Dolly Sods Wilderness: Lions Head Loop Day 2 – Part 2

Continued from Day 2 Part 1

The moist forest was home to various mushrooms.

Yellow Patches

I believe this is a Yellow Patches, Orange Amanita, or Amanita flavoconia, mushroom. These mushrooms grow June-November and are not edible.

However, it was a bit difficult to identify the mushroom for certain because it is not fully grown yet. The fuzzy patches on top are called “warts” and are a result of the deterioration of “universal veil” tissue that encloses and protects the immature button mushroom like an egg. These warts wash off in the rain.


On the way down Big Stone Coal Trail, we turned off onto Rocky Point Trail to continue our loop.

Lions Head

The namesake for the trail loop can be found at the bottom of the loop. There are many rocks next to the trail stretching up almost as far as you can see from the trail.

There is no obvious entry point to start climbing to find the Lions Head rock, so we just put our packs down and started scrambling up the boulders. Lions Head rock was easily recognizable from pictures we’d seen before.

The view from the top of Lions Head rock was great.

My husband went exploring a bit further while I slowly climbed down. He said there is a one-person sized campsite above/beyond Lions Head rock.

Eastern Garter Snake

The Eastern Garter Snake, or Thamnophis sirtalis, is not poisonous. It can be identified by three yellow stripes along its body, although some have a checkered pattern. They come in different colors, too – brown, grey, and bluish. Garter Snakes are common throughout North America.

We encountered this snake while walking among the rocks.

Even though my research says these snakes are not poisonous, it also says that if the snakes are provoked they will bite. We steered clear of this snake, just in case!


After our excursion up the rocks, we were sorely aware of the time and pressed on at a constant pace. Even so, the path going back to the car was a constant uphill. It didn’t take long for us to regret that we hadn’t put in an extra mile or two the previous day. This being our first backpacking trip, we were not used to the heavy weight on our backs. We had originally planned to be back at the car by midday, but it was increasingly obvious that was not happening.

Although we needed to keep going, we also needed to rest frequently. This gave me a good opportunity to take pictures of flowers that we passed.

Panicled Aster

Panicled Aster, or Aster simplex, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms August to October throughout much of North America, except the far north. It grows in damp thickets and meadows. What helped me to identify this one was the long, slighted toothed leaves. The color can be white or violet-tinged.

There are several varieties of this wildflower, differing in color, ray size, and leaf shape and serration.

Scarlet Beebalm

Scarlet Beebalm

Scarlet Beebalm, Crimson Beebalm, Scarlet Bergamot, Oswego Tea, or Monarda didyma,  is a member of the Mint family (Lamiaceae) blooms June to October. Native to North America, it grows mostly in the Northeast. The name Oswego tea refers to the Oswego native Americans living in upstate New York who taught early settlers how to make a herbal tea from the plants leaves.

Continue to Day 2 Part 3

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