The Raleigh Naturalist

January 5, 2009

Favorite Raleigh spots – 2008

Filed under: About & reflection, Gems & Surprises — Tags: , , , , , — raleighnaturalist @ 12:49 am


     Well, Raleigh Nature is a year old – and haven’t we been through a lot, and boy, have I learned a lot!  This blog is just getting started in ways – more broad coverage of ALL of Raleigh ITBL, pages on invasive species, turtles and record trees, and addressing concerns and questions from readers, are all on my list.  But it was a good year and I’m very happy with the blog and most grateful for the responses.

     Above is a Google Earth snapshot of what this blog is really all about – lost in wilderness inside the beltline – in this case,  the woodlot off the greenway at Atlantic Ave and Hodge Road, which was recently destroyed.   Let’s enjoy them while they’re here!  Below are my Raleigh Nature favorites for 2008.


Crabtree near Milburnie Rd.

My favorite place to sit on a log. 

   Amidst the large tree stands that line Buckeye Trail, the oldest and easternmost section of Raleigh’s greenways threads its way beside the deep meandering banks of Crabtree.  Here we are looking at the spot where Marsh Creek marsh spills over into Crabtree after a heavy rain.  Nice spot for animals to come down for a drink, and above is the marsh skyline to scour for hawks and herons.


Lassiter Mill Dam

My favorite spots to drown worms.

   Lassiter Mill, above and below the dam, is a wonderful place to fish with children, for turtle food, or even to fool around with your flyrod.


Yates Mill Pond

My favorite place to take a guest.  

   Yates Mill, with the old millworks, the gorgeously built new center displaying its history, a marked tree i.d. walk, a high ridge, a marshy meadow, and a fishing deck, has all anyone could desire from a nature outing.  It’s well outside the beltline but I love it too much to exclude it.


Meadow off Sunnybrook

My favorite place to meadow tramp.

  The privately owned section of the old pecan farm surrounding Jones Lake is eventually doomed but is the best spot for seeing foxes, deer and footprints of those and more in the same trip.  Once it’s developed, I’ll have to settle for the county park across the highway.


Rocky Branch at Dix Hill

My favorite place to jump rocks.

   Dix and the greenway that connects it to Centennial and Washington School represents a fantastic dog walk, frisbee throw, pecan pick, or walk of any length you desire.  Rocky Branch, displaced by the Western Boulevard extension, has retained some of its good character.


Raleigh Swamp

My favorite place to watch birds

   Raleigh Swamp, which used to be irregular but has been made permanent by the damming effects of Raleigh Boulevard, has a large consistent and varied population of breeding and visiting birds.




My favorite place to listen to water.

   Jaycee park has a rock waterfall that, at two feet, is perhaps the largest inside the beltline.  It certainly is the prettiest of which I know.


Longstreet greenway off Sawmill

My favorite place to photograph.

   This must be it, because this is my favorite photograph so far.  This creek borders the greenway which runs south beside Longstreet off Sawmill in north Raleigh. I’ll keep working on finding, and shooting, one even better.  Ya’ll have a great new year!!  Love, John


July 31, 2008

White Squirrels and the Brevard fault: PFI rules!!

Filed under: Exotica, Gems & Surprises, Nature Lore — Tags: , , , , , , — raleighnaturalist @ 7:54 pm


    Teachers in the woods!  Climbing rocks and jumpin’ in waterfalls! That’s what I call a workshop! For 5 very full days, two dozen educators traveled the Land of Waterfalls, centered around the Brevard fault, seeing some amazing geology, flora, and fauna with the staff of, and presenters for, the Pisgah Forest Institute.  We got treated like teacher queens for a day (okay, one other guy besides me as kings in this group of elementary school teachers).  We got free stuff, wonderful information and some great hikes.

teachers in the Little River!

teachers in the Little River!

   The Pisgah Forest Institute is an initiative of Brevard College – a beautiful campus that is ancient as a 2 year college but only 14 years old as a 4 year.  PFI focuses on “the earth and environmental science needs educators encounter in their classrooms. ”  The workshops are funded partly through grants from the USDA Forest Service.  This part of the mountains receives more annual rainfall than anywhere in the continental U.S. except for the Northwest temperate rain forests (or would if there weren’t a severe drought).  There is a unique feel to the wilderness areas and even more so to the farmland, it seemed to me this trip.  Rich, well cultivated fields and not so much the hard scrabble feel you see (disappearing) in the northern section of our mountains.

     The town of Brevard hosts a Music Center, has a nice college/tourist shop and bar scene, and is famous for – did I mention them?, – the white squirrels.  These little guys just blew me away, and set me off on an extended online chase to research white squirrels.  There was a lot to find. The local history traces their origin to an overturned carnival truck in 1949.  There is a research institute devoted to them, a White Squirrel Festival each year in Brevard, and of course a White Squirrel Lover’s blog.  The very best picture I found online is on a realty site, and clearly the white squirrel is a promotion bonanza for the town of Brevard, though their claim to fame is not without controversy (other “homes of the white squirrel”).

on the move

on the move

White Squirrel Photo Album

     The PFI would educate and inform us and then take us on a related field trip.  We made 3 major expeditions: Holmes Educational State Forest, Caeser’s Head State Park, and a new amenity, Dupont State Park, which contains several spectacular waterfalls.  We also conducted a stream activity at the trout hatchery on the Davidson River. Each place offered valuable lessons and experiences.  At Holmes, which is open to the public, we practiced tree i.d. and took the “talking tree” walk.  Caeser’s Head offered spectacular views of the Piedmont vista as seen from the edge of the Blue Ridge system.  So many wonderful pictures – I offer an album at the end of the post, and many of the following text images are linked to a picture.

     The park gots its name from a head-shaped rock that protrudes from the highest viewpoint.  Across the chasm, you see Tablerock Mountain, a monolith of intruded younger rock whose side is painted by the staining action of rainwater.

      Dupont, after a decent hike, offered beautiful waterfall views, including some used in The Last of the Mohicans.  Here the Brevard Fault is in full view, fracturing and pushing til some of the huge blocks become square tree planters.  The Little River winds its way down the rock cascades, though it was quite low the day my pictures were taken.

  The young lady below is leaping from Hooker Falls, another fault-block structure in the park.  We learned some background geology at Caeser’s Head and then put it into action at Dupont, locating the folded layers in a piece of gneiss that represent eons of slow bending pressure.

     Kevin, program director for PFI, holds a northern water snake from the Davidson River.  We measured stream quality parameters and took a tour of the trout hatchery, which attracts vultures from miles around.  Back at the Brevard campus, we saw a stream rehabilitation process and surveyed native as well as invasive plant species on campus.  Below is a picture of hemlock infested with wooly adelgid (the small white spots).  Just one of the many ecological challenges faced in the Southern Appalachian mountains.  Thanks, PFI, for such a great trip and for helping me learn so much! 

PFI Brevard Fault Photo Tour


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