Friday, December 18, 2015

December 15, 2015 - Lake Imaging access loop hike - DuPont State Forest

We were back in DuPont today, but this time we parked at the Lake Imaging access area.  This big parking lot is on the left before getting to the Hooker Falls parking area off of DuPont/Staton Rd and is a popular starting point for mountain bikers and horseback riders.  There's only one trail that leads off from here - Lake Imaging Rd - so that's where we began the hike.

The road begins fairly wide, but narrows down to one lane once you pass Lake Imaging a little over 1/4 mile from the parking area.  The forest in this area is mixed hardwoods and pine and might be a good place for some spring wildflowers.  I'm sure we'll be back in early April to see.  During this time of year, there's still a lot to see if you take the time to look close enough.  The Christmas Fern is quite abundant along the road as is a variety of mosses, lichen, and even liverwort.

gelatinous stalked puffball
Puttyroot Orchid winter leaf

Cindy spotted a couple of leaves of the Puttyroot Orchid shown above.  The single leaf overwinters then normally withers before the orchid blooms in May.  Most people just walk by the bloom without even noticing.  The Cranefly Orchid is similar, but it's leaf is mainly green on top and a distinctive purple underneath.  We normally wouldn't see the stalked puffball (which isn't a true puffball) this time of year, but the warmer temps this month has caused some mushrooms to come out of hiding. 

We continued up Lake Imaging Rd for a total of about 1.5 miles until it ended at Buck Forest Rd just past the Grassy Creek Falls trail.  From here we headed left on Buck Forest Rd and followed it for just under a mile to the Jim Branch Trail on the left.  The walk along Buck Forest road was quite easy and passes through sections of white pine and mixed hardwoods forest.  Below are a few shots from along the way.

mountain bike along Buck Forest Rd
Cindy and me at a fairly big White Pine stump

somebody being clever

The Jim Branch Trail gets off of the many roads that are considered trails in DuPont.  It's a single lane footpath and again, you have to be on the lookout for mountain bikes.  The trail begins by heading uphill for a short distance, but most of the 1.3 mile trail meanders downhill as it heads back to the lower section of Lake Imaging Rd.

We still had a little time to kill once we were about to finish the hike, so we took the old URC Trail up to see what it was like.  It's an unmarked trail about 0.1 miles from the parking area and follows Hooker Creek up towards private property.  It's listed on the old map as 0.2 miles in length and might yield some spring wildflowers.  Otherwise, there wasn't much to see on this trip.  All in all, another great day with a fairly easy hike of about 4 miles.

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