April 23– springing through the ‘Ville

Another Tuesday, another tofu delivery day in Charlottesville.  Having found a few mushrooms out at Twin Oaks this week, I was looking forward to trying to collect some more in town.  Just before lunch, I visited one of my secret spots, just a few minutes off the road, and although I didn’t quite haul in the bonanza, it was nice to see that they’re starting to grow, and I was able to collect a small handful for lunch.Image

Right next to the mushroom log, I encountered these dangling white wildflowers, which I hadn’t seen before (the last time I was out here, this entire area was covered in several inches of standing water).  A bit of quick internet research couldn’t help me identify it– any ideas readers?Image

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At lunch, I brought my oysters to a restaurant where you can hand the guy a bunch of ingredients on a plate and he’ll cook ’em all up together with some yummy spicy sauce– not a bad use of fresh wild mushrooms, eh?Image

Once I had finished my delivery, I went on a nice long walk through the Monticello woodlands, where I hadn’t been for over a month.  Last time I was out there, I had noticed a lack of greenery in the undergrowth– this was certainly not the case today.   The most prominent thing I noticed was this particular green shoot, which was growing by the thousand all over the forest floor.  I don’t know if it will flower later in the spring, but if it does, it will be quite impressive!Image

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For the most part, the mushroom gods were unresponsive this afternoon.  Other than a few bug-infested oysters that weren’t worth picking, I didn’t see much of anything edible out there.  On the other hand, it’s hard to complain much about an afternoon hike through beautiful old mature forest, at the height of springtime, in absolutely perfect weather.  I  mean, who wouldn’t want to be hiking on this trail right now?Image

Lovely old trees, almost fully leafed out, creating a dappled mosaic of sun and shade along the forest floor…Image

White dogwoods blooming amidst the forest greenery…Image

I took the upper mountain path, through a rocky forest of mostly chestnut oaks, a bit smaller than the trees lower down.  Towards the top of the path, I came across a patch of these unusual dangling wildflowers, which I’ve also been unable to identify (I’m 0 for 2 this morning!), but they were quite pretty, and this is the only place I’ve seen them this year.

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The trail ended near the top of the ridge, where I spotted a clearing through the woods.  I bushwhacked up to the edge of the clearing, and discovered that the area on top of the mountain was in fact a large apple orchard, the trees covered in spring blossom.Image

Wooded parkland on the left, orchard on the right, uncrossable fence dividing the two.Image

As I made my way back down the mountain, I began seeing sassafras trees.  These plants have tasty chewable leaves and roots,and are one of my favorite hiking ‘snacks.’Image

For the most part, there weren’t many views on this hike, except for this one spot where a massive old tree had fallen, punching a hole in the canopy and affording this view of Charlottesville and the Blue Ridge mountains in the distance.Image

Brightly colored butterfly wing spotted along the trail.  Image

Just another photo of the trail.  I really couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant day for a nice long walk, and (as usual) I hardly spotted another soul the entire time I was out (just one dad with his two kids, that was it).  Image

At one point, I passed through a wet area, where there were a couple of small springs, and several dozen of these intensely-colored flowers.  I think that I’m going to have to purchase a proper wildflower identification guide so that I can actually figure out what all these flowers are!Image

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Just before I got back to the truck, I came across this flowering tree, which a plaque identified as umbrella magnolia (all of the flowering trees and plants should come with plaques!).  At first, I thought the flowers were dried-up remnants of larger ones that had already bloomed, but then I looked closer and saw that they were actually pretty rusty-red little flowers.  Image

Back on the highway, I drove past these wisteria vines completely devouring some roadside trees.  Enormous masses of purple flowers, photographed at 70mph!Image

Before I could go home, I had to stop at the DMV to renew my licence– nearly two hours of my life that I’ll never get back!  Despite the grim atmosphere inside the DMV office, the parking lot was ringed with these pink-flowering trees.  For the most part, most of the flowering trees in Charlottesville have passed the peak of their bloom, but there are still a few that are quite spectacular!Image

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