April 16– green Minty Springs

Yesterday, I drove to and from Maryland to deliver tofu, and didn’t make time to do any hiking or observating.  Today, a Charlottesville delivery day, I was determined not to make the same mistake.

This photo, taken in rural Louisa County early this morning, shows how the woods are greening up nicely.Image

After finishing my in-town deliveries, I drove west to Crozet, through even more ‘nicely greening’ woods…Image

Then, having finished my last deliveries in Crozet, I drove the additional couple of miles west to Mint Springs Valley Park.  By that point, the day had become cool, damp, and overcast– my favorite hiking weather!  The tops of the Shenandoah mountains were hidden in clouds as I approached the park.Image

Pleasant cream-colored dogwoods at the trailhead kiosk.  I chose a two-mile loop hike that meandered through the woods without any obvious destination or highlight (other than the forest itself).Image

The first part of the hike took me through beautiful mature hardwood forest, with a fully-leafed out understory of smaller trees and bushes.  Image

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Interesting to see how the understory trees grow their leaves slightly ahead of the larger forest trees, to get that last week or so of full sunlight before the canopy closes up.Image

As in previous hikes in this park, I didn’t see anyone else on the trails.  I was joined, however, by many squirrels, a non-stop chorus of songbirds, and this curious turtly fellow.Image

The poison ivy was out in force, displaying bumpy flowerbuds(?) that look a bit like my legs do these days.Image

In many places, the poison ivy was so thick that I had no choice but to stay on the trail– no bushwhacking today!Image

Not that it’s such a terrible fate to stay on-trail when the trail is as appealing as today’s hike was.Image

It’s hard to really put into words just how pleasant this walk was, cool moist air, bright green new leaves and little wildflowers busting out everywhere, all alone with the birds and the critters; looking at the photos doesn’t really do it justice, but this sort of gives an idea of the kind of day it was.  Image

About halfway through the hike, I came across an opening in the woods, where I got my one and only high-elevation view.  This is looking south, across the highway which I could not see but (unfortunately) could hear.Image

At the edge of the clearing, the view was more to the Southeast, down Rockfish Valley.Image

Saw plenty of wildflowers today– violets (although not in the same density that I’ve been spotting them at Twin Oaks), lots of flowering trees, and this cute little white flower growing on a very common small bush, that seemed to be everywhere in the forest.Image

There were also dogwood and redbud trees growing in the understory; while the individual trees weren’t as impressive as ones I’ve seen in yards and more landscaped areas, they were made prettier by the more ‘natural’ setting.Image

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Part of the hike took me past a couple of old homesteads marked on the map.  I also passed other reminders of past human use of this area, including this stone wall; I’m not sure if it was meant to mark the edge of a pasture or field, or whether it was part of an attempt to terrace the hillside for farming.  Coming across these remnants of early settlement in the woods gives the whole place a “Mayan ruins” sort of feel.Image

Although it’s been warm for over a week, and has been quite moist, I still wasn’t able to find much in the way of mushrooms.  I did spot this impressively fungus-covered stump (I think they’re Turkey Tails).  It’s odd that most of the dead trees in the woods have no shelf mushrooms, or just a few, and then occasionally you’ll come across one, seemingly no different than any of the others, that is absolutely covered with them.Image

Close-up of the massive flush of shelf fungus.Image

I also spotted a log that was quite covered with these weird “wood ear” jelly fungi, which seemed appropriate for the weather conditions today.Image

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The final few hundred yards of my hike took me across this verdant field, back to my trusty delivery truck, just barely visible on the left.  On a day like today, you can definitely understand how “Mint Springs Valley” got its name.Image

Wooah that clover is GREEEEEN!!Image

On my way out of the park, I took a couple of photos in the same place that I shot from during my last trip out here, about a month ago.  Looking at them side-by-side, you can definitely see how dramatically the landscape has greened up.  I’ll take more photos of the same location the next time I’m out this way, four weeks from now.Image

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