Sunday, December 31, 2017

Our 52-Hike Challenge 2017

On January 1, 2017 as Ann and I were headed to Harper's Ferry WV for our first hike of 2017, Ann told me of something she read about on a hiking site, a 52-Hike Challenge in which participants strive to make 52 hikes in a 52-week period. She asked if I might be up for it. Why not?

Our real challenge is that I work 6 days a week and 7 days some weeks. That leaves fewer than 52 days a year for hiking especially if you factor in days off for sickness and really bad weather. In any case, challenge accepted for the calendar year 2017 and this is our saga.

Hike (click through)
Aug 20, 2017
Aug 13, 2017
Aug 6, 2017
Jul 23, 2017
Jul 17, 2017
Jul 9, 2017
Jul 4, 2017
Jul 3, 2017
Jul 2, 2017
Jun 25, 2017
May 21, 2017
May 14, 2017
May 6, 2017
May 4, 2017
May 3, 2017
May 2, 2017
May 1, 2017
Apr 30, 2017
Apr 23, 2017
Apr 16, 2017
Apr 9, 2017
Apr 2, 2017
Mar 19, 2017
Mar 3, 2017
Feb 26, 2017
Feb 19, 2017
Feb 12, 2017
Feb 5, 2017
Jan 29, 2017
Jan 1, 2017


Monday, September 11, 2017

A Visit with Tom and Ann

Sunday we drove on a beautiful day to Tom and Ann's place in Capon Bridge WV for one last visit before we start driving for the West Coast and to celebrate albeit belatedly Tom's 75th birthday. We brought the dogs with us hoping that they and Levi could romp. Alas, Levi and Grace got into a bad scrap and Levi ended up in his kennel for the afternoon.

This was our first chance to experience their new screened porch off the back corner of the house and it is a fantastic place in which to live. I could spend countless hours there.

Enjoying the Porch

Porch Rules
Tom loves to shop at Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, Michigan and who can blame him? Before I owned a restaurant and had direct access to awesome products, I shopped there too. Their products are second to none, including the awesome Bayley Hazen blue cheese which might be the finest produced in this country. I hear that we might have had some gouda and a slab of pâté except that Levi beat us to it! I could tell a story about my dog Emmy and a certain standing rib roast, but it is not good to speak ill of the dead.

Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill Farm
To go with the cheese, Tom sliced a loaf of Zingeman's wheat and chestnut bread. The effect was a bit like pumpernickel. I had a hard time picking out the chestnut flour in the bread except for a slight taste of it in the finish.

Slicing a Wheat Chestnut Loaf
Tom secured for us two California Pinots, one from Siduri (Santa Rita Hills) and the other from Böen (Sonoma Coast). The Siduri had lots of candied red fruit and was fairly sweet with little in the way of acidity. The Böen led with a ton of fairly fresh black fruit (blackberry and black raspberry) with a big streak of mocha and chocolate. It had a bit of acidity to help it out. The star of the afternoon was the Speedway Stout from AleSmith in San Diego. This was as fine an imperial stout as I have tasted.

Two California Pinots and a California Stout

AleSmith's Speedway Stout

Catching Up

Grace, the Attention Whore

Chuckie Getting Mommy Kisses

Anxious Charlie Did OK

Grace Napping in the Sun

What a Great Place for Lunch

Tom Slicing Pears for the Salad

Chile Pepper Placemats are Fun

Tom's Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts and Pears

Scallops with Chile-Cilantro Cream and Corn Salad
After lunch we took the dogs for a romp down the driveway lined on both sides with stands of wingstem.

Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) in Front of Apple Tree

Bumblebee Enjoying Wingstem Blossoms

Lady's Thumb, Persicaria maculosa
Many thanks to Tom and Ann for a great send off and a belated Happy Birthday! to Tom.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Third Winchester Revisited

We went out for a quick walk Sunday night on Third Winchester Battlefield, which we visited just a few weeks ago. Ann and I explored a trail that we had not been on the last time and when we emerged into the fields through the woods, we came upon an explosion of flowers. I mostly only took pictures of flowers that we did not encounter last time.

The Battlefield is Mostly Grassy Prairie
Emerging out of the woods onto the mowed trails through the grassy fields, we came upon stunning amounts of flowers in bloom, especially many, many kinds of yellow Asteraceae. I'm not very good at telling them apart and I even have difficulty in getting the correct genus, let alone taking the plant to the species level. Here are some of the more interesting ones that I think I have successfully keyed, but I always stand to be corrected.

Orange Coneflower, Rudbeckia fulgida

Vast Masses of  Tickseed Sunflower, Bidens aristosa

Close Up of Charming Tickseed Sunflower

Thin-leaved Sunflower, Helianthus decapetalus
Through the field, we took a side trail down to Redbud Run and encountered a different set of flora in the damp woods and swampy bottom, 50-100 feet below the fields.

Wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia

Great Blue Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica
Orange Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis

New York Ironweed, Vernonia noveboracensis
Back up in the fields, we continued to work our way towards the Hackwood estate and found several plants of interest growing alongside the trail through the grass. Bonesets were very common and there were at least two species, Eupatorium perfoliatum and altissimum. The Tall Boneset (altissimum) was far more ragged looking and less photogenic.

Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum

American Senna, Senna hebecarpa

Spanish Needles, Bidens bipinnata

The plant below I have speculatively called Sweet Everlasting, Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium rather than Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea, for the simple reason that the Virginia Plant Atlas lists no records of Pearly Everlasting in this county. That said, I have my doubts.

Sweet Everlasting, Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium??
Finally, before descending to the now broken bridge over Redbud Run, our path meandered by the exact same Osage Orange tree that I photographed from a distance previously, stating that it was the largest specimen that I have ever seen. Up close, I took a photo of the fruit which is significantly larger than a softball.

Osage Orange, Maclura pomifera

Monday, August 28, 2017

Saying Goodbye

Our plans are starting to gel a bit: the movers are coming on the 15th and we are out then or the next day. We have rented a house for a few weeks in Yamhill, OR. With our leaving being pretty much imminent at this point, my father wanted to come say goodbye. At his age and in his state of not awesome health, he probably had no business making a long, long drive, but he is a stubborn son of a gun. He drove up from his house in Alabama and arrived on Thursday at my aunt and uncle's house in the hills near Burlington WV, a wide spot on US 50 slightly east of Keyser. We drove out from our house on Friday and spent the night catching up one last time before we head west for good.

Susan and Marshall live south of Route 50 back up on a pretty decent hill (about 1200 feet) that has wonderful views of the surrounding mountains, especially from their spacious rear deck. Their house is situated on a very lightly traveled dirt road that just invites you to take a walk through the woods and take in your surroundings. It's a very peaceful place and I really enjoy going there. A bonus is that Susan has several bird feeders at one end of her deck along with a couple of hummingbird feeders hanging from an awning. It's a lot of fun to sit there and watch the birds do their thing, especially the noisy hummers jockeying for feeder rights.

View From the Back Deck

Annie in Doggie Heaven

Charlie Liked Standing on the Bench

Susan and Marshall with Their Dogs

My Father

Happy Hour on the Deck
Ann's still learning about the birds that visit feeders and she is confused, like most people, about the difference between Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers. They look almost identical. But the Hairy is very much larger than the Downy, has a much stouter and longer bill, and a lower call. It was great for Ann to see both birds side-by-side on the feeder so that she could see the differences up close.

Male Hairy Woodpecker, Leuconotopicus villosus

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris

Dad and Marshall Walking the Dogs
We spent a good bit of time outside enjoying the wonderful fall weather that we're having now. It's weather that we should be having a month from now. The only downside is that we usually get about six weeks off from mowing grass this time of year, but not this year. Taking advantage of the cool weather, we took a bunch of walks and I spent some time kicking around the yard where Susan has her tiny garden inside a chain-link fence to keep the deer out. Growing up one side of the fence and covered in hummingbirds was this beautiful Cypressvine, something I have never seen before.

Cypressvine, Ipomoea quamoclit

Sweet Autumn Clematis, Clematis terniflora

Clematis Blooms Up Close
I saw three wildflowers up in the dry shale woods that I have never seen before, including this lavender-blooming mint which was growing everywhere. When I rubbed the leaves, they smelled harshly of oregano. Susan called it Wild Oregano.

Amerian Dittany/Wild Oregano, Cunila origanoides
Another new flower to me was a handsome plant with white bracts surrounding a tiny yellow flower, Pearly Everlasting. I knew what it was based on some western wildflower books I am reading in preparation for moving to Oregon, but I have not encountered it in the east before.

Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea

Catnip, Nepeta cataria

Deptford Pink, Dianthus armeria
This August has been significantly wetter than most and I noticed that the Creeping Lespedeza is doing particularly well this year. Now that we are almost at the first of September, it is blooming profusely all over our region.

Creeping Lespedeza, Lespedeza repens

Toxic Horse-nettle Fruit, Solanum carolinense
The shale in this part of Mineral County WV is full of fossils, full to the point where it is nearly impossible not to see many fossils on a single walk. We saw many types of small shells in the shale as well as worm tubes.

Fossils in the Shale
Our Ladies'-tresses at home are pretty well bloomed out, but we saw a couple, not many, that were just starting to bloom up on the mountain. Some while ago, I would have said what species of Spiranthes this plant is, but I have since learned that there are probably at least a dozen species in our area and I really have no idea which this might be, despite my prior confidence borne of ignorance.

Ladies'-tresses, Spiranthes spp.

Sulphur Cinquefoil, Potentilla recta
The Snakeroots have been starting to bloom in recent weeks and they are always cheerful plants to see when we hike. Boneset is another plant that whose bloom looks similar and can be confusing for some people. The two have very different leaves and growth habits despite having very similar blooms. It was instructive to see the two plants blooming right next to each other so that we could look at the differences comparatively.

White Snakeroot, Ageratina altissima

Common Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum
with Copulating Soldier Beetles

Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina
To be expected at this time of year, the roadsides and woods were littered with goldenrods in full bloom. I have a very hard time separating goldenrods, but this one, growing in a wetter location with long narrow lanceolate leaves and relatively small flower clusters, struck me as being fairly different from the ones that I usually see. I came to find out this it is not a Solidago at all but a Euthamia.

Lance-leaved Goldenrod, Euthamia graminifolia
We were very pleased to see that every patch of milkweed along the road had its share of Monarch Butterfly larvae.

Monarch Butterfly Larva, Danaus plexippus
on Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca
Wingstem is a plant that I have been waiting to see in person. I have always been struck by the flowers in photos and I was no less struck when I saw the very tall plants in person. This patch ranged from 5- to 8-feet high.

Wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia

Thistle with Soldier Beetle and Bumblebee

Common Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis

Rose Hips
Another plant that Susan showed me is the Hop-hornbeam, Ostrya virginiana. I have seen a lot of them, but never with the hop-like fruit capsules.

Hop-hornbeam "Hops", Ostrya virginiana

Chestnut Oak, Quercus montana

Lake Down in the Creek Bottom
It was a great visit with my father and my aunt and uncle. Saying goodbye is the part of moving on that really bothers me but going to Oregon is something that Ann and I just have to do.

Our 52-Hike Challenge 2017

On January 1, 2017 as Ann and I were headed to Harper's Ferry WV for our first hike of 2017, Ann told me of something she read about on ...