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Swallow Falls State Park

November 18th, 2015

Over the weekend, we visited Swallow Falls State Park in Garrett County Maryland. The park features a wonderful 1.5 mile trail that follows along the Youghiogheny River and Muddy Creek, which are two beautiful white water waterways. It is also one of the few old growth hemlock forests in the area.

Swallow Falls

Swallow Falls itself is actually not a huge waterfall. Seen above, it’s a still beautiful, but the rock formation to the right is really the more impressive feature.

Swallow Falls

This rock formation reminds me of the sea stacks on the west coast of the U.S. Seen below, it really does stand alone will years of geologic layers of earth and rock visible.

Rock Outcrop

These layers are actually present throughout the park, where huge rocks are haphazardly stack upon one another in layers that resemble many stone walls (or cichlid walls for fish fans) that people put together.

IMG_9924

From the top of the falls, there are good views of the river downstream.

Top of Swallow Falls

The trial has beautiful vistas of forest and rock away from the river as well, featuring ferns and moss under the hemlock canopy. Like the sea stack, this reminds me of the Olympic National Forest in Washington, just with less moss and ferns due to vast differences in annual rainfall.

Swallow Falls State Park

Finally, despite the name of the park featuring Swallow Falls, the largest waterfall in the park (and in Maryland) is on the same trail just upstream from where Muddy Creek and the Youghiogheny River meet. Muddy Falls is impressive, falling 53 feet to a deep lagoon, surrounded by the same massive rock walls.

Muddy Creek Falls

I’d recommend this park highly. It’s not a severely technical or long trail, but there is a lot of beauty and exploration to be had in a small area. Muddy Creek is also handicap accessible via a wooden boardwalk and scenic overlook down on the falls.




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Reservoir Visit

September 25th, 2012

This weekend, we took our dogs to a reservoir near us that we’ve visited several times in the past. It was a perfect fall day, with a nice breeze, pleasant temperature, and flowers blooming.

Brown's Bridge Reservoir

The most striking flower was a Bidens species that was just coming into bloom, with the sunny areas full of yellow inflorescences, while shaded areas were a few days from blooming.

Bidens sp.

In terms of aquatic plants, there was an abundance of Lindernia dubia, with its’ delicate purple flowers protruding from the stem.

Lindernia dubia

Mixed in with the L. dubia, was a fair amount of Rotala ramosior, which was present in strong numbers, but maybe not quite as abundant as last year. It’s tooth-cup shaped flowers were hung tight to each node.

Rotala ramosior

Our dogs enjoyed chasing the geese, which were really never in any danger as the geese smartly took flight several hundred yards before the dogs ever reached them.

Geese in Flight

The water was fairly low, exposing some great rock formations and river banks. Fall is a great time of year to visit this area!

Trees at River Bank

Finally, our dogs ran wild, trampling underfoot thousands of perfectly good aquatic plants, and making a great outing for us!

Bella Dog

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Assateague Island Ponies

June 29th, 2012

Last weekend, my family and I spent some time at the beach on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. While we were there, we visited Assateague Island where we caught a group of wild ponies enjoying a beautiful evening on the beach. With the group was an older foal, which was kept nearby the adults.

Ponies at Assateague Island

The ponies leisurely walked down the shoreline, giving me plenty of time pull out my camera and snap a few photos. The beach at Assateague is much nicer than in Ocean City, MD, as it’s more natural, has fewer people, and the sand itself is easier on your feet.

Ponies at Assateague Island

After the ponies passed, a few of us spent time hopping waves and collecting seashells. As I mentioned above, the sand is very fine, so it feels wonderful underfoot. Where the waves break, however, there are a lot of shells and rocks, but that makes it ideal for finding some nice ones. Out past the surf, the fine sand continues for a long ways before dropping off.

Pony at Assateague Island

You may notice that the ponies have a bulging belly that normal horses do not exhibit. We read that this is due to drinking salt water. Some literature that they handed us when we entered the park said that the horses adapted and can now sustain themselves largely on salty water.

Pony at Assateague Island

The park limits the number of ponies that live on the island to only what the vegetation on the island can sustain. Nevertheless, in all of the years I’ve visited Assateague, we have never left without seeing at least one pony. Most times, you see several herds from your car just by driving the short loop that goes throughout the island. Have you been to Assateague? Comments welcome!

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Gunpowder Falls State Park, Jerusalem Road

August 2nd, 2010

On Saturday, we took our dogs on a hike at Gunpowder Falls State Park (Jerusalem Road) where we explored the trails there for a few hours. Little Gunpowder Falls river is a very pretty river, meandering across a large rock bed. Despite the name, we never came across any significant falls, however. Along the trail, one of our dogs discovered a toad in an unfortunate position; its back-end was fully engulfed by the unhinged mouth of a snake (see picture below). Elsewhere, the trail opened off to a large grove of poplar trees, which provided an impressive area of shade to everything beneath them. We also found a few fallen trees with basketball-sized fungus growing on them. All in all, it was a nice hike with the dogs at a location we had never explored before.

River

Little Gunpowder Falls (Click thumbnails for larger view)

Poplars Rock Formation Huge Fungus! River Snake Digesting Toad The Trail

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Suitland Bog

August 2nd, 2009

On Saturday, a few GWAPA members met at the Suitland Bog in Suitland, MD for a guided tour by the bog’s caretaker. We visited this bog two years ago, and thought it was time for another visit. On my previous trip, I had thought I had gotten a picture of Red Milkweed (Asclepias rubra), but was corrected by a reader that infact I had not. So, this year, I’m proud to have found it, and got the picture below!

Red Milkweed

In addition to the Red Milkweed blooming, there was also another type blooming in the bog, which is shown below. Both are very pretty pink flowers. The ranger stated that the milkweeds weren’t always present in the bog, but showed up one day many years ago. He suspects that they were introduced by birds.

Milkweed

Also, interestingly enough, the main attraction at the bog, the Northern Pitcher-Plants (Sarracenia purpurea), are also not native to the bog. Apparently, prior to the mindset of preserving native habitats, botanists would collect interesting plants from other areas, and transplant them into habitats they believed the plants would do well. This is exactly what occured with the pitcher-plants, which were originally transplanted from New Jersey. Currently, the ranger actually has to weed out some of the pitcher-plants to prevent them from over-crowding the natives.

Sarracemoa purpurea

Another one of the carnivorous plants in the bog, Round-Leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) has been shaded out a little bit since I was there two years ago. Only a few remain, but the ranger is hopeful that some tree maintenance in the bog will help them make a comeback.

Sundew

The main attraction for me personally is the Ten-Angled Pipewort (Eriocaulon decangulare), which is a magnificant grass, and was in full-bloom. One of the reasons I’m so interested in this particular plant, is that I believe it would probably grow submerged.

Eriocaulon decangulare

It’s quite easy to distinguish an Eriocaulon from other grasses, as the flower-heads are very distinctive. Fortunately, these plants seem to be doing pretty well in the bog. The ranger told us, however, that if they didn’t actively trim and maintain the area, that the whole bog would be totally reclaimed by the forest, and would likely disappear.

Eriocaulon decangulare Flower

For that reason, I’m extremely grateful to him and his colleagues for knowing the importance of preserving this habitat, and making it available for the public to visit. I’m hoping that a few GWAPA members will be able to help volunteer a couple times a year to further this effort.

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Adkins Arboretum

June 25th, 2009

I haven’t posted in a little while because I was taking a break while vacationing at the beach on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. On our way over to the beach, my wife and I stopped at Adkins Arboretum, a native-plants garden and preserve located right next door to Tuckahoe State Park, along the Tuckahoe Creek.

Trail at Adkins Arboretum

As soon as you get out of your car, you see a butterfly garden comprised entirely of native flowers. With bumblebees and butterflies actively buzzing through the garden, we snapped a few shots of the flowers there.

Flower

As we walked toward the visitor center, we had to cross a bridge over the Tuckahoe Creek. I was hoping to see more aquatic plants present, but most were marsh plants, instead of true aquatics. Nevertheless, it was still beautiful, and housed several species of dragonflies and frogs.

Adkins Arboretum

At the visitor center, they were selling a wide variety of plants native to Maryland. I was amazed at how many different plants were available. There’s really not much of a reason why you can’t put together a beautiful flower garden using plants from your area.

Flower

We perused through their library and gift shop, and then decided to head out on the trails. The trails are well-kept, and mulched in most areas. They’re certainly more accessible for kids and families then some of the walking paths next door at the state park. That said, there’s also an element of nature that’s lost because of this.

Flower

Along the trail, we spotted quite a few different mushrooms and fungi growing. I suspect that they’re loving the above average amount of rainfall that Maryland has been having so far this year.

Mushroom

Even despite the well-manicured trails, we still ended up with several ticks crawling on us, but fortunately none had attached yet. As someone who’s witnessed the effects of tick-borne diseases in someone close to me, please make sure to wear proper attire, and take all precautions when hiking to avoid tick bites. Especially folks in the Mid-Atlantic region, where Lyme and other diseases are prevalent, should take extra care.

Fungi

Finally, after our jaunt through the woods, we ended up back at the visitor center, where we took one more stroll through their flower garden. I would recommend stopping at Adkins Arboretum to anyone traveling to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It’s just a short drive off of Route 50, the main passage to the shore from the Baltimore/Washington region.

Flower

For residents closer, the arboretum seems to run special events quite frequently, which look quite interesting. If you’re in the area, check it out!

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Patuxent Research Refuge: North Tract

June 11th, 2009

Last weekend, a friend and I visited the North Tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge, a 12,841 acres area which was formerly a military training ground, and has now been returned to nature. While collecting is not permitted in this park, it was still very interesting to hike around the various bodies of water to see what aquatic plants were present.

Lake Allen

The first lake we visited had cattails on one side of it, and lillies on the other. The cattail side also had a number of other aquatic plants present including (but not limited to) Ludwigia palustrus, Hydrilla, Callitriche sp., and some aquatic grass shown below that we’re not entirely sure what it was.

Callitriche sp and Aquatic Grass

In other areas, spatterdock was present throughout. It was very interesting to see which areas had a variety of plants, and which were pretty much dominated by a single species.

Lake

Not being limited to interesting aquatic plants, while walking along one of the roads, we came across a series of stands of Pricklypear (Opuntia humifusa) which were in full bloom, exhibiting beautiful yellow flowers. I believe this is the first time that I’ve seen this plant in Maryland, so I very much enjoyed checking it out. I guess cacti are not limited to southern hot zones!

Pricklypear: Opuntia humifusa

In addition to the lakes, a series of streams run through the property. Most of them are shaded, and so there’s little chance for aquatic plants to grow, but they’re beautiful nevertheless.

Stream

Across the street from that stream happened to be a large boggy area. We pulled over to have a look, and sure enough, we found sphagnum moss, but little else besides the grasses shown below.

Bog Area

There were a few lillies there, but it seemed to mostly be a dead-zone in terms of the aquatic plants we were interested in. Throughout the course of our trip, we noticed a lot of beaver activity, evident from the saw off tree trunks, but we never did see any beavers.

Lillies

In contrast to some of the lakes, which were dominated by lillies, the marsh areas were covered in Brasenia schreberi. In amongst the Brasenia there were several other plants.

Brasenia schreberi

Many Utricularia flowers were present, most likely being U. geminiscapa, but that’s just our best guess. Some of the Brasenia was also flowering, showing smallish red flowers.

Utricularia flower

At our last stop, we found a field of Proserpinaca palustris, most of which was growing in its emersed form, even though it was submersed. This is likely due to recent rainfall that inundated the plants when the water levels rose. Further down the stems you could clearly see the fine-toothed-pinnate leaves that are so typical of Proserpinaca.

Proserpinaca palustris

To any other folks exploring nature in this region, please be sure to use proper tick prevention, as they’re out, and Lyme is prevalent throughout the area. So, while not a collecting trip, it was a great day to be out and about exploring our native Maryland habitats.

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Winter At Last!

March 2nd, 2009

Today I woke up to 6-8 inches of snow on the ground outside. After the requisite sidewalk shoveling and digging out my car, my wife and I managed to take a short hike in the woods along the Little Patuxent River near our house. I’ve posted similar snowy scenes of this trail in the past, but I wanted to share today’s batch.

Snowy River

So far this winter, we haven’t really had any significant snowfall, and with March upon us, I had already succumb to the fact that we would have to wait another year for snow. Fortunately, mother nature proved me wrong, and fully covered the trail and trees.

Snowy Forest

My wife and I slogged along in somewhat inadequate winter-wear, so our expedition wasn’t more than an hour long. Since the river is not right along the trail, I had to make some side trips to reach the water. More than once, snow had obscured rocks or holes, which I seemed to have a penchant for finding.

Snowy Leaf

I was none the worse for wear, however, and managed to get to the riverside in several spots. The water itself was crystal clear when looking down, but from an angle looked black against the snow.

Snowy River

While I definitely appreciate the beauty of the more open patches of water, I think I’m drawn more toward the spots where snow-covered limbs or large rocks protrude from the water.

Snowy River

Since the temperature stayed in the upper twenties/low thirties throughout much of the day, the snow was wet and clung to the tree branches, giving them a wonderful wintery outline.

Snowy River

As mentioned, our hike didn’t last long as our jeans were soaked with melted snow, and our faces stung by the wind. I’m very glad that we were graced with this snowfall, so that now I can unregrettably wish for Spring!



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Walking Thru the Woods

December 30th, 2008

Firstly, I hope everyone had a nice holiday, and continue to enjoy life as we move into 2009. Yesterday, my wife, dogs, and I took a hike through some trails near our house which I have documented several times previously on this site. These trails wind in-between the Little and Middle Patuxent Rivers, with one segment shown below.

Middle Patuxent River

Of course, the weather is far too cold for any aquatic vegetation to be present in the water now, but as you can see the rocky floor of the river is not especially good to support plant life anyhow. I have seen Potamegeton in here previously, however.

Clear Water, Rocky Bottom

With all of the leaves fallen, you could see far more of the forest than normal. While this did make us a little bit more aware of otherwise unseen homes and roads, we also had the opportunity to see some really neat trees that we would have missed at other times of the year.

Neat Tree

And of course, our dogs took full advantage of the more open space, running wild in the few secluded areas that we let them off the lease. Bella, in particular, our black lab and weimaraner mix was racing around too quickly to get a clear picture.

Bella Running Crazy

Below is another set of trees that I found particularly interesting. I haven’t a clue whether this could be one of them, but I’m certainly reminded of the old Indian marker trees that are present through Appalachia and surrounding forests.

Neat Tree

Along those same lines, it’s always thoughtful to remember that although some of these wilderness areas look pristine and untouched, that we’re only a part of a long line of people who have walked the land. In this case, old bridge remnants lay moss covered as memories of some old road that passed overhead.

Old Bridge Supports

I guess it’s true that eventually, the forest will fully reclaim these structures. All the while, I’ll enjoy walking and exploring the forests and waterways near our house.

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Enjoying Fall

November 3rd, 2008

Autumn is a wonderful time of year in Maryland. It may not be known for the spectacular leaf colors that New England is, but they are brilliant nevertheless. This weekend, my wife and I took a walk along the Little and Middle Patuxent Rivers with our two dogs to enjoy the season. I’ve talked about this area a number of times on the blog, but there’s something new and different every time we’re out in the forest.

Little Patuxent in Fall

Along the water’s edge, I was hopping some rocks with the dogs, and looked down to see an freshwater Asiatic clam in a part of the river that I’d looked for them before, but never found them. I didn’t see many fish out and about this time, however, but I suspect that’s due to the declining temperatures.

Changing Colors

Of course, the main reason we were out was to see the leaves. There were stunning bright orange and red leaves lining the trees, and littering the forest floor. I’m pretty sure that this is the peak for the leaves this year in our area, as the trees all around exhibit a full spectrum of color.

Old Quarry

We also took a different trail this time on our hike to an old quarry. It’s now in the process of being reclaimed by the forest, but you can see above how the hillside was mined for rock. There were a few leftover rusting pipes coming from the water, that I assume were used to transport water to the quarry. Overall, a nice relaxing hike before heading back to work on Monday.

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