Sunday, November 22, 2015

November 20, 2015 - Exploring Trails in DuPont State Forest

DuPont State Recreational Forest has a lot of trails that Cindy and I haven't been on yet, so a couple or 3 of those were on today's agenda.  Cindy picked out the Plantation Trail as out first stop.  The trail head is 3.3 miles down Sky Valley Rd on the right side.

The trail is relatively flat and is very easy if you are looking for a nice hike in the woods where you probably won't see very many - if any - other people. The hike is an out and back and is about 1.75 miles total.  The first section of the hike is through a section of forest that is mostly white pine.  I noticed the foliage of Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) in several spots.  This low growing wildflower is one of the first to bloom and can be seen blooming in late March to early April.  There was also quite a bit of Galax (Galax urceolata) foliage which usually blooms in May. 

Just over 1/2 mile into the hike, the trail splits.  This is actually the beginning of a loop, so you can go either way. We followed the loop clockwise.  The trail got a little more interesting along the loop.  We came upon a big boulder that was probably mostly buried.  The part that was showing was home to a variety of mosses, ferns, and lichens, but the interesting thing was the holes in the rock that looked like they were caused by erosion.  There's no water source nearby, so maybe from rainfall over thousands of years??

A short time later on the loop we came across this tree.  There's a similar one I call the antelope tree near Skinny Dip Falls, but it has 2 'horns' and this one only has one.  We thought it was interesting.

The trail then passed through a section of Rosebay Rhododendron, Mountain Laurel, and what looked like Carolina Rhododendron before completing the loop.  I also spotted a couple of different types of Lycopodium along the trail.  These are fairly common in some mountain areas and are also knows as ground pines and creeping or running cedar.

Lycopodium obscurum
Lycopodium digitatum

Next on the list was the Flat Rock Trail which we had passed on Sky Valley Rd on the way to the Plantation Trail.  This trail is also an out and back trail for a total of 1 mile.  It ends at Grassy Creek at a point where another unnamed creek joins Grassy Creek. 

the end of Flat Rock Trail

There's really nothing exciting about this trail, but it would be interesting to go back in the Spring to see what blooms along it.  I did spot quite a bit of what I'm pretty sure is the foliage of  Polygala paucifolia (gaywings).  If it is, it would be worth the trip back just to see these in bloom (early April).

Polygala foliage

Along both of these last 2 trails were quite a few gall wasp egg sacs.  I had been seeing these for years and thought they were some kind of egg sac/ball thing, but never bothered to look it up until recently.

gall wasp egg sac

Last on the list of trails today was a loop trail.  Still on Sky Valley Rd, we pulled into the Guion Farm parking area, then headed across the road to begin the hike on the Flatwoods Trail.  This loop is a little over a mile easy to moderate with a little bit of elevation change.  The Flatwoods Trail is only about a 1/4 mile long and drops about 100' in elevation before joining with the Shoal Creek Trail.  We turned left on that trail and followed it for about another 1/4 mile.  Here, the Farmhouse Trail turns to the left and heads uphill for the remaining 1/2 mile of the hike.  The last portion of the hike follows Sky Valley Rd and reconnects back to the Flatwoods Trail to finish the hike.  I didn't take any pictures along this hike, but it's another that might produce some wildflowers in Spring.   

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