by Ann Collins, with additional photos by Linda Jo Conn
Linda Jo Conn and I just got back from “Nature Nerd Nirvana” – a phrase coined by a fellow traveler this past weekend. Ten lucky participants were able to trail along after Master Teacher Dale Kruse on Bryoventure III. We spend three glorious days immersed in the flora and fauna of the Big Thicket National Preserve. Talk about herding cats; Dale actually had a whistle to keep us rounded up!
Dale arranged lodging at the Research Station in Saratoga, Texas. We brought our own food and “drink,” but everything else was furnished. Not exactly the Plaza, but more than adeqquate for our needs.
Trails in the Thicket were in great shape. There hadn’t been too much rain, so there were few muddy ruts in the roads. Of course, some of us managed to get in water deep enough to seep in over out boot tops – not me, of course! One trekker actually fell in and another, who shall remain nameless, fought her way across a bay gall (that’s an area dominated by sweet bay and holly) on a fallen cypress log. Such fun to watch!
We were supposed to ignore all the vascular plants and focus entirely on the bryophytes – like that was going to happen! Fortunately, birds are somewhat difficult to see with so much vegetation, and the trees are so tall!
The wildflowers were in full array, including pitcher plants (in bloom!), sun dews, wild azaleas, trilliums (blooming!), Jack-in-the-pulpits, and a couple of orchids. It was just a fabulous feast for our eyes, hearts, and souls.
We did encounter one serious-looking snake. Actually, I guess any snake you encounter in deep woods appears that way. Poor snake, a plain-bellied watersnake, was instantly surrounded by way too manypeople with cameras. I think he was camera shy, because he quickly took off for a more secluded spot.
After we collected way too many specimens, we headed back to the Research Station to dissect and examine them under microscopes. This is not especially my forte, but it was certainly eye opening.
My scope was a cheap little $3,000 job, but we shared a couple that were more powerful. I’m lucky to be able to even get the scope focused, and we had to put leaves and stems off the mosses that were so tiny you couldn’t even see them with the naked eye. Makes my hair hurt just thinking about it!
Bryoventure IV is being planned even now for next January. I hope to be one of the lucky participants.