Monday, August 22, 2011

Camping with Sam and Nate

On Thursday, Judy and I planned to head out to Pocahontas county early (which always means mid-afternoon). We were to met our kids the next day. Last year the Dodson family pitched their tent in the yard at the Schuda Hilton in Seebert. It is nice to have access to this fine house when you are camping with young kids. Sarah and Jeff received permission from our friends to repeat the camping adventure at this time.

Judy was running around in the morning doing the necessary chores before we could go on our trip. She had to go get groceries, drop a bag off to Hospice, and get medicines from the pharmacy. We were ready to hit the road when she could not find the meatballs that she had just purchased. You guessed it! She dropped off the wrong bag to Hospice and had to go back to their store and retrieve her meatballs and give them the correct bag that contained kids shoes.

We stopped at Shoney's in Flatwoods for a lunch (around 4 P.M.). The trip to Seebert is always one that has many memories for us. We started our married life at Watoga State Park (just across the river from Seebert). On our way we stopped by Cranberry Glades in the Monongahela National Forest. Judy and I have found that the glades change dramatically throughout the seasons.

One of the obvious changes in the glades during late summer/fall is the present of cotton grass.

Cotton grass is a plant from the sedge family, so even though it looks like a form of grass, technically it is not. It grows in acidic wetlands and peat bogs all over northern parts of Europe, Asia, and North America. The flowering stem is 20–70 cm tall, and has three to five cotton-like inflorescences hanging from the top. It is also sometimes referred to as multi-headed bog cotton

I love the color of fireweed... makes my wife amorous!

The turtleheads were in full bloom. Chelone is the genus of this flower. In Greek mythology, Chelone was a nymph who made derogatory remarks about the marriage of Zeus and Hera. In retribution, she was turned into a tortoise, condemning her to eternal silence. Within the Greek language, chelone then became the word for tortoise (and hence the derivation of the common name for this plant).

A plant that brings back vivid memories of my days as naturalist at Watoga State Park is the strange flower below. This is the unique parasitic dodder plant. Dodder seeds sprout at or near the surface of the soil. While dodder germination can occur without a host, it has to reach a green plant quickly; dodder grows toward the "smell" of nearby plants. If a plant is not reached within 5 to 10 days of germination, the dodder seedling will die. .

Below is a plant that has an interesting history. The blue flowers of monkshood were found along the boardwalk.

The ancient Roman naturalist Plinius, better known as Pliny the Elder, referred to it as “plant arsenic.” In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the evil sorceress Medea conspires to kill the hero Theseus by offering him a cup infused with the deadly poison. Fortunately for him, her plan was foiled. Had he drank from the cup, his death would have been painful, but relatively fast.

Aconitum napellus (aconite), better known as monkshood for the helmet-like purple sepal that covers the rest of the flower, has a long history as both a deadly weapon and an herbal remedy. It’s other common name, wolfsbane, is said to have come from the plant’s use in keeping wolves at bay. Villagers used the toxic sap to coat arrows that would kill the unwanted animal.

During the Middle Ages the poison had strong ties to witchcraft and was used in village warfare to taint the enemy’s water supply.

Monkshood can be found growing throughout Europe and the United States in woodland settings. As all parts of the plant are poisonous, gardeners should never plant it near edibles and should handle it carefully. Skin contact can cause temporary numbness and children who hold a tuber for a long period of time can absorb the toxic alkaloid and die. Ingestion or absorption of the plant can cause cardiac symptoms and paralysis.

Hark! Here is another plant that should be avoided if you are wearing shorts - stinging nettle.

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica ) has a long medicinal history. In medieval Europe, it was used as a diuretic (to rid the body of excess water) and to treat joint pain.

Stinging nettle has fine hairs on the leaves and stems that contain irritating chemicals that are released when the plant comes in contact with the skin. While the hairs, or spines, of the stinging nettle are normally very painful to the touch. When they come into contact with a painful area of the body, they can actually decrease the original pain. Scientists think nettle does this by reducing levels of inflammatory chemicals in the body, and by interfering with the way the body transmits pain signals.

It was a great evening. We arrived at the cabin early in the evening and had a pizza from Jack Horner's Corner located about three houses away. We settled down to a restful sleep.


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