By: David Hannah
Posted: February 14, 2012
A brief snow shower welcomed the 17 people who spent a few hours walking and enjoying the Deep Run Ponds Natural Area Preserve in Rockingham County. We visited 6 of the 8 sinkhole ponds, though only 1 of the 6 had standing water. The large salamander egg masses there were an unexpected but welcome sight. And our youngest trekker, 5 year old Dylan, was very glad to finally find water at one of the “ponds.”
Chris Bowlen was her usual informative and welcoming self, leading everyone around the preserve while discussing many of the plants we saw. (The bear scat that we saw in abundance was an added bonus.) Gary Fleming, a vegetation ecologist with the Virginia Natural Heritage Program, which owns and manages the preserve, also added many interesting points about the plants and geology of the area.
We saw rosettes of the globally rare Virginia sneezeweed, and encountered many trees that are uncommon for this part of Virginia. The trees included eastern cottonwood, bigtooth aspen, pitch pine, pin oak (which was abundant in the pond areas), and shingle oak. The shingle oak was a surprise to everyone, as it was not known to occur in the preserve before the outing.