Hello, late fall! With the last nice days of autumn winding down into sustained rain, chilliness, and threats of snow, AGP and I have been taking full advantage of the sunshine. Not too long ago we took a short walk to Styles Peak in Peru, Vermont, which happens to be on an infamous stretch of wilderness belonging to the Long Trail.
There is an easy to access trail head that begins at Mad Tom Road and climbs a moderately steep 1.4 miles to the summit for awesome views to the south and northeast at 3,394 feet above sea level. The visibility that day was so great, we could see all the way into New Hampshire (I think)! It took us about 40 minutes to get up and twenty minutes to get down. Not bad for a mid-afternoon jaunt.
Did you know that the Long Trail was established in 1910 by the Green Mountain Club? That makes the trail the oldest long distance hiking trail in the country. In fact, it runs the entire length of Vermont, from the Massachusetts border to Canada! That's 272 miles in total and for 100 miles in southern Vermont, the Long Trail is also the Appalachian Trail.
As always, I was thoroughly impressed by the National Forest Wilderness we were hiking through. Even though the trees in the predominately beech forest we explored have (mostly) lost their leaves, it made for a perfect opportunity to focus on the vibrant greens that still abound. And you know how I love the forest floor.
Do you know about club moss? It was everywhere! Like a shaggy, green carpet. And like their namesake mosses, they are spore-bearing plants, often considered to be allies of the fern (which were also in abundance along the trail). What I found was mostly Shining Club Moss, Huperzia lucidula, a trailing, evergreen. I was oddly thrilled to find these specimens complete with sporangia (spore cases), which are the yellow, kidney shaped pods in the top portion of the plant.
We also found Angel Wing mushrooms, Pleurocybella porrigens, in abundance as we neared the summit. While these are largely regarded as edible mushrooms and even though I have eaten them on occasion, we usually leave them alone when we are out on a casual hike without our expert identification resources.
Despite the fact they are delicious and delicate tasting, they have been implicated in a few deaths involving people with preexisting liver ailments in Japan. And due to these concerns, although minimal, I am fine to just perk when I see these snowy beauts gracing decaying conifer logs.
The trails on this portion of the hike were well maintained, if not a bit muddy, even at the top! Neat boardwalks spare you most of the muck, but definitely not all. We weren't worried about going off trail either, because the paths were well defined and marked with a humble white blaze. Although, with all the rusty beech leaves everywhere on the ground, we did have to stop and double check our steps a few times!
Thanks for reading!