If I were to leave my house, travel north going up the coast for 7-8 hours, I would arrive just outside of New York City. Going in the opposite direction, I would end up in Charleston, South Carolina. Going east for that long could not be an option, as it would only take me about 30 minutes until I reach the ocean. However, going due west from my house following the Virginia/North Carolina border, I would still be in Virginia but culturally and geographically further from my home than I ever would be in Manhattan or the Low Country. It was in the westerly direction that I headed and ended up in the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area. This was my fourth visit to Mt. Rogers, and when I go I stay at Grayson Highlands State Park.
This garden was at the Visitor's center. There were a few items I did not recognize, like the blue plant in the second picture.
Behind the Visitor's Center you can pick up several trails, including the one leading to the Twin Pinnacles. Along the way is one of my favorite individual trees. This is a Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis), and if there are such things as sacred trees, this must be one. It seemingly grows directly out of the top of the boulder in a clearing with no other trees close by. Further along the trail ferns cover large patches of the forest floor. The golden structures are Dodder, a very parasitic plant.
Lichens are part algae, part fungus.
I found this plant to growing in several places, usually in rock crevices or in mostly gravel. I think it is Saxifraga michauxii.
My dad would bring home Running Cedar (Lycopodium digitatum?) for mom to use at Christmas. That was before it was listed as endangered.
This is the view from the top of the trail, and you can see into North Carolina and Tennessee.
Other wildflowers abound throughout the park.
Does anyone know what this one is, maybe some kind of Vetch?
The next day we hiked to the top of Mt. Rogers, which happens to be the highest peak in Virginia at 5729'. In order to get to the top you have to go on the Appalachian Trail and through a landscape unlike any other in the state. During the last ice age there was a vestige of a glacier here, and there are many plant species that would be more comfortable in Canada, than in Virginia. Red Spruce, Fraser Fir, Hemlock and thick groves of Rhododendrons grow in this windswept, forlorn landscape. When I am here, I feel like I am in another world.
There are several groups of wild ponies in the area, and although you are told not to approach them, some of them are very approachable.
After a long hike, a dip in waterfall pool sounds great, until you actually put a body part in the water which was incredibly cold.
I apologize for the heavy picture load, and I will post more later.