Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Friday: 7 December 2007

There And Back Again  -  @ 07:05:47
(BTW, Mark, I got three sendings, including the preferred barred owl ringtone, ordered two days ago. I'm now ready to shock and awe.)

I've mentioned that two of our firefighter colleagues and I have taken up bicycling. None of us is much interested in the usual sport aspect of it, but rather have bikes with fat tires and we don't wear fashionable clothing either. Unlike the other bicyclists around here we avoid the main paved roads and prefer the gravelled or dirt backroads that receive little traffic.

Unfortunately my schedule doesn't overlap very well with theirs four days of the week so I've taken to making an hour or two day trip at least two or three times a week by myself.

I'm not especially enthusiastic with the perverse aspect of loading a bike on the car and driving three miles in order to ride bikes, and that's what we have to do since we're all about that distance apart. On my own, I can explore directly from my house without having to drive.

Our 0.75-mile neighborhood road isn't a problem, but the main Wolfskin Road is, potentially. It receives fairly heavy use since it runs between US 78 east of Athens and Watkinsville south of Athens and is therefore a convenient bypass around that part of Athens. It's therefore somewhat dangerous, but there are certainly bicyclists who use it regularly anyway.

Wolfskin Road runs left-right at the top of the map below, and I've outlined today's route in black. The big black dot (#1) at the left shows where we normally meet, and from there we have a variety of choices - Blacksnake Road above is a pleasant 7-mile trip to the end and back, and then we can proceed along a back pasture to Lois Lane and down to Hutchins-Wolfskin for much greater opportunity. (The black dot marked #5, btw, is Wolfskin VFD. The numerous polygons are individual parcels of land. "U" means unimproved, "H" means a house exists.)

On my own, I bike in along a 0.75 mile stretch of Wolfskin Road at the upper right on this map, so it's only a short distance that I have to travel to get to some nice quiet riding. The first mile along OMR is fairly level, but OMR deadends at the Hutchins-Wolfskin Road (another long dirt road that traverses east-west between Wolfskin and Highway 77), and in either direction there become some serious hills. A short distance along OMR (#2):

The fenced area you see above is a small cemetery (#2). There are several of these dotting the immediate area. I don't know anything about them and I didn't take a close look at the occupants of this one. I bet someone who reads this blog knows, though!

One of my occupations during bike rides is to scan for roadside plants. The county mows, and sometimes sprays herbicide, along Wolfskin Road, but generally doesn't mess with these backroads and you can find some nice stuff growing opportunistically.

As you can tell from the above photos, the predominant forest is loblolly pine. There are not many residences along most of the stretches of these roads, and much of the property in the area is owned by a single individual (his property is all in gray, here), held mostly for future development, I imagine.

The grass to the left is one of my favorites, and I was glad to find a considerable patch of it along Hutchins-Wolfskin as it heads down toward Barrow Creek to the east. It's a Threeawn Grass, one of the Aristida, and there are 38 species in the genus, all native. I think it's very attractive with its long awns. Georgia is home to 10-13 species, quite a few of which are threatened or endangered.

I don't think there's actually a residence along this large (blue) tract of land that I've marked #3, but there are cows in this pastoral interruption of dense loblolly planting. Way further back, off the map, should be a large pond and a couple of creeks running toward Barrow Creek. Of course you have to be careful about going offroad, especially this time of year.

I could have kept going on Hutchins-Wolfskin eastward down to Barrow Creek and back up (it's a long, steep hill both ways) but decided to turn back west and ended up at Bulloch Road (#4).

Forks like these usually provide nice opportunities for roadside plants, and there's some nice Splitbeard growing along here, along with a number of Eupatorium and Partridge Pea.

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