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!

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.

New Ground

We walked through our tiny patch of forest (compared to Goose Creek) in the rain–of course, in the Monsoon of June–on our third full day at what I used to refer to as The Other Place. It is now This Place.

We startled twin fawns out of the understory near the spring head. They flushed in different directions, and I wondered how they will reconnect with momma, still nursing as these very young must be. They bleat when tormented by a dog (as we used to experience every time this year during the Tsuga and Gandy years.) But do they call to their siblings and mother when their hiding place is disturbed and they panic and run?

By the time we left, one fawn was already back near its bedding spot. The mother was likely aware of the disturbance, and back with her twins by the time we had returned to the house.

The trill and throb of Cicadas high overhead and in surround-sound will be an aural marker and memory of our move, and we will remember it well in 2037 when they return. He said.

We will lay out a mower path through the recently mown pasture so we can reach the woods as the grasses grow back to knee-height. I am hoping to barter with a neighbor to cut a perimeter swath around the edge of the whole 17 acre pasture for this purpose.

There is not much understory in these woods, the trees sufficiently mature to shade out the brambles and shrubs of more recently disturbed places. But I did not expect to find a flowering plant in those woods to add to my life-list, a botany follower now for a half century and my first observation of this monochrome specimen. This, I declare, is a good omen.

Small round-leaved orchid:

Platanthera orbiculata, the lesser roundleaved orchid is a species of orchid native to forested areas of North America. It is widespread across most of Canada and parts of the United States (Alaska, New England, Appalachian Mountains, Great Lakes Region, Rocky Mountains, Black Hills and northern Cascades).

Platanthera orbiculata is found in moist to mesic shaded locations in forests. Each plant has two large, nearly round leaves that lie close to the ground, plus a vertical flowering stalk bearing a spike of small, white flowers.

wikipedia

Global Worming

May be too graphic for small children or small adults. Statement that there is nothing we can do about Jumping Worms–not so! Go to the end of this blog post for hope!

The quotes below (and the title) were extracted from a nicely-illustrated Atlantic article entitled Cancel Earthworms by Julia Rosen.

There is, and has been, a subterranean invasion going on beneath our feet here in the American Northeast; and the invaders are worming their way across the rest of the continent with nothing to stop them.

Most folks are not aware that, where the glaciers prevailed long ago, the land was scoured to bedrock, and the native earthworms were wiped out. The ones that replaced them are European imports. Chief among them, night crawlers and Jumping Worms.

The latter were “Originally from Korea and Japan, they are also known as Alabama worms, snake worms, or crazy worms. And they have the potential to remake the once wormless forests of North America.”

While we have been brought to understand that the more worms in our gardens, yards and woodlands, the better, it ain’t necessarily so:

“The earthworms are in the soil because the soil is healthy,” one authority says. “They are not necessarily doing anything for it.

“Their burrows create channels that allow nutrients and pesticides to leak from fields into nearby waterways, and carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide to escape into the atmosphere. In fact, a 2013 review of recent research found that worms likely increase greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Leaf fall that builds up under a forest of hardwood trees deposits a wealth of soil-creating minerals and organic matter.

“But when (jumping) worms show up, they devour the litter within the space of a few years. All the nutrients that have been stored up over time are released in one giant burst, too quickly for most plants to capture. And without cover, the invertebrate population in the soil collapses.

As the surface of the forest goes, so goes the neighborhood.

“With their food and shelter gone, salamanders suffer and nesting birds find themselves dangerously exposed. Plants like trillium, lady’s slipper, and Canada mayflower vanish, too. This may be because the worms disrupt the networks of symbiotic fungus that many native plants depend on, or because worms directly consume the plants’ seeds.”

“Jumping worms take out all the understory plants, leaving nothing for deer to chew on but the young trees. And that could spell trouble for the region’s prized maple syrup industry.  “In 100 years’ time, maybe it’s going to be Aunt Jemima,” he says. “That’s a real bad horror story for people in Vermont.”

The take-home: there is little to be done. Experts recommend you purchse “only mulch and compost that have been treated to kill stowaways, and to avoid city compost made of leaves collected from sites all over town. He urges them to inspect potted plants for jumping worms and to buy bare-root varieties whenever possible.”

HINT: look for coffee-grounds looking worm casts. Find the whitish clitellum near the head vs toward the middle on night crawlers. And observe the much more frantic gyrations (too much coffee?)? See this website for a (non-claymation) short video and other information.

NEWS FLASH: We have just learned that all chickens over three months of age will be drafted into the newly-formed National Poultry Patrol. Hundreds of thousands will soon be airdropped into at-risk national forests and private woodlots in an attempt to control the spread of Jumping Worms. You heard it here first.

Here is a link to the claymation video for those reading Fragments via email subscription where the header image is missing.