Saturday, August 31, 2013

Walking Stuart's Hill Trail

While in Manassas this past week we drove by the Bull Run National Battlefield park headquarters off route 29 and I remembered that I wanted to try a new trail for a walk sometime while visiting. It was middle of the heat time so we went on home and rested and got refreshed with some cold water and a brief nap. Then I hopped back in the car and drove to the head of the Stuart's Signal Hill Trail for a hike. Camera in my bag and a bottle of ice water and I was ready for an adventure. I grew up around the monuments and markers of the battles of Manassas one and two but this is located in an entirely new section of the park. First look at the parking lot and there were only 3 vehicles there so not many visitors in this area. Turns out it was the day after the anniversary of the day that was so important to this trail 1863 Aug. 28th they sent signals from the hill top to Stonewall Jackson from General Lee. I wasn't very interested in the battles but the nature that is preserved because of it is a delight. This summer the rains have been many and the heat has been unusually low which has allowed some very green grasses to sprout in what is normally a dry dusty forest floor. It was so refreshing to see. The sky was magnificent as I walked out of the woods through a field of shoulder high grasses. There I caught sight of the first wild turkey I have seen in the area. It was way at the other side of the field on the trail cut out of the tall grass. I had just seen two turkey vultures in a field by the road on my way to this trail and wondered at first if it was a vulture. It didn't fly away it ran into the grass after I got one fuzzy photograph. I had to come home to see it blown up if it was really a turkey. Then when I got to the end of the field I found a small turkey feather laying on the trail where I had seen the bird! Clearly a molting turkey was what I saw... and there were other turkey feathers along the same stretch of the trail. Then back into the woods and on to a stream where there were white tail deer. They took off before I got my camera up and ready. Then a ground hog on another stretch of field and several birds including a hawk. Wild flowers I have never seen before and some I like that were in full bloom that we all know like thistle. Three mile walk and done in about hour and fifteen minutes stopping along the way to catch these photographs. It is an easy trail to walk and has a few hills and lots of red cedar forest and open fields to visit, also several ruins of plantation homes that were part of the battle and it's aftermath. I enjoyed this walk for the green and the seeming health of the woodlands. Other trails have massive damage to the old trees from a storm or two that passed years ago and that for me is always distressing to see. I will be going on this walk again.
So here are my pictures of the Stuart's Hill Walking Trail.

view across Brawner house from signal hill

Stuart's Signal Hill trail has several options. 

entering the woods from the top of signal hill. 

Turkey on the trail. 

Turkey on the trail across the field. (blown up)
Looking back across the field from the turkey's location...
a striped beige moth posed for a portrait in the tall grass field
wildflower in the field grass I have never seen

this wildflower was about a foot tall and the flowers the size of a quarter 

lovely lichen on a stressed red cedar 

Sun lighting the way into another forest

small foot bridges cross several streams on the trail

mushrooms growing on the dirt trail in the forest 

here you can see where the moisture has sprouted green grass in the forest 

dry creek bed must have seen water recently to grow that grass

my favorite tiny ferns are common in the woods
it was here that I saw the little brown furry ground hog eating grass on the trial
When I got to the end of the trail at the Lewis house site I could hear the traffic from Route 66, a six lane highway that passes by this part of the fields, in the distance. I also saw a second turkey at the trails end which took off running. I pointed my camera but it was a lot closer to me than the previous turkey before it noticed I was there. Maybe that traffic noise gave me cover to get so close. Both the turkey's seemed to be alone which made me wonder if they were nesting this late in the summer. They lay their eggs in loose nests built in tall grass which was plentiful in this part of the park.
signs of former farm in the field 


heading back the sun through the trees was beautiful

notice how clear the trails are?

golden grasses shown on the way back 
If you go to the park be sure to stop in the main visitor's center on Sudley Road to pay for a park visitor's pass and get your trail map. This trail is a several miles from the main visitors center & the Stonewall Jackson Statue. It's closer to Gainesville than Manassas. Like my Mom says it's great to see so much of the farm land is still there when you travel around the area after years of 50 years of development, bigger roads, more houses, people, endless shopping centers, gas stations, trucks and cars, etc... Nature is still there. Take some time to enjoy it any chance you can and help keep our parks open to all and in good repair. We all need open grassy fields and green forests.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Aquatic Garden Walk

Yesterday was a perfect summer day in Washington DC and it was the second in a row and my desire to go outside and enjoy it brought to mind the beautiful Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens a National Park since 1926 on banks of the Anacostia river. It's on a tidal marsh and has big ponds of water lilies and lotus surrounded by woods and water. There are lots of native plants which makes it an interesting nature walk in addition to the birds, animals and insects. We try to go every year and see the Lotus flowering but usually miss the peak due to the miserable heat and humidity which begs one to stay inside with the cool dry air or at least in the shade but these flowers only grow in full sun shine. Finding a good weather day to me is important to make it comfortable and fun.

We loaded up our iced water bottles, cameras, protein bars and sun hats.  We took off for a afternoon photography walk to relax and admire nature in this unique park.  I came home with over 100 images and we got in lots of walking strolling and fresh air. Mission accomplished. Now I want to share the best of my pictures with you and tell you a little of what I know about them for those of you who can't make it out there on your own. This would be a great place for a school science field trip or a family visit to learn about the special value of marshes and wet lands and ecology.
I am going to break the images up into groups so if you don't see what you were looking for in an aquatic garden scroll down further. I am beginning with butterflies:
orange butterfly and a dragon fly on iris leaves over the waterlilies

black and blue with white dots on purple Ironweed flowers 

another orange and black butterfly 

The under side of a butterfly black blue and a few spots of orange and white in the woods 

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There was a green cricket in the white marsh mallow flower
Next the Turtles and frogs sunning to warm up their cold blood. 

This one was a big as a dinner plate and only two feet from me at the edge of a lily pond 

green frog in a pot of papyrus 

two painted turtles on the willow stump 
Next come the wide shots to give you a view of the open pond areas, boardwalks over the tidal marshes and forest paths along the river.

yellow native water lilies edged by cattails 

marsh mallow flowering is like a big white native hibiscus 

purple loosestrife and lavender pickerel and a tall marsh grass just beginning to form seeds

board walks over the edges of the waterways are well above the water  

Ironweed at the edge of the board walk and the tidal marsh creek leading to the river

view from the end of the board walk seating for classes and a great view for bird watching

from the shady side of the boardwalk 

the creek was beginning to show signs of tide going out 

at the end of the forest trail is a nice area to sit and watch the canoes enjoying the Anacostia river. 

1.4 mile walk in the woods goes along the land that  divides the river from the marsh and is shaded and cool with lots of butterflies and birds and on quite days deer. 

Lotus flowers leaves and pods come next...

some ponds have top coat of duckweed one of my favorite water plants 

Next comes water lilies native and exotic:

Native red waterlily 

pinks in a pond 

pale pink water lilies

this is called a red water lily that is also native 

purple or blue tropical water lilies 

tropical water lily with spotted red green leaves  
Finally some shots of various wildflowers and my companion on this walk and tour.

big bees enjoying the purple loosestrife flowers 


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marsh mallow 

cardinal flower

resting on the benches at the end of the marsh boardwalk we are refreshed and happy we came

view to the river is spectacular 

only one lily pond has a bridge but it was too tempting to pass by with out walking over to the other side. 
 I hope you enjoyed the walk as much as we did. I would love to hear what you liked the best and answer any questions you have about the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.