This past week I was fortunate enough to get to tag along with Mike Schafale with the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program to visit the newly conserved Dassow Property in the Birkhead Wilderness Area. Three Rivers Land Trust purchased this 100 acre tract just a few short weeks ago.
This site houses half a mile of the historic Uwharrie Trail, and a similar amount of frontage along beautiful Talbotts Creek. We walked in along the creek and spring was bursting everywhere. Painted buckeyes, pinxter azaleas, foamflower, dwarf crested iris, and more were in flower along the creekbanks.
The Dassow Property was almost timbered before the land trust bought it, but thankfully the landowner gave the land trust a chance to buy it before it was cut. Mike Schafale was mapping the natural communities on this visit which included Dry Oak Hickory Forests and Piedmont Monadnock Forests.
These high quality habitats are home to a huge variety of wildlife. We found a box turtle and a black racer on our walk, but we also heard a number of neotropical migratory birds, including wood thrush, red eyed vireos, black and white warblers, ovenbirds, Louisiana waterthrush and more.
Mike had a second stop in mind on our trip as we ventured toward what he had been told was a unique glade community off the land trust property in the wilderness area on US Forest Service land. This neat spot is part of Cedar Rock Mountain, aptly named as there were flat rocks and cedars growing out of the thin soil. This rare community elevated the significance of the whole natural area around the Dassow Property as well, Mike said.
Glade communities often house rare plants that can outcompete other plants given the somewhat harsh conditions of growing out of thin soil with rock underneath. We found flame flower, a succulent, as well as a lot of moss and native grasses including little blue stem. This natural area is definitely off the beaten path, and it’s remote location has helped protect it from being destroyed by trampling.
After GPSing the perimeter of the glade, we hiked back over to the Dassow tract and went upslope to the western side where the trail is located. There were nice native plants on the slope as well including bellwort and Solomon’s seal. We reached the trail on the ridge line just before it intersects the old Forrester Road. This road is almost entirely contained on the Dassow tract, and the Uwharrie Trail parallels it for its length. The old Forrester Road ties back in to the trail near the northern boundary of the tract. From here we took the trail back to our cars parked at Tot Hill Trailhead. I am very glad this property was able to be conserved and that the trees will now remain uncut and the natural communities intact. It was great to get to go out with Mike and hear from him that it was a very special place. Next time you hike the Uwharrie Trail south from Tot Hill, take a minute to enjoy the beautiful hardwood forest of the Dassow tract and know that it will now stay that way for all the wildlife that use it and for future generations to enjoy on their own jaunts through the woods.