May 7- raindrops on my head

Tuesday means C’ville tofu delivery, and I knew right away it was going to be a wet one.  I’m not sure what tipped me off, maybe it was loading the truck at 7 AM in a chilly downpour.  By the time I got to town, it had been raining off and on all morning, and things looked kinda like this:Image

After I finished my rounds, I contemplated just heading home and getting out of my clammy, damp clothes.  But seeing as the weather had improved to cloudy with occasional light rain (see below), I decided to go poke around in the woods for a while.  It helped that I had found a brand new umbrella (missing part of its handle) in the CVS dumpster, so I was ready for whatever came my way!Image

Right off the bat, about 5 minutes out of the truck, I came across this impressive flush of oyster mushrooms.  The enormous one at the bottom was a bit too far gone for eatin’, but the others were in perfect shape, and I felt justified in having come out.Image

Look at these beauties!  Unfortunately, I didn’t find any others quite this nice on the hike, although I was able to add a few here and there to my total haul.Image

Nearby, under a dead log, I found these ‘shrooms– hundreds of them. I paged through my mushroom book when I got home, but wasn’t able to immediately identify them.Image

Here’s where tulip poplars get their name.  I saw just a few more or less complete flowers on the trail, and lots of parts of tulip flowers as I hiked.Image

I took a trail in the Monticello woodlands that took me through alternating bits of forest and meadow.  The meadows this time of year continue to be yellow-tinged with abundant buttercups– so pretty!Image

This post is going to have a lot of wildflowers that I can’t yet identify.  When I get a chance to sit down with my Newcomb’s Guide, I will update it.  For now, just enjoy the pretty pictures!Image

When I was last out here a couple of weeks ago, this particular plant (ID to come), was pushing out of the ground everywhere I looked, and I was speculating what it would look like when it was in bloom.  On this trip, they have started flowering, delicate little white to purple flowers that, on this rainy day, were pretty well waterlogged.Image

This is the best shot I got of the flower.  With my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide (which will from now on be referred to as my NWG), I have identified this plentiful flower as wild comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum)!Image

I took a detour through “upper meadow,” very scenic, very green.Image

Most of the color in the meadow came from yellow buttercup and reddish poison ivy.  There weren’t many other types of wildflower, but this was one (might be some sort of “ladies’ tresses” but it’s so waterlogged it’s hard to tell).Image

Pretty “upper meadow,” resplendent with buttercups.Image

From there, I wandered over to “seasonal pond trail.”  The ‘seasonal pond’ was a low boggy area filled with these things– are they young trees or bushes?  Do they get larger than that?  I was actually hoping for more of a pond, but I guess that’s what they mean by ‘seasonal.’ Image

They were just getting their spring foliage, nice reddish brown.  As you can see, it had started raining again at this point.  Big thanks to whoever threw out that umbrella yesterday!Image

The trail wound back into the forest, through an open stretch of large, majestic hardwoods.  Parts of this forest must be hundreds of years old– the size of the trees and the overall look of the area isn’t much different than the old-growth forest of Montpelier.Image

This cute little purple flower (according to NWG, it’s a wild Geranium Geranium maculatum) was especially abundant in this stretch of trail.  Saw dozens of them growing all over the place.Image

Here’s a closer look at a slightly less waterlogged example of this flower.Image

Another interesting flower (Showy Orchis, or Galearis spectabilis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galearis_spectabilis) that I saw for the first time at Montpelier and I’ve never seen anywhere else.  These were much less common– I only saw a few of these.Image

At one point, I looked down and saw a couple of these bright centipedes.  Ten years ago, I spent a few months in Hawaii, and to this day I have an irrational phobia of centipedes.  I imagine these are probably much less aggressive than their tropical cousins, but I wouldn’t want to learn the hard way!Image

I hiked this trail about a month ago, and remember making a note of the lack of greenery in the understory in this part of the forest.  This certainly isn’t the case a week into May.  I imagine that there is no one-month greater visual contrast in Virginia than between the first week of April and the first week of May.Image

I’ve been reading a lot of alarmist warnings of the “seventeen year cicadas,” which are apparently coming to ravish the mid-Atlantic this year.  I’m sure I will write lots more about them before this journal is wrapped up.  Today, for the first time, I started seeing them emerging from the muddy ground.  I don’t know if these are the dreaded “seventeen year” ones, or just plain ol’ one-year cicadas, but they sure looked freaky burrowing up from the mud.Image

Towards the end of the hike, I came across this patch of asters that was just too cute not to record.Image

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On the drive home, the skies above grew darker and grayer, portending more rain.  This is a photo of Shannon Hill road between the highway and Twin Oaks.Image

Tried to capture the ominous look of gathering storm clouds, this pic kinda gets the point across.  Image

The storm waited until I had finished unloading the truck and driven it to the parking lot, then opened up just as I started walking back home.  Sheets of water and pebbles of hail, I was drenched within seconds.  Once the downpour began, it just kept on going for the remainder of the day.  Well into the night we were treated to lightning and thunder (including one lightning strike right in the courtyard of Twin Oaks), and periods of truly astonishing quantities of rain alternating with lighter drizzle.  Rainstorms are very difficult to photograph effectively, but during one downpour I took this picture out of my back door.Image

There were flash-flood warnings on the radio.  Although we didn’t get any serious flooding, there were definitely times when the rain was coming down faster than it could drain away, and our back yard started to turn into an enormous puddle.  What a storm!Image

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