This is a large state park (5804 acres) and it contains walking trails, bike trails, and equestrian trails. You are allowed to walk on the equestrian trails so we planned to walk at least part of the Lake Rutledge trail (we did about 5 miles of the total 16). The park contains two lakes and Hard Labor Creek flows between them.
|Our first creek crossing was a little tricky|
|Who you looking at?|
The park is a beautiful deciduous forest in the Piedmont ecoregion, much like my own place. A study of the different fallen leaves during the hike found at least 6 oak species (white, red, southern red, post oak and likely both scarlet and black), several hickories, sourwood, several maples, musclewood, American beech, sweetgum, and American holly as well as numerous pines.
|American beech (light tan) and chalk maple (dark tan)|
|Christmas ferns sloping down to mountain laurel|
|Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)|
Onward we went, following horse poop and hoof prints through the forest. I was happy to see lots of sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum) and the plants were still showing some great color. In some areas, the trees around were thick and overgrown. We did pass one open area that was full of Indian woodoats (Chasmanthium latifolium), and I remembered that it can be aggressive but the seed heads were very attractive in such a group. Some of the evergreen plants we saw besides Christmas fern included ginger (Hexastylis arifolia), resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides) yuccas (Yucca filamentosa) were noticeable in the woods too.
|Mistle (Phoradendron leucarpum) with fruit|
After we finished our hike, we went into Rutledge for some ice cream at The Caboose. On our way back to I-20, we passed a parking lot full of old Bradford pears that were almost green with mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum). I swung the car into the lot and took some pictures since the plants were full of beautiful berries.