We’ve had a wonderful extended Autumn with many clear sunny days. On one of them last week we took a morning walk along the C&O canal. This national park is only 15-20 minutes from our house. The overall park is essentially a biking-hiking-running trail that extends 185 miles from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD. Noland’s Ferry is at the 45 mile point along the trail and is a broad leaf-strewn walkway in this season. There are other parts of Frederick County that are lit up with color this time of year, but along the canal it’s mostly greens turning to yellow. Nonetheless one of the joys of walking is noticing that which is not visible from car or bike. We walked about 2 miles down the trail towards Washington and then returned, moving at a pace that encouraged observation. Even at that pace we noticed things on the return part of the trail that we had missed on the outgoing trip.
Some of the most striking elements were fungi. The Bear’s Head Tooth Fungus looks like a waterfall frozen in time.
The Jelly Ear Mushroom is said to be good to eat, but we limit ourselves to puffballs (which we have eaten many times).
And then there was this very phallic white mushroom which I’ve not been able to identify.
Along the trail was a very tiny snake, about the size of a worm. It seems likely this this is an Eastern Smooth Earthsnake. They do have babies in the fall but they are not very big in any case. It eats earthworms, slugs, snails, and soft-bodied insects. On balance that’s the kind of diet I can appreciate.
There were two interesting fruiting plants that we noticed. Spicebush is a smallish native shrubby tree that is found in wooded lowlands. It has plants of both the male and female persuasion so it will be interesting to return in spring to see if we can identify them.
And the Eastern Wahoo is another small native tree that has what seem like packages of pink candy hanging from its branches.
The leaves had not yet turned but like its relative, the Euonymus alatus, the Eastern Wahoo should have strongly colored red leaves.
At one point we looked up and noticed a tree with remarkable orange foliage. At first I thought sugar maple, but that is not common with us at all. When I got home and did a little research, it was pretty clear to me that what we saw was Black Maple. This is a close cousin to the Sugar Maple and as many of the same positive attributes. It would be worth trying to propagate in our forest.