At a long hike Karisma and I did, one of us joked that we should try to complete a 36 mile long trail in one day... so now we have that scheduled during the solstice this year 🤣 I at least was walking a lot for a while when I worked for the Post Office, but poor Karisma needs to get some more miles on her feet before this event.
We were also celebrating six-months together, so we decided to go to the park where we went on our first date, Bald Mountain. I've recently had gum surgery so needed some soft foods for the trip, a challenge to find. I prepared a sad chopped-up pb&j to gently chew and we stopped for brunch: scrambled eggs for me! I can't wait to eat chips again.
Bald Mountain North was first, always a pleasure. The weather was great, although we did get a bit of rain at one point to keep it interesting. This is one of my favorite local places to go. I wore boots expecting mud, but even with a ton of rain this week it was surprisingly dry. We checked out some side trails and ended up with about nine miles, then headed to Bald Mountain South.
We took a break by some old concrete walls; someone has done a fantastic painting of a woman. I have no idea who the portrait is of, but if anyone does know, please share! The area used to be a massive estate so there are still bits of structure here and there.
With about five miles of trails, Bald Mountain South is a little smaller, and I had us park a short ways away from the trailhead for the best bathroom access 😂 The entrance we used is right next to a gun range; this is the first time I've been there when people were actually shooting. I can't believe the noise, was almost wishing we had earplugs to get past that area! The last couple of miles were definitely stiffer than the first, but I'm glad we went.
As I do pretty much every hike, I took several photos of interesting things to learn about later (photos are below). One plant that grew in clusters and has a unique shape is a Mandrake, or Mayapple, depending on which name you prefer. I like Mandrake best myself... They are a rhizome plant, so many stems grow from an underground root system. In summer they produce a kiwi-looking fruit which later turns yellow. Every part of the plant is toxic, including seeds, except for the ripe fruit... I can't say I'm not tempted to try one if I get lucky enough to spot a ripe one in the fall.
Next up was a sturdy flower I hadn't noticed before, all by itself. We just saw one all day; it reminds me of art-deco style. Apparently it isn't even a flower, just a type of hickory tree with a very expressive sapling. By the time we saw it, at just a foot tall, it was likely a couple of years old. Young Shagbark Hickory focus their energy on growing a long taproot which can be three feet or more.
I also saw a single pod that I thought was a milkweed, but later realized that the shape was wrong. Instead, its a pod caused by a parasitic fly laying eggs inside a goldenrod stem. The larvae hatch inside, and their saliva mimics plant growth hormones, causing the goldenrod to make a little nest for them. They live inside their pod all year before finally emerging to lay their own eggs and completing their lifecycle, with just three weeks spent outside. I love finding interesting little things like this. So cool!
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