February 18th, 2012. Last December, on one of our trips to spot new wildflowers, we stumbled upon a patch of Roundlobed Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa) plants on Mill Road in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area (WMA). A little research at Name that Plant indicated that these plants would probably bloom in March so we planned to go back to see the blooms this Spring. Given that we’ve had a warm winter, it seems prudent to go a little earlier. We finally got around to driving up to Dawson Forest on the 18th.
A sight I hate to see. A locked gate. We’d been following a game warden who told us the gate would be locked until some time in the summer. The forest section of the park administration made that decision, not the game section. The road is step, as these photos showed, and some people would drive it roughly during the winter when it rained and tear it up. It’s understandable that the WMA folk would close the road to protect it but… Arrrrgh! I hated to miss out on the opportunity to see the flowers so we decided hike out along the road and see if we could reach them. We remembered that the embankment was on the steep section of road and we had the GPS coordinates but we couldn’t remember how far it was from this point. We decided that if it turned out to be too far, we could turn back. So, off we went.
The road wound through open, dry woods but there were still some interesting things to see on the way.
A crustose lichen with fruiting bodies. These fruiting bodies are difficult to see unless you pick up the twig and look closely.
A closer view.
Pixie Cup lichen fruiting bodies (Cladonia sp.). These are nice specimens.
A moss starting to fruit. It has sent up stalks but there aren’t any fruiting bodies yet.
The top of a tree snag had fallen onto the road during one of the recent storms. Woodpeckers had bored holes into it. The hole on the left was a simple hole; straight in. The hole on the right extended into the hole to the right although it didn’t break through the top of the snag.
The ‘Orange’ multi-use trail ran parallel to the Mill Road for a while and then crossed it to continue on the other side. A sign had been posted to remind horse riders and mountain bikers that they had missed the trail and needed to go back to pick it up again. For some reason, I get a kick out of these signs that are posted at several places in this WMA. Horses don’t bother me but it’s comforting to know that I won’t have mountain bikers careening down the steep hill toward me without warning.
We had entered the long stretch of Mill Road that goes ‘straight down’ to the ledge above the Etowah River. The problem with this stretch of road is that we would have to go ‘straight up’ to get back to where we started from so we began to assess how far we wanted to go in search of the plants. W decided to turn around. I thought I’d go a little further and took the GPS unit. I had walked another 10-12 feet before I spotted a single, white flower on the embankment. I checked the coordinates and we were there – at the spot marked ‘X”….
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- Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area, Atlanta Tract: Mill Road and Railroad Road