Monday, August 12, 2013

A Visit to Mushroom World

Nothing terribly philosophical this time. Sharing our afternoon.

Two of the kids and I went on a short hike. We have been limited in our ability to go on longer, more difficult hikes lately, and were itching to get outside on a beautiful day. There is a nature preserve nearby that I had never visited, though my daughter has, with a group she used to work with. She had been wanting to share it with us for some time, and the time finally came!  Since I grew up around here, and spent much of my younger years in the woods, it was an unusual pleasure to be able to explore a new place, and especially, for it to be one for my daughter to share with us for the first time, rather than the other way around.
There were several trails to choose from, but we already knew which to take: the one to the water.

Below are some photos from our day. If you click on them, you can see a larger version.

As we started down the path, through a field, there were a variety of trees lining the path, between us and the creek.


One of many now-wild apple trees.

We saw a wide variety of berries, and concluded that this area is probably very popular with birds. This was confirmed later, when I read more information about the preserve after we came home. Apparently, it's a birder paradise.

Sarah says these are Nannyberries, and are edible, although she does not particularly like them. The other common name is Sweet Viburnum, and they have a variety of medicinal uses. I've never tried them, but we may go back some day when more are ripe.

In the midst of all the apples and berries, we got our first glance of the creek. We could hear it, a few feet away, hidden behind the trees. At this part of the path, the creek was at the same level we were, although obscured by vegetation, but soon, it headed down into a gorge.

There were many wild flowers. Some on shrubs, others in the fields. Some familiar, others not so much.

Bumblebee on red clover.

I don't know what this is, but it looks like it will make some sort of fruit for the birds.

Queen Anne's Lace

More flowers that are destined to be fruit.

Black-eyed Susans in a field next to the path.


Milkweed pods- the area was full of them, and it will be gorgeous in the Fall, with all the silk. I have a special fondness for dried milkweed pods.

Before entering the woods, there was a lovely little field to our left. The creek had meandered over to the other side of this field (or did we do the meandering?), where it begins to become a gorge.

The path leading into the woods. I love the sunlight and shadows, as we headed deeper into the shade.

In the woods now.

Once we were in the woods, we came across this lovely red "berry." Trillium is a protected plant here, and I've rarely seen the fruit; only the flower.

As we headed more deeply into the woods, we soon discovered that we had entered the land of mushrooms. I don't care for eating mushrooms, so have never needed to learn to identify them, but on this day, I wished I could have. So much variety! So many colors!

Little orange mushrooms, like little caps. Some were alone, but most were in groups like this.

Mushroom growing in an old rotting log.

I don't know what these are, or if they really are a kind of mushroom or fungus, but they looked more like a fungus than some sort of sprouting plant.

What is the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool? I don't actually know. This one had a circle on the top, like a brown "bullseye."

Indian Pipe

Another brown one, but no bullseye top. This one had a more uneven shape.

I think this one looks like it has yellow sugar crystals on the top. Very bright, in the dim woods.

No mushrooms. I just thought this was pretty. It reminded me of a game I used to play when I was a kid. We'd make a circle of string, then go outside and lay the circle on the ground, and try to identify everything within the circle. How many different plant varieties can you see in this image?

Then we reached a resting place- a small lean-to built alongside the trail. There was a path leading down from there to the creek, gently sloping at that point. Not far down the trail, it was no longer possible to get down to the creek easily at all. We know. We tried.

Lovely little gentle falls.

Several branches joined together here, into the larger creek. (Six Mile Creek, if anyone wants to know.)

One small branch.. on which had fallen large branches!

Another of the smaller branches.

Yet another of the smaller branches.

The main creek.

Another view, with the sun shining on the distant part.

Another one of the tiny falls along the creek.

We found a lovely surprise, next to where the creek branches all joined the main creek. Clearly, many people have been here before us, creating this delightful display, a testament to love everywhere. There were dozens of heart-shaped stones placed or embedded in the wall.

Click on this one, so you can really see it.

Looking the other direction- downstream. Just past this fallen tree, there is a waterfall. It is about four feet high, but there was no safe way to get below it to take a picture where you could see the entire waterfall. We tried. Maybe on another day, with less water flowing. or maybe we'll be able to find a way into the gorge from below the falls, and hike back up. Not this time.

This is the best angle I could get. Right in front of where I'm standing- you can't see it in the picture- there is a part of the falls that is a straight drop, not the more gentle angle you can see. I could probably have gotten myself down that drop safely, but I wasn't entirely sure I could do so carrying my camera, and was not willing to risk it. I also wasn't sure I could get back UP.

This is the edge of the cliff where I stood taking the waterfall picture. It goes directly to the edge of the falls, which is why there was no way to walk around, or easily climb back out. The terrain just downstream from here is VERY different from upstream. A very abrupt change, which is fairly unusual, and not at all helpful.

I was not the only one trying to take pictures. :-) I'm pretty sure she has a very similar picture of me.

Another view looking downstream, showing what we had to climb around to get to the top of the falls. If you look closely, you can see that cliff edge behind the fallen trees on the right.

We went down the path further, to see if things leveled off any, and we could get into the creek bed. No go. The edges became more steep, the further we went. When we got home, we looked at some maps showing the terrain, and sure enough, there was no easy way back to the creek bed for quite a distance, and the only way we saw to get in was across private property. The property owners might not mind if we entered the creek there, and made our way up, but there is the challenge of figuring out who they are, and then deciding whether or not to impose. This little waterfall may have to stay one we can visit, and enjoy, but not really take good pictures of.

On our way back from exploring the edge, we were once again greeted by a wide variety of fungus. There was more than I have represented here, but I didn't get pictures of everything. My son found some blue mushrooms, but couldn't find them again so I could get a picture. Perhaps another time.

Looks like a sea anemone to me.

One of the larger ones we saw.

There were dozens like these.

Another pair of bright yellow; no sugar crystals this time.

There was an entire area covered with these, in sizes ranging from about the same as the head of a pin, to a couple of inches across. Lovely colors, and easy to spot.

A different yellow. Different color, and very different shape and texture.

Purple! Mushrooms of all colors.

And finally, right before we left the area, a critter. Maybe he knows the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool?

We've already decided to go back here again, and to bring along my other son and his girlfriend, both of whom also like to hike. I'd love to see it in the Spring, and also in the Winter.

This is one of our favorite ways to spend an afternoon. We are fortunate to live in an area of abundant beauty, with many hiking paths open to the public, and many creeks and waterfalls to visit. Between us, we are able to identify most of the local flora and fauna, but not mushrooms! This was by far the most different varieties I have ever seen in one day. I don't know if this spot always has this many, or if it is because of this year's weather patterns. At the next Library Book Sale, I'll be on the lookout for a mushroom field guide, for sure.

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