is the most knowledgeable naturalist I've ever met. Vascular, non-vascular (mosses, fungi and lichen), birds, herps, insects, --- he does them all.

Recommends Lyman-Bensen Plant Classification (2nd edition best) and Wilber Duncan Trees of the SE USA (UGA).

Bob has done 60 inventories of sites. Robert has joined him and together they have done this site and many others.

Bob mentioned several good spots: Fannie Bennett Hemlock Grove (SE of Spruce Knob-Sawmill Branch), Seneca State Park, Skidmore Tract (Rte 33- skidmore fork roadby reservoir- go as far as possible), Pott's pond (Allegheny Co?) on Pott's Mtn, Fifteen-knob Creek, Cranesville Swamp.

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DATE:May 23-26, 1997
LOCATION: Appalachian Trail; Tinker Mtn and North Mtn. Loop trail
WEATHER: Good first three days, wet last day

GEOLOGY: Silurian sandstone

Canopy - Chestnut oak, with black, white, red, post and scrub oak. Black oak bark has a clearly darker appearance, with larger fissures, and even the flat ridges having smaller fissures (not a "shiney" smooth appearance of the red oak ridges). Of course, the acorn caps are an easy tip-off. Also hickories (shagbark and pignut), ash, with linden and sugar maple on wetter (north-facing) slopes and pitch and table mountain pine on drier (south) slopes.

Subcanopy - Mainly amelanchier (shadbush) and striped maple. Some sourwood, witch hazel, black cherry, blackgum, sassafras, a few chionanthus virginicus (fringe tree), cucumber tree, hackberry, hawthorn, hop hornbeam, and paw-paw, and a couple flowering and alternate-leaved dogwood (going out and coming in to bloom respectively).

Shrub layer - typical sandstone, well-drained acidic soil species-i.e. ericaceous plants. Deerberry everywhere - in bloom; Peiris floribunda, some Catawba rhodo , both roseum and pinxter azaleas, menzesia and mtn laurel, all in bloom. Also black chokeberry (Aronia), choke cherry (Prunus), mapleleaf viburnum (in bloom) and a goundcover of some kind of spirea. Also, one stand of fragrant sumac and several of silky dogwood on North Mtn. Lots of blackberries and dewberries in bloom.

Herbaceous flowers
- Galax and lilies of the valley, just beginning and just ending bloom respectively! Pink lady slippers, just past peak. Common plants include; yellow star grass, small-flowered phacelia, wood sorrel, wild pink (Silene caroliniana), gray beardtongue, tall meadowrue, hairy-jointed meadow parsnip, lots of dwarf and common cinquefoil, four-leaved milkweed, wild stonecrop (Sedum ternatum), spiderwort, hare figwort, cleavers, bedstraw and geranium. The biggest bed ever seen of twinleaf (in seed). Also, first find of Goldenstar (Chrysogonum virginianum). Also found; celandine poppy, wild sarsasparilla, blue-eyed grass, large coralroot (an orchid), (early, three lobed, birds' foot, smooth and downy, common blue, marsh, pale and Canada violets), pale corydalis, wild comphrey (in several large beds), cow vetch, dwarf or vernal iris (a few still in bloom on Macafee's Knob), dutchman's pipevine (in bloom), wild peppergrass, narrow-leaved houstonia, one-flowered cancerroot, alum root, violet wood sorrel, aniseroot, yellow pimpernel, Virginia waterleaf, bowman's root, fire pink, moss pink, several Wild Sweet William (meadow phlox), perfoliate bellwort, yellow mandarin, false and common Solomon's Seal, carrion flower, (smooth, mouse-eared and rattlesnake hawkweeds), dwarf dandelion, (tansy, golden and balsam ragwort), common fleabane, and (finally) whorled coreopsis (in bud).

Ferns - Not a lot. Marginal was by far the most common. Also some bracken and rock polypody, with some Christmas, hay-scented, maidenhair, lady's, New York and one bed of cinnamon and sensitive ferns. Ebony spleenwort and Virginia grape fern were common in places. Also one stand of common cliff fern (Woodsia obtusa).

Mammals- Few deer, chipmunks, squirrel and one woodchuck.

Amphibians- Several red efts on trail on last rainy day. Several American toads.

Reptiles- Red-bellied (four inches short), garter and (probably) a black rat snake. Also two fence lizards and a broad-headed skink. Two box turtles (male and female).

- Wood thrush, scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeak, worm eating and black and white warblers, American redstart, red-eyed vireo, ovenbird, bobwhite (quail), barred owl, northern towhee, kingbird, acadian and great crested flycatcher, eastern pewee, ruffed grouse, pileated woodpecker, and yellow-billed cuckoo.

NOTES: Excellent loop hike with great views from MaCaffee's Knob and Tinker Cliffs. 22 miles with short shuttle on Rt 311, or 28 miles with no shuttle. About four hours from Beltway. Met many thru hikers, including Otter and Ladybug, among others.

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DATE: May 14, 1997

LOCATION: Great North Mtn., Va/WVa border

WEATHER: Cool, cloudy, high 60 degrees

GEOLOGY: Silurian sandstone

Canopy -chestnut and red oak, black birch, pitch and table mtn pine
Shrub layer -spice bush, witch hazel, chestnut, mtn laurel, blueberries/huckleberries
Herbaceous flowers -typically sparse sandstone habitat, more in lower alluvial soils
Ferns-bracken, hay-scented

Mammals- bobcat scat
Amphibians- wood frog tadpoles in vernal pond
Reptiles- see notes below
Birds- chestnut-sided, prairie, parula, black and white, black-throated green warblers, red- eyed vireo

NOTES: Went to the Pinnacles, along Great North Mtn., between Rte 50 and Rte 55. This is a suspected hibernaculum that Marty wanted to check out. Unfortunately, windy conditions with a high temperature of 60 degrees was enough to keep the rattlers underground.

We did find three black racers who had apparently just emerged and were basking alongside their den. Marty said they normally emerge by mid April (to give an idea of how behind the spring was). Black racers are solid black (no white edges on the scales), with no scale keels, and a flat (or satin) "finish". These were very lethargic, not living up to their namesake.

May 1 and 2 were the first good emergence days. 29 rattlers were found above Blackburn and 21 found at White Rocks. Cooler weather since then has halted rattler emergence. Many smaller rattlers are still in their dens due to their small size enabling them to reach deeper depths in the hibernaculum; thus requiring longer time to reach the surface. Warmer weather predicted for Monday will cause a second emergence.

Dispersal range normally doesn't exceed 1 and miles from the hibernaculum, although 3 to 4 miles has been recorded.

The furthest east site, at Sugarloaf Mtn, has been seriously jeopardized by construction of a private driveway between the rookery (birthing site) and the hibernaculum, and the placement of a building literally using the rookery rocks as a foundation for a structure. It was a small site of 8 to 12 adults. The DNR had an interest to purchase the site, but over a year of inaction, enabling this new construction, eliminated this possibility.

Rattlesnake venom varies in it's potency. The canebrake of the deep south is known for it's highly potent venom (compared to the less lethal venom of the North Carolina/Virginia population). Copperheads are less potent as a rule than rattlesnakes. The venom is a mixture of hemotoxins (destroys muscle - causing pre-digestion of prey preventing spoiling before complete digestion by the rattler) and neurotoxins (which destroy the nervous system).

There is a ribbon snake population in the Fork Mtn area of the Park-despite the apparent lack of wet area-also Pass Mtn and Big Run.

The pits are believed to be first developed as a defense mechanism, to determine the size and location of the predator. Only secondarily has it been used offensively to find prey. This is analogous to the feathers of a bird initially developed for insulation, secondarily for flight.

A third of the females are gravid (pregnant) each spring from mating the previous July (delayed fertilization until ovulation which occurs 4 to 6 weeks after emergence-Junish) enabling an August live birthing at the rookery within five hundred yards from the den). At higher elevations (colder environments), early winters preclude the gravid females from giving birth until after re-entering the hibernaculum. These births normally will not survive-thus limiting the range of the rattlers. Marty believes the neonates die because they cannot successfully shed the embryonic tissues that envelop them at birth.

There area probably ten times more copperheads than rattlesnakes in the SNP. They are less often seen since they tend to hide under the leaf litter. Copperheads often hibernate with rattlers (as do occasional black rat snakes), but can also be found in their own dens. Some dens are made of not one hole, but dipersed holes and cracks within a general area. Marty will count the various dens as one if they all share the same rookery. Snakes don't truly hibernate like ground hogs and jumping mice, since you can keep them alive (and somewhat active-certainly alert enough to strike-as Marty has found out) throughout the winter. They normally go off feeding by October. Temperatures around 50 to 60 will keep them going all winter, while kept at temperatures greater than 60 causes their metabolism to run too high, stressing them to the point of death.

Rattlers will give "dry bites" when they don't feel endangered by an identified predator, since replacing the venom stresses the snake. An example is a cow. (Silver Springs in Florida used to milk snakes as part of their snake show until they found out the snakes were dying prematurely.)

Rattlers replace their fangs three or four times a year. New ones grow side by side of the old ones so the snake always has the use of it's fangs.

The most common snakes in SNP are, in decreasing order, ring-necked snakes, garter snakes, black rat snakes, copperheads, then rattlesnakes.

Females don't have their first litter until about 7 to 8 years of age in this area, while Bill Brown (New York) has found the age to be more like 9 to 10 years of age. This is a function of the shorter growing season up north. Physiologically, they are the same age and, in fact, generally have molted the same number of times.

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DATE: May 10, 1997
LOCATION: G. Richard Thompson WMA near Linden, VA
WEATHER: Cloudy, light rain, 55 degrees

GEOLOGY: Catoctin Greenstone

Moist deciduous woods- Canopy of white ash, sassafras, red maple, tuliptree, with hickory, walnut and locust on drier sites. Subcanopy and shrub of flowering dogwood, paw paw, alternate dogwood, hawthorn, redbud, blackhaw viburnum and russian olive---all in bloom. Spice bush is dominant shrub throughout area, also some slippery elm. Ferns include grape fern, ebony and silvery spleenwort, cinnamon, lady, marginal wood, christmas, hay-scented, New York, sensitive and maidenhair.
Wildflowers included large flowered trillium (duh, maybe a couple hundred thousand), nodding trillium, yellow lady slipper and showy orchis. Also, squawroot, (common blue, marsh, three- lobed, smooth yellow, and pale) violets, jack in the pulpit, yellow corydalis, ground ivy, purple dead nettle, corn speedwell, ginger, garlic mustard, (dame's rocket along roads), celandine, winter cress, early meadow rue, Pennysylvania bitter cress, bedstraw, slender and cut-leaved toothwort, one-flowered cancerroot, early and swamp saxifrage, wild sarsaparilla, dwarf cinquefoil, wild strawberry, hooked crowfoot, caraway, sweet cicely, aniseroot, golden alexander, yellow pimpernel, columbine, bulbous and swamp buttercup, small-flowered crowfoot, white campion, star chickweed, wild geranium, star of bethlehem, bellwort, solomon's seal and false solomon's seal, mayapple, dandelion, golden ragwort, common fleabane, and rue anemone. Total 54

ZOOLOGY: Herps include a northern two-lined and unknown stream salamander and call of spring peeper. Birds include scarlet tananger (two within ten feet of ground for extended periods), northern towhee, baltimore oriole, indigo bunting, great crested flycatcher, black-throated blue warbler, ovenbird, barn swallows, field sparrow, ovenbird, american redstart, wood thrush, and the common lot.

NOTES: This site is perhaps the largest trillium (T. grandiflorum) population in North America. It is estimated that there are 26 million individual plants growing in this area. The color variation of pink flowers in Trillium grandiflorum seems to be a genetic variation rather than being due to an aging process since flower buds may be white or pink. Many sources also mention that white petals have a tendancy to turn pink with maturity.
The bloom is now at peak; about a week later than normal. Despite an earlier than normal early spring, the cool April (and May, so far), have caused things to really slow down.

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DATE: April 26-27, 1997
LOCATION: Dismal Swamp, Va

WEATHER: Sat sunny, 65 degrees; Sun cloudy, light rain, 55 degrees

GEOLOGY: Coastal plain sands

habitats: Swamps and bottomland

species: Trees included laurel oak, swamp oak, bald cypress, sweet gum, tupelo, red maple, muscle wood, loblolly pine, Atlantic white cedar, red bay, and swamp cottonwood.
Shrubs included sweet pepperbush, swamp azalea (R. arborescens), downy leucothoe (L. racemosa), elderberry, southern wild raisin (Viburnum nudum), and bayberry.
Vines included poison ivy, trumpet creeper, cross vine and yellow jessamine (both in bloom), grape and greenbriars.
Wildflowers included southern twayblade (orchid), primrose-leaved violet, three-lobed violet, blue toadflax, lyre-leaved sage, sundrops, dame's rocket, barren strawberry, caraway, common cinquefoil, bulbous buttercup, corn salad, field hawkweed, balsam ragwort, and a vetch, ground ivy, and geranium.

ZOOLOGY: Reptiles included 5 foot king snake and 3 foot brown water snake; ground skink and broad headed skink; and yellow-bellied, red-bellied and painted turtles.
Amphibians included seeing Fowler's toad and southern toad, northern and southern cricket frogs, and hearing bullfrog, southern leopard frog, southern grey tree frog, and green frog.
Mammals included five river otters that followed one another slowly into the water after watching me watch them with binos for five minutes. All appeared to be young adults.
Birds included red-eyed and white-eyed vireos, and the following warblers: prothonotary, black and white, black-throated blue, American redstart, prairie, blue-winged, worm eating, swainson's, hooded, yellowthroat, and northern waterthrush. Others included blue-gray gnatcatcher, acadian flycatcher, eastern phoebe, scarlet tanager and summer tanager, great crested flycatcher, yellow-billed cuckoo, barred owl, wood duck, green heron, among others.
Butterflies included zebra and palamedes swallowtails and numerous faded monarchs that had made the return trip from Mexico.

NOTES: ANS trip with Mark Garland. Mark has just completed a natural history book on the mid-Atlantic area published by the Smithsonian Institute. A definite must for the outdoor enthusiast!

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DATE: April 19, 1997
LOCATION: SNP, Central Section, White Oak/Cedar Run Trail
WEATHER: Partly Cloudy, 55 degrees

GEOLOGY: Base Old Rag granite, upper two thirds Catoctin Greenstone

BOTANY: Numerous wildflowers at the lower elevations. Lots of wood anemones and golden ragwort along bottom of White Oak Trail. Still winter along ridge. Cedar Run has more wildflowers than White Oak trail, including trillium, hepatica, dutchman's breeches and trout lilies. Numerous large hemlock along White Oak still in good foliage, although adelgids were found in often large numbers on lower branches. Good population of American yew (botanically Taxus canadensis - you figure) along the Appalachian Trail below Franklin Cliffs.

The blooms are probably two weeks ahead of last year. Most of the hepatica, in full bloom last year (a spectacular spring-some plants with over thirty blooms on a single plant) are well past their bloom period.

Last Fall's floods have removed a lot of stream corridor vegetation opening up the view of the creek from the trail.

ZOOLOGY: Heard a barred owl. SAW NO DEER. Probably due to narrow valleys and considerable human activities. Saw a small mammal along the trail. Couldn't identify, but possible candidates are:

Eastern Rodents Approx. Length
Eastern chipmunk 5-6 inches
White-footed mouse 3 - 4 inches
Deer mouse 2 - 4 inches
Boreal redback vole 3 - 4 inches
Yellownose vole 4 - 5 inches
Pine vole 3 - 4 inches
Woodland jumping mouse 3 - 4 inches
Eastern woodrat 8 - 9 inches
Shorttail shrew 3 - 4 inches
Least shrew 2 - 2 inches
Pygmy shrew 2 - 2 inches
Longtail shrew 2 3/4 inches
Smoky shrew 2 - 3 inches
Masked shrew 2 - 2 inches

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DATE: April 13, 1997
LOCATION: Turkey Run Park, VA
WEATHER: Partly cloudy, 55 degrees

WILDFLOWER HIKE - We identified 44 flowerering herbaceous species and 6 trees or shrubs.

Here we go:

Golden Alexanders
Rue Anemone
Wood Anemone
Sessile-leaved Bellwort
Virginia Bluebells
Abortive Buttercup
Bulbous Buttercup
Swamp Buttercup
Star Chickweed
Blue Cohosh
Wild Geranium
Smooth Rock Cress
Dutchman's Breeches
Wild Ginger
Dwarf Ginseng
May Apple
Early Meadow Rue
Garlic Mustard
False Mermaid
Small-flowered phacelia
Wild Blue Phlox
Golden Ragwort
Wild Stonecrop
Early Saxifrage
Golden Saxifrage
Skunk Cabbage
Ivy-leaved Speedwell
Spring Beauty
Squirrel CornIndian Strawberry
Sweet Cicely
Cut-leaved Toothwort
Sessile-leaved Trillium
White Trout Lily
Trout Lily (yellow)
Common Blue Violet
Smooth Yellow Violet
Downy Yellow Violet


Flowering Dogwood
Paw paw

Most of the common names are those used in Newcombes Field Guide.

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DATE: March 29-30, 1997
LOCATION: Old Rag-Mtn laurel/Nicholson Hollow work trip
WEATHER: Sat-BIG rainstorm, Sunday, sunny 65 degrees

GEOLOGY: Old Rag granite


habitats: black birch/mtn laurel on talus slopes; sec. success deciduous
species: at 2000' and lower, bloodroot, columbine and corydalis foliage near Rock Spring Cabin (overnight to see Hale-Bopp Comet). Lower Nicholson had toothwort, hepatica, buds for wood anemone, lots of coltsfoot, first yellow cress in field. Some good sized chestnut trees on Nicholson trail-with nutless husks. Spicebush, shadbush and filbert (at Skyland) in bloom.

ZOOLOGY: Woodfrog eggs seen 3/24 were now 50 percent hatched both on top of Old Rag and bottom. Saw two tiger swallowtails on wild cherry tree near Nethers. Caught 8" red-bellied snake on Old Rag ( disturbed from detritus by hikers). Six deer seen. Four voles(?) seen in front of Rock Spring-also one on Nicholson Trail. Three grouse-only one identified (northern red-tail).

NOTES: Found the mtn laurel---second branch is mainly dead. Struggled through 50 mph wind gusts and rain and finally got to the tree from the top---went down and out by old fire road. Suggest doing it the opposite way in future---down fire road and up to mtn laurel then return across top to Byrd's Nest.

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DATE: March 16,1997
LOCATION: White Oak Canyon Trail (to middle falls)
WEATHER: Clear & Cold (35 degrees)

GEOLOGY: Base is Old Rag Granodiorite, then Catoctin Greenstone @first falls base.


habitats: tulip tree, hemlock (heavily infested with hemlock wooly adelgid), chestnut oak. species:Wildflowers-hepatica, bloodroot, spring beauty, swamp buttercup, star chickweed, plaintain-leaved pussy-toes, bluets, and early saxifrage. Also found new jersey tea. Learned more about the three types of lichen; crustose (on tulip tree bark), foliose (rock tripe), and fruiticose (british soldiers) lichen. Research now indicates not really a symbiotic relationship---more of a fungi using an algae. Early spring- maybe two weeks ahead.

ZOOLOGY: red-backed salamander, winter wren ("skulks" around on ground-more than carolina wren). Dredged up stone fly and mayfly larvae. Stone fly larvae have only two-pronged tail with or without gills on thorax. Mayfly larvae have usually three, but occasionally two-pronged tail with gills on abdomen always.

NOTES: ANS trip with Stephanie Mason. Hurricane Fran, last Sept., has washed away one foot bridge and much of the lower banks and vegetation. The edge of the bank at one place actually has eroded into the trail. Much like lower Hughes River --- the river is no longer hidden behind the foliage --- much more visible.

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Date: March 8, 1997
Location: Watkins Regional Park and Jug Bay, Maryland
Weather: Partly sunny/cloudy, breezy, 70 degrees

Geology: Coastal plain

Botany:Watkins RP had bitternut hickory, ash, buttonbush in the swamp, big sweetgum.
Jug Bay had swamp magnolia, red-stem dogwood, amelanchier arborea in bloom (along roads)

Zoology: Watkins RP had one spotted salamander near a swamp. Lots of raccoon tracks,beaver and deer tracks. Red shouldered hawk, wood ducks, a female mallard who called out for twenty minutes while I was there, pileated, several red bellied and downies, and kingfisher.
Jug Bay had 12 painted turtles @ Heron tower just emerging from the mud, 11 commas/question marks and 5 mourning cloaks, spotted salamander egg masses (seven cloudy and three clear) in trail pool. And overwintered bull frog tadpoles (?) and woodfrog eggs in another road pool.

Notes: A pond along Croom Airport Road had 111 basking painted (and maybe red-bellied) turtles.

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