Walking to the NC Botanical Gardens from UNC

The official botanical gardens for the whole state of North Carolina are attached to UNC Chapel Hill. Isn’t that special?

These gardens are a cluster of flowers and woodlands, and the offices and gift shop are sustainably built, and everything is so aggressively progressive and fresh, that it makes me guilty to think of driving a car there.

Luckily, as long as it’s not the weekend, you can take several of the famous free Chapel Hill/Carrboro buses there.

Or, you can walk or bike! Now, if you go onto the Garden’s website, they suggest you hike the connecting path from the University through the Coker Pinetum. Now first, why did they ever call it a ‘Pinetum’. I’m sure I never heard that word before.

Second, I’ve been on the Coker Pinetum before. At least, I think I was on it. We were stumbling through some sort of scraggly, unromantic, dark, surly, sullen clump of trees near a raging highway, and after several consultations trying to figure out if we were lost or not, we finally were spit out sort of near the Gardens.

I suggest a much better pathway if you want to walk to the Gardens. Go on Laurel Hill Road.

Now watch out, because if you look for the route on google maps, the very first option they give you is the Coker Pinetum scrabble.

You know how they also try to fool you? They not only try to entice you with the Coker Pinetum, but then they also tell you that it runs right by the ‘Meeting of the waters’ creek (seen in the map above). Who doesn’t want to go to a creek called Meeting of the Waters? But I don’t even remember seeing any such creek on my one sojourn to the Coker Pinetum.

So ask Google Maps instead for the Laurel Hill Road option.

Actually, the version you see above is not what Google Maps will give you initially. I tweaked it a little. My version is a little longer than the Google Maps version — but my version will let you walk the entirety of Laurel Hill Road. And you don’t want to miss it 🙂 It’s like stepping into a fairytale — flowers everywhere, a woodsy path with lots of twists and bends you can’t see much beyond — and when you get to it, there’s more woods and flowers and slopes. It’s not a road that serves you by being straight. It’s a road that goes where it wants to go, and you go along with it.

Just before you turn on it, you see this fine sight:

More wildflowers in the Piedmont

A continuation from this post.

First, I found this really nice website that has pictures of flowers. I was able to identify some that weren’t in my book using it.

Partridge pea — this made me really excited. It’s a very beautiful yellow flower, and it has taken over the area where the yellow whorled-leaf coreopsis was earlier blooming. It was so pretty and so profuse that I feared it was invasive; and also it wasn’t in my book. But then I found it online. It is native to this area.

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partridge pea

Asiastic dayflower — from the name, you can kind of tell this flower is really from Asia. So it’s not native. It was nestled in with the partridge pea. The flower blooms for one single day. I didn’t know I was looking at something so fleeting until later. It was not in my book, but it only has two blue petals atop a yellow fuzz, so it was easy to search for.

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I found this string of light purple flowers … and they kind of look like the ‘everlasting pea’, but I don’t think that’s actually it. I saw them two days ago, nestled in among the partridge pea; and today it’s gone!

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Same with these small white flowers spreading out of a bell shape: so pretty, but I’m not sure what they’re called either.

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Wildflowers in the Piedmont

I have such a nice book: A field guide to wildflowers of the Eastern United States by Tom Gold Knight. I think I bought it in the mountains somewhere, at one of the pretty gift stores they have at the national or state park rest stops.

But sadly, even though I’ve been looking hard, I haven’t found a lot of the flowers, even this spring and summer when quarantine gave extra time for just that. There’s so many flowers, and I would like to find them all. I think sometimes I come across a flower that’s in the book, either it’s actually not in the book at all, or I just can’t find it.

So when I actually identify something with surety, it’s exciting:

1. Whorled-leaf coreopsis. This one was very exciting. It’s a very new flower for me.

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2. Wild quinine — another new flower, and very exciting. They are all along the roadside since the end of June.

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3. A type of daisy called Daisy fleabane. This little patch is now faded (about a month after the picture). This daisy is not the ‘real’ daisy we all know of. This one has feathery, thin petals, but a lot of them.

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4. Also, the more regular type of daisy — Ox-eye daisy. With the thick, fat petals. It’s nice to know the real name, but of course, every one knows what a daisy is.

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5. Spotted knapweed — this was a nice find — on the roadside — it’s like purple fuzz — but I didn’t get a clear picture.

6. Queen Anne’s Lace and Black-eyes Susans — everyone knows these, too. They are all over the banks of one of the roads we drive on. And they are on some roadside slopes we can walk to.

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I think this bundle of Queen Anne’s lace was just waking up that morning.

7. Hop clovers — tiny tiny yellow flowers matted into the grass

8. Canada goldenrod — these have just started blooming now in July. They’re feathery and yellow. Also a new flower for me.

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Well, this is not a lot of flowers at all. And I’ve gone tramping in the forest, and looking among thickets and everything. Where am I to find the dozens other flowers in my book?

I’ve found some unknowns:

Like this purple flower. It’s so nice. But since it’s not in my book, does that mean it’s something invasive?

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A lot of the unknowns are purple. There’s this star-like flower: (update! I found out this is the Carolina horse nettle, and it’s native to this area)

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And finally, this flower that looks like a purple Medusa’s head. I found something similar in my book called a Heal-All, but I’m not convinced that’s really it.

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I also found this really pretty leaf. I thought it might be ginger. But then I didn’t see any ‘brown jugs’ under the leaf.

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Walking Brays Bayou in Houston

I’ve wanted to walk along one of the canals in Houston to get to an event. The canals here are called “bayous.” Whatever floats your boat.

This was the route I approximately wanted to take: starting from around the Museum of Fine Arts, and ending up at the University of Houston stadium.

route to U of Houston

Hey, you know how there’s University of California and University of North Carolina, and all these universities of different states? But then you come to a university for a single city. It seems like a big undertaking.

Now, to clarify, when I first google-mapped this route, it suggested a path straight through the city blocks, but I adjusted it to hug the Bayou. This particular bayou is called Brays Bayou (there’s a couple in Houston.) I was not so sure how safe it would be, but now that I’ve done the walk, I can tell you it felt pretty safe, and it was actually a beautiful walk.

First, you walk along the north side of Hermann Park. That was nice.

Then you go just a little bit south and you meet up with the Bayou. There was no path to get down there, so I just made my carefully-footed way down the kind of steep hillside to the Bayou sidewalk. Now, if you’ll notice, you just at that point go under the bridges of some major freeway. That part is a little creepy as you walk under giant pole after giant pole. Huge blocks of concrete everywhere. Just colossal infrastructure hunting you down from every angle. Lots of nooks for an axe murderer to hide out in. I walked fast and kept looking over my shoulder.

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Brays Bayou under the freeway

route to U of Houston 2

But after that, it was really pretty. It was a long walk, but it was worth it. Because will you believe it, for the first time, Houston did something nice. They’ve planted all these beautiful wildflowers along the banks of the Bayou. Ooooh, they were so pretty. They were yellow and purple, and then every now and again there were tall stalks of sunflowers.

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Brays Bayou

One dog shouted at me. But thankfully, it was behind a fence and didn’t try to jump. There was one single intersection that had broken down buildings, but that passed quickly. The rest was homes and apartments.

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Then towards the end, you go north. That part is nice, too. You just pass a bunch of churches and apartments, and then you get to the University campus, and that was nice, too.

So you can walk Brays Bayou, too, without too many worries.

And when I got to the University stadium, there was a rally for Bernie Sanders! That was cool. I had a moment of worry, because after walking for over 1.5 hours, I got to the stadium and there were all these rules I hadn’t known about. You can’t go into the stadium with a bag, unless it’s a clear bag. Clear all the way through. It’s a security thing. The only exception is if your bag is 6 inches by 4 inches. My bag was I believe more like 8 by 6 inches, but they let it by. I also had a canvas bag with me. I emptied it and stuck it in my jacket pocket. And then I carried my book and my empty container of food up to security and they let me and my armful all go in. Once in, I got the canvas bag back out and refilled it.

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Bernie Sanders rally in Houston

It was really nice, because they were selling popcorn and nachos and all this other stuff. This was the nicest campaign rally I’d ever been to. I’ve seen Obama twice. Both times were kind of miserable. We were just standing in a large fields, thousands of people, waiting for hours and hours, everything was late — and then were too far away to hear well, or really see. This time, we could sit on the seats in the stadium and be comfortable while we waited. There was a nice band playing. I read my book. There was free wifi. And Bernie came on time.

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Bernie Sanders rally in Houston

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Bernie Sanders himself

The last of the mohicans

I’m reading the “Last of the Mohicans”. I’m reading it because Lucy Maud Montgomery read it and mentioned it in her journal. However, I checked it out 2 months ago and I am still on page 45. In the meantime, I finished reading “How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents” and started and am over halfway through “The Mill on the Floss,” which is 550 massive, small-print pages. So you may infer from that what I think of “The last of the Mohicans.”

Is this book considered offensive towards American Indians? I’m going to do some digging into that.

In the meantime, though, the book is describing an utter wilderness of what is now upstate New York, way back in the 1700s. An untouched forest where you easily can lose your way in between two different forts: Fort Edward and Fort William Henry.

last of the mohican map
Fort Edward is at the bottom, and Fort William Henry is just over the tip of the screenshot (couldn’t fit)

Now look. That whole wild forest where the main characters got lost has just vanished. It’s kind of sad. Lucy Maud Montgomery writing about Prince Edward Island helped preserve nearly all the natural beauty there, it seems like; it’s sad Last of the Mohicans couldn’t do the same for this area. Maybe because the book really is bad.

Hummingbirds and butterflies

I saw a monarch butterfly happen upon our red roses a few weeks ago. And I have seen also a butterfly with glossy silky sapphire wings, and one with lemon-yellow wings.

And we have a hummingbird friend that comes at least once a day, or several times a day, to our red roses. I know he’s (or she’s) there because he always comes throttling with the hum of his madly flapping wings. They sound like a busy little engine, and flap so fast I see nothing but a flash and the hazy feathers of the body beyond, and a pointed beak suckling on a rose for an instant, then disappearing around the house in the next.

Right on cue as fall has come … the road through the forest is now scattered with yellow-green leaves … even though the green symphony in the trees remains strong and unblemished.

grass in North Carolina

It is almost noon and the grass is still wet with soft, shiny pearl-drops of dew, at least on the slope over which the shadow of the heavy forest had lingered till just a bit ago. The sun has already warmed that grass, but not enough to siphon off the dew. Walking through the warm, wet grass is delicious.