Tuesday, October 14, 2014

2014 Hike to Goat Rock

Trip to Goat Rock Summit
October 14, 2014

So, Shane had been telling us off and on about how he'd gotten completely lost in the mountains around Hot Springs one day in the past. He'd went up the mountain expecting to come back down, but managed to hike north mountain, west mountain, goat's rock trail, and through gulpha gorge, among others. My mom got pretty excited about seeing Goat's Rock, so we planned our next adventure for the foothills above town. I won't lie; I was hoping we'd avoid the tourist trails and outlooks and go back to Cedar Glades or somewhere likewise grown over that I haven't been to before. Regardless, it was fun getting out and about with Shane again. Not knowing exactly where the trail to balancing rock began, we started off at one of the outlooks and headed down a trail that would take us up the mountain.

There were some pretty radical loblolly pines up on this trail. Featured below are a few of them:

The remains of a massive pine stump.
Me by a huge living loblolly pine.

My mom on a tree that was crazy bent at the base.

And this one. I've never seen a pine grow with such crazy curves!

At a certain point, we realized this trail wasn't going to take us where we needed to be, so we followed the road back down to the outlook and set off again, this time heading down the trail instead of up.

This seemed like a great idea... at first. We walked all the way down the trail until it hit a fork, but neither were the trails we were looking for. This lead to a very long wait as they tried to find a map of the trails on their phones.

I talked them into heading down the left fork for the sake of adventure, but that didn't take long to fall apart either. Although that leg of the trail was a bit more grown over and pretty, a bug (or pine needle, we're still not entirely sure) attacked Shane via route of pants' leg and we had a minor struggle trying to save him from certain death... or temporary itching. We called that trail quits when the ordeal was over and marched back up to the truck... or tried. It was so steep up hill that we had to stop and rest. We had a long talk about random things, telling random stories, and heard the story about Shane getting lost on the mountain trails in a bit more detail before heading off. even with the midway rest, it was an excruciating walk to the truck.

Shane and I were parched, but despite my blunt requests to get water somewhere, mom drove farther up the mountain and stopped at the next outlook anyway. She was pretty determined to find Goat's Rock. So, we got out and took to the trail again. Thank the divines we'd actually stumbled upon the correct trail! It wasn't long before we found a sign directing us down Goat's Rock trail, and a few twists and turns after that, we were there!

Despite being parched, I continued to run my mouth non-stop the whole of the trip, so I'm going to be in the middle of a gabbing session throughout most of these pictures. Anyway, those stairs in the background took us to the top of the summit, where we found this interesting hollow pyre of sticks (which mom considered a little too much like something from Blair Witch Project to be comfortable around.)

Just beyond that, though, was this amazing vantage:

This was the view from Goat's Rock Summit. Sure, we've seen the town from higher outlooks, but there was something about Goat Rock that felt a lot more personal than the other views. We tried to take a selfie with the background but, you know, phones...

Backgrounds got washed out. At least we tried. We lingered here a good while, talking and looking at the view.  By the time we were done here, I'd overcome the thirsties for the time being. Mom sought to remedy that by sending Shane and I back up the ascent so she could snap this picture of us on the summit from the bottom:

Magnifique. In the end, I was super glad we went out to Goat's Rock. Somewhere along the way, though, Balancing Rock was brought up, and soon it was decided that it would be our next hiking objective. Little did I know that it would be even more of a struggle to get to!

Here is the usual round up of specimens I found along the trail of note:

Nandina, Heavenly Bamboo
Nandina domestica

A beautiful nandina plant along one of the trails fruiting. There was also a healthy bush nearby with berries that were beginning to turn red.


Mom caught this bird in mid flight... it looks like an eagle to me!!! What do you think?

Wood Ear
Auricularia auricula-judae

Probably the best nature capture of the trip. Wood ear are prized in eastern medicine for a plethora of reasons, which the article on wikipedia thankfully covers.

Plain Brown Bracket/Shelf Fungi

As always, these were bountiful around every corner.

French Mulberry/American Beautyberry

Callicarpa americana

A fall favorite, these are not actually related to standard mulberries at all. Berries of this vivid violet-magenta are only found naturally on this plant, making the purple variants of Beautyberry hard to misidentify. The berries are edible, but not typically palatable, being bland and better suited for birds. There are ways to turn them into a nice floral tasting jam, though.

Eastern Fence Lizard
Sceloporus undulatus

If you haven't gotten this idea from other posts, these little guys are everywhere around here. I find them on just about every trip!

Vitis rotundifolia

Somebody or something got their hands on some muscadines, although I couldn't find from where! Probably a squirrel or something similar that carried them a way before eating them.


Could this common weed be a type of wormwood, or, perhaps, hemlock?

Privet (variety unknown)
Ligustrum v.

These are the juvenile green berries of a variety of privet plant. We have a lot of them around these parts (introduced here and spread by birds and landscaping.)

(A very bendy bunch of) Loblolly Pines
Pinus taeda

The loblolly pines fascinated me this trip. I've grown up around them--my old stomping ground was almost an entire three acre stand of them--but they were never so bendy, wavy, and crooked as the ones I got pictures of on the mountain side.

Plain ol' white bracket fungus.

Growing all fancy-like between the thick bark plates on a loblolly.

Amanita type on Haircap Moss
??? on Polytrichum commune

I'm not even going to begin to try to figure out what that mushroom is until I'm more studied on Mycology. I'm presuming amanita type based on the ring around the stem and the fact that it had gills. 

Yellow Jacket
Probably Eastern variant.

If you take a gander at the wikipedia article linked above, you'll know why I couldn't get the species narrowed down with just this picture to go on.

Oak Plum or Marble Gall
Andricus kollari

These galls form on oak trees when a species of wasp lays their eggs in them. Inside, if you crack one open, is a little larva at the center!

Smilax v.

A single berry fruiting on a smilax vine. If you follow these vines down to the base and find the massive tuber, they can be used as a great source of starch. (They are edible, like a potato, but a lot more involved to prepare.)

Lycoperdon perlatum

The common puffball for these parts. The juveniles are edible, but must be cut open to make sure they are not a deadly mimic.
Andricus sp.

These are also caused by a type of andricus wasp. These galls will not harm the leaves and also harbor little larvae inside.

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