We’re going back today–and I have no obligations to FloydFest but to be a spectator. Frankly, the thrill of the drive over (about 50 minutes) is gone after making it for the third time on Saturday. But gone too is the uncertainty of not knowing where to park and how to get around and where to find shade and water and such. Friday afternoon hike was cancelled due to storms with driving rain and lightning. So we had only three hikes, and a total of 50-something participants. I think that constitutes a successful effort. Thanks to all who shared the time with me.
Walking while talking, attending to both foot placement and word-and-idea placement, is a brain and energy-taxing endeavor under ideal conditions. In the heat, it was even more so. So these July nature hikes have been physically challenging and tiring, but satisfying, looking back. I think most fellow hikers carried something back with them worth having seen (or smelled or tasted or touched) perhaps in many cases, for the first time.
We took the 30 thousand foot view off and on, looking at such things as…
▶ an overview of the Appalachian mountain chain, its element subparts (Ridge and Valley, Blue Ridge), geological history, water and soil differences that lead to different plant, and thus to different animal habitats and populations.
▶ the old field ecology that explains why there were so many locust and apple trees in the second-growth forest in the ice-storm-damaged, cattle grazed woods where we picked up the Rock Castle Gorge trail.
▶ early succession of pioneer species on a particularly large granite boulder–a “pebble” calved off the once Rockies-caliber original mountains pushed up by tectonic forces 800 million years ago and washed and tumbled down those incredible gradients to land just there where we found it.
▶ the role–and the increasing prevalence–of both native and alien invasives, and the choices we have to work with or against natural cycles.
▶ stream ecology and particularly the plight of the Appalachian amphibian population (and the entire class Amphibia world-wide.)
And then there were specific critters like multiflora rose, smilax, Queen Anne’s Lace, wing stem, wild grape, mullein, Virginia Creeper, lichens and mosses, the occasional fungus (including some stout yellow-pored Boletes), hay scented fern and more.
So that’s that. I enjoyed the experience, and will soon recover from the bruises and aching calves. I’m glad to have the event behind me, with some sense of satisfaction in having given best I could, what knowledge I have, out of my deep bond with these mountains.