Thursday, March 29, 2012

Penultimate Report from Table Mountain, 3/23/12

Here are nine odds 'n ends from last Friday's trip to Table Mountain.  It's raining in Quincy as I type, and I'm expecting my attention to shift back to my home town when it lets up.  But, I have a few more items of interest to share from Table Mountain.  As I've said before, this "mountain" is an amazing place to visit whether or not there is a record display of blooming wildflowers.  To travelers who enjoy getting "off the beaten path" this place is interesting year 'round.
So, from the top, here's what I saw: First, in the canyon below Phantom Falls, about a quarter mile to the West, there's a great little meadow with a patch of Manroot, a member of the gourd family.  Next is a piece of basal containing a plant fossil. [Correction: A fellow naturalist friend noticed that this is not a fossil, but a dendrite, a kind of crystal formation.] Third, one of my favorite members of the Saxifrage family, Woodland Starflower.  Fourth is Volcanic Onion.  There were quite a few of these blooming wherever we walked.  It's one of those items that I can't seem to photograph often enough.  I keep thinking I'm going to get my best shot ever.  Next, a white member of the Forget-Me-Not family, Boraginaceae, locally known as Popcorn Flower.  Similar species in other places are often known as Stickseed.  Then we have a Puffball, an intriguing fungus, that my friends say is edible.  I didn't try it. (That was my disclaimer.)  Next, a cairn built by one of my hiking companions.  I've been fascinated by these ever since I first discovered them above the tree line in New Hampshire's White Mountains.  There they were for navigation during dense fog or snowstorms.  The harsh weather, especially on Mt. Washington, can reduce visibility to near zero.  In places, the large cairns are only 10 to 12 feet apart, yet sometimes one cannot see from one to the next.  My brother and I used to have one of us stay by a cairn while the other searched for the next one, staying in voice contact all the while.  Even with that precaution, we sometimes got rather frightened.  The howling wind could make voice contact impossible beyond 10 feet or so.  Next to last photo - a Buttercup, Ranunculaceae.  And last, a Buckeye Seed.  These always remind me of the Horse Chestnuts I used to gather at the road sides on my way to school.  They'd fall out of my pockets in class, and I'd be made to throw them away.  I'd just collect more on the way home.

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