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.
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 source. Limit = 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.com. Limit = 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.