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Naturalists' Rally highlights Roan Mountain's beauty in winter

staff report • Feb 9, 2013 at 6:37 AM

Roan Mountain is famous for having the world’s largest natural rhododendron garden, which bursts into bloom each June just in time for the Roan Mountain Citizens Club’s annual Rhododendron Festival.

But there’s plenty to see and do around Roan in cold-weather months, too, as participants of the upcoming day-long Winter Roan Mountain Naturalists’ Rally will discover.

Sponsored by Friends of Roan Mountain, the sixth annual event, set for Feb. 16, will feature talks and walks throughout the day, which will kick off at 9:30 a.m. at Roan Mountain State Park’s conference center with a lecture on rare fauna by Missouri native Nora Schubert, the Roan’s expert conservation biologist.

Schubert’s program will focus on her years of research on the highlands’ golden-winged warbler, rare faunal habitats and easy tips on gathering location data.

Jamey Donaldson will wrap up the morning with a presentation of his recent work on Roan’s green alder, with highlights of its botanical history. His talk will begin at 11 a.m.

Donaldson is known as creator of the volunteer-based Baatany Goat Project — aimed at restoring Grassy Bald corridors on Roan’s western balds using goats as an experimental management tool — and he will give an update on the 2013 goat browsing season, but he’s also East Tennessee State University’s much sought-after botanist for the latest word on rare Appalachian flora, and the green alder will be the focus of his rally talk.

Elizabethton’s City Market will cater lunch, which begins at noon. Pre-paid lunch reservations must be made by Feb. 12. Cost is $7.50 for adults and $4.50 for children 12 and younger, and includes assorted sandwiches, chips, cookies, brownies and tea.

During lunch, Foster Levy, director of ETSU’s honors program, will give a short status report on hemlock trees in the park area, and Lisa Huff of the Tennessee Natural Areas Program will provide an update on invasive plants, which have already arrived at Carver’s Gap.

Afternoon hikes begin at 1 p.m. on the lower field left of the park’s cabins entrance. Leaders will be at the car lineup.

Hike leaders include Richard Knight, author of “The Birds of Northeast Tennessee,” who will lead a birding hike in Hampton Creek Cove; Marty Silver, a naturalist at Warriors’ Path State Park, who will lead an animal tracking hike near the Doe River; acclaimed Blue Ridge photographer Jerry Greer, who will lead a photography hike through the winter woods west of Twin Springs; and Jamey Donaldson, who will lead a hike to the alder balds.

Cost for the programs and hikes is $5 for adults and free for children and Friends of Roan Mountain members. Friends membership is $15 for individuals, $20 for families and $10 for full-time students. Corporate and lifetime memberships are available as well.

For more information, call David Hall at (423) 772-3500 or email him at davetree@charter.net.

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