Tuesday reflection

Tuesday after work. I am
camping with Stephen at Shinleaf,
on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail,
after he has spent much of his day
slowly moving himself and many
surprising (to him) pounds of gear from
Bayleaf Church Road, about
ten miles away. Tomorrow,
he will walk another thirteen to
Rolling View and await pickup
after I finish work. An experiment
in carrying everything you need and living simply.

He is tired and sore, but clearly pleased with
his accomplishment. Yet he’s puzzled to also
feel somewhat disappointed, and I see it
gnawing at him. I let him talk
but don’t say much, allowing him
space to think more and return later.

As for me–I sit outdoors at 8:45 pm
watching the waning sunlight,
an early bedtime whispering the
sweet promise of rest before the
sun rises on Wednesday. And I can
tell you that I feel content
with this ordinary
yet extraordinary
evening.

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FORECO Daily: Sunset Rock

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Another successful Forest Ecosystems of the Southern Appalachians. Here are some stats (now with emojis!): 
Almost 0 inches of rain 😲 🌞
~900ish miles driven 🚌
24 sites visited ⛰️
~50ish miles of hiking and running 
67 species of moths 🦋
900 Table Mountain Pine seedlings post-fire 🔥🌲👍
1 dozen chiggers (Julie Tuttle reports more)
8 awesome students 😀
3 wacky instructors 😜
9 special guests 👍
1 timber rattler 🐍
0 bears 🐻
1 broken arm 😨 
1 busted bus tire 
1900 caddis flies on the Chattooga
6 quarts of ice cream consumed 🍨
Another wonderful Forest Ecosystems ❤️🌲🦎🐝🐌🌻🥀🌳🌾🍁🕸️🦋🍦⛰️🔥🌈🌞

FORECO Daily: Buck Creek

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Because of its unusual geology and serpentine soil with a skewed Ca:Mg ratio, Buck Creek lacks a closed tree canopy and supports an astounding plant community that includes many grasses as well as several locally endemic species–meaning that they’ve been seen nowhere else on Earth.  These plants can tolerate the high levels of heavy metals and the high levels of magnesium in the soil. Prescribed fire by the US Forest Service has helped restore this site and allow the many understory plants to proliferate. 

FORECO Daily: Cuthbert’s Turtlehead

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Rare habitats mean rare species. Cuthbert’s turtlehead (Chelone cuthbertii) has longer and larger leaves than others in its genus, and it’s restricted to mountain bog habitats like this one in Panthertown Valley. In the past, bogs were regularly filled or grazed, leaving rare species like the bog turtle and Cuthbert’s turtlehead without a home. Now these wetlands are recognized for their conservation value and are gaining better protection.

FORECO Daily: Spot the sundew!

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Gorgeous red Sphagnum moss and tiny, carnivorous sundews (Drosera rotundifolia) make their home in the Panthertown bog. In the southern Appalachians, which were never glaciated, bogs form where hydrology permits. These open habitats are too wet, with deep peaty soil, to support trees, but the open sunlight and consistent moisture create space for small plants. Sundews are carnivorous plants, trapping small insects on their modified leaves that have sticky glands that you can see in the picture. In this way the plants survive despite living in deep organic soils that are poor in available nutrients. Bogs are fragile places that cover very little land area–one of the reasons for the recently protected Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge!

FORECO Daily: Disturbance happens.

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Thin vegetation mats grow in shallow depressions on granitic dome communities south of the Asheville basin. Soil accumulates in shallow depressions, collecting rainwater and providing habitat for spikemosses like Selaginella tortipela. Over time, soil and nutrients accumulate, and grasses and shrubs gain a foothold. These are fragile communities, at ricsk from trampling, ice, and flooding. Here on Little Green, a sizeable mat has torn off, rolling up like sod or shag carpet and leaving the depression bare and exposed where succession will start anew. This cycle of succession and disturbance keeps these granite domes open.