Friday, March 30, 2018

Spring Wonders at Weymouth Woods

When a rainy morning turned into a fair and cool afternoon,
Judy and I headed to Weymouth Woods for an hour or so of hiking.
We were sure we'd get exercise, but we saw more natural wonders
than we had bargained for.

We began our hike on the Pine Barrens Trail which follows rolling
hills and valleys through ever-present groves of longleaf pines and
other plants native to the Sandhills.

The darkened trunks are evidence of a controlled burn in the
not-too-distant past.  It's all for the health of the ecosystem.

We were surprised and delighted to see Birdfoot Violet along the
trailside.  We were to see many more along the way.

This is Trailing Arbutus, a late winter/early spring bloomer.
Never had either of us seen it in such abundance as we saw
along these trails today.

I haven't identified this colorful species yet.

This is Cranefly Orchid, a dainty one-leafed plant which also
grows on my SFL Nature Trail.

This is the purple underside of Cranefly Orchid.  Each plant may
produce a single flower later in the season.  Or not!

As you can see, those Cranefly Orchids were not solitary specimens.

This is Wild Ginger, another favorite from the SFL Nature Trail.

Rattlesnake Plantain, whose white blooms resemble a rattler's rattle.

The whole colony of Rattlesnake Plantain

Wild Iris looks similar to the Birdfoot Violet, but their stems and
leaves are easy to distinguish.

Pipsissewa, or Spotted Wintergreen.  This was my "Indian Name"
at Camp Cherokee 45 years ago and will always be a favorite of mine.

The Pine Barrens Trail gave way to the Gum Swamp Trail with
great differences in flora and fauna.

This is James Creek, which bisects the Weymouth Woods Preserve.

The sign for the foot bridge didn't specify if this refers to footwear
or "cottonmouth" moccasins.

This boardwalk allowed for close-up observation of the swamp.

Evidence of deer on the tree

This is not a closeup, but we startled and WERE startled by the
takeoff of a large Sandhill Crane.  Look to the center and to the
right to see it in flight.

I can't see the crane in this picture, but it's there, blending in nicely.
Judy and I watched it for ten minutes or more before starting our
journey back.

Here's video of the crane in his swamp environment.
There's not much motion, but I was able to zoom in
for a good look.  This was a highlight of our walk,
needless to say.

The Sandhill Crane is easily hidden in the tangle of branches and
reeds of this habitat.

Another herb I haven't identified yet.

On our route back to the ranger's station, Judy spotted these
"fiddletops" of Cinammon Ferns. They will soon unfold in splendor.

This was a fitting specimen as our stroll drew to an end,
because it was a reminder of just how many other spring
wonders await.  There will be many more walks and many
more pictures.  I hope you enjoy some Spring walks yourself.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A New Christmas Game

I have always loved inventing new games or 
adapting old ones.  Yesterday Claire helped me fine-tune
a new Christmas game based on our vintage Pound Puppy
board game.  Evan was actually the first to play this, but
unfortunately, I got no pictures until later.

My idea was to place some Frosty the Snowman and
Santa Claus figures all over this plastic floor map,
which came with an educational play set years ago.

We could then roll either 1, 2, or 3 dice to try to land
on one of the Frosty or Santa spaces.  Depending on
how far you needed to travel, you might roll any number
from 1 to 18.  When Claire "rescued" a playing piece,
she placed it in this wicker sleight.  I used a Christmas
railroad car for mine.

The Santas and Frostys were borrowed from a
Christmas Tic-Tac-Toe game. We made a rule that
you could take certain short-cuts, such as down a
stream from one "bridge" to another.

By the time Claire asked to play again, we added
in a slew of Neopets, which gave us a lot more
targets to rescue and improved our odds of rolling
a useful total.

It was a ton of fun, and I imagine we'll play it again
next week, probably tweaking the rules as ideas occur.
Have you ever made up a game?  It's very satisfying.
You might encourage your children to invent or
adapt a favorite game for the Christmas season.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Magical Morrow Mountain-- or Serendipitous in this case

Ten days ago we confirmed a plan with Jennifer to 
use the kids' Veterans Day holiday for a picnic and hike
at our beloved Morrow Mountain State Park.

Lo, and behold.  Amanda calls and asks if they could 
"drop in" from Georgia and spend a couple of nights with
us.  DUH!  YES (or weeks)!
The surprise visit happily coincided with the pre-planned
Morrow Mountain visit. So with no more delay, let me 
share some of the highlights of that glorious day.

Before noon it was breezy at the mountaintop, so we decided to
picnic down by Lake Tillery.  Hey, where's Ryan?

Oh, near the food, of course.

Act One, Scene 1: Clair spreads her wings.

Act One, Scene 2: Evan follows suit.

Act One, Scene 3: Ryan tries HIS wings.  Did you ever doubt it?

In spite of overnight rain, the trails were dry.  We chose the
Three Rivers Trail, which at 0.8 miles figured to be enough of a
 challenge.  It was well worth a steep climb for the views we would get.

The rear guard never wavered.

Posing at the top with various specimens.  Hunter has a
granddaddy long-legs.  Those were abundant and highly prized
on this fall day.

Jennifer and Amanda with five of the grandest "grands" ever.
From here, we could view the three rivers that converge to form
Lake Tillery: the Yadkin River joins the Uwharrie River which
then becomes known as the Pee Dee River.

Focus on the Hump-backed orb weaver (spider) near center.
None of our cameras could focus very well.

Here, the giant arachnid menaces Claire, but she stares him down.
She is ARTEMIS, and knows no fear!

We came to a fair-sized ravine which the older kids size up for
crossing.  Meanwhile, Ryan, who never misses a photo op,
steals the show.

Trees are for climbing, whether they're vertical, diagonal, or horizontal.
Going UP!

Anybody have an idea how we'll get back?

This nearby fallen tree presented a different kind of obstacle course.
It was a maze worthy of the Minotaur.

Dry logs are a welcome rest stop after a steep climb-- AND a
steep descent.  No one said they were tired, though.

Evan and Hunter thought this tree could be called Zero.

The river had an icy but serene look today.

Even in mid-November the leaves were more muted than vivid.

Here's a look back up at the mini-mountain we had hiked over.
I think the next time we go, the kids will blaze their own trails.

Yes, those are lilies in the foreground.  I'd never seen them there before.
A nice view of the shore we had followed.

Our nature patrol found oddities everywhere they turned.

Even at the end of the trail, they wanted to "sign in" to show we
had been there.  Nothing wrong with their "temporary graffiti."

We relaxed for a while at the park museum.  It was Ryan's first time
and he was spellbound by many of the exhibits.  All our kids are
museum buffs.
Before heading home, we drove back to the mountaintop
for some final photos.  On a future visit, we'll hike the
trail at the top.  Only Ryan hadn't done it before, but he'll
get his chance.
Did you ever sit on a rock wall at an overlook and wonder what
it would be like to roll all the way down a mountain?
I wonder why these two are smiling so big.  Hmm.

Evan and Hunter display two of their granddaddy longleg friends.
To the children's credit, none of them tried to scare each other with them.
They simply wanted to hold them and play with them.

Zooming in on Lake Tillery from the mountaintop picnic area.

Hey guys, I'm over here.  Behind you.

Five grandkids and two granddaddy longlegs.

Bri: Everybody flap your wings, like this.
Hunter: I don't think spiders can fly.

For me and Judy, this is what happiness looks like.

These three moms are responsible for a WHOLE lot of happiness
for a whole lot of people!