Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nature Notes: Pinesap

I find parasitic plants totally fascinating.  Parasitic plants don't have any chlorophyll, and instead of getting energy from the sun like most plants, some of them have their roots connected to fungi, (often mycorrhizal fungi) that may be associated with the roots of other plants.  So the energy and nutrients are shuttled from one plant (like a tree) through the fungi and then into the parasitic plant.  Imagine all the complex interactions that are happening below ground that we don't see!

I've found two common parasitic plants on my hikes:

Pinesap (Monotropa hypopithys) is a fantastic reddish hue in the fall, and there is a large patch of it that I like to visit on the Coosa trail on the side of Blood Mountain.

Pinesap is related to Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora), which is also found in our area.  Indian pipe is usually white and has only one flower per stalk, while pinesap has a few flowers. 

Indian pipe

Saturday, August 14, 2010

First Hang: Bartram Trail

For my first hammock trip, my friend, Pyro, and I did an overnight trip on the Bartram trail.  We hiked about two miles from Warwoman Dell and set up camp near Martin Creek Falls.  There is a nice open camp site with plenty of trees right by the stream.  After getting set up, we decided to keep hiking up the Bartram Trail.   After a ways, Pyro headed back to camp, while I continued up to one of my favorite viewpoints, Courthouse Rock, where I enjoyed a clear view before returning to camp.

My goal on this trip was to try sleeping in a hammock, and Pyro was kind enough to let me borrow her HH Ultralight Asym with MacCat tarp and show me how to set it up.  I wanted to try hammock camping after having trouble finding a level stealth camping spot on my first solo trip.  I realized that I would have had a much easier time finding a good hammock stealth site because there are never a shortage of trees.  Hammocks also have a big advantage in the rain because the tarp can be quickly set up and provides plenty of living space. 

A dog adopted me this trip-- guess she didn't realize I'm not a pet person-- and this served as a wonderful learning experience for me. She just came out of the forest and though I never petted her and sternly told her that she should go home, she accompanied me to the summit (what a hiker!), lay in the shade while I soaked in the view, followed me back to camp, and slept under my hammock all night long. When I'd get up to go to the bathroom, she followed me to be sure I was OK. It made me realize how people can be so attached to their dogs-- this was serious loyalty and protection. I felt such a bond with her. I wished I could find her a home, but I also am confident that she'll find someone to take care of her. What a sweety!

Things I learned:

1. I slept well in the hammock. I think this will get even better over time. I also liked the ease of setup and takedown, and not being in the dirt. Not that there is anything wrong with the dirt!  I am so grateful to Pyro and Sweet Pea for introducing me to the idea of hammock camping, and for being so enthusiastic and sharing their knowledge with me.

2. Couscous rehydrates well with cold water.  Good news for saving fuel.

3. Scrambled eggs success-- I've been trying to get more protein in my breakfast, and eggs are my staple at home. Other egg powders were gross, freeze dried mountain house eggs were terrible, and my homemade dehydrated eggs were inedible.  I tried ovo egg crystals cooked in boiling water in a freezer bag!  Delicious and delivered energy all morning.