Spectacular weather helped make the 2nd annual Mount Rogers Summer Naturalist Rally a wonderful success. The summer gathering is a great addition to the very successful Mount Rogers Naturalist Spring Rally, held for the last 43 years, giving naturalists an opportunity to observe species that change along with the seasons.
The event kicked off with a farm-to-table dinner at the Konnarock Community Center. By partnering with the Independence Farmers Market independencefarmersmarket.org, locally sourced ingredients were the foundation for the meal that staff and volunteers prepared and served.
After dinner, Anne Berry Somers inspired the group as the featured speaker, conveying her personal passion for box turtles. With 10 years of the 100-year Box Turtle Connection project under her belt, she oversees 32 project leaders collecting data on box turtles across North Carolina. This successful citizen science program is a model to be emulated for similar natural history investigations across the Blue Ridge.
Field trips on Saturday included a collaborative hike on Pond Mountain with the Blue Ridge Conservancy, several seasonal options such as butterflies of southwest Virginia, mushrooms, and snorkeling as well as Rally favorites such as edible and medicinal plants, birding and glaciers in the Blue Ridge. With clouds giving way to mostly sunny skies and pleasant temperatures, conditions were perfect for enjoying the bountiful natural history that summer has to offer in the Blue Ridge.
Jane Floyd and Ellie Kirby offered an arts and crafts program for the kids, using elements of nature. Kids drawing and painting a stream scene including our local trout, and scavenged the nearby woods for native plants to press. In the afternoon, BRDC Intern Amber Olson led the kids in exploring the nearby woods and stream to see what they could discover.
Saturday's clearing weather provided one of the most spectacular night skies you can imagine, perfect for the astronomy and astro-photography programs.
Sunday morning brought fly fishing class and a wildflower walk along the Whispering Waters Nature Trail.
Special thanks to all of the volunteers and committee members who worked hard to make the event a success! The wonderful support of our volunteer guides was greatly appreciated as they lead 19 different field trips during the weekend as well as two kids programs.
With the support and the participation from the public, the 2nd annual Mount Rogers Summer Naturalist Rally was a testament to our hopes of continuing to grow this celebration of the ecology of the Blue Ridge.