Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Old Rag Mountain Stewards - A Quiet Day on the Mountain

We went out with Old Rag Mountain Stewards (ORMS) for a third week in a row because the schedule for Sunday looked a little thin.  As it turned out, it was pouring rain when we left Silver Spring on Sunday morning.  Weather like that almost always keeps the DC crowd away, so it looked like it was going to be a quiet, wet day on the mountain.  We fully expected to spend the day in rain gear.  By the time we arrived at the parking lot, it was sunny and there were very few cars there.  Still, thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon and it was very humid and windy - perfect thunderstorm weather. 

The entire group headed up the ridge trail and there was a request that I do plant identification training, so it was a slower hike than normal.  We stopped a lot to look at flowers and trees.  Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel) is just about in peak bloom, which is very early this year.

Right at the beginning of the boulder scramble, we saw the results of the hard work the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's National Park Service trail maintenance crew.  There was a bad erosion problem just above the no camping sign that they have filled in with rocks. They have also cleared all of the blowdowns from a hard winter.  All of the work they do is by hand and all of it is done by volunteers.  Thank them if you see them out there working.

We turned around at the Chute and headed back down the Ridge Trail as it looked like the promised thunderstorms might be moving in.  On the way down, we talked to a lot of people about lightning safety on the Ridge Trail, particularly in the boulder scramble.  High on an exposed ridge is no place to spend a thunderstorm.  The storms never did roll in, however.  They all turned south and missed us, which made for a dry, quiet day on the mountain.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
Mitchella repens (Patridgeberry) - The paired flowers, leaves, and later in the season, berries are the giveaway for identifying M. repens.

Gillenia trifoliata (Bowman's Root)

Osmorhiza longistylis (Aniseroot) - this one looks very similar to Osmorhiza claytoni (Sweet Cicely), but O. longistylis has stamens that are longer than the petals.

Asarum canadense (Wild Ginger)

The great work of the PATC NPS trail crew at the beginning of the boulder scramble.  Note the stone steps and the rock wall to stop erosion.

Storm clouds building over the Blue Ridge
Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel) near the start of the boulder scramble.

Viburnum acerifolium (Maple-leaved Viburnum)

Capnoides semiperverens (Pink Corydalis)

K. latifolia hanging off of a boulder.

Looking towards Robertson Mountain.