Friday, June 12, 2015

Mill Creek Hike with Seventh Graders!

Earlier this week, I and two other Virginia Master Naturalists along with Justine and Connor from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation led hikes for Narrows Middle School seventh graders in groups of two.  In total, 58 students trekked about 1/2 mile along Mill Creek up to the reservoir. 

Students were excited to see two Eastern Box Turtles on the trail.  This one immediately went into its shell when confronted with that many seventh graders.  We learned a little about how the turtle's population has dropped mainly due to habitat loss.

 We also spotted a deer and waited for him to cross the road. 

 At the top, we posed for a group photo.


 Students spotted rainbow and brook trout in the reservoir.

We did not spot any turtles or deer on the afternoon hike.  Instead, we saw more butterflies (Eastern Tiger Swallotail, Red-Spotted Purples, White Cabbage) including this Eastern Comma Polygonia comma butterfly.  The spiders had spun webs and that seemed to attract a lot off attention too.


 I was first to spot this face!

 Again, we posed for a photo.

On both hikes, Ralph, local Mill Creek enthusiast and caretaker, talked about the history of the dam. 

 
The lower two rows of stone were chiseled and laid without cement in 1776-1780.  The upper concrete row was added in 1895 to make the reservoir larger. The reservoir formerly was the source of Narrows' water supply. 

Ralph also helped with explaining all the trees on the hike.  These were:

Butternut (White Walnut) Juglans cinerea
American Basswood (Linden, Linn, Beetree)  Tilia americana
Sweet Birch (Black Birch, Cherry Birch)  Betula lenta
Yellow Buckeye (Sweet Buckeye) Aesculus flava 

Besides these trees, we saw sugar and red maples, red and white oaks including chestnut oaks, ash, and other trees.   Students learned that because we are located in the middle section of the Appalachians, we get both southern and northern species, resulting in great diversity.


I have lived in Giles County for 31 years and had never hiked on this nice trail in the western part of the county.  No more--I plan to hike to the first big waterfall, one of many waterfalls, about a mile further up on this trail.  

Here is a link to a page containing the map of the trail:
http://www.townofnarrows.org/home/information/maps/

This link has directions to the Mill Creek Nature Park in Narrows, Virginia:
http://www.townofnarrows.org/departments/parks-recreation/mill-creek-nature-park-bike-rides/