Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bald Knob Hike at Mountain Lake

On Thursday, I led a hike to Bald Knob for the Elderhostel being held that week at Mountain Lake Hotel.

On the way up to the look out, I pointed out a dark-eyed junco nest which was just on the side of the road (but flagged by researchers). Juncos have left my yard (2000 ft. elevation) in April to nest up north but are resident year round at Mountain Lake because it is 4000 feet in elevation.

The trail really was a road so the flowers were mostly typical of field or road sides such as this milkweed with a black swallowtail butterfly. My milkweed at home had already finished blooming.

The theme of the elderhostel was on stories so I talked about the uses of coltsfoot, plant, and witch hazel tree which were growing along the road.

This Rosebay Rhododendrun blooms later than the more common Catawba Rhododendrun.

About 24 hiked the one-mile but steep trail/road up to the lookout.

The look out is 4363 feet in elevation.

These two men looked precarious on the cantilevered rock.

At the hotel, I noticed a tree swallow had built a nest on the porch outside the gift shop.

When I got too close, she got out of her nest. I left soon after so she could get back to her nest.

On the drive back, I took this panoramic view at a pull out on Mountain Lake Road (Rt. 700), looking toward where I live.

I also saw my first Monarch Butterfly there---what a good day it was.

Note about Mountain Lake Conservancy: There are many trails on the 2600 acres that the Conservancy manages. The area borders on the Appalachian Trail. You don't have to be a hotel guest. There is a $3 parking charge for the day. They also have "Dirty Dancing" weekends regularly for hotel guests--see Mountain Lake Hotel website.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chiluly and Pitcher Plant

While visiting relatives recently in St. Louis, we toured the Missouri Botanical Garden. I hadn't been there since the early 90s and was pleased to see many improvements. The major one for me is the addition of sculptures by Dale Chihuly, a glass sculptor. I have always liked his work for how the glass catches the light and how it fits perfectly in its environment, the latter influenced by his early academic background in interior design and architecture.

Arch around Rose Garden

Floating Glass in Pond

View toward Climatron

The bright colors contrast nicely with the gray steel of the Climatron, the structure inspired by Buckminister Fuller's geodesic domes.

Inside, sculptures also constrasted with the mass of green tropical foliage.

I thought the sculptures were inspired by....

. . . the Pitcher Plant nearby. This photo won't load right--it's rotated so that the water at the bottom shows up vertically. That water is what the plant uses to drown its insect prey once they land on the slippery slope of the inside of the plant.

They also installed these dinosaur sculptures which worked well to get kids excited (I guess they don't get too excited about orchids, tropical birds, and sculptures).

The T-Rex was especially popular.

Besides the Climatron, the outdoor gardens were lovely-too much for us to see in one morning. I thought the new home demonstration garden was great. I also liked the historic house--Henry Shaw's original home in the 19th when this part of St. Louis was considered the country. Henry was a visionary--promoting botanical research in the 19th century.