Dodd Creek Trail: Getting There

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll post short entries from the observations, images and thoughts that have come from two back-to-back early September visits to a local walking trail called “the Dodd Creek Trail.”

In a few weeks, you can walk the trail with me and Jane Cundiff by way of a video narrative, filmed on September 8 by Citizens Coop (thank you Hari and Fox) and to become a small part of SustainFloyd’s 2020 Digital EcoFair in mid-November.

The existence of this trail is testimony to the cooperative interaction of local citizens, non-profits and the Town of Floyd. Persistence and hope over several years has culminated in this one mile loop along one of the county’s main tributaries of the Little River.

The trailhead begins adjacent to the ball field (that must have an official name) across from Micky G’s and within a mile of The Light in Floyd proper. There is plenty of parking, and picnic tables in the shade for refreshment before or after your walk.

The elevation change is 100 feet, parking space to creek level and back again. The hike is mostly Easy with maybe 5% Moderate for steepness of descent. Several benches (constructed by the local Boy Scouts of Floyd) offer resting and thinking spots along the way.

Historical images from this area show it to have been in pasture, and later adjacent lands were used as a tree nursery, now abandoned. Save for the few larger trees on the steep bluffs of the creek, the “woods” have ways to go before becoming a fully-elaborated forest.

However, the “old field succession” status makes for a dense and diverse understory competing for the light and attempting to pull nutrients from a soil used and eroded decades ago before it was neglected for pasture and allowed to revert toward a “temperate mixed Hardwood Forest.”

Dodd Creek Trail | Partnership for Floyd

In upcoming posts, I’ll share some of the things you’re likely to see and might want to know as you walk the trail. Below are just a very few of the officially-designated residents along the learning path.

And it won’t be much longer before you’ll get the buzz–the full scope of the Blue Ridge EcoFair. You won’t want to miss it!

Life in The Cloud

Ah yes. Now I remember. Life in the cloud.

It was mysterious and eerie and the relentless fog lent a kind of drama to the aloneness that first year in Floyd County living, just me and the cat, on Walnut Knob, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I especially remember the disembodied language of a flock of Ravens roosting in the invisible trees a few hundred feet into the milky distance. This morning, it is the crows, in the same opaque beyond that ear can cross but eye cannot.

This is the first of its kind since moving here ten weeks ago from a valley cleft where fog “up top” was a surprise as we reached the pavement less than 2 miles but more than 500 feet above the creeks where we lived.

We’ve had fog other mornings here, but this one has drenched everything on the porch all around.

It is as if the entire outside world has been silently powerwashed by a superwet aerosol that reaches anywhere there is air. Everything still remaining from the move that had not found place inside is now very wet, outside. This includes stuff we had felt certain would stay dry under the porch roof.

This, and the coming of the Winds, we must prepare for, plus those vagaries of nature we can only know by surviving them this first year.

Meanwhile…

It’s a start. I’ll create a partition to separate new from aged organic matter. The pine tree under a powerline clearing must go. The small fenced area contains Jerusalem Artichokes. Deer love ’em but can’t have ’em.

We now have a place to put coffee grounds, apple peels, corn shucks and such that, regrettably, we have been sending to the landfill until now. I took three more-or-less equal sized pallets and wired them together to form three sides of a cubicle to contain vegetable scraps and yard waste plus topsoil, browns and greens laid down towards next years REAL garden.

We had eight 8’x4′ cattle panels and lots of T-posts for this year’s 8×24′ space, then added a bit for gifted raspberries. Come spring, this year’s sod will be ready for direct planting inside a sturdy fence–design yet to come to mind.

This year’s pitiful little space is making us ‘maters, in a fraction of what next year’s first real effort will encompass. We’ve mulched the full intended dimensions ()24′ x 32’) with hay from a busted bale over against the edge of the pasture.

And little by little, we’re learning to live here.

California: Building an ARK

I have always been fascinated by weather. The atmosphere we experience brings the physics of the cosmos up close and personal and into our daily lives, for good or ill. And climate is just weather writ large, over more geography and across decades and kiloyears.

But as humans whose experience of climate spans such an eye-blink tiny window into planetary variability, we tend to lose sight of the wild extremes that fall well out of the bounds of extremes, even in our own age’s bizarro fluctuations between hot and cold, wet and dry.

And so I was fascinated to learn of yet another climate debacle to look forward to–if not in our own Boomer lives, within the lives of our grandchildren, or theirs: And that is the MegaFlood inevitably to soak California. It could be worse by far than the “recent” event there called the Great Flood of 1861-1862.

That year it rained every day for more than a month–in ten weeks, a total of 32 inches.

Some interesting facts gleaned from The Biblical Flood That Will Drown California – Mother Jones .

Said superstorm has been given a name by the USGS: The ARKstorm. The name is taken from the Atmospheric River that every 1K years creates an inland sea over the valley system of California.

You might have heard weathermen refer to this river as the regularly-occuring “Pineapple Express.” Moisture from the southern Pacific trains over the state in limited (drought years), moderate (normal years) or excessive (flood years) basis. And as you might have guessed, the warmer the water, the more intense the overhead “rivers” are becoming. Also the mix of this moisture is shifting from mostly snow (slow-release) to mostly rain–with nowhere to go.

The ARKstorm should come as NO surprise. It’s happened many times before, but not on the scale of human lifetimes.

We’ve long been aware of the hyperbolic possibility of CA ripping in two and the Left Coast falling into the sea. That Big Quske would be catastrophically expensive–some $200 billion. (Katrina, by comparison costs some $166B.) The ARKflood is projected to cost $725B. Consider:

Today, the Central Valley houses nearly 4 million beef and dairy cows.

Today the valley is increasingly given over to intensive almond, pistachio, and grape plantations, representing billions of dollars of investments in crops that take years to establish, are expected to flourish for decades, and could be wiped out by a flood.

Kern county is one of the nation’s most prodigious oil-producing counties. Its vast array of pump jacks, many of them located in farm fields, produce 70 percent of California’s entire oil output. It’s also home to two large oil refineries.

Mother Jones

And so put it all together, imagining the valleys of California being under between 10 and 20 feet of water with today’s vastly higher population of people, cattle, fruits and vegetable and toxic chemicals, what a nasty soup that will be.

As if we needed more dread in our lives, we do need to be aware of our own powerlessness to change the weather, having already altered the climate. And at this point, there’s no putting Humpty Dumpty back together again in our brief individual lifetimes.

But maybe future generations will have the courage to trust each other, trust the science of climate, take the long view of the future with regard to The Big One—fire, flood, earthquake, volcano, drought, hurricane, pandemic. These inevitabilities should never be off the planning table, regardless of which party is in office. Our boat is so small, and the planet, the future and nature are so wide!

Simple Pleasures

We had 3 widely-spaced friends (read that as you will) over for a porch visit yesterday evening to become reacquainted as the good friends we had been before covid. And what we rediscovered was how interesting ORDINARY used to be, full of simple pleasures.

As we sat and chatted, a deer approached within 30 feet of the porch and positioned herself under our one apple tree. She is a regular there. She will be back. So we named her Gala. She’s back this morning, I see.

The storm I dreaded might spoil our porch time (and the grilled chicken) never came. But the clouds piled up in interesting shapes. Pareidolia Party, anyone? And as the sun went low, a bright prism popped up: Sundog! I declared. What? they said?

I thought everybody knew sundogs. They are formed from sunlight shining through a gently-settling layer of “diamond dust” way up, bending the light exactly to a pair of focal points 22 arc degrees to either side of the sun. Why sundogs? Why not sun-cats? Because they “dog” or track the sun. Maybe? Parahelion is another name.

A lone-wolf sundog, west of Floyd

Then, out of nowhere around 6pm appeared a gazillion “blind mosquitoes” rising and falling in dense clouds against the dark woods, moving like wraiths of fog, slowly northward. It was a midge orgy. If you’ve missed this experience: congrats.

Midges are spindly weak-flying insects (they are not flies, not gnats, not mosquitoes) that start life in water, some species as “bloodworms” and are important food for dragonflies, bats, water beetles. Not so good for windshields.

I suspect our swarm of the hour emerged from a marshy section of Dodd Creek that passes under the hardtop, a half mile from here. They used to arise by the thousands out of Goose Creek, fifty feet from the house. Not our favorite natural happening.

Final zoology note: Turns out that a midge is the largest land animal in Antarctica. So we don’t recommend stopping at the Greater Antarctic Petting Zoo when you’re in the area. You’ll be disappointed.

On Seeing Things

When is the last time you stretched out on your back under a sky full of clouds?

Your mind literally cannot help but make sense of the seemingly random balloonings or smears or pulled threads of clouds. It is what minds do—create order from patterns that our eye and mind can’t help but look for.

Seeing shapes in billowing clouds or ceiling tiles was once thought to be a kind of madness.

But on looking again at pareidolia, it just may have something to teach us about creativity.

See faces in the clouds? It might be a sign of your creativity

I was reminded of this a few days back (before the near-strike of lightning at the house) when we saw a series of towering “cumulonimbus incus” clouds commonly known as Anvil Clouds of anvil-tops—a name derived from the flattened upper reaches where the air has hit the “cap” of the atmosphere and goes OUT instead of UP.

In the coming weeks, I will try to post some cloud pix, and you can import them and show us the things you see. We can compare notes, and see which one of us is the craziest. I did this to a cloud shot in the first year of blogging (2002) and titled it “The Hand of God reaches down and touches the face of….a poodle.” Guess you had to be there.

About anvil clouds so you can be alert that these things can cause mischief:

A cumulonimbus incus is a mature thunderstorm cloud generating many dangerous elements.

  • Lightning; this storm cloud is capable of producing bursts of cloud to ground lightning.
  • Hail; hailstones may fall from this cloud if it’s a highly unstable environment (which favors a more vigorous storm updraft).
  • Heavy rain; this cloud may drop several inches of rain in a short amount of time. This can cause flash flooding.
  • Strong wind; gale-force winds from a downburst may occur under this cloud.
  • Tornadoes; in severe cases (most commonly with supercells), it can produce tornadoes.