© Bob Pickett

2002 Field Notes:

DATE: October 19 – 20, 2002

LOCATION: Massanutten Mountain, Virginia. Specifically, the Saturday hike was up to Duncan Knob and continuing on a circuit down to Scothorn Gap and back. Sunday was a loop hike from Woodstock Tower, south down the ridge to the Lupton trail and back up the Peter’s Mill Run through Ft. Lee campground and back up the old Carriage Road.

GEOLOGY: Massanutten sandstone, 450 million year old inland ocean beach deposition

HIGHLIGHTS: Mushrooms were the highlight, with numerous amanitas (A. muscaria and A. citrina) in full bloom. Edibles were also taken home for tasting, including brickcap, combed and bearded hedgehogs, puffballs, and the thin, bright orange peel. Fall colors were a week from peak with blackgum and red maples looking pretty good.

The ‘other’ chestnut; the Chinquapin, was found along Peters Mill Run, while the American Chestnut was common, with some in fruit, along the ridge.

The sandstone ridges made for excellent heath family communities. Members of this ericaceous family found included mountain laurel, rosebay rhododendron (along the stream), Minnie-bush, pinxter azalea, several species of blueberries, black huckleberry, deerberry, maleberry, teaberry and trailing arbutus.

Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica), along with New Jersey tea, were found on the spur trail to Duncan Knob.


CanopyAlong the drier ridgetop, oaks (chestnut and northern red oak) and hickories (pignut and mockernut) dominated, with blackgum, shadbush (three with witch’s broom growths), chestnut shoots and red maple also common. In wetter spots, and in the hollow, white ash and basswood were observed. Other trees included black birch, black cherry, white oak, pines (Virginia, pitch, and table mountain), hemlock (along Peters’ Mill Run).

Subcanopy – Witch-hazel (many in bloom), sassafras, and redbud were common. Others included black birch, black locust, flowering dogwood, persimmon, hawthorn, cucumber magnolia, paw-paw.

Shrub layer>Scattered colonies of beaked hazelnuts, southern arrowwood and maple-leaf viburnum were found. Other shrubs include all of the heath family members mentioned in the highlight section above. Along the stream were winterberry holly, rosebay rhododendron, smooth alder and silky dogwood. Other shrubs included broadleaf spirea, roundleaf gooseberry, scrub oak, shrubby St. Johnswort, Hercules Club.

Herbaceous flowersA few species of goldenrods and asters were in bloom, but not all keyed out. Known species included blue-stemmed goldenrod and wavy-leaved asters. White snakeroot and tickseed sunflower were also in bloom. Others found included mountain mint, St Andrews cross, mullein, wild sarsasparilla, unknown beardtongue, sicklepod, alumroot, hepatica, sessile-leaved bellwort, Solomon’s seal, pearly everlasting, upland boneset.

Ferns and Fern alliesFerns included marginal wood fern (along the Woodstock Tower section of the West Massanutten Mtn trail), cinnamon (in the wet areas), hay-scented, rock polypody, bracken. Club mosses along Peters Mill Run included L. obscurum, clavatum and complanatum.

Groundcovers and lianas – Greenbriar (in fruit), wineberry, blackberries and raspberries, spotted wintergreen, rattlesnake plantain, Virginia creeper, grapes, poison ivy.


Mammals Gray squirrel and chipmunks

Amphibians – Red-backed salamanders

Reptiles – >None

Birds –- A group of about a dozen golden-crowned kinglets were found at Duncan Knob. Other birds included a yellow-bellied sapsucker, pileated and downy woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, northern juncos, bluejays, crows and ravens, a roadkilled young barred owl, grouse. A road-kill screech owl was found.

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DATE: August 31 – September 2, 2002 

LOCATION: Allegheny Trail, WV (From two miles north of Glady to Gladwin; 26 miles)  Refer to the Monogahelia National Forest Hiking Guide (7th edition).

GEOLOGY:  The Devonian-era Hampshire Formation of shales.

HIGHLIGHTS: Did you know there are campgrounds run by the US Forest Service and WV DNR that aren’t even shown on the Monongahelia National Forest maps?  There’s a very nice one on the Glady Fork, just a few miles north of Glady.  I was told by one MNF staff that it’s new and will be on the new MNF map that’s due next fall (2003). Then I talked with Carol Wetzel, a specialist at the Elkins headquarters whose job includes dealing with the public, and she basically said there are several heavily used (by locals), unmarked ‘dispersed campsites’ and the MNF doesn’t feel the desire to advertise their existence. She added the MNF wants the public to ‘go out on your own and find them’. She flatly refused to provide the information on their location. This is a totally unacceptable position and I’d like to pursue this further.  Glady Fork is a ‘dispersed campground’ (no specific sites, no reservations, no charge!  Pit toilets and the creek for water, and you can drive to the site and use it for a base camp for day hikes!).  It is right on the Allegheny trail.  It has a wonderful wet area with Illex verticillata, Aronia arbutifolia, Viburnum cassinoides, Cornus amomum, Hypericum spathyphyllum for woodies and lots of cinnamon, royal and marsh ferns, with dewberry, swamp goldenrod, marsh bedstraw and water pennywort.  Yes, there were sedges and grasses as well, but those who know me know I don’t do either! We came across a bald-faced hornet nest that had been dug up by a black bear during the past night.  Within a minute, the slightly agitated guard hornets attacked Jane, stinging her about five times before we were out of their range.  Normally, just standing over the entrance would not had provoked such a retaliation.

Nice hike, especially north of Rte 33. Clearly not a well-used trail, nor are there many good camping sites, other than mentioned in the MNF Hiking Guide book.

BOTANY: Typical second growth northern hardwood forest.

CanopyBlack cherry, black and yellow birch, beech, hemlock, sugar and red maple, Fraser magnolia, white pine, white ash, linden, red spruce, oaks (white, red, chestnut and scarlet) tuliptree, sycamore, mockernut hickory.

Subcanopy – Witch hazel, striped maple, cucumber magnolia, shadbush, ironwood, black locust, black gum, sassafras, slippery elm, paw-paws, hop hornbeam.

Shrub layer>Rosebay rhododendron, mountain laurel, shrubby St. Johnswort (Hypericum spathyphyllum), mountain holly, wild hydrangea, currants, Hercules Club, silky dogwood, spicebush, ninebark, common elderberry, maple-leaf viburnum, black huckleberry, multifloral rose, staghorn sumac.

Herbaceous flowersBlooming plants included asters (purple-stem, whorled, flat-topped, crooked stem, wood), goldenrods (grass-leaved, blue-stemmed, late, swamp), tall, or giant sunflower, blue vervain, yellow sorrel, northern bugleweed, bull thistle, dwarf St. Johnswort, impatiens (both pallida and capensis), PA bittercress, turtlehead, cardinal flower, creeping bellflower, sneezeweed, boneset, yarrow, white vervain, trumpetweed, mad dog skullcap, and oxe-eye daisy.  Foliage was found for golden ragwort, pink ladyslippers, cleavers, marsh bedstraw, water pennywort, alumroot, louswort, wood nettles, false hellebore, skunk cabbage, Canada mayflower, and fruits for ramps, cow parsnip, milkweed, jack-in-the-pulpit, blue lobelia, common burdock.

Ferns and Fern alliesMountain, New York, Hay-scented, Intermedia, Cinnamon, lady, Christmas, interrupted, ebony spleenwort.  Lycopodium obscurum, annotinum, flabelliforme,  lucidulum, Equisetum hyemele.

Groundcovers and lianas – Smilax, grapes, a little Dutchman’s Pipevine, VA creeper, Partridgeberry, blackberry, raspberry, striped wintergreen. 


Mammals - Deer, red squirrel, chipmunk.

Amphibians – Slimy and red-backed salamanders, wood frog, American toad.

Reptiles – Garter snake.

Birds –- Black-throated blue warbler, pileated and hairy woodpecker,  raven, chickadee, crow, green heron, kingfisher, wood duck, great horned owl, wood peewee, great horned owl, nuthatch, robin, bluejay, northern junco, cedar waxwings, white-throated and red-breasted nuthatches. 

Mushrooms - Sulfur shelf, long root, angelwing (all three edible).

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DATE: August 12, 2002

LOCATION: Mount Chocorua, New Hampshire (This is just an hour south of Mount Washington).

HIGHLIGHTS: The hike is about six miles, but I don't exactly recall.  Quite a range of ecotones as we ascended 2,000 feet (up to 3,475’ elevation); from a northern hardwood forest to spruce, then fir and finally just groundcovers, (due to lack of soil, not elevation or cold). Saw the bristly sarasaparilla for only the second time - the first being on Roaring Plains, WV. It was also neat to find plants that I was monitoring on Stony Man Mtn in the Shenandoah National Park due to their extreme southern limits at the highest elevations in the Park, including three-toothed cinquefoil, velvetleaf blueberry (V. myrtilloides), Rand’s goldenrod and a rush.

There is a cabin about half way up Mount Chocorua called Jim Liberty cabin. A nice subalpine fir is located on the uphill side of the cabin.  Also, Rand's goldenrod and meadowsweet were in bloom at the cabin.  The cabin is not reservable, but can hold a dozen people or so.

GEOLOGY: Not knowing the particular geologic formation, this monadnock was scoured over by the last Wisconsin glacial advance some 20,000 years ago.


Canopy: Northern oak, beech, hemlock, white birch, white pine, red and sugar and red maple, red spruce, balsam fir and subalpine fir.

Subcanopy: Witch hazel, mountain ash, mountain and striped maple, alataernate-leaved dogwood, subalpine fir (near the summit), heart-leaved birch.

Shrub Layer: Lots of hobblebush (V. alnifolium), northern bush-honeysuckle (some in bloom near the top), nannyberry (V. lentago), blueberry species, mountain-holly (Nemopanthus mucronatum), red elderberry (in fruit), Canada yew, steeplebush and meadowsweet spireas (both in bloom), late low blueberry (V. angustifolium).

Herbaceous Layer: In bloom, included dewdrops, panicled hawkweed, green wood orchid, Indian pipes, asters (whorled, purple-stemmed, large-leaved,flat-topped ), goldenrods (early, Rands). flowering raspberry, tall rattlesnake root, bunchberry (only blooming near the top), Others included Canada mayflower, bluebead (Clintonia borealis), red trillium (T. erectum), wild sarsasparilla, Indian cucumber root, gold thread, pink lady slipper, northern bedstraw, wild and bristly sarsasparilla, wood strawberries (in fruit!).

Ground cover and vines: Striped wintergreen and pipsissawa (Chimophila maculata, C. umbellatum), teaberry, trailing arbutus, blackberries, three-lobed cinquefoil, and shinleaf.

Ferns and fern allies: Ferns include New York, Northern beech, royal, sensitive, interrupted, lady, hay-scented. Club mosses included Lycopodium complanatum, L. obscurum, L.annotinum, L. lucidulum


Mammals: chipmunk, gray squirrel.

Amphibians: American toad.

                    Reptiles: None

Birds: Red-eyed vireo, red-breasted nuthatch, golden-crowned kinglets, northern juncos.

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DATE: June 1, 2002

LOCATION: Camp Hoover loop, starting from Milam Gap, going south on the Appalachian trail, the Laurel Prong trail, and returning up the Mill Prong trail.

 HIGHLIGHTS: I’m always amazed that birds like ovenbirds and juncos can successfully breed as ground nesters.  But, we did find a junco nest along the trail (when the parent bailed out) with four eggs.

 The great tulip tree is always fun to show hikers.  This 5’ diameter tree is found by leaving Camp Hoover and traveling south on Laurel Prong along the dirt road and instead of leaving the road for the trail (on the left of the road), continue 40 yards up the road to the right and looking SW into the woods.  You can’t miss it.  It’s only 20 yards into the woods.

 The botanical highlight is the Aconitum reclinatum (monkshood) that is on the left side of the Mill Prong trail going upstream, just past the third and final stream crossing (1/3-1/2 mile from the Skyline Drive).  It should flower in late July to August.

 There was also a beautiful alternate-leaved dogwood in full bloom in the parking lot at Milam Gap.

 HIKE ITINERARY: The trail starts along the Appalachian trail, going southward through a young forest of black locust, black cherry and hawthorn, with shrubby choke cherry and a constant ground cover of hay-scented ferns.  The area was obviously a cleared area at the time of the Parks’ formation in 1936.  The apple trees are the remnants of the famous Milam apple trees, noted throughout the area for it’s excellent cooking (and, presumably, brandy) qualities.  Turk’s cap lily foliage is found along the AT, with many showing browsing by deer. 

 GEOLOGY: Mainly Catoctin greenstone, with most of the Laurel Prong trail being on Pedlar granodiorite.


Canopy: Red maple, black locust, white ash, black birch, with yellow birch along the wet Laurel Prong, sugar maple, mockernut, pignut, and shagbark hickory, chestnut and white oak.

Subcanopy: Hop-hornbeam, hawthorn, striped and mountain maple (both in fruit),  witch-hazel, sassafrass, sweet cherry, and princess tree.

Shrub Layer: Those in bloom included maple-leaf viburnum, common elderberry, mountain laurel, pinxterbloom, deerberry.  Other included chokecherry, hazelnut, red elderberry (in fruit), smooth gooseberry (in fruit), broad-leaved spirea, wild hydrangea, choke and  pin cherry, mountain holly, staghorn sumac, spicebush, blackhaw viburnum, New Jersey tea, and winterberry (in fruit). 

Herbaceous Layer: Those in bloom included doll’s eye, garlic mustard, sweet cicely, false hellebore, Virginia waterleaf, dwarf cinquefoil, golden ragwort, wood strawberry, aborted buttercup, bulbous buttercup, Canada mayflower, common and broad-leaved bluets, alumroot, meadow parsnip, hairy-jointed parsnip, Indian cucumber, field hawkweed, blue-eyed grass, PA bittercress, yellow sorrel .  Others in foliage (or fruit) included black snakeroot, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Fly poison (in bud), cow parsnip (along the AT), great angelica, impatiens, wood betony, early violet, clearwing, ginger, cleavers, large-leaved aster, wild sarsasparilla (in fruit), wild stonecrop (S. telephoides), whorled aster, rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera pubescens), yarrow, tick trefoils, Joe-Pye weed, poke weed, watercress, burdock, mountain mints,  

Ground cover and vines: Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana), greenbriars, raspberries and blackberries, flowering raspberry, Virginia creeper, poison ivy,  

Ferns and fern allies: Hay-scented and New York ferns dominated, with Cinnamon and Interrupted in wetter areas, and rock polypody, marginal and intermedia, maidenhair, lady and silvery spleenwort (in the moist ravines), ebony spleenwort, broad beech, bracken, rattlesnake plant (Botrychium virginianum), sensitive,


Mammals: What presumably was coyote scat was found occasionally on the trail.  A young male deer with its forked antlers in velvet was easily viewed and certainly not intimidated by our presence. 

Amphibians: A few seal or northern duskys were found in the Laurel Prong.

Reptiles: A nice 4’ snake was observed in the road (it looked like a king snake), causing me to stop in the road, and the driver behind me to rear end me!  (And me, driving Jane Thompsons car!)

Birds: Good birding, with a number of warblers (Chestnut-sided, worm-eating, Cerrulean, American Redstart, black and white, ovenbird, northern parula, ), vireos (red-eyed and yellow-throated), thrushes (wood and veery), and others, including scarlet tanagers, northern towhees, great crested and Acadian flycatchers, Indigo bunting, catbird, raven, pileated woodpecker, wood peewee, cardinal,

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DATE: May 25 – 28, 2002

LOCATION: Cranberry Backcountry, WV

GEOLOGY: Sandstones of the Pottsville Group (Pennsylvanian Era) make up the mountains of this region.

ITINERARY: The actual route was from the Kennison Mountain trail crossing of Rte 39 two miles south of the Cranberry Glades Visitor Center, north to the Pocahontas trail, west along the Pocahontas trail, about ten miles to the Fisherman’s trail (just before Summit Lake Campground), and return up Cranberry River and back Kennison Mountain trail to our start. This worked out to six miles on Saturday, ten miles Sunday, twelve Monday, and two on Tuesday.

HIGHLIGHTS: This area was chosen to practice on the northern warblers, specifically the high elevation spruce forest (4000’). We certainly did hear and see Blackburnian, magnolia, and Canada warblers. But the unexpected happened Monday night up in the spruce forest of Kennison Mountain when we were serenaded throughout the night by Saw-whet owls. The spruce forest itself was a highlight, with it’s wood sorrel, ferns, clintonia, mountain holly, birch, club mosses and mosses.

Also heard the red-breasted nuthatch in the spruce forest.

Some extremely large ungulate droppings were found, which, according to the volunteer at the Cranberry River Visitor Center, was the elusive elk only a few people knew about. Later conversations indicated that a large subspecies of deer from Wisconsin had been brought in years ago. All we knew was that we’d never seen deer scat this large.

Cow parsnip was abundant on the beginning of the Pocahontas trail.

At the clearing at Mike’s Knob, a game pond featured large tadpoles and many red-spotted newts, with chimney swifts flying over the open field.

Along the Williams River Forest Service road were dogbane, common milkweed, staghorn sumac, yarrow, silky willow, common fleabane, pale hawkweed, coltsfoot, a snapping turtle, common horsetail, common elderberry, smooth alder, Hercules club, and common speedwell.

At the end of the trip, we watched a mother attempt to feed about three young hairy woodpeckers, who were busy screaming for food in her presence.


Canopy – The canopy consists of northern hardwoods; black birch, black cherry, beech, red and sugar maple, red spruce, black locust (some in bloom), northern red oak, white ash, hemlock, a few horsechestnut in the lower, more lush meadows.

Subcanopy Striped maple is dominant. Others included yellow birch, fraser and cucumber magnolia (some of the Frasers were in bloom), and young dominants are common. Others include shadbush, witch-hazel, mountain ash, alternate-leaved dogwood (in bloom).

Shrub layer - Hobble bush, and wild raisin (Viburnum alnifolium and cassinoides), mountain holly (Illex), wild hydrangea, rosebay rhododendron, mountain laurel, smooth alder, staghorn sumac, silky willow, hawthorns, wild apples, hop hornbeam, choke cherry, common elderberry (in bloom), round-leaved gooseberry.

Herbaceous flowers - Those in bloom included chickweed, violets ( Canada, blue, ), wild blue phlox, hooked crowsfoot, large-flowered trillium, cow parsnip, heart-leaved Alexander, Pennsylvania bittercress, roseybells, yellow Clintonia, Mayflower, wild geranium, goldenrods (stiff, ), bulbous buttercup, wood strawberries, aborted buttercup, doll’s eye, Others in foliage included Mayflower, wood sorrel, dwarf cinquefoil, mayapple, sessile bellwort, Carolina spring beauty, false hellebore, lily foliage, starflower, painted trillium, slender and cut-leaf toothwort, golden ragwort, large-leaved aster, wild geranium, black snakeroot, early meadowrue, angelica, wood nettle, dolls eye, halbert-leaved violets, jack-in-the-pulpit, Indian cucumber root, pink lady slipper, tassle rue, black snakeroot.

Ferns and Fern allies - The big three are New York, Hay-scented and mountain wood fern. Others found include Christmas, lady, intermedia, Cinnamon, bracken, marginal. Clubmosses include L. obscurum, annotinum, complanatum, lucidulum, and clavatum.

Groundcovers and lianas Wild yam, blackberries, raspberries, squawroot, partridge berry.


Mammals – Chipmunks, deer tracks, coyote scat.

Amphibians Mountain dusky and seal salamanders.

Reptiles A little garter snake sat by the side of the trail and a small snapping turtle was hiding in the muck along the Williams River road.

Birds Numerous black throated blue and green warblers, among other warblers (solitary, or blue headed, chestnut-sided, worm-eating, Cerulean, black and white, ), Black-capped chickadee, wood and hermit thrush, wood peewee, yellow-throated vireo, raven, Indigo bunting, scarlet tanager, Acadian flycatcher, winter wren, turkey tracks, red-eyed vireos, northern juncos, robins, chimney swifts, golden-crowned kinglets, blue jay, white-breasted nuthatch, Louisiana waterthrush, veery, hairy woodpecker, northern towhees, scarlet tanager, ovenbird, American redstart, great crested flycatcher, cat bird.

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DATE: April 27, 2002                     

LOCATION: Maryland Appalachian Trail; from Weverton to Gapland State Park.

GEOLOGY: This is on the ~500 million year old Weverton quartzite.

 HIGHLIGHTS: This was the second of a series of hikes covering the Appalachian Trail in Maryland by the Audubon Naturalist Society.  The view of the Potomac Gorge from Weverton Rocks is tremendous and provides a great look at the geologic history of the region.

 Near the end of the hike, a small white-footed mouse was sitting in the trail next to a dead larger mouse.  The larger mouse was not lactating, however, we guessed it was a spring young by its dead mother.  No evidence of the large mouse’s demise was noted, nor was it lactating.

 BOTANY: The lowlands near the Potomac River were full of exotics (honeysuckle, garlic mustard, multiflora rose, tree-or-heaven) and boxelders. Once on the South Mountain quartzite ridge, vegetation became quite sparse, dominated by chestnut oaks and hickories.  Diversity was limited.

Canopy – Chestnut oak dominated, with mockernut and pignut hickories, blackgum, red and white oak, tulip tree, white ash, tree-of-heaven, beech, and red maple.

Subcanopy Witch hazel, dogwood, paw paw, box elder, hackberry, shadbush, slippery elm, red bud, black locust, sassafras, and sweet cherry.

Shrub layer – The pinxter azalea and early low blueberry (V. vacillans) were the only shrubs in bloom.  Others included spicebush, mountain laurel, black huckleberry, maple-leaf viburnum, and wild hydrangea.  An exotic spirea was found near the side trail to the Ed Garvey shelter.

Herbaceous flowers – Garlic mustard was most apparent in the wetter, lower elevations.  Others in bloom included the last of the dutchman’s breeches, common blue and smooth yellow violets, rattlesnake plantain, wild sarsasparilla, false Solomon’s seal, wild pinks, and wild geranium. Others not in bloom included cut-leaf toothwort (in seed), and perfoliate bellwort (in bud).

Ferns and Fern allies – Christmas, marginal, hay-scented, rock polypody, and ebony spleenwort.

Groundcovers and lianas Poison ivy, Virginia creeper, blackberries, grapes and honeysuckle (vine and exotic shrub), and wild yam.



Mammals – White-footed mouse.

Amphibians None

Reptiles - None

Birds The warblers were not yet in the area.  Carolina wren, tufted titmouse, cardinal, blue jay, red-bellied and pileated woodpecker, turkey vulture, great crested flycatcher, ovenbird, and black-capped nuthatch.

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DATE: April 19-21, 2002                  

LOCATION:  Dismal Swamp, VA

GEOLOGY: Coastal Plain unconsolidated sediments

HIGHLIGHTS: This was the annual Audubon Naturalist Society’s bicycle trip to the Dismal Swamp.  It was lead by Tom Raque and Dave Farner.  Although we all missed Mark Garland’s conversing with the barred owls, Tom proved to be an excellent leader, supported by Dave.

Starting off each day at 6:30 (in theory, if not practice), Friday we did about a 15 mile loop starting at Jericho Ditch, then doing Willaimson Ditch, East Ditch, Camp Ditch and back by Jericho Ditch to the parking lot.  Only a few were committed to biking all the way to Lake Drummond, and most were rewarded with flat tires, courtesy of the rampant smilax on the trail.

Saturday found us starting at Corapeake Ditch and doing Sherrill –Cross-Forest Line Ditches before looping around Western Boundary-Sycamore-Laurel Ditches and return by Corapeake Ditch. 

Sunday was a quick trip to Lake Drummond along the Railroad Ditch and back before the rain finally ended our visit.

Highlights included catching a black racer and red-bellied water snake and watching the nutria, even if they are introduced.


Canopy – Red maple, sweetgum, and blackgum dominated the drier areas, while bald cypress and Atlantic White cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides ) dominated the wetlands.  Others of uplands included willow and white oak, beech, loblolly pine, pond pine, American elm and tulip tree.   Swamp white oak and water oak, sycamore, were others seen in wet areas.

 SubcanopySweetbay, redbay, black willow, hornbeam, hop hornbeam, witch-hazel, paw paw,  sassafras,

Shrub layer – Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) was the dominant shrub, with Hercules Club (Aralia spinosa) a close second.  Horse sugar (Symplocos tinctoria) was found in bloom near the beginning of the Coratuck ditch.  Other shrubs in bloom included sweetbells (Leucothoe racemosa), swamp azalea (R. viscosum), highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum) and one sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia); all four being in the heath, or ericaceous, family.  Other shrubs included winterberry (I. verticillata),  Hercules club (Aralia spinosa), red chokeberry, smooth sumac, southern arrowwood (V. dentatum) and southern wild raisin (V. nudum), inkberry, white elderberry, and American holly.

Herbaceous flowers – Canebrake was found throughout the margins of the wetlands.  Herbaceous plants in bloom included corn salad, cinquefoil, common fleabane, dwarf dandelion, field and mouse-eared chickweed, cow vetch, yellow oxalis, rattlesnake plant (H. veinosum), blue toadflax, (Linaria canadensis).  Poke weed was also emergent.

Ferns and Fern allies – The Virginia and the netted chain fern were common in the wetter areas.  Some royal and cinnamon ferns were also seen.  Others included marsh fern, New York, bracken and sensitive ferns.  Tree clubmoss was also found (L. obscurum).

Groundcovers and lianas The yellow jessamine was in bloom, with the crossvine still two weeks from flowering.  Virginia creeper was common, as was greenbriars and poison ivy.  The trumpet, or coral, honeysuckle (L. sempirvirens) was in bloom at the Coratuck trailhead. Some grape vines were also found, as were blackberries and wineberries. 



Mammals – An otter was seen swimming, a few deer, and a small population of nutria were also seen.  Bear tracks were seen.

Amphibians Green frogs, southern leopard frogs, American and Southern toad.

Reptiles A black racer and red-bellied water snake were caught.  Others participants saw a rough green snake.  Very few turtles found basking; in fact, none were seen until about noon Sunday.  One spotted turtle and a few painted turtles were seen.

Birds The prothonotary warbler is perhaps the most common bird, while the Swainson’s warbler was perhaps the most uncommon (although locally abundant in this area).  Turkey were often found on the distant trail ahead of us.  Difficulties separating the Louisiana waterthrush and the Swainson’s warbler by song were thoroughly examined, as were the chipping sparrow and the worm-eating warbler.  Others somewhat easier to identify by song (or signt) were various warblers (prairie, hooded, northern parula, worm-eating, yellow, yellow-rumped, yellow-throated, black and white, oven bird, common yellowthroat, blue-winged), and white-eyed and red-eyed vireo, northern towhee, Carolina wren, great-crested flycatcher, woodpeckers (pileated, red-bellied), white-throated sparrow, tufted titmouse, cardinal, catbird, mockingbird, wood thrush, red-winged blackbird, red-tailed hawk, turkey vulture, bald eagle, great blue heron, green heron, numerous wood ducks, Canada geese, mourning dove, yellow-billed cuckoo, blue-gray gnatcatcher, kingfisher, crows,

Arthropods Butterflies included the common Palamedes, zebra and tiger swallowtails.  

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DATE: March 24, 2002

LOCATION: Big Meadows Swamp, Shenandoah National Park

 HIGHLIGHTS: The highlight was finding the 30-40 Jefferson salamander egg masses in the open body of water.  Each egg mass had about 20 eggs (One female can produce 150+ eggs).  A few new wood frog egg masses were also present.  The swamp itself (apparently once a hog wallow) was dominated by meadowsweet (Spirea latifolia), bordered by gray birch and swamp dogwood (Cornus ammomum). 

 Len Wheat led us off the Rose River fire road, opposite the newly cleared Cave Cemetary to find a home site with two foundations; one with an excavated basement – root cellar, the other only traceable by a crude rectangle of foundation rocks and a subtle rock pile, apparently the former chimney.  Numerous artifacts were found including pots, glass, pottery shards, sheet metal and barbed wire.

The only flowering plant material was some coltsfoot and some American filberts (hazelnuts).

A ruffed grouse was twice heard drumming, and a Louisiana waterthrush was also noticed by Frank Schaff.

Regarding the geology, some excellent chlorite minerals were found (bright green, like cuprite, but without the metallic sheen and transparency).  The similarity between malachite and red jasper was also discussed.

HIKE ITINERARY: This was a geology hike with Tim Rose.  We started at Fisher Gap and hiked south along the Appalachian Trail until we got to Big Meadows campground.  We then hiked the Swamp Nature trail to the open water, just to the left of the trail, opposite the air quality monitoring station on the right.  We continued to the Drive and down the Dark Hollow Falls trail and returned to Fishers Gap by the Rose River fire road.

GEOLOGY: Throughout the hike, we were in the Cactoctin greenstone, metamorphosed volcanic rocks of late pre-Cambrian (~570 mya).



Canopy: Red maple, basswood, tulip tree, black cherry and black birch and white ash dominated the high elevation, moist forests, with hemlock in the wettest ravines.  Black locust, red and chestnut oaks, hickories and white pine were on the drier grounds.

Subcanopy: Gray birch was notable in the Big Meadow campground, along with hawthorn.  Others found during the hike included yellow birch, striped maple, blackgum, hornbeam, hop hornbeam and sweet cherry.

Shrub Layer: Included witch hazel, spice bush, some red elderberry, wild hydrangea, mountain laurel, deciduous azaleas, huckleberries and blueberries, American hazelnut, and deciduous holly, meadowsweet, silky dogwood and speckled alder throughout the swamp.          

Herbaceous Layer: Not much happening yet.  Golden ragwort foliage was emerging, as was the garlic mustard.  Biennial mullein was found.  No signs of the marsh marigold was seen in the swamp area, but iris foliage was emerging.

Ground cover and vines: The usual suspects of poison ivy and grapes, with greenbriars, wineberries,  raspberries, and blackberry canes.

Ferns and fern allies: Evergreen rock  polypody, marginal and intermedia ferns were found.  A special treat of maidenhair spleenwort was found on the rock cliffs along the Dark Hollow Falls trail.



Amphibians: Nope, but the previously mentioned egg masses.

Reptiles: None of them, either.

Birds: The drumming of the ruffed grouse and the Louisiana water thrush were the noteworthy highlights. 

Mammals: Deer throughout the day.  A groundhog was seen by the air quality monitoring station.

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DATE: February 24 – March 10, 2002

LOCATION: Belize, Central America

 HIGHLIGHTS: Five boa constrictors were seen over the two week period; three copulating in a pile; one which I was able to catch and get a picture of it draped around my neck.  The last one proved to be a little more aggressive and upset than the one I had caught before.  When I pulled it out of the brush by its tail, it very quickly turned and struck at me.  So, I decided to leave it alone at that point.  While the three in an amorous pile were impossible to size, the other two were both about five feet; young adults, with lengths up to nine feet possible in Belize (up to 12’ in South America).

25 scarlet macaws were seen.  With mates pairing for life, all the birds were flying in pairs or threes; the third being the juvenile.  (Only two eggs are laid by the macaw, with normally only one surviving marauding hawks.)  Other birds seen included keel-billed toucans and collared aracaris, blue-headed mot-mots, chestnut-headed and Montezuma’s oropendulas, slaty-tailed trogons, king vultures, tiger herons, crested guans, the beautiful white hawks, swallow-tailed kites, boat-billed and tiger herons, great and little tinamous, and various species of parrots, hummingbirds and ringed, amazon and green kingfishers along the river.  Nightjars were found along the dirt roads at night.  Others included wood creepers, the red-capped manakin that moon-walked along the branch, rufous piha, great kiskadees, brown jay, nightingale wren, and a yellow-bellied woodpecker on a palm tree at Glover’s Reef.

Black howler monkeys were heard and seen at Wharrie Head Lodge and heard at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.   Jaguar tracks were seen throughout the two weeks, although we never saw one.  Examination of one particularly large jaguar scat revealed lots of peccary hair and broken bones, armadillo dew claws (their primary food source), and a couple of small mammal jaws and unidentifiable prey teeth.  A group of collared peccaries were heard (and smelled) one afternoon, and a gray four-eyed opossum was seen one evening along the Upper Swazey River.  Tracks of the three-toed Baird’s tapir were common in the Upper Swazey River.

Other zoological highlights included the Blue morpho butterfly, a tarantula, several black scorpions, the chitin head of a rhinoceros beetle, and a spiny iguana caught by our two guides.

Botanical highlights included the beautiful philodendron vines and bromeliads draped around the trunks of the large trees, the large flat-topped ceiba trees (aka banyan, sabre, or cotton tree), the taste of the heart of palms, the bright yellow flowers of the quamwood trees, the nasty thorns of several of the palm trees, and the magnificient tree ferns; some 15-20 feet tall.

ITINERARY: This was a two-week trip; the first week was with Island Expeditions and the second week was on our own.  The Island Expedition trip started with a day trip to the Mayan cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal, which included Mayan terra cotta pots and bones of 18 sacrificed Mayans.  The most remote region of the cave revealed the full skeleton of a young Mayan girl, believed to have had her heart removed. 

 The next two days involved hiking 15 miles through the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary (including some primary, or old growth, forest).  Porters carried all of the gear, including the inflatable kayaks that we used for the next four days, as the group of ten guests and three guides paired off in seven kayaks.  We also visited an unexcavated Mayan site that had been found by Greg Sho; our Mopan Mayan guide.   The second guide was Pedro Sho (no relation to Greg), a Kekchi Mayan.  The leader was Bill Sirota, from British Columbia, Canada; near Vancouver, where Island Expeditions originates.

 At the end of this trip, Jane and I were taken to Glovers Reef, an atoll offshore with an Island Expedition base camp used for reef trips.  Although this was not part of a tour group, we stayed at the base camp and were served meals by the staff who maintained the facility.  Island Expedition also provided us with a guide, Mario, who was there to help us with the sea kayaks, take us to the reefs, and to keep me out of trouble.   We were here from Sunday to Tuesday.  Unfortunately, high winds came in Sunday evening and prevented us from snorkeling on both Monday and Tuesday.  We did spend Monday walking through the broken coral beaches and I was able to find a number of interesting things under the coral in the shallow backwaters.  No, even Mario was not able to keep me from finding out the hard way why they call it the fire worm.  Fortunately, the stinging from the broken miniscule spines in my palm was relieved by playing the drums with Butch, one of the staff, that night after dinner.  (He is a garifuna; part African and Carib Indian, and the two conga-like drums are a standard part of their musical heritage.  Apparently, the constant pounding on the drum with my palm broke up and dissipated the toxins.)  We also found many live conchs, brittle stars, a striped shrimp, and an eel. 

 Tuesday, we returned to the mainland while the next tour group was brought out (including Bob and Karolyne from our earlier tour group).  Low point of trip – providing stomach contents as chum for fish on our very rocky return trip - even after taking Dramamine that morning.

 We then took the bus back to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary for our planned four-day backpacking trip to Victoria Peak and back.  However, the winter’s hurricane made the trail impassible, so we only went one day in, camped overnight, and returned the next day. The last two days we did day hikes in the area around the Sanctuary, including a hike to Ben’s Bluff.  Although we both regretted not doing the trip through the old growth and climbing the second highest peak in Belize, it was nice to finish our trip with the relatively easy day hikes.               

 Overall impressions?  Several people remarked how Belize is much more ‘unspoiled’ than Costa Rica, with much less development.  It was certainly humid and buggy, but at least we didn’t get any botflies (you don’t want to know).  The birding was great, the snorkeling is fantastic (they say), and wildlife and wilderness can be found.

 We both highly recommend Island Expeditions.  Not only do they offer many different tours, they were the only one to offer a combination backpacking/river rafting trip.  All three guides were top shelf; knowledgable, friendly, and good people in general.  Island Expeditions did everything they could to make this an excellent experience and went out of their way to meet our specific travel plans and needs.  Their staff worked with me from the beginning to come up with a way to meet our desires.  

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DATE: February 16-18, 2002

LOCATION: Big Run, Shenandoah National Park

HIGHLIGHTS: A yellow-bellied sapsucker, 7 large brookies (8 – 10"), lots of large over-wintering bullfrog tadpoles, 3 morning cloak butterflies, 5 red-tailed grouse, dwarf cinqefoil and PA bittercress in bloom, watercress, several large (one, 3’ 2" dia) white pines, a 2’ 10" dia. Hemlock (just 30 yards upstream of the 3’ 2’ white pine) and one 2 ½’ white oak on Big Run Portal trail, near the confluence with the Brown Mountain trail. A 3’ 4" tulip tree is also in this area.

Being a sandstone region, the heaths predominated, including trailing arbutus, teaberry, pinxter azaleas, Minnie-bush and mountain laurel.

HIKE ITINERARY: Always interested in hiking the Big Run in winter to see the geology, I backpacked in from Brown Mountain Overlook to the Big Run Portal trail, and found numerous campsite options downstream of this intersection. On Saturday, I hiked up the Patterson Ridge trail, with the desire to bushwhack down the ravine to the north, but the dense underbrush (and numerous dead white pines – presumably from the pine bark borers of the late 80’s) resulted in my taking Rocky Mountain Run trail back down. Sunday, I hiked up the Big Run Portal and did a loop of Big Run Loop, Doyles River trail, Browns Gap Road, and back along the Rockytop trail. I hiked out on Monday. PS; Don’t try to hike in from the bottom. Not only is it through private property, but it’s a game preserve with 8’ fences.

GEOLOGY: This is principally on the Hampton (Harpers) formation, with shales, silts and occasional sandstones. However, at the bottom of the Park, you have some wonderful cliffs and stream-eroded formations that are in the resistant quartzites of the Erwin (Antietam) formation. The Erwin formation has the 550 MY old skolithos worm tunnels from the ancient beaches; the same rock that makes Chimney Rock and Calvary Rocks on the Riprap trail.


Canopy: Scrub and chestnut oak, pitch, Virginia and mountain pine in the higher, drier ridges, Also, white pines, some shagbark, pignut and mockernut hickories, sycamores, sweet cherry, tuliptree, white and red oak, with white ash, basswood, in the moist areas.

Subcanopy: Dogwoods, blackgum, persimmon, sassafras are common in the lower valley. Witch hazel, shadbush, hop hornbeam, black locust, black cherry, sweet cherry (P. avium), wild apples, tree-of-heaven, Princess tree are also found.

Shrub Layer: Much mountain laurel, Minnie-bush. Also American and beaked hazelnut, spicebush, swamp sweetbells (Leucothoe racemosa), blueberry species and black huckleberry, blackhaw and mapleleaf viburnum, coralberry, wild hydrangea, hawthorn, choke cherry, and winterberry (I. verticillata).

Herbaceous Layer: A dwarf cinqefoil and PA bittercress in bloom, garlic mustard, wood nettles, mullein, pokeweed, golden ragwort foliage, watercress, burdock, mountain mints, whorled coreopsis, turkeybeard.

Ground cover and vines: Spotted wintergreen, rattlesnake plantain, lots of greenbriars, wine raspberries, raspberries and blackberries, oriental bittersweet, wild yam, wild stonecrop (S. ternatum).

Ferns and fern allies: Christmas, intermedia and marginal wood ferns, ebony spleenwort, braken fern, maidenhair, rock polypody.


Amphibians: Lots of large (presumably bullfrog) tadpoles.

                    Reptiles: None.

Birds: The yellow-bellied sapsucker, juncos, towhees, chickadees, golden-crowned kinglets, pileated woodpeckers, turkey and grouse, nuthatch, winter wren, barred owl, raven, turkey vulture, cardinal,

Mammals: Deer, chipmunk, coyote scat.

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DATE: January 26, 2002 

LOCATION: Oventop Mountain, SNP, North District 

GEOLOGY: Pedlar granodiorite and Old Rag granite, with occasional greenstone dikes

HIGHLIGHTS: This was a bushwhack with Len Wheat. From the former picnic spot on Rte 211, east of the Park, we took Pass Mountain trail up to the gap and turned east, up the abandoned trail to the summit of Oventop Mountain. Once over the summit, and a second, smaller rise, a good south-facing rock slab provides an excellent view to the south and east. Just before that is a good north-facing vantage point on top of some hard-to climb rocks. The Byrd’s Nest shelter is easily visible to the extreme west from these rocks. Then, retracing our path back to the Pass Mountain trail, we followed it only a hundred yards or so to a rocked-in spring, formerly in a springhouse. Another 30 yards behind (above) the springhouse is the homesite, with the remains of rock chimneys on either end of the house. Daffodils were emerging in the area.

Bushwhacking beyond the house site to the south, a moderate descent took us to the unnamed tributary that runs east to our beginning point. At the base of the descent, we found a homesite and a nice stonewall surrounding the house and yard. At the upstream end of the stone fence is a 7” diameter butternut (white walnut) tree, just inside the fence. Crossing the stream and walking downstream a hundred yards, we came across the body of a four-door model-A type car. Other body parts (cars, that is), barbed wire and stuff is in the area, and the rubble of the chimney from another homesite is found another 100 yards downstream from the car body.

As you are returning to Rte 211 by following the stream downstream, a small cemetery (~8 headstones with no markings visible) exists about 60 yards uphill from the creek, on a ridge line coming up from the creek. This ridge is the second ridge on the SW side of the creek from Rte 211, and is hard to find, even when at the site. Look for periwinkle, and a large maple with a large branch sticking out horizontally (uphill) about ten feet off the ground, then turning upright after about six feet. 


Canopy – Typical second/third growth hardwood forest, with tuliptree, red maple, chestnut and red oak predominating. Others include mockernut hickory, white oak, white ash, black locust, sycamore, white and Virginia pine, (and table mountain pine on rocky outcrops), black cherry, black walnut, black birch and yellow birch (along the unnamed tributary, by the butternut and long stone wall).

Subcanopy – Some persimmon, dogwood, sassafras, striped maple, witch hazel, hophornbeam.
Shrub layer – Mountain laurel was most common on dry slopes, with spicebush common on wetter slopes. Also found were blackhaw and mapleleaf viburnum, deciduous azalea, blueberries, staggerbush (Leucothoe racemosa), American chestnut suckers.

Herbaceous flowers – None in bloom, but garlic mustard foliage was far too common.

Ferns and Fern allies – All the typical winter ferns, including rock polypody, Christmas, marginal and intermedia wood ferns, and ebony spleenwort.

Groundcovers and lianas – Grapevines, a little striped pipsissawa, black berries and raspberries, some honeysuckle, and stray periwinkle. 


Mammals – Gray squirrels.

Amphibians – Several seal salamanders were found in the springhouse.

Reptiles - None

Birds – A yellow-bellied sapsucker was a highlight, with raven, turkey vultures, white-throated nuthatch, Carolina chickadee, and tufted titmice.

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