© Bob Pickett
Date: September 14-20, 2003
<![if !supportEmptyParas]> Location: Glacier National Park, Montana
<![if !supportEmptyParas]> Itinerary: Arrived in Glacier during some of the worst forest fires in years (multiple fires started about August 15). All trails west of the continental divide were closed. Going to the Sun road had been recently re-opened and an evening drive the first night to Logan Pass enabled us to see spiraling flames reaching above the canopies on several trees like candles. A two week trip, with Jane Thompson and I spending the first week at Two Medicine Lake as volunteers with an American Hiking Society volunteer work trip. With the fires still blazing, our work sites were extremely limited and we ended up spending the week doing brush removal around Two Medicine Lake. The second week, we planned to backpack. However, with west side trails closed and with lows in the twenties and the threat of rain/snow throughout the week, we opted for day hikes. We stayed principally at the Swift Current campground on the east side. Four day hikes were done from this site. They included Iceberg Lake, Grinnell Glacier, Cracker Lake, and Ptarmigan Tunnel. We also did a hike to Oldman Lake from the Two Medicine campground. Finally, the shorter Avalanche Lake hike was done to sample the wet forests of the western side (six miles total length).
HIGHLIGHTS: The fires seen from Logan Pass the first night was impressive. It wasn’t a wall of flames, rather there were only about six to eight 20 – 40’spots in flames, with the rest smoldering. There were individual trees acting like candles, with spiraling flames extending above the canopy.
Wildlife is always a highlight in this Park. Unfortunately, no grizzlies. Four weeks in the Park (two in 1996), and still no brown bears. Lots of bighorn sheep and mountain goats. The sheep were beginning to form winter herds, with a 28 and 30+ herd seen the last day trip to Ptarmigan tunnel. At least a dozen mountain goats were seen singly as well on this last trip. A cow moose was seen on the Iceberg Lake hike, and the largest rack I’ve ever seen on an elk was seen in the St. Mary’s Two Dog Flats at dusk accompanied by four other non-antlered elk. One elk was heard bugling coming down the Iceberg Lake trail. A black bear was seen acting befuddled on the entrance road to Many Glacier (Swift Current). A coyote was watched trotting along the mud flats of the extremely drawn down Lake Sherburne at the beginning of the Cracker Lake hike. Two golden eagles were watched below the Bird Woman Falls parking overlook on Going to the Sun Road, and an immature bald eagle was seen on the Ptarmigan tunnel hike. Two blue spruce carefreely browsed at our feet on the Grinnell Glacier hike.
Wednesday, we drove east from East Glacier to view the short-grass prairie. A beautiful gray fox was seen near Cutbank, as were white-tailed deer and sharp-tailed grouse.
With the cold temperatures, not a single reptile or amphibian was seen.
Herbaceous flowers were very limited, with some fireweed in bloom, but most with seed floating in the wind. The botanical highlight might had been the 4’9” diameter Englemann spruce found below Ptarmigan Lake, or the 5’ diameter Western red cedar actually IN the Trail of the Cedars
It was also interesting to find both the white and red fruiting forms of the red baneberry.
This hike begins behind the Swift Current Restaurant and cabins. It’s a 4.5 mile hike to the Lake and returns the same way. After a few hundred yards of ascent through an open lodgepole pine and Englemann spruce forest, with a few larch, the trail connects with the trail from the Many Glacier Hotel on the right. The next mile is in open habitat, with fire cherry and thimbleberry dominating the shrub layer, with a few subalpine fir. The wooded forest of subalpine fir and Englemann spruce with lodgepole pine is re-entered.
After about three miles, pass Ptarmigan Falls, with the trail splitting shortly beyond to Iceberg Lake and Ptarmigan Pass. At this junction, the elevation is reached where lodgepole pine and Douglas fir drop out, in lieu of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir. There is a fine display of old growth Engelmann spruce in this area, including a 3’ 2” diameter specimen on the lower side of the trail about half a mile up from the junction.
The last mile and a half are back in the open, with lots of subalpine spiraea, elderberry, mountain ash, alders, elderberry, thimbleberry. Scan the valley wetlands for moose and bear. A grizzly had been seen that morning on the trail, and I saw a moose below.
Eleven big horn sheep were seen grazing on the talus slope on the north (right) side approaching the Lake. Five mountain goats seen on north side of Lake. Also, heard the bugle of an elk on return trip in the valley.
Bog area of stream exiting the Lake has numerous shrubby willows, fruiting mountain heather (Phyllodoce), grass of Parnassis, and three-toothed cinquefoil.
A 6 mile hike starting in a lodgepole pine open forest with redosier dogwood, aspen, thimbleberry, cow parsnip, snowberry, willow, serviceberry, meadow rue etc. Cross the creek and enter the closed canopy habitat. Pass the Swiftcurrent Lake on the left (in front of Many Glacier Hotel). Reach the far end of the lake and take asphalt path to second lake. This is where the two blue spruce boldly stayed in the trail at our feet. Many ferns are found in the woods and among the rocks, including maidenhair, parsley fern and, two large unidentified ferns. Saw common mergansers in Lake Josephine. Also, a fallen, cut Englemann spruce 2’ 9” in diameter, aged approx. 225 years. Pass loop trail coming up from around Lake Josephine, and soon, crest ridge to view Grinnell Lake. At this point, two old, gnarled white-barked pines are found on the upper right side of the trail. First views (and sounds) of Grinnell Falls also had at this point. Grinnell Glacier is finally reached among various end moraines. If you look at the scoured rock at the lower end of the lake, you can find round fossils in the rock several feet in diameter, which are stromatolites; blue-greens (formerly called algae, now placed in the Monera Kingdom), pedestal formations living over a billion years ago in the shallow ocean environment. Of course, the diorite basaltic sill running horizontally across the upper rock cliffs are also noteworthy. However, in our case, we could barely see across the lake due to the low clouds. We understand the glacier comes right to the water, with a second glacier (the Salamander Glacier) somewhere up there on the cliffs that we could also not see (In fact, it was only on our return down, that we were able to see the Grinnell Falls!).
Found a marmot and common loon on our return trip.
This is a 6.1 mile trip (12.2 roundtrip). Ignore the significant horse droppings that literally cover the whole trail the first mile or so. It quickly gets better (apparently, the horses all empty their load when they first start hiking). This is a popular overnight horse trail. Nonetheless, well worth the hike. A beautiful valley lays ahead with constantly dwarfer subalpine firs, until spreading mats are all that’s left at Cracker Lake. This is a smaller valley; much more personal and isolated from the massive landscapes found elsewhere. We’re told the Siyeh Glacier is above the lake, but the clouds prevented us from confirming that! Be sure to travel to the far end of the Lake, past the campground, to see the old mining ruins. A ranger told us the assays were spiked with gold, and, consequently, the mining operation found little and eventually went bankrupt.
A wonderful heavy, wet snow nailed us in this upper valley cirque, with 3-4” on the firs as we were hiking out. Visibility was near zero, but it was fun eating lunch on the metal boiler of the mining operation, brushing the falling snow off the boiler and our lunches.
This was a wonderful 6 mile hike from Two Medicine Lake Campground. Story has it that this name comes from the fact that the native Indians would not travel beyond the first lake, respecting the spirits that lived beyond. The Indians constructed a ‘medicine lodge’ to pay their religious respects to their idols. Eventually, their population required the construction of a second lodge. This site used to be called Two Medicine Lodge Lake, but was eventually shorted to Two Medicine Lake. Supposedly an excellent place for spotting grizzly bear, but it was very cold and windy on our hike, such that nothing (besides us hikers) was out in the open. Oldman Lake is the first camping site of a very popular three-day backpacking trip. The lake itself is home to a dying population of whitebark pine trees. It was quite cold and windy, with a couple of inches of snow on the ground, making for beautiful scenery and a quick lunch.
Near the glacier, just before reaching the benches, alpine species of anemones and valeriana are found.
This was only a 2.9 mile hike up to the lake. However, it was the only hike we did on the west side, due to the fire restrictions that had been in place until we arrived with all the rain and snow. A much wetter habitat with western red cedars, western hemlock, western larch, black cottonwood, mountain maple, white birch (?) and the shrubby western yew, coralberry and devil’s club. Herbaceous plants included starry Solomon’s seal, clintonia, rattlesnake plantain, trillium, sessile bellwort, lactuca (?), sweet cicely, miterwort and lady fern and a Dryopteris. On the Trail of the Cedars, the big cedar literally in the trail measures 5’ in diameter.
Beyond the Trail of the Cedars, twinflower is common on the mossy slopes.
<![if !supportEmptyParas]> The areas hiked (between 5500’ and 7500’) are within the subalpine vegetation zone. This is the upper edge of the montane forest to the timberline. Subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce dominate the forests. However, for our hiking, two habitats were most encountered; the closed canopy and the open canopy, or shrub habitat. A third habitat was encountered on the wet western side, which we visited only briefly on the Avalanche Lake Trail/Trail of the Cedars.
CANOPY: The lower elevation canopy was normally lodgepole pine with some Douglas fir, changing to Englemann spruce and subalpine fir at higher elevations. White-bark pine was for the most part dead (from the blister rust), but some live trees were found at Oldman Lake, and two old specimens were found along the Grinnell Glacier trail overlooking Grinnell Lake. Not surprisingly, the few cones on the trees had been totally destroyed (eaten), presumably by the Clark’s nutcracker, a specialist on the white-bark pine cones.
<![if !supportEmptyParas]> Deciduous trees were limited to aspen on the dry east side and black cottonwood, with larch, black birch, mountain maple and paper birch on the wet west side.
<![if !supportEmptyParas]> Western red cedar, western hemlock, spruce and pines were found on the wetter west side.
<![if !supportEmptyParas]> The listing of species below will be arranged by closed canopy (C), open canopy (O), and western wet habitat (W). The western wet habitat was all closed canopy.
SHRUB LAYER: (C) included rusty menziesia, gooseberry, snowberry, black
twinberry (wet), redosier dogwood (wet), thimbleberry and wild rose
(everywhere), soapberry (Shepardia canadensis), snowbrush (Ceanothus
velutinus), red raspberry, blueberries, and pipsissewa (C. umbellate). (O)
included common juniper (J. communis), mountain ash, elderberry, rocky
mountain maple, mountain boxwood (Paxistima myrsinites), western
serviceberry (saskatoon), bearberry, silverberry, pin cherry, various willows,
spiraea (single-stemmed, white-flowered birchleaf at lower elevations, and
branched, pink-flowered subalpine spiraea at higher elevations), Utah
honeysuckle (dry), mountain alder, shrubby cinquefoil (some in bloom along the
Cracker Lake trail), creeping mahonia (dry – at Two Medicine).
Some heather (Phyllodoce) was found around the wetlands of Iceberg Lake.
(W) included devil’s club, western yew.
LAYER: (C) included meadowrue, shinleaf, corn lily, twisted stem, false
Solomon’s seal, bellworts, baneberry, bracted lousewort, grass-of-parnassus,
northern bedstraw, violets and geranium. (O) included beargrass, fireweed,
paintbrush, common harebell, silky lupine, several asters, columbine, nodding
onion, shrubby penstamon (in bloom along the rocky stream of Cracker Lake
trail), false hellebore, buckwheat spp, Missouri goldenrod,
butter-and-eggs, heuchera, St. John’s wort, western anemone, cow
parsnip, angelica, pearly everlasting, yarrow, cinquefoil, strawberry, arnicas
(blooming along Grinnell Glacier trail), monkey flower (wet), three-toothed
cinquefoil, Phyllodoce, and swamp buttercup (all three at Iceberg Lake). (W)
included large-leaved avens, lactuca, miterwort, twinflower, bunchberry,
trillium, rattlesnake plantain.
FERNS AND FERN
ALLIES: Bracken and parsley fern were the two common ferns.
A few holly ferns were found, as well as maidenhair and two others not
identified on Grinnell Glacier trail. One
of these was stoloniferous, three foot bipinnate-pinnatifed fronds, tapering at
both ends, like a New York fern. The
other, a smaller, pinnate-pinnatifed, stoloniferous ferns, with matching pairs
of sori in the middle of the pinnules. A dryopteris, oak fern and a lady fern were found in Trail of
the Cedars and both Lycopodium annotinum and horsetails (E. arvense)
were found along Avalanche Lake.
MAMMALS: Douglas red squirrels are common, with chipmunks also being numerous. As mentioned in highlights, big-horn sheep, mountain goats, one cow moose, one group of elk, one bugling elk, one black bear, marmot.
kinglets ruled the wooded areas, supported by red-breasted nuthatches.
Others seen, in some order of dominance, were red-shafted flickers, cedar
waxwings, robins, common mergansers, white-capped sparrow, common loon, golden
eagle and blue grouse.
or reptiles were seen.)<![if !supportEmptyParas]>
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DATE: June 25 – 27, 2003
LOCATION: Mt. Olympus, Greece
GEOLOGY: Limestone mountains created in the Tertiary Period (~50 MYA)
ITINERARY: This was a three-day round trip from the coastal town of Litohoro (elev. 980’) to Mitikas, the highest peak of Mt. Olympus (elev. 9570’). The main trail takes you through the Enipeus Gorge, a very steep-sided valley with an unyielding ascent along a rocky path. Wednesday was an 8-hour climb, ascending 5578’to ‘Refuge A", one of several huts serving hikers, much like the AMC huts of the White Mountains. It was around nine miles, but everyone talks in terms of hours, not km/miles (even our guide book). Thursday was a ~ 3 mile, 3010 ascent to the summit (Mitikas) and return to Refuge A. Friday’s hike out started with another ~2000’ ascent, climbing up to the northern extension of the summit. Having two cars, we were able to hike down the Lemis ridge trail to Gortsia. Meals are purchased and bunks with blankets cost $10 Euros/ night (~$1.15 US). Reservations at this 110-bed hut are necessary on summer weekends. No hot water. Read that, cold showers!
Most people elect to drive to the midway point of Prionia (elev. 3324 feet), starting their hike from this point. This allows a three hour hike with a 2700 foot elevation gain to Refuge A. After having done the full hike from Litohoro, I would suggest the short hike for most hikers; the longer hike only for those in excellent hiking condition. Perhaps the best option is to thumb a ride – commonly done here – or taxi to Prionia. Start your hike here and then hike all the way down to Litohoro on your descent. This option enables you to see the beauty of the canyon, the ruins of the Monastery (burned by the Germans in WWII), and the cave chapel; all found below Prionia.
Detailed topo maps are available in Litohoro. We used the Rough Guide to Greece for our planning purposes.
HIGHLIGHTS: Just getting to the summit is quite a thrill. This is the highest peak in Greece, and looking to the east, the ocean can be seen; a mere 10.8 linear miles away. This elevational gradient markedly emphasizes the height, making this summit worthy of the home of Gods. It is above timberline, which is reached about 7500’. Michael Kierce, spotted two chamois, deer-like ungulates of European mountains. (He and his father, Kevin, our Athens host - and reason for our visit - participated on this hike with us.)
On our return route down along the northern Lemos ridge trail, a black pine was found with a circumference of over 32’, making the diameter about 10’. Another pine that had been cut, which was only about four feet in diameter, was between 300 – 350 years old! Clearly, these Methusalas are old growth.
Numerous orchids were scattered throughout the pine and beech forests, along with native geraniums (G. macrorrhizum). And common boxwood, Buxus sempervirens, is native in this region!
Perhaps the most rare and beautiful endemic found was Jankaea heldreichii; described as having "rosettes of oval silvery-felted leaves and heads of delicate lavender bells of waxy brilliance".
Above timberline, what constitutes Greece’s alpine meadows (as dry as they are) were in bloom with mountain pansy (V. gracilis), yellow pea-like legumes, dark blue gentian-like ground covers (maybe spring gentians – G. verna?), white Saxifraga scardica and reddish S. semperivivumn (Jane’s favorite) and white-flowering Daphne oleoides.
BOTANY: My reference book for this two-week Greece trip was Flowers of Greece, by Anthony Huxley and William Taylor (1977). Although it is not a field guide, it does provide a narrative discussion of common plants of different biomes, along with photos of 483 common plants. Thus, my description will be more general than normal.
The lower elevations of Mt. Olympus is deciduous forest, containing several relatives to our North American forests, such as beech (F. sylvatica), hop hornbeam (O. carpinifolia) and redbud (C. siliquastrum). Oaks were represented by a species, Q. coccifera, or Kermes oak, with very small (2-3") evergreen leaves with sharp spiny edges, making them appear to be hollies. Other, more exotic deciduous woodies included wild olive ((Olea europaea), wild fig (Ficus carica), and the Locust bean, or carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua). The carob tree is known for it’s seeds, of which ten of them equal one carat, the weight used for measuring diamonds. Mints, thistles and verbascums (mulleins) were common, as were some of the Campanula species. Many white and rose orchids, belonging to the Cephalanthera genus were found in the more moist environments. The rose orchid species is known as C. rubra, or Red Helleborine, and the white is probably C. longifolia, or Sword-leaved Helleborine. A few wintergreen pyrolas were also found (P. rotundifolia), as were some forget-me-nots (Myosotis alpestris). Euphorbias are also somewhat common. Even a few parasitic broomrapes; genus Orobanche, were found.
Higher elevations (5000’+), black pines (P. nigra) dominated with a few Greek fir (A. cephalonica) intermixed. Another pine, (P. leucodermis) is apparently also found here. Leopard’s bane, Doronicum columnae was found. And, yes, nettles are found here; aka Roman nettles, Urtica pilulifera.
The alpine meadows were discussed in the Highlights above.
ZOOLOGY: Surprisingly, as we drove through Greece, we came across four (of what they call) martens; members of the weasel family. Of even more surprise, was a roadkill badger; another, and larger, member of the weasel family!
Two snakes were caught in the ruins in the Roman brothel of Ephesus, along with several green treefrogs and another frog species found in a cistern. Ephesus was also noteworthy for it’s many little toads, hopping all through the ruins.
Regarding birds, in the Mt. Olympus region, the dominant conifer-residents were the chaffinch and the subalpine warbler. The alpine swift was also aloft most of the time. During the rest of our Greek vacation, the hands down winner in occurrence was the jackdaw; a member of the crow family. We also heard a cuckoo one evening outside of Kosmas. It actually says Cuck-koo, cuck-koo!
And Butterfly Valley in Rhodes, was interesting; the Jersey tiger moths (Panaxia quadripunctaria) specializing on the sweetgum tree species native to this region (Liquidambar orientalis) during the summer season.
NOTES: As noted above, this was part of a two-week visit of Greece. Greece’s vegetation is Mediterranean in habit, meaning, very hot and dry in the summer. This results in many herbaceous plants blooming quickly and going dormant in the summer. This included many bulbs, with a spring or fall bloom time. Many of our ornamental bulbs are native of Greece. Examples include species of spring-blooming Muscari, Scilla, Hyacinthus and Ornithogalum, Galanthus, Crocus, Narcissis, Anemones, Tulipa and Fritillarias. Fall-blooming bulbs include many of the fall crocus species, of the genus Colchicum, as well as many species of Cyclamen and Sternbergia lutea.
Other noteworthy plants were the Oleander, that were commonly planted along roadsides, Chaste-tree, Vitex agnus-castus, also found in wet areas, and the Giant Reed, Arundo donax, in wet coastal areas; the source of reeds for all woodwind instruments. Bear’s claws, Acanthus spinosus, is also a common wild member of the open and wooded wet habitats. Another common plant is a yucca-like plant, Agave americanus, the Century Plant.
One would be amiss not to note the dominance throughout the country of the wild, as well as the cultivated, olive trees. It is amazing to imagine the great migrant force that is required in the fall to harvest this national fruit tree. It is found literally everywhere plants can grow. And, second to this in interest is the columnar form of the cypress tree, so well known in photos of Greek ruins. Known as the Funeral Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens is a mutational form of a typically spreading tree-habit of growth. This columnar form of the native has been transported throughout the Mediterranean, and has naturalized itself throughout this same region.
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DATE: May 24 – 26, 2003
LOCATION: Cranberry Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, WV
GEOLOGY: Sandstones of the Pottsville group, from the lower Pennsylvanian period (~300 Million years ago).
HIGHLIGHTS: Seeing a black bear is always a highlight, even when you see him crossing the Highland Scenic Highway at the end of the hike, when we’re packing our gear away. We also heard a saw-whet owl within 20 minutes of the end of the three-day hike. The spruce coniferous forest, with the moss-covered rocks and Canada, Magnolia, Black-throated green and Blackburnian warblers were beautiful and unique. Several 2 ½’ diameter hemlocks and yellow birch were found along 688, with a 3’ yellow birch on the left side of Tumbling Run, about a mile down from 688. A 3’2" hemlock was also found in this area (where we camped). Shortly beyond a creek crossing on Tumbling Run, many parts of a wood stove are collected; one saying Thompson and Francis Gallipoliso.
An excellent campsite is found about half a mile from the top of Laurelly Run, just past a stream crossing as you ascend.
The most scenic trail, hands down, was Big Beechy. A moderately difficult ascent with packs, but the wildflowers, ferns and rock displays were outstanding. As far as the noted old growth on the summit, a few spruce did approach 2 1/2’, but I didn’t see any impressive old growth stands. Still beautiful.
Enjoyed the deer carcass in the woods, with the main skeleton carried 10 yards away. Also, the owl scat (I don’t think regurgitated pellets), with the unbroken bones and tail vertebrae still intact, looking like a red squirrel or chipmunk.
TRAIL ITINERARY: We started from the Highland Scenic Highway (150) at the North-South trail, TR 688, hiking 5 miles before camping a mile down on the Tumbling Run trail, TR267 for the first night. (After an hour of spruce on 688, a few saddles between peaks have up to 3’ Black cherry and beech approaching 2 1/2'. Two campsites for a couple tents are found beyond here, but no water or view. Going a quarter mile down on Tumbling Run is a 3’ 1" yellow birch on the left side of the trail. Hemlocks of over 3’ were found upslope to the right.) The second day took us down to the Cranberry River and back up Birch log trail. NOTE: This trail does not go across the creek after a half mile as shown in Allen de Hart’s book, but stays on the west side up to the summit. After connecting by 688, we went down Laurelly Run trail TR 267 to the Middle Fork, and went downstream to the head of Big Beechy for about 11 miles on Sunday. (A very nice campsite exists a half mile or less from the top of Laurelly Run on the right after the second stream crossing (the first is small and may be dry during droughts.) Monday found us going up Big Beechy and down to FR 76 and back to our car for about 9 miles. NOTE: Even Allen deHart’s seventh edition does not accurately show Big Beechy connecting on the east end with FR 76, which is TR 272. However, any MNF map, even back to 1994 shows this. This is Point H on his Map II-A-6 is where Big Beechy ends and 272 begins. At the western end of Big Beechy (at the falls crossing), a wooded sign says 6 miles to FR 76. That’s point H. (See Monongahela National Forest Map - http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/mnf/general_info/forestmap.html for a schematic.
BOTANY: The higher elevations (greater than 4,000’) supported red spruce with mountain holly and intermedia fern, Canada mayflower and a few clintonia. Lower down on the slopes found yellow birch, beech, red maple and striped maple with violets and common wood sorrel. The slopes (3,000’ to 3,600’) included Fraser and Cucumber magnolia, linden, white ash and sugar maple, with more herbaceous growth, and, finally, tulip tree and northern red oak joining in along the Cranberry River and Middle Fork approaching 2,800’ including such standard fair as Mayapple, ramps and sweet cicely.
Canopy – Red spruce with yellow birch and hemlock ( in beautiful condition, except some limited adelgids at lower elevations) at the highest elevations, then beech, black cherry, red maple, black birch, sugar maple, white ash, basswood, and a few big-toothed aspen. No hickories were found throughout the trip and only a very few northern red oaks were found in the lower ravines, along with tulip trees.
Subcanopy – Not much of a subcanopy, with the exception of young canopy members. Shadbush, mountain ash (some in bloom), sweet cherry (in bloom) were found in restricted openings of the canopy, while striped maple and a very few mountain maple (in bloom) constitute the subcanopy in the interior (or shrub layer, depending on one’s definition). Several domestic apple trees were in bloom.
Shrub layer – Mountain holly (Illex Montana) was virtually the only shrub in highest elevations, with red elderberry (in fruit) and striped maple (in flower) a little lower and rosebay rhododendron in wet ravines. Other shrubs included witch-hazel, a very few heaths (minnie-bush, mountain laurel and low blueberry, V. vacillans), wild hydrangea, hobblebush and a member of the Ribes genera.
Herbaceous flowers – Higher elevations included bluebead lily (Clintonia borealis) in bud and painted trillium in flower along with Canada mayflower and common wood sorrel. Violets were the flower of the weekend, with marsh violets and (what appears to be) both northern and sweet violets dominating the woods. Some Canada violets were in bloom in lower stretches, along with a little Halbert-leaved violet foliage. Others in bloom included Foamflower, Indian cucumber root, twisted stalk, false and true Solomon’s seal, Doll’s eye, wood strawberries, Virginia waterleaf, anise root, hooked crowfoot, common cinquefoil, and along the Cranberry River gravel road; sweet cicely, swamp buttercup, wintercress, ground ivy, PA bittercress, clustered snakeroot, aborted buttercup and a larkspur in bud. A few Trillium erectum, perfoliate bellwort and Jack-in-the-pulpit were in fruit, along with lots of trout lily foliage, blue cohosh, cut-leaf and slender toothwort throughout the region and some squirrel corn foliage, and rough-stemmed goldenrod carpeted the fields (vegetative only). Wood nettle, great chickweed, Cleavers, Rue anemone, May apple, triloba violet and early meadow rue foliage were also found. Lots of ramps were in emerging buds in the lower stretch of Big Beechy.
Ferns and Fern allies – Intermedia wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia) dominated every habitat. It constituted 90% of the ferns. New York and hay-scented ferns were the next level of occurrence. Others included some mountain fern at the highest elevations, cinnamon fern, also at high elevations, a few marginal wood ferns, Christmas, lady, maidenhair, bracken, rock polypody, and the long (narrow or northern) beech fern. Club mosses included L. cordifolium, lucidulum, annotinum, obtusum and clavatum.
Groundcovers and lianas – Canada mayflower dominated, with a few in bloom. Others included Dutchman’s pipevine, VA creeper, partridge berry, blackberries, green briar, wild yam, and Fraser’s sedge (in bloom).
Mammals – A black bear on Rte 150, a few chipmunks, a shrew, lots of deer signs,
Amphibians – Several mole salamander egg masses (either spotted or Jefferson) were found at around 4,000’ in the spruce/birch forest.
Reptiles – A cool garter snake was found somewhat inactive. In fact, this is the first time I’ve been able to pick one up with out getting musked.
Birds – Besides the saw-whet owl mentioned in the highlights, the warblers were the dominant bird group, with black-throated greens most common. In order of general abundance, the others included Magnolia warbler, Blue-headed vireo, Northern junco, Black-throated blue warbler, Winter wren, Golden-crowned kinglet, Black-capped chickadee, Hermit thrush and Wood thrush. Others included Veery, Acadian flycatcher, Eastern phoebe, Blackburnian warbler, Worm-eating and Chestnut-sided warbler, Red-eyed vireo, Red-breasted nuthatch, barred owl, blue jay, robins and brown creeper.
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DATE: May 18, 2003
Big Schloss, Virginia/West Virginia
Iris, azalea, pink lady slippers, gaywings, whorled pogonias, menziesia and 11”
diameter Chestnut tree. A large
population of sulphur shelf, or chicken of the woods, mushroom was fresh.
is hike #11 from the PATC Circuit Hikes in VA, WV, MD, and PA publication.
sandstone; the same formation as the Massanutten sandstone, of the Silurian era.
This is also the formation that makes Seneca Rocks.
the street from the parking lot, the wet trail proceeds through blooming
menziesia (Minnie-bush), bordered with bluets. Wet pools in the stream
were home to many populations of an orange club fungus, probably Mitrula
elegans, Orange Earth Tongue. After a mile or so, the trail reaches the stream, which has been on the
right. Both the trail and stream bend sharply to the left
(upstream). At this point, a nice
population of pink lady slippers can be found on the left of the trail.
Within a mile of this point, the trail begins to ascend, first by a
switchback to the left, quickly followed by another switchback to the right.
A few yards beyond this second switchback, a population of whorled
pogonias can be found on the uphill (left) side of the trail.
At this time, they had not developed the flowers yet, but last year’s
fruits could be found, confirming the plant was not the similar Indian cucumber
Just before the cabin (3.5 miles from the start), a very large population
of Cinnamon ferns is found to the right of the trail. Also, in this area is the fringed polygala, or gaywings (Polygala
paucifolia), which was in bloom at this time. It was at this location (just beyond the stream crossing, on
the left) that we measured an American Chestnut tree at 11” in diameter.
Unfortunately, it was well infected with the fungal blight.
Just beyond the Sugar Knob cabin, the loop turns left onto the Tuscarora
trail. This stretch is home of the
Allegheny mound ants. Also, a group
of bird’s foot violets, numerous spring iris, wild oats (sessile bellwort) and
a few wild indigo (not in flower) were found.
The trail turns left again, leaving the Tuscarora trail to ascend south on
Mill Mountain. Fly poison and
rough-stemmed goldenrods are common on this section (neither in bloom).
After reaching the summit (where the tower used to be), a long descent
down Mill Mountain takes you through blueberries, scrub oak, shadbush, more
large American chestnuts (several about 9” diameter) and spring iris.
After passing Sandstone spring, with the false hellebore, at mile 5.8, an
overlook west should not be missed. Wild
bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia) is found among the rocks.
We’re still trying to figure out if the public viewing farm is a
petting zoo, beefalo farm or miniature horse farm.
Reaching the spur trail to Big Schloss at mile 7.7, a large population of
Early Meadowrue follows the shady trail while fragrant sumac and choke cherry
(in flower and heavy polleniferocity) congregates on sunny sections of the
trail. Shortly into this spur
trail, stepping up through a rock cleft finds a small cluster of northern
bush-honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera).
Further on this spur, below the Big Schloss, is found black chokeberry (Aronia
a sandstone community, heaths dominate the landscape.
This included wild azalea, menziesia (both in bloom), mountain laurel, 3
species of blueberries, black huckleberry, teaberry, trailing arbutus and
The dominant trees are chestnut oak and hickories.
Black birch and red maple are also prevalent.
Other trees included red oaks in moist soils, scrub oak along the ridge
top and a few white oaks in the deeper soils.
Others included hemlock, white ash, hawthorns in bloom along the open
ridge tops, shadbush, black locust, sassafras, sweet cherry, flowering dogwood,
Witch-hazel dominants. Others
included Ironwood, sassafras and a few cucumber magnolias.
is king. Minnie-bush (Menziesia
and pinxter azalea were in full beautiful bloom, as was some deerberry, early
low blueberry (V.
late low blueberry (V.
black huckleberry. The only heath
not blooming in some sites was maleberry (Lyonia
Spice bush dominates in some areas. Others included fragrant sumac,
northern bush-honeysuckle, mountain holly (Illex
roundleaf gooseberry, choke cherry (in bloom).
included bluets, wood anemones, violets (early, common blue, bird’s foot),
golden ragwort, pink ladies slipper, spring iris, dwarf dandelion, wild
geranium, introduced wintercress and garlic mustard, early saxifrage, and sweet
cover and vines:
black raspberry, spotted wintergreen, grapes, poison ivy.
and fern allies:
ferns by Sugar Knob cabin are the highlight.
Others included Christmas, New York, Hay-scented, rock polypody,
intermedia and marginal wood ferns, bracken fern.
leopard frog, bullfrog and an American toad.
include black-throated blue and green, worm-eating, hooded, black and white. Others included red-eyed vireo, chickadees, pileated
woodpecker, turkey vulture.
Mammals: Gray squirrel.
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DATE: January 18 – 21, 2003
LOCATION: Watoga State Park and Cranberry Glades
HIGHLIGHTS: This was a four-day weekend at a cabin in the Watoga State Park. Saturday was a nine-mile loop hike along the Ann Bailey, Anthony Creek, and Jessie’s Cove trails. Sunday and Monday were day trips to the Cranberry Wilderness for cross-country skiing.
The cabins are totally modern (although built in the mid-50’s with knotty pine interior paneling) with central heat, electricity, hot water, refrigerator, stove, and showers. Even cut wood is supplied for the fireplace. Towels, sheets, and cookware is also supplied. The four-person cabin rented for $260 for the four nights, with the weeknights at a special half price ($87/night weekends, $77/night weeknights). The cabins at Watoga State Park were only twenty minutes from the Nature Center at Cranberry Mountain Visitor Center.
Another benefit of this location was that it put us only one hour from Snowshoe Ski resort. However, we didn't choose to go downhill on this holiday weekend.
We were hoping to cross country ski along the Greenbriar River rail/trail, but found only ~ 3" of snow on the trail. Fortunately, the hiking was nice here, and the snow twenty minutes away in the Cranberry Mountain area was from 1 to 3 feet deep!
The small patch of old growth on Jessie’s Cove was a highlight, as was the rhododendron along the way.
The Falls of Hills Creek were the most remarkable ice displays I’ve ever seen.
The 6.8 mile Cowpasture loop trail around the Cranberry Glade was one Currier and Ives winter scene after another. Excellent skiing conditions and excellent scenery.
HIKE ITINERARY: Saturday, we hiked a trail in the Park. This hike started at the base of the road to the Ann Bailey parking lot and trail head (just beyond the Visitor’s Center) due to the snow. The 3 ½ mile hike to the lookout tower is through ~ 60 year-old secondary northern hardwood forests. A very steep one mile descent to the campground along Greenbriar River was followed by a 2 ½ mile ascent through Jessie’s Cove back to the Ann Bailey trail.
Jessie’s Cove is a beautiful narrow ravine with significant rosebay rhododendron on the north-facing slope. Some large yellow buckeye (~18-24"diameter) can be found along the stream. Near the top of the ravine, at about the 2 mile point, you suddenly find yourself in an area of old growth woods. 3’ diameter hemlock and white pine are found, as are numerous nearly as large red oaks. One fallen and cut hardwood was aged at 250-275 years old. Only several acres in size, you quickly find yourself on a graded path (read that, former logging road), and the appearance of the forest drastically changes back to second growth forest. A rebuilt pioneer cabin is then encountered just before rejoining the Ann Bailey trail.
Fraser’s sedge was found on the steep slope along the trail.
Sunday, we drove up to the Cranberry Glade/Mountain Wilderness area to find 2-3 feet of snow! Quite a different world from below in the valley.
With the Cowpasture loop trail around the Cranberry Glade closed for the morning due to contractors placing two pre-fab bridges along the trail by helicopter, we skied around Blue Knob along the Kenniston Mtn trail.
We then skied/hiked the Falls of Hills Creek to find unbelievable ice displays both along the valley walls and at each of the three falls. Two loops around the Cranberry Glade board walk completed our day.
Monday, we were able to ski the 6.7 mile Cowpasture loop trail around the Glade. Light snow and numerous deer accompanied us throughout the day. Spruce, hemlock (clean of adelgids), black and yellow birch, black cherry and others framed our rather easy ski loop.
(While the Highlands Scenic Highway is not plowed in winter and touted as an excellent cross-country ski route, it is also accessible to four-wheel vehicles and ORV’s, thus limiting our interest.)
BOTANY Two very different habitats were found at the 2000’ – 3000’ elevation of Watoga State Park versus the 3500’-4000’ elevation of the Cranberry Mountain area.
Canopy: White oak and hickory dominated the Watoga State Park, along with maple, hemlock, pines (white, pitch, and Virginia) and other hardwoods. In the higher elevation of Cranberry Mountain, red spruce and hemlock shared the canopy with black and yellow birch, sugar maple, and black cherry.
Subcanopy: While you couldn’t prove it this visit, Bartrams’ service berry was found throughout the Cowpasture trail. Hawthorns were common. Others included witch-hazel,
Shrub Layer: A noticeable lack of shrubs were found in Watoga, with the exception of rhododendron in the wet ravines. Cowpasture loop trail included Viburnum cassinoides, Spirea alba, Hypericum densiflorum and some mountain laurel.
Herbaceous Layer: Where the ground was seen in Watoga State Park, the various goldenroad and aster stems were found, as were a couple of sweet cicely stems.
Ground cover and vines: The usual smilax and blackberries.
Ferns and fern allies: Evergreen ferns of intermedia, wood and polypody were seen, as were the browned foliage of royal and cinnamon.
Birds: Mallards and Canada geese were found on the Greenbriar River. Interior forests flocks included black-capped chickadees and tufted titmice, with golden-crowned kinglets the most common bird heard over the weekend. Others seen included raven, red-tailed hawks, turkey vulture, downy and pileated woodpeckers and turkey tracks.
Mammals: Numerous does and young were seen (~20 for the three days). Animal tracks of bobcat, coyote, squirrel, deer mice and burrows from subnivean voles/shrews were found. No bear tracks were found. (A ranger noted the previous warmer winters found bear throughout the winter, but not so many this snowy year.)
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