A Grandkid Discovers the Nature of Dolly Sods

When each of our grandchildren reaches eight years old Jan and I take them on an eight day Dolly Sods Wilderness adventure.  This was Lila’s year.  Below are a few highlights.

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The only site open at the Red Creek Campground was No. 1 so we settled in for our stay.  Lila helped me install our solar panels so we could have power for charging camera batteries and using the computer for transferring photos. (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

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The next day, after filling water bottles at the spring, we hiked Northland Loop Trail and looked closely at the insectivorous plants along the Alder Run Bog boardwalk.  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

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Left – Spatulate-leaved Sundew (not native, but showing up in several bogs in West Virginia); Right – West Virginia’s native Round-leaved Sundew.  Fortunately the habitat requirements are different enough to allow both of these insect-eating plants to thrive together in the same bogs. (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Round-leaved Sundew pad with trapped cranefly.  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Jan and I always start with easier hikes for the grandchildren when we take them on their Dolly Sods adventure.  After the Northland Loop trail and lunch we hiked part of the Allegheny Front Vista Trail.  This trail is full of scenic overlooks and interesting rock formations.

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All along the Dolly Sods road we saw spectacular wildflowers.

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Turks Cap Lily  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

On day two we did a more physical hike beginning at Bear Rocks and continuing out to Stack Rocks.

WV Nature Conservancy Bear Rocks Nature Preserve in the Dolly So

The Bear Rocks escarpment (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

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Jan and Lila on Pancake Rock (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

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Lila and Pap/Bill on the escarpment (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

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Continuing to Stack Rocks (in background)  (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

The next day one of the trails we hiked was the Rohrbaugh Plains Trail.

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Lila and Jan ready for another hike (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

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Hiking the Red Spruce/Rhododendron section of the Rohrbaugh, Lila found a snail and hummed it from its shell (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Because of the moist summer, there were many colorful mushrooms and other fungi along most of the trails we hiked during the week.

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Left to right – American Caesar and Chanterelle mushrooms (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

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Left to right – Crowded Parchment, Chicken of the Woods and Artist’s Conk (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

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Left to right – Fly Amanita and Bleeding Mycena mushrooms (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

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Left to right – Turkey Tail and Violet Toothed Polypore fungi (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

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Left to right – Orange Mycena and Yellow Fairy Cup fungi (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Besides our days on Dolly Sods we also took trips off the mountain to explore Canaan Valley and other nearby areas.  Canaan Loop Road offered a wide variety and abundance of wildflowers.

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Black-eyed Susans  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

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Bee Balm  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

On our last full day on Dolly Sods we hiked the Beatty Labyrinth.  We saw and heard many fascinating creatures.  Jan and I were surprised that we heard Hermit Thrushes (my favorite bird song) singing every day…every where.

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Hermit Thrush  (Photo (c) Laura Meyers)

Song of the Hermit Thrush –

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At the pond at the bottom of Blackbird Knob Trail we caught a Red-spotted Newt.  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

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Lila along Alder Run Bog Run and crossing the rock field on the Beatty Labyrinth.  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Sadly, this was our 4th and last grandchild trip to Dolly Sods.  Luckily, however, one of our grandkids has asked if he could return to the wilderness with us and do some more hiking.  We are already thinking about Dolly Sods with him next year.

The 2017 Brooks Bird Club Mountain Nature Camp

Mountain Nature Camp had a mix of wild and mild weather, nature-nature-nature, great music, delicious food, new and old friends, and (did I mention?) nature.  Year after year for 90 years this longest-running adult nature studies camp has attracted nature enthusiasts from many states.  Traditions have developed over the years including campfires each evening (weather permitting) and early morning bird walks every day.  In between there are on-site programs and field trips to some of West Virginia’s most scenic and biologically rich areas.

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Lenny, on guitar, and Chuck (right), on harmonica.  Besides traditional campfire songs like “Country Roads”, “Those West Virginia Hills”, “Paradise” and “The Ash Grove”, we also have a few not sung anywhere else outside of Mountain Nature Camp:  “Let’s go Down to Good Old TA” and “The Lug Nut Blues” (with its guitar and harmonica accompaniment this song is sure to become a hit!)  Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Early morning bird walks along the camp’s long tree-lined lane, adjacent trails, fields and roads provide a nice variety of songs and sightings.

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Left to right – Gray Catbird, Scarlet Tanager and Turkey Vulture.  Left and right photos (c) Bill Beatty, center photo (c) Jan Runyan

Monday’s two on-site classes were Birds and Botany.  Because of rain, the first part of the Bird class was held indoors.

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For part of the Bird class Larry showed campers how to adjust, focus and clean binoculars properly.  Photo (c) Jan Runyan

I was the Mountain Nature Camp botanist for the week and taught my classes outside…plants are still easily available even in the rain.  The Flowering Plant list (plants whose flowers we have seen since 2006 during camp week) has 105 species found on or adjacent to the 18 acres of  Mountain Nature Camp property.

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We learned the fine differences between Curly Dock and Clustered Green Dock via the keys in the Flora of West Virginia.   Photos (c) Jan Runyan

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Left to right – Black-eyed Susan, White Avens (flower and fruit) and Bluets  All photos (c) Bill Beatty

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Left to right – Blue-eyed Grass, Whorled Loosestrife, Jack-in-the-pulpit and Poke Milkweed  All photos (c) Bill Beatty

The rainy weather brought out some unexpected visitors during my wildflower/botany walk.

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Orange crayfish found along the road  Photo (c) Jan Runyan

After supper Lenny gave an indoor Astronomy class in preparation for outdoor classes that followed each evening’s campfire.

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Lenny, the campfire leader and astronomer, showed us the finer details of planet rotation, revolution and eclipses as well as explaining the constellations of the zodiac.  Photo (c) Bill Beatty

On Tuesday morning Jan and Kimberlee presented a class about Edible and Medicinal Wild Plants.

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After Jan talked about the edible value and ways to prepare a wild plant, Kimberlee talked about the plant’s medicinal qualities.  Photo (c) Bill Beatty

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They served Spearmint tea, Sassafras tea and Day Lily jerky as part of the class.  Photos (c) Bill Beatty

On Tuesday afternoon Mick Brown, master falconer and president of the Ohio Falconry Association, gave a talk about his Harris’s Hawks and falconry adventures.

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Mick Brown and one of his Harris’s Hawks  Left photo (c) Jan Runyan, right photo (c) Bill Beatty

On Wednesday we had an all day trip to “Old Hemlock” in Bruceton Mills, WV, where LeJay Graffious took us on a tour of the property and his MAPS bird banding operation in the morning.   In the afternoon, he and his wife, Helen Ann, showed some of us the historical aspect of the property while other campers took a canoe ride on the Big Sandy River.  For more information about the Old Hemlock Foundation visit: http://oldhemlock.org/

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Along the roadway to Old Hemlock we saw several American Kestrels  Photos (c) Bill Beatty

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Left to right – LeJay removing a Hooded Warbler from a mist net;  banding and recording data about the bird;  lunch in the Old Hemlock facility.  All photos (c) Jan Runyan

On Thursday I led a hike into the Dolly Sods Wilderness.  Heavy rains were forecast, but no rain happened.

We were surprised to see Wild Bleeding Heart still blooming in many places along the road.  Photo (c) Bill Beatty

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Left to right – My hikers at the “ROCK”; the Mountain Laurel was in full bloom; and crossing the Beatty Labyrinth rock field.  All photos (c) Bill Beatty

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Left to right – My hikers in the Red Spruce forest; crossing the High Mountain Meadow; along the headwaters of Fisher’s Spring Run; and posing with more Mountain Laurel.  All photos (c) Bill Beatty

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Left to right – Red Spruce flag tree; Ruffed Grouse; and Cucumber Magnolia tree with Hay Scented ferns  All photos (c) Bill Beatty

In the morning while I was hiking with my ‘guys’, the other campers explored along Canaan Loop Road identifying wildflowers and chasing birds.  At their first stop, they  listened in awe to the songs of several Hermit Thrushes and Winter Wrens echoing through the forest.  (video (c) Jan Runyan)

Later stops brought other bird songs and lots of interesting plants for Helen to tell campers about.

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Campers exploring along Canaan Loop Road and a Pentstamon/Beardstongue flower.  Photos (c) Jan Runyan

In the afternoon they were invited to visit a special place hosted by a very special person.

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The woman who lives here designed and built this house stone by stone using stones from nearby streams.  All photos (c) Jan Runyan

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She is also an artist in many media.  Her art and design can be seen inside and outside the house and throughout the property.  All photos (c) Jan Runyan

At the end of this all-day field trip both groups met at the Pendleton Point Shelter in Blackwater Falls State Park for supper.

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Left to right –  Singing grace before eating; Larry took a group to the ‘Point’ to look for Black Vultures;  my great friend, Cindy, visited with us at Blackwater Falls.  All photos (c) Jan Runyan

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Some of the group went to see the falls in Blackwater Falls State Park while the rest of us went to Saffiticker’s for ice cream.  Left photo (c) Bill Beatty  Two right photos (c) Jan Runyan

Friday was our last full day at Mountain Nature Camp.  I presented a program about some of my “TA” experiences from the “TA” chapter in my new book.  (“TA” stands for Terra Alta, the small town near the Mountain Nature Camp facility.)  Some of the campers there had shared in my some of my experiences including Michelle’s White-throated Sparrow and Marsha’s White-crowned Sparrow.

TA book program

In my program I told about two people I first met at Mountain Nature Camp in 1972 — Libby Bartholomew and Forest Buchanan.  These two people were a great influence on my life.  Left photo (c) Jan Runyan

In the afternoon we all met Dr. Zach Fowler of WVU at Cathedral State Park for a class about mosses.

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Left to right – Two generations of naturalists (Martin, me and Zach);  campers focused on looking at the tiny mosses Zach was showing us on the ground and on the trees.  Left photo (c) Jan Runyan  Two right photos (c) Bill Beatty

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We discovered that you can’t learn about mosses without learning some about lichens and liverworts, too.  All photos (c) Bill Beatty

The interest in mosses never waned.  We just ran out of time and had to return to Mountain Nature Camp for supper, but we had no idea what a treat awaited us back at camp.

Breakfast, lunch and supper were great every day, but Friday’s supper was spectacular!

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Left to right – Bobby and Jane made delicious meals all week long;  the baked salmon and steak shish-kabobs served for Friday’s supper were even more outstanding.  All photos (c) Jan Runyan

Last year Randy’s tent had been partially eaten by some unknown creature.  Some said, “You shouldn’t put your tent so close to the water.”  What did he do this year?  Yes, he camped in the same spot.  However, this year things were different.

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Mystery solved!  Left photo (c) Jan Runyan  right photo (c) Bill Beatty

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2017 Mountain Nature Campers and Staff  (c) Jan Runyan