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Alabama Adventures: Longleaf Pine Treasure Forest

After hearing about Pinus palustris from several southern botanist friends, I had to see the trees for myself! I had the great pleasure of ...

30 June 2015

Arabia Mountain: Hiking a Monadnock



During my childhood I resided in Stone Mountain Georgia for a few years. What I remember most about the Peach State was how warm it was! No matter where I lived since then, Georgia held a special place in my heart. When I had the opportunity to return to Atlanta, I was thrilled! I immediately checked out hiking spots, botanical gardens, and natural areas to visit. At the top of my list was Arabia Mountain. Despite being referred to as "mountain", it is actually a monadnock, like Stone Mountain and Panola Mountain. Arabia Mountain was quarried, and evidence of this remains for visitors to see. The stone was used in many places, including the Brooklyn Bridge.

For the first trip, I went alone in the morning 'til afternoon and parked near the nature centre. Parking and use of trails are free, open from dawn to dusk. I woke up early and grabbed some breakfast at the hotel, deciding on a whim that it was a perfect day for hiking. I set out around 8:30 and made the short drive to the Davidson-Arabia Nature Preserve. I stopped in for a map, and had a nice chat with one of the employees about the six shady snakes of Georgia. Afterwards I began my hike down the trail and down the boardwalk hugging the base of the mountain. I saw a lovely doe (she was too quick for a photo!), and blackberries galore. I was so entranced by the beauty of wild berries that I didn't think to taste any.







Finally, I came upon the path to the summit. Aside from passing one couple on their way down, I had the area to myself! The sun was beating down on the rocky surface, so I made sure to periodically find shaded areas to guzzle water. I live in a relatively flat, cooler area so this was a bit more challenging! The path was marked by cairns, but as long as I was mindful of my steps, there were no signs indicating I was forbidden to explore the general area.






One of the most showy plants on Arabia Mountain, Diamorpha smallii (elf-orpine) -- fruiting and flowering well before I visited -- resides in the solution pits, sometimes amongst the endangered Isoetes melanospora (black-spored quillwort), turning a brilliant red, then white with flowers, before completing its life cycle. It is crucial that, even when withered, these plants are not disturbed as they contain seeds that will not survive contact with the hot surface of the monadnock.





I continued onwards to the summit, rewarded with a breathtaking view. Looking southwest I could see Panola Mountain! But my focus was on the plants in front of me. I noticed plenty of Pinus taeda (loblolly pine), lichen, and moss. I had the privilege of happening upon some Rhexia mariana (meadowbeauty), which was completely unexpected, as well as Opuntia humifusa (Eastern pricklypear), also located (in much smaller numbers) around the sandy dunes of Illinois Beach State Park. I saw dragonflies, a chipmunk, and a squirrel -- all of which didn't stick around for photos!
 








I wandered further to the other side of the monadnock and took note of one of the the old quarrying areas. There are old buildings and a weigh station left behind as well.




After a while I felt a bit fatigued, and I was running low on water so I made my descent. On the way down I noticed Yucca sp. As I passed through the back yard of the nature centre I saw a pond with many frogs, though they were too quick for me to get a good look! Any movement scared them and they would scatter from their hiding spots, diving into the water.




Steve came along for the second hike in the evening a few days later. We parked at the base of the mountain so we could have plenty of time to watch the sunset.

This time we explored different areas, and I found Juniperus virginiana (Eastern red cedar). The vernal pools had extra water from storms the day before. Steve was interested in the old quarry areas.







After wandering around for a while, we sat down and looked towards Atlanta, which was visible in the distance, until the sun disappeared over the city and darkness set in. Steve and I made our way back to the parking lot, surrounded by fireflies and beautiful rainbow skies.





 








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Click here for more photos of the afternoon hike

&

click here for more photos of the sunset hike!

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I think of all my adventures, this was the most beautiful one. Georgia has so many different flora than what I'm used to, and I find myself enamoured with them. I notice plants before I see anything else!

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