Frost Flowers

     If your out exploring in nature this Fall and early Winter maybe you will be lucky enough to encounter a Frost Flower! 

    Although these sometimes look like a flower from a distance they are not actually flowers at all. 

    Frost flowers are delicate ribbons of ice crystals that form on the lower stems of some plants. These formations depend on a hard freeze occurring while the ground isn't already frozen. This allows the stem of the plant to draw moisture up from the ground. This moisture and sap that's left in the stem of the plant will expand as it freezes and split the stem. This creates thin layers of ice to form into exquisite patterns that curl into almost petal like shapes that resemble a flower.

   These flower looking ice crystals have a very short life. Once the rays of the sun fall upon them they melt as quickly as frost. 

  Here are some that we found this past weekend. 

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Putting a little dirt and gravel in our travel

Here's a few random pics we shot this past week while out on the trails. 

The John Muir trail and Sheltowee Trace trails

The John Muir trail and Sheltowee Trace trails

A nice set of bear tracks along the trail

A nice set of bear tracks along the trail

Mushrooms on the side of a tree  

Mushrooms on the side of a tree  

Another huge bear track

Another huge bear track

If you watch there's still color to be seen in nature at this time of year! 

If you watch there's still color to be seen in nature at this time of year! 

A great place to set up camp and have a bedroom with a view

A great place to set up camp and have a bedroom with a view

Alittle color still on afew trees

Alittle color still on afew trees

Barred Owls in the Backwoods

   The Barred Owl  (Strix varia)  is a very beautiful bird of prey with dark brown eyes and a brown and white striped plumage.  Barred Owls eat a wide variety of small animals such as squirrels, chipmunks, mice, rabbits and even other birds just to name some of its diet. Owls play a major role in helping keep the rodent populations in check.

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  Even though you may live in a rural area or sometimes even in town you may share the area with a Barred Owl. Although these birds of prey are more common  and seem to thrive more in the backcountry they have been seen in cities and towns.

  Barred Owls have been around our area for many years. Pleistocene fossils of these birds  have been found in Tennessee, Florida, and Ontario dating all the way back to at least 11,000 years ago! 

   The most dangerous natural predator to the Barred Owl is the Great Horned Owl which will eat the Barred Owls eggs , their young and  occasionally even killing and eating an adult Barred Owl. 

     One of my favorite pastimes at night while in the backcountry on our backpacking adventures is to sit and talk with the Barred Owls. I've had as many as 5 at a time calling back to me simultaneously as if we are actually having a conversation. I've even had them fly into the area a sit overhead as they check my campsite out. 

   If you listen really close to a Barred Owls call it's almost as though he's saying ("Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?")   If you haven't had the chance to see and hear one of these Owls I hope you do in the near future. It's pretty amazing!

 

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Osage Orange (Maclura poifera)

  The Osage Orange tree is actually not a Orange tree at all. It is known by several names and to just name a few : Bow Dock, Bo Dark, Hedge Apple and Mock Orange.

      The wood from an Osage Orange tree is heavy, hard and strong. It is also very flexible. 

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It's said that several of the Native Americans used this wood to make war clubs and bows . It's also known that they would travel many miles in search of these trees to make their bows. The wood was so valued by the Native Americans that a good Osage wood bow would have had the same value and could often be traded for a good horse and a blanket.

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     The seed inside the large fruit is eaten by some wildlife but not a major food source for any of them.     Trust me this isn't a fruit you want to eat at all. When the fruit is scratched it will produce a milky latex looking sap that can cause skin irritations in some people. The fruit has been known to be used by some people as an insect repellent.

     

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