Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Labor Day Weekend in the Woods

Bill was our trail angel shuttling us from the Riprap Trail Parking Area in Shenandoah National Park to Humpback Rocks Parking Area, outside the park on the Blue Ridge Parkway. ...

Bill is lucky enough to live right outside the park at the foot of the mountains. He dedicates many miles on his vehicle to shuttle thru-hikers to town and section hikers to the next point.


Bill is also a birder! He gave us the low-down on what migrants we might come across and told us about a Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch that was occurring right up the hill from a portion of the trail we planned to hike. !!!! Yes!!!!

Sigh. Cute Husband and I were a little torn.


One the one hand, this hike would only leave one more day hike in Shenandoah National Park and we couldn't believe we had hiked most of the park. On the other hand, SND was going to be past history.


Could this be Boletus pseudosensibilis?


Bill told us that the area around Humpback Mountain was its own little climate. Rockfish Gap had actually gotten quite a bit of rain during the summer. We found some beautiful mushrooms thriving in the damp woods and plenty of water for the first 7 or so miles of our hike.


So, I thought I would take a few pics of these lovely fungi and bring them home to ID. After some research, I discovered that to properly call a mushroom by its name, it helps to have a good look under his little umbrella.




You might also need some ammonia to determine what chemical reaction occurs. Or you need to slice it up and check out the mushroom's hues.

Now I know.

I refuse to give up my new dream of becoming a mycologist, but it may take me the same time as hiking the whole AT to get to know my 'shrooms.



Our plan was to hike about 12 miles on day one. That would be a fairly leisurely pace for some birding and enjoying whatever crossed our path.




Warren spotted a Magnolia Warbler and we worked fairly hard for a flycatcher which was trying to be a Olive-Sided, but he didn't quite convince us. Other than a group of migrating Grackles in the middle of the woods, the forest was pretty still.
As we re-entered the park, water sources dried up.



Cute Husband prays for a running stream.



We marched into Calf Mountain Shelter at dusk dehydrated. We praised the wood elves for the small trickle that was running from the pipe that dumps into the stream.

At the Shelter we met a guy from Michigan who was hiking through the park and then back to his car at the North end. He decided against sleeping in the Shelter because the one he slept in the night before was haunted by a couple of huge wood rats.


We slept on the softest piece of ground that Warren has ever laid the tent. The last sound before sleep was a Barred Owl calling in the tree above us.



Bill told us that the farmer who used to own the land on Bear Den Mountain had placed all his old tractor seats in a semi-circle for use during family reunions.


The view was spectacular and I noted that a tractor seat is designed perfectly to hold the immense weight of my backpack as I checked out the scenery.


Day 2. We passed a couple who started section hiking in 2004 and had put in more than 1,300 miles. They also spoke of the wood rats at the Black Rock Hut. Apparently, one wood rat was almost skewered by a hiking pole before escaping to lick his wounds under the Shelter all night.


I love going through the green tunnels on the trail.


Cute Husband! Run for your life!
The deer in the park are beyond tame. This poor guy was being eaten by so many insects an entomologist would have had a field day.



We finished the hike at Rip Rap Trail and headed to the Hawk Watch!
We met Brenda Tekin, who was one of the coordinators.
She is amazing at picking out the speck in the horizon.
I'm not kidding, she is so good she could even tell you that the speck was an immature male Northern Harrier.
Thank you for the lesson and generosity, Brenda!
So... it looks like we are off the PA for a portion of rocks next weekend.
My toes say no, the rest of me can't wait!