After church today, Beth invited me to walk to Sandogardy Pond with her. I can’t resist an invitation like that, so I got my hat, boots, and camera, and put the leash on Penny.

While I was doing all that Beth popped outside. She came in with a report of a purple lady bug.

Gray-dy bug

Gray-dy bug


I thought it was more gray than purple. I haven’t tried to identify it, but for now, I will call this a “gray-dy bug”.

On the way to the pond, I spotted a tall flowering plant along the side of the road. I have never seen this species before, but I knew it was a milkweed of some sort.

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)


I’m not 100% sure, but I think this one is a poke milkweed (Asclepias exaltata). I had been thinking that it’s cool to find new-to-me species in bloom, but when I went to tag this one, I see that I have already tagged that species. So it is one I have seen before, but forgot about!

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)


None of these photos are that great, but hey – sometimes they aren’t.

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)

Further along, I saw some wintergreen with absolutely huge berries.

Huge wintergreen berries (Gaultheria procumbens)

Huge wintergreen berries (Gaultheria procumbens)


I have notices that just before they bloom again, wintergreen berries swell. They are normally a quarter inch in diameter, but these were half an inch. Remember, volume increases with the cube of the diameter, so these have about 8 times the volume of an unswollen berry (though I expect they have roughly the same mass, as the density seems to decrease).

My theory is that the plant is making a last ditch effort to entice something to eat the berries and thus, spread the seeds. If that’s the strategy, it worked for this plant, because I ate these as soon as I snapped the photo.

When we got to Cross Brook (or as I call it, Little Kohas Creek) which drains Sandogardy Pond, Penny was in full throw-me-a-stick mode. She brought us one and dropped it on the bridge.

Penny brings a stick

Penny brings a stick

Except it fell between the planks and into the creek. She couldn’t figure out where it had gone, but it was floating downstream by then.

It drops between the boards and into the creek

It drops between the boards and into the creek


I pointed it out to her, and she went in after it.
She fetches it

She fetches it


She did this twice. The second time it had floated farther downstream than she could have imagined, so she didn’t find it. She did know that it had gone between the planks though, because she was looking through them into the creek trying to find it. But that wouldn’t help in this case, because there’s no way she could get it back between the planks.

Thank you Penny for entertaining me today! And thank you Beth for the walk!

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Today I spent a little time in the woods behind my house. Pnny came along in case there were any sticks that needed retrieved. There were.

Here is a wintergreen (some call it teaberry, but I prefer to call it wintergreen) in bloom. This stuff is thick at my place, and I like that.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) in bloom

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) in bloom

I strayed from my trail and cut across the woods in hopes of seeing something different. Score! We have purple mushrooms:

Purple!

Purple!

And orange ones too:

Orange!

Orange!

At several points in my “walk” I would kneel down in the forest and just look at my surroundings, scanning only about three feet in each direction. Sometimes I find neat things that I would miss if I were just walking through with my eyes nearly 6 feet from the ground. This is the kind of stuff you can find when you do that:

Starflower (Trientalis borealis)

Starflower (Trientalis borealis) fruit


I recognized it immediately as a starflower. They have pretty flowers in the early spring, but I find their fruit even more interesting. This one was only about a 16th of an inch across (which is typical). The shot is cropped, but not not scaled much. I think it looks like a blue soccer ball.

In the front woods I checked out the hazel.

Beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta)

Beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta)


Not many nuts on them this year. I have tried harvesting them in the past with little luck. The squirrels and/or chipmunks here tend to harvest them before they get ripe, leaving none for me. The husks are covered with tiny prickers. If you grab one and pull you will be rewarded with a handful of spines. They detach from the husk and are so tiny that makes them nearly impossible to remove from the skin. But if I see a ripe one, I will pick it anyway. If I can ever get them in quantity, I’m sure I could figure out a good way to avoid the prickers.

We also have some Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) growing here:

Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata)

Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata)


It is the lobelia I see most often, and it’s fairly prolific around the edges of the yard.

Maybe next week I will go to Sandogardy Pond to look for aquatic lobelia (Lobelia dortmanna).

This morning I took Penny for a lap around the property. I brought my camera along.

In bringing the camera from the air-conditioned house to the humid, sweltering July heat, the lens fogged up. I took a few “soft” shots courtesy of this effect, but the mosquitoes were trying to carry me off. So I set the camera on the deck, went in, and grabbed some Off. After applying it liberally, I grabbed the camera and tried again. By then the lens had warmed up and the fog on it had lifted. Here are the results.

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)


I finally found some dewdrop flowers that were not horribly misshapen. I am relatively pleased with this shot.

We’ve been getting a lot of rain for the past couple of weeks, and as a result, I have several pools of standing water in the woods (which explains the mosquitoes). Smack in the middle of one puddle was this blueberry bush bearing a modest amount of berries. I ate them after taking this shot.

Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)

Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)

The wintergreen is starting to bloom. I didn’t see any with open flowers, but they are very close. I like this shot because it shows two plants – one with flowers, and one still sporting a berry. Wintergreen hangs onto its fruit through the winter and even to the point when it flowers (as shown here).

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

I liked this mushroom. I haven’t tried to id it.

I don't do mushrooms, but here's one anyhow.

I don’t do mushrooms, but here’s one anyhow.

I was hoping to see some Indian pipe, and was not disappointed. This is the second of two clumps I found (the other clump being a solitary flower).

Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora)


These plants are parasitic on the roots of other plants, and they produce no chlorophyll of their own. That’s why they are white.

Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)


The loosestrife is still going strong. I thought this shot in full sun came out pretty OK!

Saint John's wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Saint John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)

As did this shot of some common Saint John’s wort.

Mouse-ear hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella)

Mouse-ear hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella)

This might be garlic mustard, or it could be some other mustard. I pulled it up after photographing it, as I don’t want it taking over.

Some kind of mustard (Brassica spp)

Some kind of mustard (Brassica spp)

There were several clumps of white campion here and there about the yard, but this one was in the shade giving a softer light more conducive to photography.

White campion (Silene latifolia)

White campion (Silene latifolia)

This one surprised me. I haven’t seen it growing on my property before. Samuel Thayer adamantly avows that these are quite edible (they have a reputation for being poisonous). However, he has eaten them many times, and they are a staple in many places (Africa, for one). Thayer thinks their reputation come from people who misidentify it and eat something else in the Solanum genus that is poisonous (but I don’t remember what). There are lots of Solanum’s out there, and many are poisonous.

Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum)

Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum)

Here’s some spreading dogbane. You can distinguish is from “regular” dogbane (A. cannabinum) by the way the petals recurve.

Spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

Spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

I also found some heal-all in bloom.

Heal-all (Prunella vulgaris)

Heal-all (Prunella vulgaris)


It’s been in bloom for a while, but this was the first time I had time to shoot it.

I spent yesterday and a good portion of today backpacking with some of the Pathfinders in my club. Last month I taught a class on backpacking during Honors Week, but no one can get the patch until they have actually gone backpacking. We checked that box today.

When we got to the trailhead, we noticed that Google was there.

One of Google's Street View vehicles

One of Google’s Street View vehicles


I had never seen one of these before, and frankly, I was never expecting to. While we were still getting our backpacks out of the cars and paying the use fees to the US Park Service, the Google guys popped out of the forest. They gave some of the kids a partial can of Pringles. I think they were just as excited about having gotten something from the Google guys as they were about getting Pringles.

We set out a little after that, and not far up the trail, I found a neat little spot where the trail comes close to the river. We cooked our lunch there, and the kids all seemed to enjoy the stream. David found a perch in the middle of it, and none of the kids could figure out how he got there. Hint – he can jump farther than they can.

David relaxing in the middle of the stream.

David relaxing in the middle of the stream.


Perhaps two hundred yards upstream from there, the trail crossed the river. We forded it with no issues. David crossed it expertly, but some of the kids were a tad nervous.
Fording the stream

Fording the stream

We hiked up, and up, and up. I guess we went in about 2.5 miles which doesn’t seem like much, but with seven kids in tow (plus four adults), and all of them carrying more gear than they should have, it took a while. My plan was to hike all the way to East Pond. I have been there before, but by approaching it from the south. We were coming in from the north. All the while, I was looking for a suitable place to pitch our tents and spend the night, and that was a tough job.

The forest there is loaded with deadfall, and we were hard-pressed to find a place big enough to pitch a tent without it landing on a log. I looked at several places, and then pressed through some really thick hemlock and found a flat, mossy place. It was nice – but I suppose we would have to classify it as a bog. But bog is better than log, so we found the driest places available, pitched our tents, and stowed our sleeping bags in them.

I found some winter berry (Gaultheria hispadula), which I had never seen before. I knew it was in one of my books, but couldn’t recall the name until I looked it up at home.

Winter berry (Gaultheria hispadula)

Winter berry (Gaultheria hispadula)


This is in the same genus as wintergreen, and like wintergreen, it is edible. Most white berries are not, and since I didn’t know this plant, I did not sample it. I will next time though. The books say it tastes just like its close cousin.

I also found this bright red mushroom.

Mario's mushroom

Mario’s mushroom


I have no idea what kind of mushroom it is, and I haven’t looked it up yet. I think it looks like one from any Mario Brother’s video games, so I’m just going to go with that for now.

While pitching the tents we met one minor disaster. One of our tent poles broke. I effected a repair with some duct tape from my pack, and some “available material.”

Tent Splint

Tent Splint


This repair was incredibly effective, and I was rather pleased with myself for having made it. I will have to address it on a more permanent basis soon though.

With our tents pitched and bags stowed, we continued up the trail unladen (for the most part).

We didn’t make it all the way to East Pond as I had hoped. Before we got there, turn-around time arrived, so I turned us around and we went back to camp to begin cooking supper while we still had light.

We beat the sun back to our tents and began supper prep. I boiled up a bit of penne pasta with some broccoli, mushrooms, and garlic that I had dehydrated late last week (just in time). Then I tossed in some olive oil. It was very good if I do say so myself.

Mmmm... this was good.

Mmmm… this was good.


The penny stoves performed pretty well. I did learn of one drawback to using isopropyl alcohol vs denatured alcohol – isopropyl leaves a lot more soot. Everyone (me included) had black all over themselves by the time they were finished handling their pots. It scrubs off the pots easily enough, but I’ve still got it around my fingernails and in my fingerprints. But I think the visible flame (denatured burns with an invisible flame) was well worth the sooty downside.

We didn’t build a campfire. That was partly because there was no good place to sit in the bog without getting wet bottoms, and partly because we were trying to engage in “leave no trace” camping. I don’t think we left a trace either, and I’m pretty pleased about that.

We turned in around 9:00pm, and I got up around 6:30. I ran into some regular wintergreen in bloom – it quit more than a month ago at my house, but I guess the higher altitude made it bloom later here.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)


Sorry for the darkness of that shot. It was handheld, and I was in a hurry (nature was calling). I would have gotten a better shot if I had taken the time to set up the tripod and lengthen the exposure time, but… I had to go!

When all the kids were up, I had them strike the tents and load up again. The plan was to hike back down to where he had eaten lunch the previous day. The bog was nice (really! no bugs, and not nearly as wet as one might imagine) but I wanted to eat in a slightly drier spot. That exercise took about two hours. The tent that I repaired has a somewhat porous floor, so Beth’s “pillow” got wet. She stuffed all her clothing in a pillow case, and that meant that all the clothes she had other than her PJ’s were very damp. So she hiked out in her jams.

The stream was just as nice for breakfast as it had been for dinner. I had pancakes (as did several of the kids). Others had oatmeal, and some had dry cereal. We loaded up again at 11:30 (it was a late breakfast) and in thirty more minutes found ourselves at the cars.

Now I have the tents pitched in the back yard to dry the bog off of them. With any luck, I’ll be able to take them down tomorrow, and consider repair strategies for the broken one.