Take a walk in the woods and learn about edible and medicinal native plants

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    By Jean Zirnhelt
    Weminuche Audubon Society

    Join us for a fun and educational ramble through the forest as we discover edible and medicinal native plants. The walks are free of charge and offered in partnership with the Weminuche Audubon Society. 

    Lake McCullough is a local herbalist with an extensive knowledge of local plants and a sense of humor that makes the walks both educational and enjoyable.

    In order to handle increased popularity and demand for information about our beautiful local ecosystems, we will be conducting two back-to-back plant walks at each location. The first tour will begin at 9:30 a.m. and run until 11:15 a.m. The second tour will begin at 11:30 a.m. and go until 1:15 a.m.

    There is a 12-person maximum on each walk and advance registration is required. To save your spot, email weminuche.audubon@gmail.com. The walks are about 1.5 miles round trip. Please be prepared for rugged trails and unpredictable weather, and leave dogs at home.

    McCullough will be leading walks in three forest areas this summer. The first focus is on native plants of the subalpine forest. On June 12, we will explore early summer wildflowers and medicinal herbs growing in the mixed conifer and aspen forest of West Fork Road, where there is a surprising diversity of plants in a small area. 

    Meet on the far side of the first bridge on West Fork Road. From downtown Pagosa, take U.S. 160 east approximately 14 miles, making a left turn at the junction of Forest Service Road 648 (West Fork Road). Follow 648 down a steep hill and past the privately owned Bruce Spruce Ranch. The road crosses Wolf Creek shortly after, on a narrow wood-planked bridge. Park on the far side of the bridge.

    On July 14, we will look for edible and medicinal plants along the Piedra River Trail, where there is an exciting diversity of useful plants along one of our most popular and scenic hiking trails. Meet at Piedra River Trailhead. From U.S. 160, take County Road 600 (Forest Service Road 631) 14.5 miles north to the bridge over the Piedra River. Continue on for another 300 yards, then take a left into the parking area.

    The final walk of the season on Aug. 7 will feature the lush high-elevation wildflowers of Wolf Creek Road during peak wildflower season on the Continental Divide. Meet at FS Road 725 (Wolf Creek Road). FS Road 725 is about 22 miles east of town on U.S. 160, on Wolf Creek Pass. Go 3/4 mile past mile marker 164, on the right-hand side of the highway. It is the first right after Falls Creek Road (FS Road 39) and is marked with a small brown Forest Service sign reading “Junction Road 725.” The road slopes down to the right, after the turnoff. We will meet at the pull-out at the base of the road and walk from there.

    Registrations for these popular walks fill quickly. Email us at weminuche.audubon@gmail.com to reserve your spot now.