Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Vandolah Nature Preserve, Allen County

      My hiking adventures are quickly coming to an end.  I originally set out to visit, photograph, and blog about 27 Acres Land Trust preserves. After today's visit to Vandolah Nature Preserve, only 5 sites remain on my list!
Vandolah Nature Preserve
      Evelynn, General, and I thoroughly enjoyed our time spent at Vandolah today!  The terrain was interestingly varied, taking us through meadowlands...

remnants of former farmland
 to hilly bluffs...
overlooking Cedar Creek
 down steep ravines...
carved out by melting glaciers nearly 16,000 years ago
 and up high escarpments...
 I was going a bit slower than the young and spry...
  I said it was for photography purposes, but really, I couldn't feel my legs!
 along river-side paths...
Cedar Creek is the largest tributary of the St. Joseph's River.
 to Interstate 69.  Yep, that's right...
Part of the Vandolah preserve is immediately adjacent to the furiously speeding traffic of I-69.  An interesting influx of modern life into the quiet of nature's woodlands.  The sounds of the highway are prevalent wherever you roam throughout this preserve...not altogether a bad thing when you are as directionally challenged as I am!
      And through all of these scenic twists and turns, we found many summertime wildflowers.  Hiking during the summer months, I've noticed an abundance of green fauna -above, below, around- but a decline in the floral variety.  We were happy to find quite an array of flowers today.
Bull Thistle
Did you know: the Bull Thistle is a relative of the sunflower.  In it's 1st year, Bull Thistle is a low-growing group of prickly leaves like the kind I used to step on with bare feet as a kid, ouch!  In it's second year the stems grow up to 6 feet tall and sprout a lovely, although dangerous looking, purple flower. 
Cutleaf Teasel
Cut-leaved teasel was brought into North America as early as the 1700’s by European colonists that used the spiny heads on spinning wheel spindles to raise the nap of fabric.  The roots of the Teasel plant have been found by some to be beneficial in the treatment of Lyme disease.
Moth Mullein, or Verbascum Blattaria
Moth Mullein has long been known to be an effective cockroach repellent, and the name
 blattaria is actually derived from the Latin word for cockroach, “blatta."

In the Days of the Golden Rod
by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Across the meadow in brooding shadow
I walk to drink of the autumn's wine­
The charm of story, the artist's glory,
To-day on these silvering hills is mine;
On height, in hollow, where'er I follow,
By mellow hillside and searing sod,
Its plumes uplifting, in light winds drifting,
I see the glimmer of golden-rod.

In this latest comer the vanished summer
Has left its sunshine the world to cheer,
And bids us remember in late September
What beauty mates with the passing year.
The days that are fleetest are still the sweetest,
And life is near to the heart of God,
And the peace of heaven to earth is given
In this wonderful time of the golden-rod. 
Wild Bergamot, or Bee Balm
Wild Bergamot has a long history of use as a medicinal plant by Native Americans, including the Blackfoot Indians, from which my husband's family is descended.  The Blackfoot recognized the plant's strong antiseptic action, and used poultices of the plant for skin infections and minor wounds, and tea to treat mouth and throat infections. Bee balm is the natural source of thymol, the primary active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas.  Not to be overlooked is the use of bergamot as a carminative herb by Native Americans to treat excessive flatulence. 
      Along with these spectacular examples of summertime wildflower specimen, we also discovered some things that reminded us of the quickly approaching autumn season.  This summer's exceptional dryness and heat has caused some premature leaf drop, and even some fall-like colors.

Sycamore leafAnother name for Sycamore is Buttonwood. This common name arose from the fact that sycamore wood was historically difficult to split and generally hard to work with. It was therefore commonly used for butcher blocks and buttons.
Buckeye leaf
Buckeyes are known as early leaf-droppers, but July is reallllly early.
I wonder what this means for the rest of our autumn season? Read about our previous Buckeye experience here.
Honey Locust seed pods
This isn't the first run-in we've had with honey locust.  We discovered some interesting
 facts about this type of tree after hiking here.
      And just when we thought we had seen as much of Indiana's natural splendor as the Vandolah Nature Preserve had to offer, another little surprise was waiting for us on the trail out.
Do you see him?
Evelynn sure did, and that's the last I saw of her!
Common Garter Snake
Too bad Evelynn didn't stick around, this guy was friendly enough to
let me pick him up with a stick.  For a small snake, he was heavier that he looks.
It was probably for the best...I'm sure General would have done his best have a snake-snack.
      When I caught up with Evelynn and General, they were all the way back to the car! Thus drawing to a conclusion another exciting day in the woods.  Even though I have only 5 more required stops to make on my hiking tour, I am sure my hiking adventures won't stop there.  Until then...see you at the next stop!

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