On The Road Again, Halloween Style

Shadows mutter, mist replies; darkness purrs as midnight sighs.

~ Rusty Fischer

The pause in posts was necessitated by another truck road trip and much less cell phone service than usual. This time, carrying our ancient (and heavy) black canoe (who has a black canoe anyway?) atop the truck to paddle some rivers in far-away lands (Missouri and Arkansas). But more on that part of the adventure in future posts. Today, due to the nature of the holiday upon us, I thought I’d focus of the things we saw at the start of the trip when we wee exploring our mountains and stalling for time so a storm system in the Midwest could move on. I hadn’t really realized how spooky it all was until I started looking at the photos this morning with so many thoughts of Halloween now surrounding us.

So, here are a few of the mysterious things encountered as we made our way across our mountains at the start of our latest adventure. It started innocently enough, a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, headed toward a campsite at the Pisgah campground near the Pisgah Inn. Leaf color was just beginning to change, so the crowds were not yet suffocating and the views were fantastic.

Scene along Blue Ridge Parkway (click photos to enlarge)

But, now, with Halloween upon us, I began to view these images in a different, darker light. Am I just imagining things, or were those first few days pretty creepy? Look at the photos, and tell me what you think…

A morning mist creeps through the valley below. We drove down into one such bank of clouds and the bright, sunny day suddenly turned dark…

On a hike to a fire tower near the Pisgah campground, we encountered a number of interesting (and looking back now,) potentially eerie plants. Here are just a few…

The oddly-shaped flowers and last year’s seed pods of American Witch-hazel, one of our latest blooming plants.

This late-blooming small tree is an odd plant indeed. Extracts from the leaves, bark, and twigs provide the aromatic salve called witch hazel, used as an astringent and an anti-inflammatory to soothe cuts and burns. In addition to its unusual name, another spooky trait is that forked branches of this tree have been favored for use as dowsing or divining rods. Early European settles observed Native Americans using American Witch-hazel to find underground sources of water (or other objects if interest such as minerals, buried treasure, graves, etc.). According to folklore, one fork is held in each hand with the palms upward. The bottom or butt end of the “Y” is pointed skyward at an angle of about 45 degrees. The dowser then walks back and forth over the area to be tested. When she/he passes over a source of water, the butt end of the stick is supposed to rotate or be attracted downward. I have tried this and actually felt the rod move in my hands…creepy!

The globular fruiting cluster of Carrion Flower, an herbaceous greenbrier. Flowers give off an odor similar to carrion (the decaying flesh of dead animals) and attract a ghoulish group of pollinators such as beetles and flies that usually show up at corpses for their meals.
The starburst shape of this seed group attracted my attention. It belongs to Filmy Angelica, a poisonous herb found at high elevations. Even the pollinators run the risk of becoming intoxicated by some unknown compound in the flowers’ nectar. Bees beware!

We headed to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest on our next day for a hike in the majestic forest of giant trees. It is one of my favorite tracts of woodland, but on this trip, there were a few strange encounters with otherworldly beings. See if you agree.

We hiked the loop trail through the famous Poplar Grove at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. This tract is home to a virgin stand of trees, most notably the tremendous Tulip Poplars, some of which are estimated at over 400 years in age and diameters between 5 and 6 feet. As grand as they are, in looking back, I now see an unsettling resemblance to the Ents in Lord of the Rings. You see it too, don’t you?
At first glance, these tiny fungi look like diminutive fingers poking up from a decaying log. They may actually be a type of fungus associated with green algal mats on logs named Muticlavula mucida.

The most bizarre “creature” we encountered on our hike was a large fungus on a dead tree trunk. I glanced off the trail and saw it staring back at me with a strange misshapen face – mushroom man!

Mushroom man’s face measured roughly 12 inches tall and 8 inches wide.
Side view highlighting the sweaty nature of mushroom man’s skin.

I have tried to find out what species this is, but so far without any luck. If anyone knows the identity of this creepy creature, please let me know. It certainly was one of the most Halloween-like encounters we had on our trip…well, other than the full moon night of Sasquatch sounds (more on that in a future post). Have a safe, sweets-filled, and suitably scary Halloween!

10 thoughts on “On The Road Again, Halloween Style

  1. That’s quite an interesting and spooky post! I love the mushroom man! Don’t know what kind it is, but hopefully someone can identify it/him! And the tulip poplars at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest are magnificent!

  2. Fun post….I can hear the Ents saying “What’s your ruuussh Michaelll Dunnnn why go to faraway
    waters? Isnnn’t there any enough here among us ancient oneeesss? We must not be hasty! Also,
    I love the goblins on the witch hazel!!

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