The Brooks Bird Club had their fall reunion and membership meeting at Tygart Lake State Park near Grafton, WV. Since the trees are late to change this year, the view was not typical of WV in the fall, but the weather was good for hiking.
The Tygart Lake SP staff was wonderful. All the BBCers at the get-together took full advantage of the comfortable lobby and great view between activities and before and after meals.
Jan and I arrived early enough to get settled in and take a walk behind the lodge, along the lake. One plant I noticed right away was poison ivy. Poison ivy vines were climbing many of the trees. For birders that’s a plus since so many kinds of birds like to feed on poison ivy berries.
The lake had been drawn down for the winter, so part of our walk would have been under water in the summertime. We noticed people fishing from shore as well as from boats while we were there. Our walk wasn’t long, but we found some interesting things near the lake.
Jan is a Board of Trustees member for the Brooks Bird Club which, for me, translates to — I get to go exploring while she is at the board meeting. I decided to hike the 2 mile Dogwood Trail near the lodge.
The Dogwood Trail contains a series of switch-backs that climb to the top of a ridge and follow it for a while. Then the trail comes back down the other side. The trail is wooded along almost all of its length.
The most noticeable thing for me were the frequent groves of Pawpaw trees. Most of the trees were smaller, but several were large enough to produce fruit.
I saw a Comma Butterfly feeding on a fallen pawpaw. I could understand that since pawpaws are one of my favorite fruits, too.
There were many plants and fungi that made the hike more interesting for me. Christmas Ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides) seemed to be everywhere.
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) was the dominant shrub.
I saw only one American Holly (Ilex opaca), but it was loaded with berries … good news for the birds.
Along the level part of the Dogwood Trail, high on the ridge, there were so many dead American Ash trees that it looked like a tornado had blown through the area. The trees had been killed by the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) and had been cut down for safety reasons.
On several trees where the bark had fallen off there were Emerald Ash Borer larvae trails.
One of the wildflower plants I saw was the leaf of a Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor).
Having so much wet weather this year has been good for many kinds of fungi. It wasn’t hard for me to find a number of different species.
On Saturday some of the BBC members went to Pleasant Creek Wildlife Management Area to look for birds, while others of us decided to hike in the park. We started with seven hikers, but Jeannie and Cindy wanted a more vigorous hike so they charged ahead of the rest of us.
The Woodland Trail is a short hike, but even at this time of year there were lots of interesting things to see. And the trail is definitely in the woodlands.
Tom and Dawn stopped frequently to inspect the ferns along the way (one of their specialties). There were lots to see. Most abundant were the Christmas Ferns.
After finishing the Woodland Trail, we started the Ridge Trail. Soon we came upon a log covered in edible Combs-tooth/Lion’s Mane fungi (Hericium sp.).
We collected all the fresh specimens and took them back with us. The mushrooms were sauteed and served at supper for anyone who wanted to try this delicious wild food.
The Ridge Trail ended at a rustic bridge over a scenic stream. Although we had hiked only 2 miles in all, we had seen lots of interesting things. We were finished in time to savor the hearty lunch packed for us by the park and have the BBC Board Members back in time for their last session of the board meeting.
There is always something special and unique in each WV state park we visit. Jan and I have talked about returning to Tygart Lake SP when the lake is full to kayak along the wooded edges of the lake and maybe try our luck at fishing, too.