|Coral Root Orchid (Corallorhiza maculata)|
I woke just before the sunlight began to touch the tops of the trees visible from my bedroom windows--it was about seven. I got up to make some tea and dress for breakfast. The first bell rang at seven thirty and I started walking toward the dining hall before the second one sounded. After breakfast I went back to my cabin to get my sketching gear and camera, and set out towards Lewis.
I inspected the three specimens of Coral Root orchids there again, selected the one under the oak tree closest to the building and spread out my waterproof poncho in front of it. I sketched the outline of the stem quickly and placed the tiny flowers along it. I got out my magnifying glass to study the details of the few individual flowers that were open--the squarish white lip had several sets of purple spots on either side (hence the name maculata, Latin for spotted), the column with the pollinia was barely visible at 10X magnification. The three sepals and two petals were almost the same reddish-brown color as the stem, with perhaps a bit more greenish-yellow on the inside of the petals. After drawing a detail of one flower I got out my color pencils to put color into my sketch.
|Field sketch of Coral Root|
As usual, my limited range of color pencils seemed inadequate to render the subtlety of the real live plant in front of me, and I struggled to blend the colors to something approximating the actual thing. It became warm enough to shed my light cotton sweater. Thus happily occupied, the morning wore on.
It was around eleven by the time I felt satisfied with the sketch--there was enough time before lunch for me to sketch the Rattlesnake Plantains on the other end of the campus. I picked up my gear, walked over and repeated the set-up.
|Field sketch of Rattlesanke Plantain|
The Goodyera's white flowers were even smaller than the Coral Root orchid's, and grew around the stem like gradually diminishing beads. Examination with the magnifier showed that the lip seemed to have a rounded shape, kind of like a Lady slipper in miniature, only with a spout--almost like a tiny pitcher. The flower, as well as the entire plant was covered with white hairs, as its Latin name pubescens would imply. My eyes were becoming strained from trying to take this in and draw it accurately. I had only started to color some of the leaves when the lunch bell rang, but I had enough information for my drawing to be usable.
|Close-up of the Goodyera pubescent flowers.|
|Coral-like fungi: Neolecta irregularis? near the Rattlesnake Plantains.|
I had planned to explore some of the trails around the station in the afternoon. During lunch I sat with to Dr. Mark and Miao, and they told me about their morning hike to Bear Cliff looping back to the station on the Spring Trail. They had come across some Twayblade orchids growing under the tree-sized native Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximus) and they said some of the Rhododendrons were still in bloom. That helped me decide--I'd take the same hike after lunch to see what I could find.
|The Moonshine Dell Trail.|
The trail started behind the pond and was marked with yellow blazes. In the first portion, leading to a place called Moonshine Dell, the woods were open and carpeted with ferns. A small stream flowed through Moonshine Dell and here were lots of huge Rhododendrons, some of them still covered with pale pink blossoms.
|Moonshine Dell with Rhododendrons in bloom.|
|Rhododendron maximum flowers|
I looked under them carefully as instructed, wandering back and forth across the rivulet several times, paying special attention to soggy spots near the mushrooms which were plentiful. After some thirty minutes with no luck turning up any of the Twayblades, it was time to continue on my way. I found my way back to the trail, passing by many colorful fungi, some that looked like tiny fingers, and wondered what genus these might be. The old forests on this mountain must be a gold mine for fungi experts.
|Yellow mushrooms: Boletus?|
|Finger-like fungi: Clavulinopsis fusiformis?|
|Turkey Tail bracket fungi?|
From Moonshine Dell the trail to Bear Cliff ascended through drier forest; a returning hiker passed by me. Large rock formations and hollows began to dominate the landscape, and the footing became more difficult. After another mile or so I came upon Bear Cliff, at 4000 foot elevation. Two small snakes sunning on the rocks scurried away as I stepped on the large rock that formed the base of the overlook. Trees blocked most of the view across the mountains, but the geological formation on the other side was impressive, dropping down a distance of several stories, the rock strata ran at different angles from the upper layers.
|Approaching Bear Cliff.|
|The drop at Bear Cliff|
Gradually descending again, the loop towards the Spring Trail was much the same. My feet were starting to ache by the time I reached the spring. There were a bunch of cage-like structures built over the spring that I couldn't figure out--animal cages, or aquariums of some sort? They seemed abandoned now, probably the remnants of an old experiment or study. I looked around a bit, but saw only one of the Pink Lady Slipper orchids that were so plentiful. Perhaps there were more on the other side of the spring, but the cages distracted me and I didn't explore further.
|Leaves of Pink Lady Slipper orchid.|
I passed Jamie, the young lady from the office, running uphill on the trail with her dog--ahh, to be young and vigorous! I had just enough energy left to drag myself back to the station and take a couple of photos of the lovely butterflies on the milkweed growing around the pond before reaching my cabin. I'd never noticed it before, but milkweed has a wonderful scent--it seemed to be ordinary milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. Some flower heads had been covered with sewn mesh bags--must be part of a student experiment.
|Hackberry Emperor butterfly on milkweed.|
Back at my cabin I quickly took off my hiking boots and rested on the porch for a while before going in, wishing I could trade in my bunions for the feet I'd had fifteen years earlier. Well, I had one more day to wander and who knew, tomorrow might be a lucky day!