1st Annual Mount Rogers Summer Naturalist Rally

After many years of thinking about a summer season rally, this August we achieved our goal. Gathering at the Konnarock Community Center for a potluck dinner and meet and greet, many new faces joined the familiar for a weekend preview of programs and hikes spanning from Friday night through Sunday morning. With over 60 participants for Friday's dinner, the potluck approach pleased everyone.  Without a speaker presentation, we all had time to visit before heading to Grindstone Campground for the evening moth identification program.

Though rain fell intermittently, we were able to dash back and forth between the lit moth sheet and our tent cover for serious keying of our catch. From the very young to the almost elderly, everyone focused on the effort to ID even down to the species level. 

Saturday morning, following tradition, all gathered at the community center to line up for the day’s program offerings. A simple breakfast was available, including good strong coffee. Field trip sign-ups continued right up to 8am when the trips dispersed. Birding, a hike sponsored by the Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club, fly fishing, medicinal plants, insect investigations, and glaciers in the Blue Ridge highlighted our morning walks. For kids, the world of spiders was explored. 

Returning for lunch, hikers regained their strength for the afternoon hikes.  Afternoon choices included snorkeling, a mushroom walk, a wildflower walk, a salamander hunt, tree identification, butterflies and flint knapping. The kids program involved small bio-surveys with microscopes.

The mushroom walk was a major hit, with samples brought back to the community center for identification. For over an hour, many gathered around the tables displaying a huge variety of fungal forms, as a species list grew. 

Rain was an issue, but mostly after the day's activities came to a close. Back at Grindstone, campers shared an evening meal, potluck style once again, and revisited the day’s activities. Because of the rain, our hopeful star watch program was cancelled, but a salamander foray was well suited to the weather. Some intrepid hikers were treated to a rarely observed courtship behavior of the Yonahlossee salamander along the gravel road to Whitetop.

Sunday dawned behind of veil of clouds and rain, yet an ornithology walk was offered and attended. It is often said, weather is not an issue, just correct clothing. This exemplifies the spirit of a naturalist, a person whose curiosity trumps comfort while exploring the richness of our Southwest Virginia highlands. 

Special thanks to the planning committee, guides and volunteers who pitched in to create such a great event!