Monday, June 18, 2012

Half Moon Lookout: Lots of Flowers on Great North Mountain

Sunday was one of those perfect June days that almost never happens:  low humidity, highs around 80 and bright and sunny.  We went out with a friend to the Great North Mountain area to do a 10 mile circuit including Half Moon Mountain.  We certainly didn't expect solitude on Half Moon Mountain, but we got it.  We saw one small group of Boy Scouts twice (they were doing the loop in the opposite direction).  I also didn't expect to find quite as many flowers as we did.  I saw four that were new to me.

From the parking lot, the Bucktail Trail follows an old roadbed around the mountain.  The already easy ascent was made easier by me stopping and taking pictures of flowers every few feet.  After about a couple of miles, the trail left the roadbed, turned east and began climbing along Halfmoon Run.  There wasn't a lot of water in the run, so the stream crossings were easy.  At the very top of the valley, the trail follows the streambed itself for a short distance before climbing steeply to the top of the gap.  It wasn't quite as steep as some of the craziness we've seen in Pennsylvania recently, but it was definitely a respectable climb. 

From the gap, we continued climbing up to the top of Halfmoon Mountain, where there are ruins of an old fire tower.  Ripe blueberries slowed our ascent, but they were worth it. We took a break at the top and enjoyed the view to the south of the Trout Run Valley.  Returning to the gap, we picked up the Halfmoon Trail and began the walk back to the car. The rest of the hike was easy - just weaving in and out of drainages along the side of the mountain.  At one point, we could hear crows across the valley making a fuss and crows near us answering them.  This continued for several minutes before the ones near us joined the crows across the valley.  I'm not sure what they were all upset about, but much drama ensued.  We could hear the ruckus as we walked for the next ten minutes.

Another beautiful Sunday in the woods.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
A butterfly on top of Cirsium discolor (Field Thistle).
 Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed)
 Solanum carolinense (Horse Nettle) on the Bucktail Trail
 Chrysogonum virginianum (Golden Star) along Halfmoon Run.
 Scutellaria incana (Downy Skullcap) along Halfmoon Run.
Looking south from Halfmoon Mountain over the Trout Run Valley towards Big Schloss and Tibbet Knob.
 The ruins of the lookout on Halfmoon Mountain.
Aralia hispida (Bristly Sasparilla).  This was one of the flowers I hadn't seen before this trip.  Click to enlarge this one:  There is a small caterpillar and a number of other insects that can be seen on the flower.

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