Today was one of those rare gifts that Virginia sometimes bestows in late spring/early summer, sunny and pleasantly warm, with low humidity. I know that at this time of year, each day like this may be our last for some time, so I was determined to spend some time outside exploring and observing.
It was a C’ville tofu delivery day, and I thought about doing a nice long hike in one of my normal spots around town, but decided to head home immediately after finishing up and head out for some previously unexplored area on or near our land at Twin Oaks. Before leaving Charlottesville, I did take one photo, of a large artist’s conk, one of a bunch of them that I discovered growing on elm(?) trees on a lawn in town. These are cool mushrooms in that you can draw on their bottom edge with a fingernail or stick, and the image will stay. I used to take them off when I found them as gifts for the boys, then I learned that they take many years to grow, so now I leave them where I find ’em.
When I got home, I finished off my accounting and whatnot, and headed off for some exploration. First thing I noticed, before I even got out of the courtyard, was this morning glory vine, covered with extravagant purple flowers
at the edge of the woods, I came across this unusual edible mushroom, a “rooted oudemansiella,” an edible species that I’d read about but never found in person.
this particular mushroom is interesting in that it’s got a long taproot. I tried to harvest it in a way that showed the whole root, but unfortunately it snapped off an inch or so below the ground. I haven’t had a chance to cook and eat it yet, but I will let you know how it tastes once I get the chance.
Not far off, I came across a flush of platterful mushrooms, the most abundant find I’ve yet encountered of these tasty edibles this year. This was as many as I could fit into one photograph, but there were several more scattered around in the nearby woods:
This was the largest of them, and the biggest one of this type I have seen so far:
I made my way down to polecat creek, one of the two creeks that form the rough border of Twin Oaks (the one on the west side). I decided to spend the afternoon following it upstream as far as I could, to see where it starts. I’ve walked the half block around Twin Oaks and not come across this creek, so I figure it starts somewhere in the woods to the west of the community. So I set off through trail-less forest, some of which was thick and swampy, and some of which was quite pretty and easier to walk through:
One of the things I saw was this tree absolutely covered in cicada shells. It’s funny with the cicadas these days– when I was reading about them, I thought it would be more of a wave, a tsunami of insects that covered every surface. It’s more like clusters here and there– in some places there are so many you can hardly hear the birds or anything, and some places there really aren’t any. Overall, it’s been less unpleasant and generally more interesting than I thought it might be to share the woods with billions of cicadas this month.
Following the creek took me along the edge of a neighbor’s fenced-in cowfield. I saw several cows wallowing in the creek, which I’m sure doesn’t do a whole lot for water quality. In this photo, it’s pretty easy to distinguish the lush greenery of the cow-free side from the brown, trampled bovine side.
At the bottom corner of the neighbor’s property, I came across a cow graveyard. Even though I know it’s only cows, it’s still oddly unsettling to come across a massive pile of bones in a remote corner of the forest.
Once I got past the edge of the field, I followed the creek through more of an open, attractive forest, which made for easy walking and good views, and I found myself enjoying being in a bit of the woods where I’ve never explored (and from the looks of it, very few other people ever come out this way) on such a sunny pleasant, not-too-humid day.
There was one strange tree with roots that wove above and below the ground. In the places that the roots came above the ground, they formed into small round “holes” that became shallow pools. I’m not sure how to best describe it (look at the photos). It was odd to see this strange occurrence twice on the same tree.
In one spot, there was a hillside along the creek that appeared to have been terraced at some point in the past. It is so interesting to walk through the woods and come across signs of earlier human projects in the woods. Was this an agricultural undertaking? Something having to do with mining? It’s clear that this forest hasn’t always looked the way it does now, and that generations past have left their mark in mysterious ways.
Sone time later, I came to what appeard to be a property boundary. On one side was the mature forest that I had been enjoying walking through. On the other side was a mix of overgrown clearcut land interspersed with patches of uncut forest. The trees marked with pink tape seemed to indicate the boundary.
Just for the hell of it, I continued following the creek onto the cut over land. The walking became much more difficult, and I found myself sometimes rock hopping in the creek bed itself because it was the only place to walk. Along the way, I came across this cool-looking beech tree holding up a whole section of the bank.
and this orange coral mushroom, the first of its type that I’ve seen this year
Eventually, the going just became ridiculous– both sides of the creek were totally overgrown, and it became clear that I was just following it deeper into this uninspiring, cut-over land. I took this photo at the spot where I decided I’d had enough, and I was going to try to bushwhack my way to a road or something.
The sun was low enough in the sky to clearly indicate west. I figured that if I just kept heading south (with the sun on my right), I’d eventually come across Old Mountain road. The next 20 minutes or so were not the most pleasant of the day, pushing through thick masses of young trees and brambles. When I found an old logging path, I followed it, hoping that it would make for easier walking, but after a short while, this path, too, ended in a mess of bramble.
Eventually, I saw a clearing through the woods. The final obstacle was a 20-foot moat of poison ivy that I had to pick my way through (we’ll see in the next few days how successful I was in avoiding it) in order to come out at the edge of this recently-mowed field. At first, I was totally disoriented, but then saw the telephone pole that indicated that I was, indeed, near the road.
As I walked the road home, I noticed that the roadside wildflowers have definitely changed from springtime to summer. The daisies, which I totally associate with summer in Maine, are growing all along the roadside.
Wuite a wildflower display.
When I got back to Twin Oaks, I was happy to get off of the road and walk home along a convenient tractor path through the woods. As much as I like bashing through the forest off-trail, it definitely makes you appreciate the ease of strolling along an established path.