Wednesday Field Trips & Workshops

Conference field trips offer a wide variety of opportunities to study the natural plant communities of western North Carolina. Trip leaders are local naturalists and professional scientists with diverse backgrounds. Trips are offered on a first come/first served basis, and the number of participants is limited.

Please come equipped to handle rapidly changing weather conditions and mountainous terrain. Participants should wear comfortable hiking clothes and shoes and bring rain gear, a pack to carry lunch, a water bottle, field guides, and hand lenses. Transportation and a bag lunch are provided.

All field trips depart from the large parking area near the Ramsey Center promptly at 8:30 a.m. and return by 5:00 p.m.

Field trips and Wednesday Workshops cost $75. Canoe Trips (FT 4) have a surcharge of $15 to cover canoe rentals.

2017 FT Hike difficulty ratings:

(1) easy = light walking, in and out of the vehicle;
(2) moderate = trail walking, a mile or so;
(3) moderately strenuous = hiking, away from vehicle, more than a mile;
(4) strenuous = hiking, uneven trails, steep terrain, up to four miles;
(5) very strenuous = hiking over rough terrain, four miles plus.

Wednesday All Day Field Trips

FT. 1 Black Balsam Knob Ridge, Sams Knob Saddle & Meadows along the Parkway plus Wolf Mountain Overlook Field Trip with Nancy Adamson and Randy Burroughs
Mountain balds, old fields, dry rocky hillsides and regularly disturbed road shoulders provide models for the hard to define Appalachian Meadow. Randy will point out plant community transitions he's seen over the last 37 years and we'll discuss fire-based ecology. Nancy will take a closer look at the insects living amongst the many grasses, wildflowers and shrubs making up these beautiful temporal communities. Expect some steep hiking in the half-mile to one-mile range. Randy will scout the area beforehand and we'll choose our hikes as we go. Turk's cap lily is usually blooming in full sun on the grassy ridge above 6,000', so expect to climb Black Balsam Knob. The air is noticeably thin, but the views are worth it. We'll also look at the unique woody plants of this boreal zone. The Ericaceous family is very rich: rhododendrons, azaleas, mountain laurel, mountain pieris, minnie-bush (Menziesia), blueberries (often in fruit), cranberries (usually in flower), etc. Spruce-Fir and Northern Hardwood are the dominant forests. On the way back we'll stop at the Wolf Mountain Overlook seepage cliff to see the Grass of Parnassus, several Hypericums, False Asphodel, Sundews, Green Orchid and other unusual seep & bog wildflowers. These highlands can be surprisingly cool, so dress accordingly. Rain/wind gear is highly recommended. Capacity: 9. Trip Difficulty Rating: 3, Moderately Difficult

FT 2:  Southern Highlands Reserve, Kelly Holdbrooks and Eric Kimbrel
The Southern Highlands Reserve is dedicated to sustaining the natural ecosystems of the Blue Ridge Mountains through the preservation, cultivation and display of plants native to the region and by advocating for their value through education, restoration and research. Located in Western North Carolina at an elevation of 4500 feet, the varied topography and forest types found on our 120 acres allow us to emulate many of the plant communities found in high elevation forests of the Southern Appalachians. Southern Highlands Reserve has been aptly described by some as "the largest and most diverse collection of native Southern Appalachian plants and their cultivars." These high-elevation forests are home to rare forest ecotones that provide unique opportunities for education and research. With the help of landscape design professionals, the Reserve grew out of a Master Planning process encompassing strategic management and aesthetic goals. The Reserve's gardens are managed to illustrate how thoughtful design combined with a vibrant array of native plants can showcase our high elevation microclimate. Each garden room is designed to elicit an emotional experience, fostering a human connection with the plants, animals and environment surrounding us. We hope our visitors experience the gardens as a place to reconnect with nature and reflect upon their role in the Grand Design. This field trip will encompass a tour of the Reserv's Core Park. Eric and Kelly will highlight natives in bloom, and discuss conservation efforts across the southeast, and share best management practices for gardening in our mountains. (4) strenuous

FT 3:  Panthertown Valley Ethnobotanical Tour, David Cozzo and Adam Bigelow
Panthertown Valley is a 6,300-acre Forest Service tract that is often referred to as the “Yosemite of the East” due to the granite domes and stunning setting. At an elevation of 3,600 feet, the flat valley floor is traversed by slow-moving, tannin-stained streams and dotted with rare Southern Appalachian bog communities. On this trip, we will enjoy the varied plant communities and view the region from an ethnobotanical perspective, especially the Cherokee relationship to selected species. This is a very strenuous hike of more than six miles with several steep, half-hour climbs and descents. You will want to be in good shape and bring a pack, extra water, and rain gear. Limit = 20.  Hike difficulty rating = 5, very strenuous.

FT 4:  Natural and Cultural History of the Upper Little Tennessee Valley by Canoe with Peter Loos, George Morris & Brent Martin
This moderate difficulty canoe trip will take participants on a seven mile trip through the historical home of the middle town Cherokees and the landscape so vividly described by William Bartram in his 1791 publication, Travels. Along the way, there will be opportunities to botanize, and at our lunch stop trip leaders will take participants on a short walk to discuss the native plants found in the area.  Following lunch, there will be a stop for participants to make a short walk out to Cowee mound to hear a brief presentation on Bartram and the Cherokees who made this valley home.  Lastly, there will be a stop to swim at one of the river’s many outstanding swimming holes.  Limit = 36.  Hike difficulty rating = 3, moderately strenuous.

FT 5: Buck Creek Serpentine Barrens, Gary Kauffman and Pete Schubert
Join Gary Kauffman, National Forest in North Carolina botanist, and Pete Schubert for a trek through Buck Creek Serpentine Barrens. Buck Creek is classified as an Ultramafic Outcrop Barren, and this specific type is considered endemic to Buck Creek Maintained with prescribed fire, the barrens support high grass diversity and species adapted to the unusual minerals, in particular, high magnesium content, associated with serpentine soils. Two endemic herbs have been described from this site. Learn more about the restoration of Buck Creek here. Always good to bring a hand lens when out in the field. Hike difficulty rating = 3, moderately strenuous, due to rocky uneven terrain and hike of 1.5-2.5 miles.

FT 6:  Whiteside Mountain, “The Mountain at the End of the Trail," Jeff Zahner
With sheer bluffs shining like a beacon over the upper Piedmont, Whiteside Mountain is a regional landmark with dramatic geology, a rich flora, and ancient history. On this three-mile loop hike, Jeff will discuss the many unique high-elevation plants found along the trail and interpret the natural history of the mountain. The views on top are some of the best in the Southeast and one might even see a Peregrine Falcon on the hunt. The hike requires sturdy shoes, rain gear, and a small pack to carry lunch and water. After the hike the group will visit the Zahner homestead, gardens, and nursery to see many examples of native plants in a garden setting. Uses, growth, and management of many types of native plants will be discussed and the slightly over-grown "wild formal" garden of Jeff's grandmother will be explored. Limit = 10. Hike difficulty rating = 3, moderately strenuous.

FT 7:  Highlands Botanical Garden and Other Native Plant Gardens, Larry Mellichamp
We will visit Highlands, NC, to visit the remarkable Highlands Biological Station Botanical Gardens plus three private gardens to see an unbelievable array of famous, interesting, and attractive native plants in a variety of naturalistic settings. We will see such great natives as Shortia, ginseng, gentians, Hexastylis, pirate bush, Florida Torreya, mountain sweet pitcher plant, mountain sweet pepperbush, mountain mint, silverleaf hydrangea, grass-of-parnassus, prostrate juniper, bottle-brush buckeye, sand-myrtle, pawpaw, turk's-cap lilies, hercules'-club, Spiraea virginiana, many more wildflowers and shrubs, and many different ferns. We will discuss identification, culture, pruning, propagation, landscape use, cultivar selections, interactions with birds and insects, and conservation. Be prepared to say wow! Bring a 10x hand lens, a camera, and a notebook. Limit = 20.  Hike difficulty rating = 1, easy.

FT 8:   Sam’s Knob Valley and Flat Laurel Creek with Wes Burlingame and Lauri Lawson
Sam’s Valley Knob is not only one of the loveliest sites in the southern Appalachians, but is almost unique in its diversity of special native plants and their communities. A number of these plants are known for their medicinal properties. Lauri and Wes will explore and discuss the plants and communities in this valley and creek system. Lauri, a medicinal herbalist, will point out the healing features of a number of plants and we will have some herbal texts along for more in-depth information. The hike is 3 miles on a loop trail. Rain gear strongly recommended. This is a fascinating hike—you won’t want to miss it.  Limit = 25. Hike difficulty rating = 3, moderately strenuous, with some steep descent requiring agility (hiking poles helpful).

FT 9:  *NEW* “Road to Nowhere” Plant Hike, Stephan Hart
This hike shall explore some trails at the unfinished end of the North Shore Road,  just outside of Bryson City, NC.  The “Road To Nowhere” gets its nickname as it is a 6-mile section of road originally planned to go along the northern shore of Lake Fontana, which is the southern border of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  The roadway itself ends at a long tunnel where there are multiple trails and creeks,  all set in a predominately Oak-Montane forest type.  We shall be hiking at elevations  18- 2500’ on variable terrain: single and double-track, with a possible foot dip in Fontana Lake! It is possible we may encounter American Climbing Fern and Orange-fringed Orchid.  A great book for interesting local history is Fontana: A Pocket History of Appalachia, by Lance Holland. Here is another good information sourceLimit = 10. Hike difficulty rating = 3, moderately strenuous.

FT 10: *NEW* Mosses of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Ann Stoneburner and Robert Wyatt
Come explore the magical world of mosses, miniature nonvascular plants that are often overlooked even by avid botanists.  Learn about the varied microhabitats in which they thrive and the great diversity of species in the Southern Appalachians.  Learn too about their structure and function, as well as their systematics, evolution, and ecology.  We will appreciate their beauty in places where they are abundant, including boreal spruce-fir forest, seepage cliffs and bogs, and red oak-beech-sedge forest.  Expect to see dramatic stands of “feather mosses” such as Ptilium crista-castrensis, Hylocomium splendens, and Pleurozium schreberi, as well as peat mosses and epiphytes.  Higher elevations on the Parkway can be surprisingly cool, so dress appropriately, including rain gear.  A good field guide is Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians by McKnight et al. (2013) in the Princeton Field Guide series (cost about $20).  Limit = 10.  Hike difficulty rating = 3.

FT 11: Exploring the natural communities of Panthertown Valley with Stephanie Jeffries
Why are the southern Appalachians such a hot spot for biological diversity? How do we recognize vegetation patterns and understand their distribution? Forest ecologist and author Steph Jeffries will take you on a hiking journey to ask questions and hear stories about the wonderful and diverse natural communities in spectacular Panthertown Valley, which sits at ~3600 ft of elevation. We’ll talk about the geology and ecology of the valley and how that’s reflected in the landscape, as we explore forests and waterfalls, climb granite domes, and take in amazing views. Teachers, naturalists, and native plant enthusiasts will learn new ways to interpret the communities we find. Along the way, you’ll discover that anyone can learn to see the forest with the trees. This is a strenuous 6 mile hike, so plan for steady hiking and a few steep climbs and descents. Bring a pack with plenty of water, rain gear, and lunch. Hike difficulty rating = 5, strenuous.

FT. 12:  Mushroom Identification and Fungal Ecology Walk with Tradd & Olga Cotter -- NEW
Interested in learning more about mushrooms and native plant associations?  Tradd and Olga Cotter will take you on a relaxing hike teaching mushroom hunting techniques as well as basic identification strategies for Appalachian Fungi. Discover mycorrhizal relationships, glow in the dark fungi, and with any luck Cordyceps mushrooms that mummify and attack the brains of insects!  Heavy emphasis on interkingdom interactions.  Bring a wicker/peach type basket, a small knife, bugspray, a magnification loupe(if you have one), water, and any mushroom field guides dedicated to southeastern or appalachian species.  We will be keying out species and provided a table for display and collections near the main event.


Wednesday All Day Workshops

W 1:  The Nature of Drawing, Preston Montague
Botanical illustration is a powerful tool for understanding and communicating nature’s design.  This traditional art form combines observational skills with fine art techniques to distill, organize, and visualize plant structures and processes.  Join artist, educator, and landscape designer Preston Montague for a botanical illustration workshop based on his experience illustrating the plants and animals of western North Carolina. This workshop will introduce participants to the basic observation and drawing techniques necessary to create accurate and gorgeous botanical illustrations in a fun and encouraging atmosphere! Though designed for beginners, enthusiasts with some experience are encouraged to join as an opportunity to refine their skills.  Don’t be shy—come draw with us!

Participants are required to supply their own tools for the workshop, which include: several #2 pencils, eraser, pencil sharpener, fine felt-tip pen, sketchbook, and colored pencils.  Supplies should cost around $40. Watercolors are also welcome. Preston will provide the specimens for drawing, but encourages participants to bring any plant material that they are passionate about! For more details on materials visit carolinanaturalist.comLimit = 10.

W 2:  *NEW* “Creative Botany: A Writer’s Workshop” (location TBD), Geoffrey Neal
The goal is to get the writer out of the office, the botanist out of the lab, and into nature for inspiration. This hybrid creative writing and botany field trip seeks to allow participants to get out and take a hike, look at native plants, and let botanical exploration inspire imagination. This is a creative experiment and asks each of you to show up with an open mind and a willingness to take some risk. We will talk to each other about our common joys. We will bring out our blank journals and scribble what moves us. We will walk together, and learn from each other as we share these moments of excitement and discovery. Participants are required to bring 2-3 samples of poetry that move them and a willingness to share samples of their own work, whether it be work they write on the trail or work they bring from home. The hike will be moderately strenuous but we will have plenty of time to sit, write, and listen to each other. So, ready to share your work, ready to learn some plants? Are you ready to bring these two passions closer together? Let's go! Limit: 10 participants. Difficulty: (3) moderately strenuous to (4) strenuous.

W 3:  Working With Cast Stone & Botanical Imprints, Jeff Jackson
You've seen his work in our silent auctions for years, now Jeff will be sharing his 2+ decades of experiences with this fascinating and useful material to show you all the tricks and shortcuts so that you too will be able to create beautiful botanical imprints in cast stone. We will be looking at its history and science, how different mixes serve different purposes,  mold making, choosing foliage,  pigments,  and much more! Prepare to get your hands dirty. We will be mixing materials (Jeff puts the 'work' in workshop!) and you will use it to create your very own garden and home treasures!  Limit = 24.

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