2014 Reports

November: The Friends of McIntosh Reserve held the November Walk and Talk in the Whitesburg Library due to the November cold spell.  Sally Bethea, the Chattachoochee Riverkeeper (CRK), presented an overview of their accomplishments over the last 20 years and announced that she was retiring as executive director and Riverkeeper to become part-time senior advisor.  The Riverkeeper was the primary driving force in the cleanup of the river below Atlanta which was brought about by winning a lawsuit requiring the City of Atlanta to correct it’s many sewage treatment problems. When the Riverkeeper started it was common after every rain that the streams draining the City and the river downstream were polluted with bacteria and not safe for any use.  Today 99% of the volume of sewage that contaminated the river has been stopped and more than 100 miles of river and tributaries are cleaner and safer.  This action, while costing the City nearly $2 billion dollars over the last 20 years, now allows the increasing use of the river below Atlanta for recreational activities.   The CRK has educated more than 35,000 students with hands-on experience in science lessons aboard a floating classroom on Lake Lanier and 7,500 water samples have been collected and analyzed by staff and volunteers.  This data has lead to positive action to improve water quality.  CRK is extending monitoring activities downstream to include the river at Whitesburg and West Point Lake.  Educational outreach is being expanded with a new floating West Point Lake Aquatic Learning Center classroom on the reservoir.  This is in partnership with the Callaway Foundation and LaGrange College.

The CRK, as a member of the ACF Stakeholders Group. serves as a catalyst for negotiations in a settlement of the tri-state water conflict to protect the water quality, quantity and ecology of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin. The current tri-state water conflict is entering a new stage due to a lawsuit filed by the State of Florida vs State of Georgia regarding the minimum flow of river water affecting oyster production in Apalachicola Bay.  The U.S. Supreme Court has recently agreed to hear this case.  The ACF Stakeholders Group has been developing water management information for the basin since 2008 and has progressed toward solution of the water allocation issues.  However, because of the lawsuit, a gag order was placed on the ACF Stakeholders in 2013 resulting in total loss of transparency to the public. Riverkeepers are increasingly important in preventing backsliding on the water quality and quantity issues so important to us all.  The Riverkeepers can speak truth to power and hold government accountable.  The public can support them through memberships and donations that will help to maintain a clean and healthy environment. (www.chattahoochee.org).

October: Renee Morrison, Field Schools Assistant Director with Jacksonville State University and an Alabama National Storyteller presented a riveting program on snakes for the October Walk and Talk at the McINtosh Reserve Park.  Renee told enchanting stories about her childhood on the family farm in Alabama, where she learned to pay close attention to the creatures around her and developed her passion for nature and all of her inhabitants – especially snakes.  Her stories and the live snakes she pulled from her pockets illustrated in concrete terms the amazing senses, adaptations and powers of the slithering creatures she so admires.  Grown-ups and children alike enjoyed touching the scarlet king snake and western hognose snake she brought along.  The coral snake, a venomous snake (“yellow touching red can kill a fellow”), is sometimes confused with the very helpful scarlet king snake (“red touching black-safe for Jack”).  We all participated in the “fake snake” hike she led us on to test our powers of observation.  In addition to the Stober children, who seldom miss a Walk and Talk, a Daisies and Brownies Girl Scout troop based at Old Camp Methodist Church in Carrollton joined us.  The enthusiasm of the kids was a pleasure for us all.

August: Dr. Timothy Chowns began the walk and talk at Council Bluff at the McIntosh Reserve Park appropriately with a Geology 101 introduction to rocks and how they weather. There are three types of rock: igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. Rocks weather either chemically or mechanically. And, there is a cyclical pattern of weathering, although at different speeds in different places. [You may have noticed that Tim is wearing two belts. One could serve as a “spare”, but it is actually his hammer belt. He did use the hammer during our walk to chip away at some rock.]

After the 30 minute lecture, we traipsed down the bluff to look at examples of mechanical weathering. Heat and cold can cause a rock to crack. Moisture also contributes, and trees can grow through the cracks, further breaking up the rock. Visitors frequently mistake the rock at Council Bluff for granite, an igneous rock, but it is really metamorphic rock gneiss.

Following the creek, heading towards Pavilion 3, our agile geologist leaped down into the stream bed to show us examples of sediment caused by weathering.

Behind Pavilion 3, we looked at metamorphic gneiss experiencing chemical weathering. Minerals in the rock disintegrate, contributing to the red and orange soil around the park. A geological term for such an example of chemical weathering is saprolite or “rotten rock”.

We then hiked over to the Overlook where Tim explained how the clay formed by weathering makes the Chattahoochee muddy. It’s not just pollution from upstream. The river flows on to the Gulf of Mexico, continuing the rock cycle driven by the opening and closing of ocean basins (plate tectonics). We learned that oceans evolve with age: Red Sea, young; Atlantic, mature; Pacific, senior; Mediterranean, dying; Himalayas, dead!

Thank you, Tim, for a very informative and entertaining walk and talk.

July: In spite of threatening weather, about seven of us gathered for a lovely bird walk on an overcast day in the midst of ” Dog Day Doldrums” at the McIntosh Reserve Park Short Report.  From atop the Overlook Stanley Tate played bird songs of birds we might see on the walk if we could get them to come out of hiding. We heard the songs of the White-eyed Vireo, Indigo Bunting, Carolina Wren, Summer Tanager, Scarlet Tanager, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Goldfinch, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Great-crested Flycatcher.  As we walked the river bank from the Overlook to the bridge we were able to get the White-eyed Vireo to respond to our recorded calls but he never came out of his thicket.  There was an abundance of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, several Goldfinches, male and female Indigo Buntings–one female was feeding a recently fledged young bunting.  Northern Rough-winged Swallows were flying over the river and a Belted Kingfisher flew past us going up river.  Some of us were able to see an adult Bald Eagle making a low pass over the river followed shortly thereafter by a juvenile Bald Eagle quartering across the river.  Probably the most AH-Ha sighting was the mother bunting feeding her baby.  Stanley also gave us copies of his field notes taken during scouting trips to the park preparing for the walk and talk.  They show what birds were in the park along the river over the last six weeks and where they were seen so anyone who wants to can go back on their on and try to find birds we did not see the day of the walk.

Stanley used a Birdjam with attached speakers to play the calls.  This is an Ipod Loaded from the Stokes bird call CD’s for the eastern and western US.  He can’t remember where he purchased it but does know he ordered it on line.  He recommended Eagle Optics as a good source of binoculars–for the money You can’t beat their house brand–eagleoptics.com.  He and Lora were using even better ones he found there on sale for half price.  He used Vortex 10×42 Viper and Lora used Steiner 8×42’s.  I have a pair of the Eagle Optics house brand which he recommended last year.  They are great, and work well with or without glasses.

June: June 21, 2014 Doug Mabry led the monthly Walk and Talk at Moore’s Bridge Park.  Doug told us that this site has unique natural and cultural as well as historical significance.  The reason for our gathering on this date was in commemoration of the events taking place here 150 years ago on July 13, 1864prior to Sherman’s March on Atlanta.  Moore’s Bridge was the only site of war activity in Carroll County when the Confederates were caught off guard by the Union’s General Stoneman, who came down the west bank of the Chattahoochee scouting for crossings.  After the Union drove those guarding the bridge off, the Confederates returned the next day and had a skirmish with an artillery duel across the river.  After the Union troops realized they could not hold the bridge, they burned it so the Confederates could not get behind Sherman as he crossed into Atlanta upstream, two days later.  Doug said “the bridge burning has great significance in retrospect as a unique footnote in Civil War history in that the Union troops destroyed the first major business venture by a person of color in the south –  Horace King.  King, a freed slave (in 1846) and master builder had built the bridge and was part owner.  He built most of the covered bridges in the south and probably built the Moore house that still stands in the park.  (I tried to attach the handouts Doug gave at the talk, but they were too big.  I will get with him to get a version we can send.)

May: Short Report of May Walk and Talk on Grasses and Invasive Plants with Dr. David Morgan, Department of Biology, University of West Georgia.

It was a lovely morning for a walk in the park for about a dozen hikers.  Looking for grasses and invasive plants, Dr. Morgan led us from the old ranger station along the trail by the stream below the overlook to the river trail above Council Bluff.  We walked across the rocks below Council Bluff to circle back to the ranger station along the road, just as the rains came to mark the end of our walk.

Among the 86 species of grasses found within the park, we saw several species of panic grass (so named from the use of similar, larger grained grasses for bread – Panem in Latin) rushes, sedges, fescues, and the needlegrass.  Many of the grasses do not have common names.

Of the list of 20 invasive plants causing the most concern, 11 may be found in the park.  Of these 11 we saw the Tree of Heaven, Lespedeza, the Mimosa, Japanese Honeysuckle, and Chinese privet.

While we tried to concentrate on grasses and invasive plants, we could not help stopping to investigate a number of other plants of interest. (Somehow,  these plants tend to be more photogenic than most of the grasses and sedges.) We saw several Atamasca lilies sporting fruit pods, patches of wild garlic and wild mustard, poke salad, elephant foot, lovely clematis, alum root, Buckeye, Virginia Creeper, wind flower, and wild geraniums.  Stella Spyrou and Margery Bouris took the pictures below.  Here is a link to some of Stella’s additional pictures for this hike as well as others:


April: Spring 2014 wildflower hike  (Written by Randall Herrin)  “Following Wendell …. Missing Emily):

A group of good-natured folks surrounded by beautiful scenery and pollen gathered on a sunny, April morning at the Old Ranger Station on McIntosh Reserve to be led by Wendell Hoomes on the spring wildflower walk and talk. Wendell brought walking sticks, and I saw bug spray on the tailgate of his truck: tick season. Wendell started us toward the Atamasco lilies, but along the way he stopped us first beside his beloved tree: the old hawthorn.

We proceeded to the lilies which were blooming beautifully among the gneiss outcrop along the Chattahoochee River. A black snake was seen. We then walked on around the base of Council Bluff, and Wendell pointed out the mayapple and the buckeye trees which were in bloom, and he called one plant a “foam flower”. The green, portable toilets were something of an eyesore but proved convenient for at least one hiker.

We proceeded back to the pavement and turned right and took the loop trail that starts just before the bridge over the creek which a previous biologist told us held macroinvertebrates that could only live in clean water. Wendell pointed out that two varieties of paw paw plants were growing there near each other. We took that loop trail on back to where we had parked our vehicles.

On the loop we saw Carolina Silverbells in bloom, a multitude of fern varieties, a very large vine identified by several traits as probably a muscadine vine, the green and gold plant, rattlesnake plantain, a beech tree unfortunately marked with human carvings, and an American sycamore tree with an unusual base with side shoots growing tall. Cathe soon had a tick crawling on her hand. I was on the hunt for resurrection fern but never saw any. Deer tracks were seen on the trail, and a nice man drew our attention to the fresh tracks of a fawn. No doubt that fawn had spots and was nearby with its doe dam.  Cliff asked for the spelling of the plant Wendell identified as “pipsissewa”.  Annie did a fine job of mingling and inviting people to join in on the events of the local native plant society.  We all moved off the trail, so horses with riders aboard could pass by. We saw rocks known as diabase along the trail, which the Native Americans shaped into tools such as axes and celts.  Diabase is heavy and has great hardness and strength.  Wendell pointed out lots of wild azaleas in bloom:  those and the blooming dogwoods were beautiful in color with the sun filtering in onto them through the forest canopy. Ben remembered which little creek was the site of the old moonshine still, and sure enough when we got there we saw remnants of the still:  metal with hundreds of nails still punched through it which probably held the wooden cap over the mash. Old wooden boards are also there. The still  was close to the river therefore making it easy to bring in ground corn, supplies, jugs, jars, etc. and transport by boat as needed without having to depend only on the road system. Pay off the judge on Saturday or the sheriff would pay you a visit on Monday:  that’s what I always heard.  A bold, young lady who can climb and rappel with ropes, paddle a canoe, handle an axe and load a honey bee hive into the back of a pick-up truck saw a chipmunk and smartly avoided crossing a little creek via a  large windthrown tree with decaying bark on it: that tree has been suspended over that creek for at least two years.  We saw a young longleaf pine tree about six feet tall. One group walked down a side trail to look at the pink lady slippers. Per usual Wendell identified more plants than any of us could remember. Also per usual James pestered me, and I pestered him back. Bobbe and I finally crossed paths again; she made my day.  Dita and Cathe ate lunch, so they could hit other trails to do trail maintenance work. At the conclusion of the event the attendees posed for group photographs before we disbanded.

What I haven’t told you in this write-up is that I have been missing Emily Cumming lately, and I brought to the event three sets of bunny ears for people to wear during the walk and talk. Fortunately three people did wear the bunny ears the entire time. Years back at a walk and talk I saw Emily get out of her car and put on her bunny ears with aplomb. From that day forward I realized that she was charm incarnate. I saw her many kindnesses to people over the years. She told me about the bear that raided their Tate place; she showed me plants at McIntosh Reserve that were the same plants the black bears in North Georgia loved to eat. She enjoyed getting out into the natural world. When a grand lady like her wore those bunny ears I felt like she was trying to teach us all without words to not take life or each other too seriously. She was full of kindness and fun; she loved learning about the natural world; she wanted us all to enjoy each other’s company despite our human conditions, faults, foolishness and frictions. She set a fine example for all of us in Carroll County when she lived here. I know other people miss her too, since she moved away.  Evidently Emily knows that there is something magical about humans wearing bunny ears. Thanks to her I now know that there IS something magical about humans wearing bunny ears:  as we were disbanding after the walk and talk I saw two tall men, both wearing bunny ears, hug. Thanks Emily.

March: Richard Littleton, certified bee-keeper, presented a lively and informative program on bees and bee-keeping. Richard demonstrated his equipment and even brought a demonstration hive along with him.  There is a growing interest around the country and in this locale for small, backyard bee operations.  This is a good thing in light of the decline in commercial beekeeping, where livelihood is threatened by hive collapse, new pests and diseases for bees, and the increased use of pesticides in large, commercial agricultural operations.  Richard does rescue hives from walls of homes and barns etc., but not if efforts have already been made to destroy the hive by gasoline, poisons etc.  The Carroll County Ag Center can provide information about beekeeping as well as access to Richard (770-836-8546).

February: Dr. Ben Steere, an anthropology professor at UWG, spoke to the Friends of McIntosh Reserve and park visitors about the “deep history” of McIntosh. In his discussion, he talked about the Reserve in the context of the 13,000 year history of human settlement in America and in our region in particular.  He talked about the way the land within the park would have been used by the early immigrants from Asia and the Native Americans and he illustrated the various pre-historical periods with the kinds of archeological data – spear points, arrowheads, pottery – that might be found in the park.  After the talk, the group visited the field by the river which would have been home to many generations of Native American families.  Dr. Steere discussed the kinds of homes that would have been built, and the kinds of agriculture, hunting practices and seasonal resources that would have been utilized.  The last stop was a visit to an early 20th century home site, with old bricks and daffodils to mark the spot.  Dr. Steere concluded with some guidelines on how to be a responsible amateur archeologist. In particular, he stressed the importance of not removing artifacts from their context. For those interested in pursuing an interest in amateur archeology, he suggested goggling the Society for Georgia Archeology.

The Walk and Talk made the front page of the Times-Georgian on Sunday, Cliff Williams reporting:


January: Trudy Crunkelton, Parks Director for Carroll County, gave the January Walk and Talk on the development of the north part of Moore’s Bridge Park, demonstrating the equestrian parking area and bathroom facilities.  She then led a hike along some of the trails now under construction.  The weather was very cold, but the sun was bright.  About 25 people attended.