By Project Learning Tree Coordinator Page Hutchinson
Look A Little Closer…
Although I work for the Virginia Department of Forestry, my job doesn’t actually allow me much time in the forest. Being a tree hugger from way back, I take as many opportunities as I can to get in the forest. On the recent Labor Day holiday, my friend Karen and I went for a hike on the Graves Mill Trail in Madison County. This easy trail follows along the Rapidan River and allows you to enjoy both the water and the forest. I use the term “hike” loosely. Karen and I call these our pokes as in we poke along examining this and that and enjoying all that we see. Very rarely is there an actual destination. Our day is driven by when we need to turn around and get back before dark. I don’t know that we’ve ever even tracked actual distance.
On this particular poke, we arrived both of us feeling stressed and somewhat harried from life and work events over the past few weeks. We quickly found a boulder on the water’s edge just to soak in the soothing sound of the moving water. Once restored, we headed on down the trail to see what we could see. Most noticeable were the splash of wildflowers, the profusion of ferns and the dance of many butterflies. Butterflies are hard to identify unless you can get a really good picture of them. That’s certainly easier said than done!
Beyond the most noticeable, we like to focus on the lesser-noticed beauty the forest has to offer: small fungi poking through the leaf litter, lacy patterns on leaves created by insects, unique shapes of tree trunks, designs and colors on rocks, and even the fabulous design of decomposing bark. Our most amazing discovery that day was some sort of insect case made out of folded fern leaflets. We found several and dissected one, but didn’t find anyone home.
We even enjoyed a refreshing dip in the river. A great poke, and a great day all the way around.