Dwight Peck's personal website

Winter 2023-2024

A photographic record of whatever leapt out at us

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

November forest walks in Virginia

(featuring the Montgomery Hall jungle and Augusta Springs Wetlands upland trail)

Naples was grand, but back in Staunton, Virginia, 5 November 2023, it's good to be home.

It appears that the cats still remember us, though . . .

. . . for some reason, Melvin has taken up cowering in the upstairs shower.

And even Choupette is lurking.

Something's going on downstairs.

The Farmers' Market

A quick foraging to the frigid November farmers' market downtown

Everybody's out in force. This is apparently meant to be the last outdoor Saturday market for the season, 11 November 2023.

Kristin's lining up for the Good Stuff.

Presumably they're all healthy goods on offer.

Time for bed

The Montgomery Hall jungle, 16 November 2023

Here we are on a fine day, starting out on the Expressway Trail, the longest of the three paths winding all round in the woods in the Montgomery Hall Park in Staunton.

A few months ago this was a nearly impenetrable screen of greenery, mostly parasitical invasives, but now . . .

. . . it's no longer so green, though just as nearly impenetrable.

The green thing Kristin's hauling along with us, we're told, is called a 'spider ball' (or 'hedge apple', or 'Osage orange fruit'); they're said to repel spiders, but don't.

Halfway along the convoluted Expressway, we've transferred over to the shorter Yulee Trail for finishing up with.

The Montgomery Hall jungle, 18 November 2023

A chillier day, we're making the same expedition in reverse from the carpark -- first a length of the Scout Trail (as here), skirting along the edge of the woods . . .

. . . overlooking the open pastures off to the west. Then . . .

. . . transferring over to the Yulee Trail for a ways and . . .

. . . getting into the tangly vegetative wreckage that distinguishes this fascinating place.

Until we're transferring again onto the upper half of the Expressway, very soon.

There's a trailmarker on the tree -- so now we can be sure that we haven't wandered far off the trail into the parasitical tangles. The yellow marker is for the Expressway, so we're commencing the longer section of our invigorating walk.

The trail is expertly planned, so that you can often plod along unrecognizable sections that are actually just 10 meters off to the side of where you were plodding five or ten minutes ago.

The artifice of winding nearly contiguous paths is more recognizable in winter, certainly, without the masses of green parasitical vines hanging all about in season.

-- Mind your head.

We're near a low point on the hillside, and soon . . .

. . . we'll begin trudging uphill a bit.

Like this

Thinning out a bit as we approach the carpark

A fine path, always a delight

The August Springs Wetlands 'uplands trail', 19 November 2023

This is about our 2,000th walk at the Augusta Springs; we can never get enough of it. This was a well-known fancy spa hotel in the 19th century -- we've passed on that story before -- but it's now a cooperative conservation/recreation project among the US Forest Service (Dept. of Agriculture), the Virginia Dept. of Wildlife Resources, and Ducks Unlimited.

The little park is apparently fairly well known for its wildlife, judging from the signage along some of the paths, but we've seen virtually none in all this time. Just ducks. (But we're never here in summer.)

The Shenandoah is in a period of drought, we're told, but Augusta Springs is still doing fine.

On our last visit, in September, we watched teams with a huge machine mowing down and munching up nearly all the wetland vegetation -- we were told that the whole wetland reserve was infested by the Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), a high-ranking invasive weed, and that there are plans to bring it all back to its natural state. (Whatever that may be.)

No sign of that yet, though -- wait till spring, presumably.

There's certainly not much of the old stuff left lying about.

It all looks kind of naked.

Into the woods now, and . . .

. . . up the Uplands Trail

The main Uplands Trail is a long stretch, like this, edging up onto the ridge and down the other side in an elongated 'U' shape, but there's also a newish marked trail . . .

. . . that crosses over this lower end of the ridge and cuts off a good deal of it.

But we've found that halfway along this crossover trail there is an attractive little unmarked trail that runs up the spine of the ridge . . .

. . . and that's become our favorite these days.

After 15 or 20 minutes marching up the ridgeline, we reach the point . . .

. . . where the main trail comes up, passes across the ridge right here, and descends on the other side.

Since it's said to be a dry spell we're going back down by that main trail, along a length of it that can often be muddy but won't be today.

In fact, the creek alongside the path, on the right, is bone dry.

The pond is just over there, and we do frequently see ducks sitting out there.

There are some out there now, as it happens.

That's our reading bench, but it's too chilly today.

Back out to the carpark

A good one hour's bit of healthful exercise in La Nature

How the other half used to live.

Next up: A visit to Alison and friends in Alexandria

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 18 January 2024.

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