Saturday, December 20, 2008

Last Saturday's hike

Last weekend, Noel and Patrick opened their place for a hike through the woods by members of the Carolina Mountain Land Conversancy I was there to help in whatever ways I could since I know and love the trails well. I've posted about my visits many times but here's a link to one from December 2007--a slide show of just a few of the photos I'd taken during a visit then.

About 40 people showed up so we split into two groups, with each group taking turns with Noel and Patrick to traverse the different parts of the 150 acres. I served as "sweep" for one of the two groups as we were led by Patrick and then Noel. Sweep is the best position for me because I get distracted and have to stop and take photographs along the way! Each stage of the hike took about two hours, with lots of stops for discussing different things along the way.

Patrick pointed out a number of the hemlock trees that are recovering from wooly adelgid following his Sassy beetle releases throughout the place over the past three years. Some are still in danger of being lost but the signs of new growth appearing at the crowns are encouraging evidence that most of the trees are headed for recovery, with the aid of the natural predetator of the adelgid. Patrick has worked long and hard over the past years to determine the best way to fight the wooly adelgid. He's a research scientist and his approach has been done with study and care. And as he progresses with the beetles he's collecting data to back up his claims. His work is questioned by many in the "official" party line (read the US Forest Service); here's a link to an article he wrote last year, and some of the flames he received based on it. But, in my own unscientific way--using just my eyes and knowledge of what I've seen happening in their trees since he began beetle releases--I can say that what he's doing is working. Many of the trees on their property I call "Lazarus trees" since they seemed to be dead and now they've become revitalized.

When a hemlock tree on which Patrick wants to release beetles doesn't have limbs within reach of the ground, he often tacks up a coffee filter holding a few branches containing beetles to the trunk of the tree. Here's one that someone on the hike "discovered" and asked about.

Patrick was a presenter at the Fourth Symposium on Hemlock Woolly Adelgid in the Eastern United States held in February 2008 in Hartford, Connecticut . His presentation was on the theory and practice of his private HWA control efforts and is available online in a pdf - FTHET-2008-01 (at text pages 225-235) at the USDA site at this link. Scroll down to the 30th (!) bulleted item (lots of information buried in this site!!)

One leg of the hike went to a lower part of the property where there are numerous large boulders that contain asbestos. There was once an asbestos mine in the area, according to what Patrick has been told by one of the local residents. The map at this link shows locations where there were once many asbestos mines in the Appalachians. This part of the trail ends along the creek where water runs over and under the smaller rocks.

Noel's portion of the trails included the walk to the showy orchid cove that lights up with hundreds of wildflowers in the spring. The next stop on the hike was the upper waterfalls, one they've named "Dorothy's Falls." Noel described to the group why they'd had decided upon the name--in honor of her mother, who was the only one of their four parents who didn't think she and Patrick were out of their minds for taking on the "primitive" cabin in the woods when they bought it in the late 1980s. Since then, the falls have come to be a place where others whose mothers have since died can sit under the canopy of the trees, with the sound of falling water and recall special memories.

Noel and Patrick continue to discover wonders on their property as they clear trails, even after being there twenty years. Last week, just a couple of days before the hike, Noel found a witch's broom growing from a small hemlock tree. It's in a spot near the creek where Patrick was clearing out a bit more of the laurel.

Witch's brooms are apparently fairly rare and most may be high in a tree. This one, just a few inches from the ground, is growing, with small gnarly stems, horizontally out from the host tree trunk, and is branching all around to encircle the tree. Patrick, who has already planted many cultivars of hemlocks, may try a propagation from this witch's broom.

The CMLC hikers left after four or five hours in the woods, elated at having had such a grand time. The weather was perfect for December in the mountains, bright,clear and dry and about 38˚. Afterwards, we relaxed in the cabin and relived some of the high points of the hike... and Macaroni decided to have a recline on handspun dog hair that Noel's preparing for a ruana I'll be weaving for her soon!

1 comment:

  1. It takes a lot to convince "the experts" that one has an answer. The best convincer is a live tree! I'm glad Patrick is keeping his passion up!