Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Old Rag: The Ursine Edition

We volunteered on Old Rag on Sunday. It was mostly a quiet, uneventful day. It started gray and cloudy, which kept most of the crowds away. We hiked up the Weakley Hollow Fire Road, going the opposite direction of most people who hike the mountain. We only saw a few people headed down. Summer flowers are in full bloom.
Penstemon canescens (Gray Beard-tongue) on the fire road.
A Daddy Long-Legs on a Striped Maple leaf
Asclepias exaltata (Tall Milkweed) on the fire road.
When we got to the summit, the clouds were beginning to lift. I heard one kid say the tops of the trees looked like broccoli down below, which isn't too far off.
I was wandering around the summit and I found this ancient Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) with Hay-Scented Ferns (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) surrounding it. It looked like a little groomed garden with an oversized bonsai tree.
Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel) just below the summit.
A small moth on a leaf near the summit.
 The spot where I always take a picture. It is much more grown in than it was a month ago.
 Amiantium muscaetoxicum (Fly Poison), which is a member of the Lily Family.
Then we saw this guy. About a quarter mile above this point, we started hearing other hikers talking about a bear near the trail. Sure enough, it wasn't far from the trail at all. It was turning over rocks looking for insects and grubs to eat.
We watched it for a while and talked to hikers about the bear. My guess, based on size (maybe 200 pounds) is that it is a yearling, probably male.
It wandered around for several minutes, not paying much attention to the group of a dozen people quietly watching. Finally, it approached the trail a little too closely. Michael made some noise and it wandered off into the woods. It is rare to get to watch one for as long we did.
 After that, we had a quiet walk down to the car. A butterfly on the flower stalk of Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)
Coreopsis verticillata (Woodlands Coreopsis) on the Ridge Trail.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Garden Update: Rain edition

It has been a while since I did a garden update. Things have grown so much since my last one.  Everything is planted and has come up. Between the very cool spring and our trip to Utah, things are moving a little behind, but they are catching up. It has also been wet enough that we haven't had to water at all. I am not complaining, but I would like to see the sun every few days.
The peas are almost done for the spring. They've actually lasted a long time and produced well, but we didn't plant enough of them. I've been able to eat a few each day in my salads, but there really haven't been enough to use for dinners.
 Our savoy cabbage is starting to form heads.
 Our edamame is up and growing.
 Zucchini sprouts.
 The tomato plants are already waist high and are blooming. This is a Brandywine Tomato.
 Potato blossoms. We should be able to harvest potatoes in a week or two.
Garlic scapes. We planted a lot of garlic last fall. A lot. This was the first batch of scapes and we got another batch almost as large.
What does one do with garlic scapes? The most common answer is adding them to stir fry or garlic scapes pesto. We tried a zucchini (from the farmers market), scapes, and feta pizza, which was pretty awesome.
I also threw some in with some cucumbers (also from the market) and dill to make half sour pickles.
Today, we got our first garlic out of the garden. A few of the stalks got broken and I was afraid they would rot, so I dug them a bit early. I washed these and put them in the refrigerator so we can use them immediately. The rest of the garlic will get hung up to dry, so it will keep for the next several months.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Rail Trails: The Torey C. Brown Trail and the Heritage Trail

One of our training rides this spring took us by what looked like a lovely rail trail. That ride spent about 10 miles on roads that paralleled the Heritage Trail in Pennsylvania. Last weekend, seeking a cycling change of pace, we decided to explore it. 
We started at the south end of the Torey C. Brown Trail (formerly the North Central Railroad Trail) in Cockeysville, Maryland. The trail continues north for about 20 miles to the Pennsylvania border. At the south end, it is heavily used and the trail is pretty wide. Nearer to Pennsylvania, the trail narrows into two dirt tracks and we encountered far fewer people.
This bike is normally my commuter bike. I took it out on the trail to test whether it would be a good ride for an upcoming rail trail trip.
 Rosa multiflora (Multiflora Rose)
At the Pennsylvania border, the trail becomes the Heritage Trail, which continues 21 miles north to York.
 We stopped to have lunch at the high point on the trail, just south of New Freedom, Pennsylvania.
They run a tourist train at New Freedom. The trail crosses the tracks several times, but it isn't like you can't hear the train coming and it doesn't move particularly fast.
We passed grazing twisty-horned goats.
We also passed a hillside full of gnomes. Click to enlarge for the full glory of the gnomes. My photo does not, sadly capture all of them.
 Gillenia trifoliata (Bowman's Root) near the gnomes.
Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium).

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Old Rag: Late Spring Flowers and Crowds

We volunteered on Old Rag on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. It was the usual crazy, someone released the flying monkeys before we got there, busy day on the mountain. The parking lot was mostly full by the time we got there. The neighbor was already out waiting to collect $10 cash for a spot in her field from anyone who couldn't find a parking spot.

We hiked up the fire road rather than wait in lines on the Ridge Trail. After being out west for a couple of weeks, everything seemed so green. Most of the spring flowers have faded, but we were still rewarded for our efforts by a few flowers, particularly near the summit. We spent some time on the top of the mountain before heading down through the rock scramble. I always like descending the Ridge Trail in the evening this time of year. As another volunteer noted, it is like being in the store after it is closed. Very few people ascend in the evening, so it is quiet and peaceful - a very rare experience for most people on Old Rag.
 Maianthemum racemosum (False Solomon's Seal) on the Saddle Trail
 A recent fire scar. Fires aren't allowed outside of established fire rings and pits in Shenandoah National Park, but someone felt the need to build a fairly large one near the trail. We spent a few minutes covering this one up and scattering the leftover wood lest someone else be "inspired."
 A couple of views from the summit. This is looking northwest towards Pinnacles and Mary's Rock.
 Looking down the mountain from the summit.
The spot where I always take a picture near the summit.
 Cypripedium acaule (Pink Lady Slipper).
Packera aurea (Golden Ragwort)