We walked the Bradley Mountain Trail at the Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve. The first section of the walk was over an almost level trail to the base of Bradley Mountain. The trail went almost straight up the mountain. We planned to contour around the rock but were enticed to go upwards when we saw dish gardens on the side of the mountain. We climbed to the summit.
Rather than go back down from the summit by the way we climbed up, we decided to walk a little further north and then contour back along the east side of the rock and rejoin the trail where we started the climb up.
As we moved north from the summit, we saw more evidence of the quarrying on the mountain showing how the rock was removed in relatively ‘thin’ layers of 1 to 2 feet deep. Elf Orpine (Diamorpha smallii) is growing in patches in the very shallow sand/soil that has accumulated. Elf Orpine is an annual. As the plants die, they will contribute nutrients to the sand or cracks where the plants take root.
Another view showing the edge of quarried rock, more patches of Elf Orpine and a couple of small trees that have managed to root and grow on the rock. The tree on the right is covered with Yellow Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)
Looking northwest. The Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) woods border the rock. Rock gardens are mainly grass and Hairy Groundsel (Packera tomentosa).
A Blue Corporal (Ladona deplanata). We had seen a couple of dragonflies on the lower trail from the parking lot but they were constantly on the move. In this area, we saw more than a dozen. Most were skittish and, although they settled on grass blades, they would fly off as we approached. This female settled and posed for several shots.
Looking north-north-east from where we photographed the dragonfly towards Arabia Mountain. Arabia Mountain is not as tall as Bradley Mountain – and Bradley Mountain is a grand climb of 154 feet above the parking lot.
Looking east from the same spot over a private lake just east of the preserver border to the woods beyond.
Some small patches of Grimmia moss. There wasn’t much moss on the rock compared with other more-sheltered areas. The rock in this area is exposed to the sun and gets very not in the summer – probably too hot to support moss in spots other than dish gardens or in the shelter of trees as these were.
A passenger jet passes by the mountain. The mountain is under the flight path of passenger jets landing at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Several jets were coming in on the approach to the airport while we were climbing the mountain. A few flew directly over us.
Some quarrying hardware - plug-and-feathers - remains in the rock. These had been used to split the rock ‘vertically’ from summit towards the base of the mountain. Then the rock was split horizontally and slabs of rock removed. It is fascinating that layers were removed from various places around the mountain rather than creating a deep quarry on one side of the mountain.
The woods to the east and southeast are a mixture of Loblolly Pine and deciduous trees. The Deciduous trees were just beginning to leaf out.
We contoured back around the mountain until we reached the trail from the parking lot and then retraced our path back to the car. It is easy to keep one’s orientation up on the mountain but the relatively flat lower part of the trail can be a little disorienting. The cairns provide direction back among the myriad of dish gardens.
We were amused by this sign that had been painted on the path. Someone had felt inspired to add an additional pointer back towards the parking lot. We wondered why since it was easy to follow the cairns along this trail.
I'd heard that 'Arabia Mountain' was impressive but it takes a lot to impress me. But the Bradley Mountain Trail is impressive in the Spring. There are an incredible number of dish gardens along the lower section of the trail showing the progression from the most shallow gardens containing only Elf Orpine to slightly deeper gardens with a mixture of Elf Orpine and Oneflower Stitchwort (Minuartia uniflora), to deeper dish gardens with moss, Hairy Groundsel and Oldfield Toadflas (Nutallanthus canadensis) and margins of Elf Orpine and Oneflower Stitchwort.
From the base of the mountain, the rock appears to be bare. What we found as we climbed to the summit were a large number of dish gardens with similar vegetation as the lower gardens, In addition, an impressive number of trees have taken root and are growing on the summit. This trail is certainly worth the effort to visit and climb.
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- Hugh and Carol Nourse. Favorite Wildflower Walks in Georgia. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia
- Arabia Mountain Heritage Area
- Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve: Bradley Mountain Trail (Part 1)
- Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve: Bradley Mountain Trail (Part 2)