Sunday, May 3, 2009

Job update; Obed hike

Here's an update on my school job situation: Two weeks ago I found out I was going to lose my beautiful 1170 sq. ft. science room so it could become a new 4th grade classroom. The only place that I could be moved to was the old boys' locker room tucked into a corner of the school which measures less than 420 sq. ft. and it has very little storage space. Over the past 13 years I have accumulated a lot of equipment, supplies, books, posters, globes, etc.; in order to do my job well, I need much of that. Since the position is only half-time, I was also being nudged to quit my other part-time job (teaching science outreach programs for the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, which I have done for 22 years and pays twice as much) so I could be at the school every afternoon instead of just on Mon., Tue., and 1/2 day Wed. After much soul-searching I finally made the painful decision to resign. I decided to "quit at the top of my game" rather than be downsized into a much smaller room and see the quality of my program suffer next year. I dearly love working with the students and staff; I am going to miss having the kids bring in their dead bugs, feathers, caterpillars, leaves, flowers, and such. I'll really miss the smiles and hugs from the kids and hearing them ask, "Are we going to get to come to your room today, Mrs. Light?" It has been a wonderful experience working with a generation of children (this year's seniors were kindergarteners when I started teaching at Willow Brook). Here is the link to my website gallery on my science room to show what I will miss:
Although this door is closing, I am going to work on some other opportunities to be able to work with children and share my love of nature and science.

Ok, enough of the depressing stuff! Yesterday I led a wildflower hike at Obed National Scenic River in Wartburg, TN (Morgan Co.). It was pouring rain when we left Oak Ridge, so I decided not to take my Nikon camera (which I greatly regretted later!). Kenny and I were surprised that by the time we made the 45-minute drive up to Obed, it had quit raining! There were 2 ladies from Pikeville, TN who showed up for the hike. They were very interested in everything there was to see, thank goodness, because we saw very few wildflowers. I was happy to find some very unusual lichens. British Soldier Lichens (left) have always been one of my favorites, these were growing on a rock at the Lilly Bluff Overlook. I noticed several other types of lichens including the unusual Ladder Lichen (right) that looked like hundreds of tiny pagodas. My little waterproof Olympus pocket camera just couldn't do these lichens justice, but I didn't want to take the chance of ruining my Nikon out in the rain. Wouldn't you know it would quit raining!
Unfortunately, there have been some car break-ins at the trailhead parking area lately. When we came back from the overlook, the ranger who was accompanying us noticed one car parked heading out and 3 scruffy-looking young people hanging around the parking lot. They resembled the discription of the suspects who had been spotted after the earlier break-ins. So the ranger and my husband stayed behind in the parking lot while I finished the hike with the 2 women. Fortunately, there were no problems and the 3 people left. I'm glad the men stayed behind, I'm sure we would have returned to broken windows! It is such a shame there are low-life people like that in the world!

Although my 2 new friends and I didn't see many wildflowers other than a few violets, Bastard Toadflax (I have no idea why it has that name!), fleabanes, and a Perfoliate Bellwort (left), we saw other things of interest. Last year when I led this hike we saw a lot of Swamp Beacons (right, an aquatic fungus) in the creek on the Boulder Trail. I found a few growing in the creek this time.

I nearly stepped on a cute little Eastern Red-spotted Salamander eft (kind of like a teenaged salamander) in the trail. His bright orange color is a warning to predators that he (or maybe she, I can't tell the difference!) is poisonous if eaten. We saw 2 of these 3" creatures. They are much more active after a rain. Another interesting organism we saw were some large shelf fungi that looked like pancakes! They were growing on the stump of a large hemlock that had died. Unfortunately, the Hemlock Wooly Adelgids have invaded Obed too. I was disappointed, but I wasn't surprised to hear that since nearby Frozen Head State Park has them too. So, I guess this nearly wildflower-less wildflower hike was a success after all! :)

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