Friday, November 25, 2011

November 25, 2011 - Hike Back to the Cliffs of Ruth

Having no desire to feed the beast and fight our way through mobs of pepper-spraying shoppers, we took a two-mile hike back into our own woods to see what, if any, we could identify from our informative hike earlier in the month. I've been picking dandelion and wild lettuce in our own yard for tea ever since the hike but I wanted to find something a little more "exotic" to brew.

Tulip Poplar
This was the find of the trip- crossvine or Bignonia capreolata. Identifiable in the spring by its yellow and red trumpet-shaped flowers. The common name comes from the cross-shaped pattern that can be seen in the cross-section of the thicker stems. This is recommended to fight off fatigue and for sustained energy without the side effects of caffeine. I'm currently sipping a mug of tea that I made with it. I'm going to have to play around with the amount of leaves in the tea and how long and hot I boil them. The batch that I made isn't very strong to taste and I've read several accounts of it being called "sweet".

Crossvine Leaf
Here we see Esther taste-testing something she found on a rotting branch. (She did not actually taste it. Don't do this. Ever.) Surprisingly enough, this appears to be an edible fungus known as "witch's butter". So there's a really good chance that it wouldn't have killed her. Of course, I could be wrong.

There's always room for Jell-O

Most of the household was recuperating from yesterday's Thanksgiving meal and could not muster interest in the hike, but Ben joined us along with all three of the dogs. Little Dog was very excited to be running with Big Dogs. There was some deer chasing and much barking; a big day for Little Dog. 

Zephyr and Ben

We stopped for a while at what we call the Cliffs of Ruth- named after the aunt that raised my mother here on the property. The cliffs are a sandstone outcropping at the top of the hollow that are filled with the exoskeletons of spiders and scorpions, the occasional bird nest and empty snail shells.

The Cliffs of Ruth

These are some kind of mini-speleothem growing in the nooks of the cliff wall and ceiling. They look like crystallized broccoli florets. These are very small, the big one in the foreground is about a quarter of an inch in height and the crystal formation on the end about an eighth of an inch across.  

"Cave coral"

In several spots along the cliff oakleaf hydrangea can be found growing right on the sandstone, their roots dangling through the cliff.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

All the pictures from our trek can be seen here.

Pictures from a New Year's Day 2009 trip to the cliffs (with hot chocolate):

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November 5, 2011 - Medicinal Plants Hike with Darryl Patton

Today's hike was down into and back out of Little River Canyon near Fort Payne, Alabama. The hike was lead by Darryl Patton, an ND as well as a Master Herbalist with over 25 years experience with the plants in our area. Before taking the Eberhart trail down into the canyon we walked the new boardwalk at the Little River Canyon parking area and also made a stop at the Lynn Point overlook.

Darryl explaining the connection between sweet gum and tamiflu.
We were encouraged to take notes and Chandler took this to heart, filling up a few pages in her notebook of information on the plants we encountered. This was useful for the adults when it came time to write our blog entries...

This is crossvine that Darryl pointed out to us at the overlook. Apparently, I need to swap this out for my energy drinks. He described it as "better than ginseng" when it comes to getting your metabolism up.

Here, Darryl explains the antibacterial properties of raindeer moss. Soaked with hot water, this can be applied directly to a wound.

This is a plantain (not to be confused with the banana-like plantain). From all accounts I should keep this handy for the next time I wander into poison oak.

It was a great day to be in the canyon, for the leaves alone. The hike and the information were a huge bonus.

Darryl delivering more wisdom.

Here we learned about wild lettuce the sticky natural latex in the leaves and the "opium-like" effects of its ingestion. Recommend as a sleep aid.

The hike was very informative and I don't have the room here to detail every single species that Darryl pointed to and gave us a litany of uses for. I've placed some of these links in the text above, but here's additional information about Darryl and his books:

Darryl's website:
The Wikipedia article on his mentor, Tommie Bass:


After the participants in the hike disbanded and went our separate ways, we visited the nearby Welsh Caves near Mentone and Desoto Falls. The kids followed me via belly-crawl into the farthest room of the caves. Esther and I camped here in the early 90's together so this is a special spot for us. The four of us emerged covered in the fine dirt of the cave floor.

A little further away from the final room, I manage to fit all of them (including Esther) in one shot. The cave is a great spot for sitting and lounging.

Esther, scaling the near-vertical path back out of the caves like the mountain-lion-woman she is.

We also hopped around on the boulders at Desoto State Park.

Gallery of images here.
The tracklog of the hike here.