|Purple Fringed Orchid (Platanthera grandiflora).|
By the time we reached the area where the purple fringed orchids grow the rain was over; I thought we might as well stop for a quick check on the orchids. I had brought the digital camera David loaned me and his telephoto lens, so the three of us walked along the road, and lo and behold, there were a few more orchids growing along the bank, in a more accessible place than the four plants on the rock ledge from my previous visit. This was great! I could come back in a day or two to do the sketches for my project.
We pushed on towards Big Meadows and the Mill Prong Trail, stopping at the Visitor center for directions to the trail head and a map. It was about five by the time we hit the trail. The trail through the forest was quite muddy from the recent rains, but that made it seem more promising. Shortly after, Herb spotted the first of a colony of Indian Pipe flowers (Monotropa uniflora) emerging from the forest floor.
|Indian Pipe Flower (Monotropa uniflora)|
There were lots of other mushrooms too. I recognized the poisonous Russula emetica, and saw others that looked as if they might make a wonderful meal, like the one below.
We crossed the first of several streams, and on the other side of the stream I spotted a spike of greenish-white flowers. The rounded leaves at the base left no doubt that this was the orchid Habenaria orbiculata that I was looking for. The flowers seemed a bit past their prime, and I found only two other specimens nearby. The light was fading fast, making it difficult to photograph.
|Round Leaved Orchid (Habenaria orbiculata)|
Looking down among the orchid leaves I saw a few tiny, odd-looking yellowish clusters and recognized them as seeds of squaw root (Conopholis americana); I had not seen the plant at this interesting stage before.
|Conopholis americana setting seed|
I would have liked to continue hiking down to the Rapidan Camp but it was getting late--it would take another hour or more to drive back to Front Royal, so it seemed wiser to leave our explorations for another day.
On the drive back we saw a wild turkey with one chick walking at a bend of the road. The location was so close to where I'd seen what I thought was a pheasant a few weeks earlier, I wondered if what I'd seen could have been this wild turkey instead. If it was the same bird, her brood had been three of four then.
Further north, a furry black creature crossed the road just ahead of us, in a flash. Herb immediately said "dog" until I reminded him that unleashed dogs were not allowed in the park--and, it didn't run like a dog--it could only have been a bear cub. Where was mama bear? It was late in the day and with most visitors gone, the wildlife was making the most of the opportunity.
|David and I at Old Rag Mountain overlook.|