Snaggy Mountain Area, Garrett State Forest, MD – Late June 2018

Did you ever drive by a trailhead and think, “I wonder where that goes?  It looks interesting!”  Over the years, we had driven by a trailhead near Cranesville Swamp  several times and always said we wanted to explore it someday.  So on a recent trip to Canaan Valley, we took the time to stop at the Snaggy Mountain area in Garrett State Forest near Oakland, MD.

At the first parking lot was a trail sign that said “ROCK MAZE”.  That made us curious so we went hiking, and we were not disappointed.

1 Jan Rock Maze

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Right away we began finding interesting creatures.  With all of the rain this spring, the forest was lush with moisture-loving plants.

1

Left-to-right – Butter-foot Bolete, Boletus auripes (I think); Rock Tripe Lichen, Umbilicaria sp.;  Clintonia lilies that have already flowered.  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

We found several sprouting American Chestnut trees.   The larger trees had died back to the root and new sprouts were beginning to grow.  With the current research into American Chestnuts, hopefully one day soon we will again see these majestic trees full-grown in our forests.

6 Am Chestnut

American Chestnut sprouts, Castanea dentata  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The trail to the Rock Maze was lined with large, beautiful ferns… mostly Cinnamon Ferns.

7 Jan

Cinnamon Ferns, Osmunda cinnamomea.  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Jan has always been fascinated by ferns and has recently made an effort to study their identification and reproduction.  She found a number of different ones to compare on this trail.

ferns

Left-to-right:  Intermediate Shield Fern, Dryopteris intermedia; Rock Polypody Fern, Polypodium virginianum; Cinnamon Fern, Osmunda cinnamomea  (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

As we got closer to the Rock Maze we began seeing large rocks that all of a sudden just seemed to ‘ be there’, like a giant had dropped them in the woods.  While Jan continued to photograph ferns I started exploring the large rocks.

climb down

Left photo (c) Bill Beatty, other three photos (c) Jan Runyan

At the end of the trail was the Rock Maze at the top of a low hill, well-hidden in the forest.

explore

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

The area was larger than it appeared at first.  Every turn led to more areas to explore.  Its fissures, fallen rocks and openings brought something new to see around every corner.  Some places were great for looking at geological strata.  Other rock faces were obscured by different kinds of mosses.

maze 1

Exploring the Rock Maze  (Left photo (c) Bill Beatty, right photo (c) Jan Runyan)

We found these Black Birch roots hidden in the Maze.  The top of the tree stood above the huge boulder.  It was as if we were able to see underground at what the tree’s root system looks like.

maze - roots

Black Birch, Betula lenta  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

The moss/algae-covered rocks were beautiful.  Some rocks were solid and some were very cracked and fissured.  All sorts of geological processes were visible at various places in the maze.

maze 3

(Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

On the way back to our car we continued to find interesting plants and hear many kinds of birds.  Considering how late in the day and how late in the nesting season it was, we were amazed at all the bird songs we heard.

Jan discovered an area along the trail with about a dozen large Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchids that had already flowered.

leaving

(Left) A forest of ferns   (Right) Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchids, Cypripedium acaule  (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

We were so impressed with our hike to the “Rock Maze”, we decided to make this a future destination for some groups we take on our birding/nature trips.

After our hike, we drove down the road deeper into the Snaggy Mountain area.  We passed near a wetland, one of several different eco-systems the road goes through, and we saw several baby Wood Ducks swimming in the water .

wood duck 2

Baby Wood Duck, Aix sponsa  (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

As always, time prevented us from fully exploring all of this area .  Since the first trail we tried was so interesting, maybe “someday” we will be able to take the time to explore and discover more fascinating things in the Snaggy Mountain area of Garrett State Forest, MD.

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