On our way back to our hotel in the charming little town of Black Mountain we retraced our drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This overlook was especially beautiful. We saw some fall colors but they hadn’t come to a peak yet.
The waterfall (below) was dry on this day but apparently after a good rain a narrow stream of water falls 200 feet over the cliff. That dark hole at the base is an old mica mine. Mica is sometimes called isinglass and miners called it glass for short, which is why it was called a glassmine.
The clouds were always on the move, casting dramatic shadows over the peaks and valleys and changing the lighting moment to moment. It was a nice way to end a most wonderful day.
Another trail! After visiting Mount Mitchell’s peak we found the Balsam Nature Trail, a 3/4 mile loop off of the Summit Tower Trail. The terrain here was very uneven, much to Tim’s relief after the flat pavement going up to the summit. Lots of up and down, even steps in some places and narrow passages between outcrops.
We didn’t encounter any wildlife or hear any birds calling. I’m guessing because this is a well-traveled trail and the creatures are hiding from people, if they are there at all. Every few minutes a couple or a family or small group of friends would overtake us and pass us. And just as often we’d pass folks hiking in the opposite direction. It was the most traffic we’ve ever experienced on a trail.
The best part of this walk could not be photographed — it was the amazing scent of balsam and Fraser fir. What an unforgettable olfactory delight!
Sadly, though, there wasn’t much left of healthy evergreen foliage. Most of the green we saw was mosses and ferns.
I am very familiar with the hemlock woolly adelgid insect pest that destroyed the hemlock grove surrounding my childhood home. It originated in East Asia and arrived here in 1951. According to Wikipedia, by 2015 90% of the geographic range of eastern hemlock in North America had been affected.
But I had never heard of the balsam woolly adelgid until I saw it mentioned on a trailside sign, explaining why there were so many dead and dying trees in this forest. This insect pest arrived here from Europe in 1900 and was discovered in this forest in 1957. The devastation is obvious in many of these pictures.
Mosses and mushrooms seem to be thriving with such an abundance of dead wood. I tried to identify the moss in the above picture — it seems to be some kind of feather moss. It looked different than the mosses I usually see. According to Britannica there are approximately 12,000 species of moss distributed throughout the world.
The spruce-fir forest is a forest type dominated by needle-leaved, evergreen red spruce and Fraser fir trees. It exists only at elevations above 5,500 feet, and contains plants and animals that are adapted to cool, moist conditions. Some of the plants and animals living in Mt. Mitchell’s spruce fir forest are found over much of the state. Others, however, are the same as (or are close relatives of) those found in the spruce-fir forests of New England or southern Canada. ~ trailside sign
The climate of a spruce-fir forest can be harsh. Wind and ice storms are facts of life here: trees with their tops missing are common sights. And, as with any high-elevation ecosystem, rain, fog, sleet or snow can occur unpredictably — in any month, at any time of day. ~ trailside sign
Though spruce-fir forests are found in a broad region of northern North America, they occur south of New England only in a thin zone along the Appalachian Mountain chain. ~ trailside sign
All that being said, I was still enchanted with this forest and will cherish my memories of this little taste of New England here in North Carolina.
One last walk with Janet in Connecticut… (There may be walks together in North Carolina in our future…) It was a lovely, sunny, spring day. So many blossoms!!!
After enjoying the wildflower garden we crossed the college campus and visited another garden, this one of ornamental trees and shrubs from around the world.
You think winter will never end, and then, when you don’t expect it, when you have almost forgotten it, warmth comes and a different light. Under the bare trees the wildflowers bloom so thick you can’t walk without stepping on them. The pastures turn green and the leaves come. ~ Wendell Berry (Hannah Coulter: A Novel)
I will miss my adventures with Janet, sharing with each other all the little details we notice along the way.
Caroline Black Garden is known as the secret garden of Connecticut College, located on a steep hill between the college and the Thames River. Starting with this gate you follow paths passing through various garden “rooms.” It has four acres of native and exotic ornamental trees and bushes. We enjoyed a morning of exploration.
Sit and be quiet. In a while the red berries, now in shadow, will be picked out by the sun. ~ Wendell Berry (This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)
The clearing rests in song and shade. It is a creature made By old light held in soil and leaf, By human joy and grief, By human work, Fidelity of sight and stroke, By rain, by water on The parent stone. ~ Wendell Berry (This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)
What a natural wellspring — cooling and refreshing the years — is the gift of wonder! It removes the dryness from life and keeps our days fresh and expanding. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
We enjoyed a lovely long walk around the pond at the arboretum on Friday. I was in my sweatshirt and enjoying the fresh cool air. The trees are still green for the most part and we wondered what kind of fall color is in store for us in the wake of the drought. There were still some summer tints lingering side by side with hints of autumn hues.
Few men know how to take a walk. The qualifications of a professor are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much. If a man tells me that he has an intense love of nature, I know, of course, that he has none. Good observers have the manners of trees and animals, their patient good sense, and if they add words, ’tis only when words are better than silence. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Later Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson: 1843-1871)
We also took a side path to the Glenn Dreyer Bog which was illuminated with spots of bright sunshine. The light near the equinoxes is amazing, as I often say.
The woods were full of gray catbird calls and we heard them rustling around in the tree branches. Occasionally we spotted one but they were diligently avoiding my camera. This was the summer of the catbird. Not only did we have one singing in our river birch outside our kitchen window, we saw them on almost every walk we took. Back in June, though, they were out in the open and more amenable to being photographed.
How much of beauty — of color, as well as form — on which our eyes daily rest goes unperceived by us! ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, August 1, 1860)
Today the humidity is creeping back with higher temperatures but it shouldn’t last for too many days. We plan to go see an outdoor Ibsen play, Peer Gynt, in the park tonight and will bring blankets to keep warm. This was supposed to happen in June but covid got the theater group and they had to postpone. We got our new bivalent booster shots last week but still plan to exercise caution as we try to move forward.
Back in May a group of seven volunteers from the Groton Open Space Association replaced a dilapidated bridge over Haley Brook in this nature preserve. The new bridge is longer, wider and has more secure handrails. So on this pleasant day we decided to use some mosquito repellent and take a rare walk into the summer woods to check out the new bridge.
To compare with an autumn view of the farm relic pictured above, see here: autumn afternoon.
I didn’t want to risk contact with poison ivy or ticks so I couldn’t get too close to the spotted wintergreen flowers, but I was very excited to spot them out of the corner of my eye. I’ve only seen these plants before on my winter walks and have never seen the flowers. Tim used his walking stick to hold some of the surrounding vegetation back so I could at least get this blurry picture.
All of us derive security and comfort from the imaginary world of memories and fantasies and plans. We really don’t want to stay with the nakedness of our present experience. It goes against the grain to stay present. These are the times when only gentleness and a sense of humor can give us the strength to settle down. ~ Pema Chödrön (The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times)
There were lots of damselflies fluttering through the air. One finally landed on a leaf long enough to get some pictures. Unfortunately another leaf was obstructing the view of its body but I was happy to capture some of the detail on her wings. The white dots at the end of each wing identify her as a female.
The bug repellent seems to have worked. I heard one mosquito around my ear but never got bit. Since I discovered a couple of things (wintergreen flowers and black-winged damselflies) I’d never seen before I wonder if it might be worth the trouble to take more summer walks in the woods…
And now the covid positivity rate in Connecticut is about 10%. Heading in the wrong direction…
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is rapture in the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not Man the less, but Nature more, From these our interviews, in which I steal From all I may be, or have been before, To mingle with the universe, and feel What I can ne’er express, yet can not all conceal. ~ George Gordon Byron (The Complete Works of Lord Byron)