Sunday, October 6, 2013

Arabia Mountain with the Trail Dames

Visiting the yellow daisies at Arabia Mountain has become an annual tradition.  Dramatic display of yellow flowers bloom all over this granite monadnock dome.  An abundance of unique plants adapted to the desert-like conditions are splendid in late fall.
Enjoying the yellow daisies with the wonderful Trail Dames.
I organized a day hike with Trail Dames to Arabia Mountain.  This is great hike for adventurous beginner hikers and nature enthusiasts.  Though it's accessible to Atlanta, it never feels crowded because visitors are dispersed over an extensive trail network, plus there are opportunities for off-trail navigation over open rock faces that are rare in the southeast.
Yellow daisy (also called Confederate daisy though I avoid that name, or Helianthus porteri)
Arabia Mountain is one of the few places around that has rock cairns (piles of stone) to mark the path.  Some parts of the trail were marked with blazes on the exposed rock, so it was easy to compare how much easier it is to navigate with rock cairns and how suited they are for treeless areas.  We also talked about the importance of staying on rock surfaces and treading carefully to avoid stepping on rare plants and lichen.  
Vernal pools still held water even though hasn't rained for a while.  Other depressions in the rock contained dish gardens full of rare plants that look like they could have been landscaped.
Investigating critters in a vernal pool.
Rare black-spored quillwort
If you do visit, be warned that temperatures on the exposed rocks are very extreme.  My favorite time of day to visit is very early morning to catch the soft light and cool air.  In fact, I arrived a few hours before everyone on the day of the hike so I could enjoy the loop before most people wake up.  
dew on purple milkwort
Ladies tresses, a type of orchid.

For more information and trail maps:
Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve Website

Guidebook to the plants:
Guide to the Plants of Granite Outcrops by William Murdy and Eloise Brown Carter.

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