For the Spring Naturalist Rally, Austin Thomas and I set out with a group in search of Big Red- a very large red spruce that is the second largest of that species recorded in Virginia.
The rain cleared out and we had partly cloudy skies when we set the GPS coordinates for Big Red. With measurements of 77 inches circumference, 108 feet height and crown 26 feet recorded in 2010, our group was excited to stand at the base and take current measurements to update the tree's current status.
We hiked on the Helton Creek trail thru old pastures and using the GPS coordinates located what we thought was Big Red. The crown did look to be 26 feet at largest point. The tree was across a creek, and the problem was a boggy area between the trail and the creek. We searched for and found a high point and were able to traverse the bog. Austin identified many interesting plants such as Canada Mayflower along the way. When we made it to the creek, we determined that we could not cross safely due to the recent rains. The group decided we would return during the summer Naturalist Rally to get updated measurements on the tree.
The group continued hiking the Helton Creek / Sugar Maple loop. The going was rocky and there were many stream rivulets traversing the trail. At times it was like we were walking in a creek bed instead of a trail. We soon realized why this was called the Sugar Maple trail since the tree canopy was filled with sugar maples. Some asked if long ago these trees were tapped for syrup, but no one in our group knew the answer.
Having heard there was a population of sawtooth Aspen along the trail, we kept our eyes open. When we finally saw them, they were blowing in the wind as if we were in the Rocky Mountains. A hiker spotted some white daffodils at an old home site and suggested we could date the area by determining when those daffodils were popular as landscaping. At the end we all agreed that it was a great hike and we would love to return during the BRDC Summer Rally in August.