Monday, September 20, 2010

From the Diary of Darren the Daddy Long Legs

006 For pictures, click here.

What a day I had today! I saw Ranger Tim heading down the trail with another group of “students” and I knew today would be interesting. I love when he brings groups here to Jones Gap because I get so learn so much from him. Of course my mom and dad worry about my adventures but they don’t mind when I come back and tell them how much I learned. When I get back home, my mom makes me write down everything in my diary so I won’t forget. They are just afraid that someone will decide I’m dangerous and step on me. So, today, I hitched a ride on Ranger Tim’s clothes because I knew he wouldn’t hurt me.

Here is what I learned today:

1. Private citizens formed the Mountain Bridge Wilderness and Naturaland Trust was a big part of this.

2. From 1931 -1963 trout were raised here.

3. Before then, this was the major thoroughfare from Greenville to North Carolina and it was the Solomon Jones toll road. Carriage with two horses paid a dollar but pedestrians paid a penny. Folklore says that Solomon Jones let Suzy the pig loose at the bottom so he would find the easiest way to home and food. That is how he knew how to make the road.

4. The Blue Ridge Escarpment is in NC, SC, and GA.

5. Jones Gap is in the top 5 ecological hotspots on the planet according to the Nature Conservancy.

6. Islands in the sky refer to the tops of mountains; certain organisms can’t survive in warmer climates so they move up in elevation.

7. Greatest diversity of salamanders in Appalachian Mountains because of islands in the sky.

8. A cove is surrounded on 3 sides by mountains; one way in and one way out.

9. The overlapping communities are what give the diversity.

10. The weather station behind the building is part of a microclimate study.

11. Jones Gap has an east west orientation. It has the same climate as Pennsylvania. Northern species growing right beside southern species.

12. Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004 and toppled trees on one side of the cove.

13. Beechdrops (Epifagus) – feeds on roots of beech trees

14. Beech trees are near water and have coppery leaves in the winter.

15. Pines and evergreens cause the soil to be too acidic for salamanders.

16. Green salamanders love beech trees because smooth trunk allows lichens and mosses to grow.

17. Holes in rocks due to drills for blasting. Due to erosion, soil is lower than the rocks.

18. Broad beech fern grows near beech trees; one stem and triangular in shape.

19. 5 distinct layers in this forest: canopy, understory or subcanopy, shrub layer, herbaceous layer, and forest floor.

20. Canopy gaps allow sunlight to reach forest floor.

21. Jones Gap is a young forest because a lot of the timber was used in the 1940s.

22. Fraser Magnolia or mountain magnolia – lobed on the bottom.

23. Deciduous magnolias – Tulip Poplar, Cucumber Magnolia, and Fraser magnolia

24. Maple Leaf viburnum – has a maple leaf and several stems and is not a tree

25. Sweet shrub – repeating pattern, opposite leaves, drip tip, entire seed pod stays on most of the year, mice feed on seed pod, shiny leaf (aka boobybush; blooms same time as service berry)

26. Saprolite is chemically weathered rock. This is where we get our sand from and why it is not the fine sand found on beaches like FL.

27. Bears – like tree cavities; dens that are tight and not wet.

28. SC black bears do not hibernate. Females that are giving birth will den and if it is cold, males will den.

29. Copper Button – terrestrial snail and are left handed

30. Chestnut Oak has white meat acorns. Red oak has red or orange acorns due to the tannic acid

Oh, now Ranger Tim is talking about me! He mentioned about how I like to use my 2 legs as sensory tools to check out my environment. I’m so glad he told the people that I was not poisonous because then they would get sick if they touched me. Then people think I’m venomous but that isn’t true either because I eat dead stuff. What would I use the venom for? I hate carrying stuff that isn’t any use to me, so I’m not dragging venom around with me, that’s for sure! I also don’t build a web but I harvest my food. And I do bite so you might feel me nibble on you a bit.

Okay, now back to my notes…

31. Jones Gap is a natural cold water habitat.

32. There are 4 major watersheds: Savannah, Santee, Pee Dee, and Ace Basin

33. Jones Gap is the water shed for the Middle Saluda.

34. Santee is the largest watershed in SC.

35. Santee Delta is the largest delta on the eastern seaboard.

Now it was time for the water fun. Ranger Tim pulled out the minnow traps and some fish to show the group. There were the 2 most common minnows: Yellow fin Shiner (males have red fins; during spawning, males are bright pink) and Blue headed chubs (builds the rock nests that the shiners use; black spot on back fin, clear tubes by eyes, during spawning, slate colored heads). The mouth shape indicates where they feed so bigger lower jaw means they eat above them and bigger upper jaw means they eat below them. He also showed a crayfish which has gills near its abdomen, pink due to iodine.

Then I got to watch the groups of people play in the water. They were looking for some of my friends under rocks to look at under the microscope. Others were testing the temperature and the turbidity.

When everyone returned to the lab, Ranger Tim put my friends under the microscope so the class could see them better. They were like TV stars as they showed up on the HDTV screen. The class saw a water penny, mayfly nymph, stonefly nymph, gilled snail, caddisfly larvae, caddisfly case and a crayfish and it was so cool to see everyone up close and personal! I can’t wait to tell my friends that I saw them on TV but I wish they could see this too. Of course, I’m sure they were scared because they didn’t know what was happening to them and they were afraid they wouldn’t get to see home again. But I could have told them that Ranger Tim would take care of them and not hurt them.

After that I had to leave so I wouldn’t be late for dinner. I also wanted to rush out before the class so no one would accidentally step on me. It was a lot of fun and I learned so much. Next week they will go to Caesar’s Head State Park. I wish I could go with them.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

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