The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Benge Trail part 1

Benges Trail

Mark made the excellent point that if I was going to challenge myself to a long hike that might push my capabilities, it was best to start as early as possible. To that end, I milked Abigail by flashlight before dawn, and we hit the top of High Knob a bit after 8. The mists were very heavy, so I didn't get to enjoy sunrise from the tower. But I was too excited to care.

High elevation fungi

Instead I walked with a big grin on my face...and photographed fungi. We've had a relatively rainy week down in our valley, but I could tell that High Knob is much wetter than even our soggy farm. How can I tell? I measure overall precipitation for an area by fungal proliferation, and High Knob definitely won out in that department.

(The astute naturalist will notice that there are two lichens above...or at least I think that one in front of my hand is a lichen. But they're related to fungi, so I included them in the collage. Also, don't miss the high-elevation birch polypore in the top shot!)

Fallen tree leaves

I also enjoyed the fact that high-elevation trees are already starting to sport their fall foliage, making the hike particularly beautiful. In fact, I was able to measure my downhill progress by the leaves beneath my feet. Up high, sugar maple leaves coated the forest floor, but I eventually dropped down into the land of tulip-trees, and then walked up onto a drier ridge where blackgums dominated.

Red eft(And, hey, look --- a newt! I actually saw seven of these along the trail.)

My hike was going swimmingly. After a couple of miles, my can-I-do-it? jitters had washed away. My first lunch of two peanut butter apples and my second lunch of homemade mozzarella with peppers, tomatoes, and snow peas hit the spot...especially when washed down with a thawing quart of goat milk. And I could tell that my planned timing --- 2 miles per hour, plus a spare hour for wiggle room --- was going to get me to the destination just a little early. Perfect!

And then I got lost....

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Ooooo! Thanks for the really nice pics! I'm glad I'm not the only one that goes on a "botanical expidition" (as I call it) when I go hiking. I was once a member of a local hiking club and they didn't hike - they RAN through the trails. I like to stop and take pictures, look at the ground, the rocks, the trees, the birds, the other critters, which is why I call it an "expedition" instead of just a hike.

Can you more specifically identify the fungi you took pics of? I recognized tree lichen on the top photo because I have that all over my trees and I was concerned about maybe they were doing something to the trees. They're even growing on the composite "wood" on my deck. After research I found out they were harmless.

Comment by NaYan Fri Oct 2 09:04:51 2015

NaYan --- I always figure there's no reason to go out in the woods if you aren't going to savor the experience. When I used to go on "hikes" with my birding mentor, we figured on one mile an an hour.

To answer your question --- fungi and lichen are hard to identify because there are no local field guides that include all species. So, often getting them to the genus level is as well as you can do. In this case, the top photo is easy though because it's a very unique species --- the Birch Polypore that only grows on more northern birches.

In the second level, the big photo on the left might be a Gem-studded Puffball (in which case I should have collected it since my book says they're choice edibles and pretty safe to eat as long as the interior is all white). The smaller photos on the right, from top to bottom, are a more mature puffball (don't know which kind), a rock tripe lichen (edible but apparently more of a survival food), and perhaps Loberia pulomina (aka lungwort, a lichen that's very sensitive to air pollution and is an indicator for old-growth forests. It also contains nitrogen-fixing bacteria, so feeds the forest that important nutrient --- quite a fascinating species!).

The next photo, a full-size one, contains more Gem-studded Puffballs on the right. The mushroom on the left might be Honey Mushroom...or perhaps one of the poisonous lookalikes. I wouldn't put that one on our table.

Finally, the last photo doesn't give me enough information to identify it. I just liked the shape of the cap.

Thanks for asking for IDs! I was too tired to look them up when I wrote this post hours after arriving home from my big adventure, and I learned a lot now as I took the time to pore over my mushroom book. I'm amazed that my google search for "green leafy liverwort" turned up the lungwort species on the first row!

Comment by anna Fri Oct 2 10:11:53 2015
Benge! And Aack! Are you gonna tell us the rest of the story? LOL
Comment by Emily Fri Oct 2 10:23:03 2015
Emily --- I felt a little bad to leave you hanging. But I figured even my most worry-wort family members would realize that if I wrote this post, I wasn't dead in the woods. :-) The final installment will arrive on the blog tomorrow! (And, yes, I know I owe you an email.)
Comment by anna Fri Oct 2 11:01:34 2015
Thanks for identifying the fungi - that gem-studded puffball is one of the prettiest things i've ever seen!
Comment by Rhonda from Baddeck Fri Oct 2 22:57:50 2015
Rhonda --- They're actually quite common. I almost tried to eat some today, but the ones I picked at the edge of the woods here at home were a little too old. Probably the next edible mushroom species we'll try!
Comment by anna Sat Oct 3 14:06:18 2015

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