When I finally got underway I made it as far as Buckhannon / Weston WVA
and my engine died! Luckily I was
able to get towed home- though the towing bill ate up about half my
vacation money and now the problem looks like it could be serious.
Strangely enough i managed to keep my cool despite
a fruitless endeavor climbing down and back up a steep embankment that
was mutliflora rose hell! Apparently everyone in this little hamlet
below was at work today.
I guess I was too scarred to be angry. Funny how quickly your priorities
can change. I went from wondering whether I can make it to my
destination to whether I would be able to get myself and car safely
home. Also I was just glad to be as well off - I was about a third of
the way down WVA when this happened- had I been much farther say like
Virginia or NC I would really have been up the creek so to say.
Well after alot of though I decided to do what the USAF calls a tail
swap. I transfered mission essential equipment to the F-150 and dug into
my coffers to make sure I have enough resources to get there and back. I
figure by keeping the same return date I could still get alot
and save on the expense of staying an extra night.
So I appologised to Moon and anyone else I've been driving crazy with my
indefinite departure dates.
Part of me was still arguing to give it up - but in light of
the circumstances this is an opportunity I cannot pass up. The way gas
prices are going up - this might just
be the last chance to explore the Southland in such detail.
Another bonus of this delay - which I would try to remember when I'm
paying my repair bill is that I was already packed and ready to go as
opposed to the nite before when I didn't stop moving till very late.
Had to cut back on
cooler space- dropping the big cooler in favor of the smaller one I was
my food and soda in. I just didn't have the space in the cab and no
time to rig something to carry the big coolers in the bed. I figured
aeration the smaller cooler can hold a couple dozen Taillights - that is
even find them and the Dollars and maybe another batch of more sensitive
can ride in a bucket since my pump handles two airstones.
I also managed to squeeze in the fish box so I can send anything on Ray
Wolff's wish list direct to him.
The trip to North Carolina when it finally got underway was a long but
beautiful ride through the Appalachians. I saw a few Eastern Box Turtles
along the way and hoped they would make it safely off the road. Stopped
for late breakfast near Sutton and again to film the New River from the
scenic overlook. Then got caught in a speed trap at Summersville WVA -
watch out going thru there - nice easy going open highway with a 50 MPH
speed limit- the ticket was for going 61 and cost me $117.00!
I hit rain farther along and some really heavy showers hit while I was
stopped at the welcome center in Virginia. More rain in NC and I stopped
somewhere near the Blue Ridge to investigate a spring blooming goldenrod
that turned out to be a Grondsel - Senico sp. like we have here but
smaller. Coming down the Blue Ridge toward Mt Airey was a treacherous
affair of steep winding roads and fog and drizzel. I eliminated this
short cut from my return trip and stayed on the interstate.
Things got even worse as I advanced into the Carolina Peidmont. I hit
all the cities 0 Greensboro & Raleigh-Durham at friday evening rush hour
and heavy storms ahead of that. It was getting dark at the time I was
appoaching the location of Catesbaei and I was forced to put in for the
night at the town of Wallace.
I rose early Saturday and went to the first location on my itinerary :
to find an interesting Lily that goes by the name Catesby! First
significant encounter was another box turtle which I stopped and moved
off the road. Coming to the location at the intersection above Maple
Hill I found mostly Japanese honeysuckle and switch cane- some orange
milkwort- the latter being the only indicator plant for acid bog
conditions. Maybe I had it wrong or else things had changed. My friend
Don collected Catesbaeii there back in the early 90s. Alot can change in
Working my way back toward US 40 there was a more promising streach of
ditch and seepage bog that I found by seeing spikes of Aletris and pink
Calopogon orchids. I'm guessing this might where my other friend found
catesbaei? Maybe the place he marked on my map was a little off. There
was alot of interesting stuff there- sundews, Lycopodiums, some kind of
blue skullcaps, Creeping Blueberry which I at first thought was
crannberry- Leatherleaf (probably near its southern limit) Red Root,
Death Lilies and an Iris that is somewhat frail like Prismatica but with
deep blue flowers. I'm guessing Bay Blue Flag- tridentata? Collected a
magnificent clump of Xyris from a seepage pool - it's absolutely huge
with slightly twisted leaves- I'm guessing X. fimbriata. But no Lilium
So on to Wilmington to find the residence of Michael Hissom and see what
else NC had to offer. As it turned out Wilmington is very easy to get
around in and it was not too hard to find Moon's place. It was getting
close to noon when we finally shook hands and he was by then on the
verge of giving up on me.
First up was viewing his collection of fish and plants which sadly was
nothing like it had been a few years ago due to the hurricanes which
pretty much demolished his greenhouse that was just about everything I
could ever hope the one I am currently working on (as soon as these
persistant rains abate) to be. He was also an avid cactus collector and
had pots of mostly dead specimens from all over creation - these died
from the cold that winter after the greenhouse structure that sheltered
them had been stripped way by gale force winds. Among a few survivors -
some of the native Prickly Pears and a Cholla growing in his front
His fish room has only a few tanks like mine - being that Moon kept much
of his stuff in the greenhouse- though he does have a few ponds that
survived the storms well. His main tank has lots of native fresh and
brackish stuff - mullets and inland silversides mixed with various
tropicals - Cardinal tetras, loaches etc. Another tank covered with a
mat of duckweed had dwarf crayfish and some small shiners - a dozen or
so what might be Taillights or Dusky Shiners collected from a nearby
Moon's backyard is also a reptile habitat. While there, I caught two
Glass Lizards and saw lots of Anoles running all over. Also king and
corn snakes are frequently caught in the city limits!
Later that day we visited a few of his local sites. First was Greenfeild
Lake which would be a really nice place were it not for the excess
plankton blooms and exotic Alligator weed that's taking over the shallow
water areas. Lots of bald and pond cypress trees around it and in the
water. Here Moon catches Bluespotted Sunfishes and Swamp Darters and a
few other swamp dwelling species.
Next stop was a peaty hole in the middle of a sandy pine woods where
hairgrass and spatterdocks like the ones from back home grow. We didnt
collect there either but Moon told me he catches Everglades Pygmy
Sunfishes and Fliers in there. This particular place is suffering a bit
from withdrawl of ground water and ditching which lowers the water
table. A few other smaller ponds nearby are already dried up.
Significant observations made there- a few six-lined racerunners
(Lizard) and a large snake that was either a cottonmouth or more likely
some kind of water snake.
After that we returned home for a few refreshments before taking a trip
to a powerline clearing along River Road. Not much hope of getting any
fish there but found the long sought plant Syngonanthus fluvidalis - a
small type of Hatpin growing in of all places right near patches of
prickly pear and yucca! This is more of a wetland plant but in Florida
I've come across it in rather dry as well as wet locations. Farther
along was a wet peaty area which Moon called a "Jeep Eater" - obviously
not a good place to get into with a vehicle. Despite frequent
disturbance by others who tried there was a thriving population of acid
bog flora with many of the species seen at Maple Hill including that big
twisty leaved Xyris (fimbriata?) and another Xyris also a big one but
with strait leaves and orange milkwort and two species of Sundew. But
nothing that might be Lilium catesbaeii but who knows maybe Moon will
find it some day in bloom.
Our last trip for the day took us to another lake some distance from
Wilmington. This was where Moon caught the little shiners at earlier
this year but we saw none. Nor any of the plant which Moon thought might
be a laeliopsis - some recent work around the boating ramp had
eliminated the bed. We can only hope it will be recolonized from other
beds in the more inaccessable parts of the lake.
Next day we traveled to Lake Waccamaw where we found very little in the
way of public access- but there were extensive beds of Cape Fear
Spatterdock growing in shallow areas between the boat docks. Moon
collected a few pods and a rhizome that washed up on a beach in hope of
getting some going in his tanks and ponds again. I already have it doing
well for me. Farther along we observed several alligators basking in and
along a roadside canal and then stopped at a boat ramp and poked around.
Think we saw a fleeting glimpse the endemic Lake Waccamaw Darter there!
Doubling back around the lake we then proceeded toward another boating
access area where Fritz Rhode informed us migh be Taillight Shiners. To
make a long story somewhat shorter we got skunked on the shiners but
caught an returned to the water a Waccamaw Killy along with numerous
Gambusia and some strange fish that were like Largemouth Bass
fingerlings but had red tails and were badly fungused. Wonder what these
The way back was a pleasant trip thru the Green Swamp region. We stopped
for lunch at a nice seafood place and then a very short distance down
the road hit paydirt! In a secluded backwater along a logging road just
off the highway I found an extensive patch of the long sought after
Cutleaf Mermaid - Proserpinaca pectinata - a milfoil relative that
resembles somewhat the exotic parrots feather- perhaps a better
substitute for this most notoriously invasive plant. I collected some
and Moon started dipping and turned up some sunfishes that we thought at
first were Dollar Sunfish but later turned out to be Banded Sunfish -
Enneacanthus obesus. Also farther along the road were ditches that
harbored more of the sunfishes and some Lined Topminnows- Fundulus
lineolatus which are similar in appearance and no doubt a member of the
starhead group which I have already worked with. I have also caught this
species in Florida.
After we got back home, Moon was too worn out to do much of anything
else so I was pretty much on my own. We got skunked on Taillight Shiners
and our "Dollar " sunfishes turned out to be Bandeds . At least I found
Cutleaf Mermaid Weed I was looking for plus a Roseling -
Tradescantia sp, some of that Syngonanthus I wanted (A NC population
which I hope stands up to cold better than the stuff I got from Florida
previously! And I got some Iris and Creeping Blueberry cuttings.
I tried Maple Hill for catesbaei again my last nite in Wilmington and
again the following morning but to no avail. Was this plant abundant or
just rare individuals here and there?
And if only I had seen and cultivated it before and develop
familiarity with it when out of bloom. I'm wondering if this plant was
few and far between and well hidden among other stuff - I kept running
into these Liatris things and something else that set off bells in my
head but these did not =have the scaled bulb typical of lilium.
Further exploration that morning took me thru Maple Hill and made a
right at the intersection on the south end of this little hamlet.
There's a few blackwater streams that ought to have some interesting
fishes in them - plus I moved another box turtle off the road. You can
park at the first bridge and walk up and down the road from there and do
a little herping too. Farther along are roadside
ditches that may have a few interesting plants but did not look all the
promising. Found some vernal iris and another species of Xyris plant.
When I come back we will have to make an extensive search of these back
roads- nice place- very quiet and few encounters with other people - as
opposed to Rt 53 which is heavily traveled - probably traffic coming and
going to Topsail Beach. Just wish I had more time to just stay there and
get a really good feel for the land and the things that live there.
Making my way back to Wilmington I cleared out of my room and made a
brief visit to a nursery before fueling up for the long drive back which
went somewhat better than the way down though I did hit some pretty
heavy rain in WVA which ended before the Rt 68- 79 split. Was great to
be home again.
Got some bad pond news - maybe not catestrophic in light of everything
else that's happened but bad enough : I found a Chubsucker floating.
I'm wondering if they are short lived fish- . I'll have to look it up in
Now I was off to go unpack a few plants before going over to the shop to
prognosis on my car. It does not look good. It may be a while before I
undertake any major trip again.
PS Thank you Moon and you wonderful family for your Southern
hospitality- I still think you ought to go into the resturaunt business!
That was the best fried chicken I've ever had!
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