23 November 2013

Guess Where This Place Is

A few days before an annual out of town convention gave an opportunity for late summer relaxing on a quick vacation near the convention town. Of course, a trip to the local botanical garden was something that I couldn't miss, but almost did. Succulents and cactus were not high on the priority list like snorkeling, kayaking, ghost walks, and hiking.

But on the last day having checked off everything else, I headed to the botanical garden. Whoa! I was happily surprised with plants very new to me and weird - like two story high yuccas. Many reminded me of the landscape in the backgrounds of the Flintstones. Does anyone know where this place is? Go ahead and take a guess. No, it is not Bedrock.

Let's try some large photos on the blog this time.

Opuntia streptacantha. I think I had one of these growing on my window sill in college, but not as a tree.

Aeonium arboreum. This could be the star of the latest Alien movie. Is this a plant?

Could this be a sunburned aloe?

Furcraea macdougalii. These poor souls from the agave family looked scared.

Dracaena draco. This is a dragon tree - no one can figure out why it's called that. :-)

Crassula falcata. One of the only flowering specimens in the garden.

Acacia decurrens or Green Wattle. Ah, finally. A tree with leaves. Leaves?

Sunburn anyone? A 5-foot tall (1.5 m) aloe can help.

And one last cactus, only 6-feet tall (1.8 m) because I believe it fell over.

10 November 2013

Tissues, Dams, And Eyeballs

Last weekend was a perfect day for hiking. In an effort to experience the changing season away from the outer urban life, a few friends planned a hike and light picnic in the National Park Service's Prince William Forest near Quantico. The clowns on the Hill decided that they screwed up the country enough, so the park (federal government) was reopened once again in time for the weekend.

This was one of those outdoor scenic places you live near but have never visited. With too many trails to manage in one day, the beaver dams and the waterfalls were decided as the goals. We drove to a parking area and set out, armed with directions from the ranger in the visitor center. Let us share observations.

Fallen leaves are great at hiding the trails. We missed trail turn-offs three times. This caused a backtrack once, and hiking another mile or so more than we planned after missing two more.

When it looks like someone littered the trail with a tissue, assume the best in humanity -- that you are actually looking at a fungus.

Behind the dam was a small wetland. Note the evergreen hollies around the perimeter of the water while deciduous trees grow further up the slope.

We did not come across any beaver dams, unless they have modernized with reinforce concrete. The park was a hotbed of Civilian Conservation Corp construction in the 30s. Maybe the dam was part of that handiwork, or the Mayan were in town.

There was something about this area that was very serene with the lime green seedlings growing along the floor that the deer did not devour.

Fallen leaves, mostly oak and maple, were holey in one area.

It took a good eye to find eyeballs growing on the forest floor. Ever seen this type of fungus staring back at you?

There were no waterfalls, but a few babbling brooks. Maybe 'city dwellers' consider waterfalls as any stream that makes noise.