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Room for more participants at this weekend's naturalist rally

John Thompson • Feb 4, 2020 at 9:07 PM

ROAN MOUNTAIN — The 13th Annual Winter Naturalist Rally, sponsored by the Friends of Roan Mountain, will be held this Saturday, Feb. 8, beginning with registration at 9 a.m. at Roan Mountain State Park Conference Center.

The event has been called a winter celebration of the Roan Highlands. Registration fee for non-members of the Friends of Roan Mountain is $10.

For 13 years the Winter Naturalist Rally has drawn hardy nature enthusiasts to Roan Mountain on a Saturday close to Valentine’s Day. The 2020 Winter Rally continues this tradition by providing top speakers and field trip leaders on topics regarding the natural history of the Roan Highlands.

The morning part of the session will feature indoor presentations by three guest speakers: Marquette Crockett, Michelle Bouton and Bob Fulcher.

• Crockett is the Highlands of the Roan stewardship director for the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. Her speech is titled “No Place Like Roan”

For more than 45 years, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has worked to protect the landscapes, resources and habitats of our the Roan Highlands. From family farms to sky islands — take a photographic tour of these protected landscapes and hidden gems and learn more about how SAHC and its partners are planning conservation in the face of large-scale environmental threats.

• Bouton is director of HERBalachia school in Johnson City. She will speak on “Medicinal Plants of the Roan Highlands. Bouton will describe a local herbalist’s medicine chest and describe the diversity of Southern Appalachian medicinal plants.

This hands-on class will acquaint you with plants of the Roan that can boost health and help heal our bodies. Be prepared to smell and taste some teas and tinctures to become better acquainted with plants discussed. Handouts will be provided to continue your healing relationship with the plants outside your own back door.

• Fulcher is park manager for Cumberland Trail State Park and State Scenic Trail. His presentation will be on “John Muir’s Forgotten Travels on and around the Roan.”

Muir’s advocacy of the American wilderness is well known today, but Muir never publicly shared the story of this journey that led him to the Roan, then deeper into the high mountains of the East, though his observations and beautiful commentary were kept in his journal and letters. Building upon previously published research, this presentation will add more details and speculation regarding the notes Muir left for his family and for us.

The program will break for lunch set 12:30 p.m. It is too late to reserve one of the box lunches but participants are welcome to bring their own bag lunch.

The afternoon activities get started at 1:15 p.m. with three different hikes leaving from the Conference Center. There will also be an indoor discussion in the Conference Center for those not going on a hike. Pre-registration for these activities is not required.

• Hike No. 1​. High-elevation Balds of Roan: Join Crockett for a high-elevation hike and “peakfinding” expedition through the Roan’s grassy balds. She will discuss grassy balds management, point out properties that have been protected by her organization and lead an activity to identify visible mountain peaks. (carpooling; moderately strenuous; kid-friendly)

• Hike No. 2. Roan Mountain area: Jamey Donaldson (John C. Warden Herbarium Adjunct Curator at East Tennessee State University) will be the hike leader. Depending on the weather conditions, Donaldson will lead a winter botany and ecology hike at either Carvers Gap, Twin Springs or down in the state park on the Ravens Rock Trail. (carpooling; moderately strenuous)

• Hike No. 3. ​Roan Mountain State Park: Marty Silver (ranger with Warriors’ Path State Park in Kingsport) will be the trip leader. Silver will lead a wildlife tracking and animal signs hike down near the Doe River. (easy; kid-friendly)

• Indoor Conservation Confab — Dr. Frosty Levy, professor emeritus of biology at ETSU, will lead an indoor discussion about conservation management of Gray’s lily and other rare plants of the Roan Highlands.

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