Calendar of Events

Trees of the NC Mountains-to-SeaTrail  

The Hillsborough sections 

Thursday series on October 19,26, November 2,9 &16

(any rain makeup days will be held on December Thursdays)

Two sessions offered: 10AM-12 morning or 2PM-4 afternoon  

Cost $95 - registration is open to the general public 


       In the Spring we studied the west Durham section of the one thousand mile, cross-state walking trail known as the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail. This Fall the journey continues. Join naturalist Riverdave Owen and herbalist Suki Roth as we follow the trail through its Hillsborough sections to study native trees and shrubs found in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. This is an opportunity for you to be mentored in the identification of these one hundred species of native trees and shrubs and learn about their medicinal properties as well. You will also experience a good introduction to this one thousand mile, cross-state walking tail. Participants must be able to comfortably walk two miles in two hours. Please print out the following tree checklist to bring to class Piedmont Tree List. Stan Tekliela's Trees of the Carolinas is my recommended field guide for this course, but not required. For registration, please contact me at Class meeting locations are as follows:

October 19 - From the Durham Hilton on Hillsborough Road in West Durham, follow highway 70 going west for 3.6 miles.  Turn right onto Pleasant Green Road and go 0.4 mile and before the Eno Bridge turn left and we'll meet at the Pleasant Green Eno Access parking lot by the river.
October 26 & November 2 - From Churton Street in Hillsborough just south of the Eno River Bridge, follow highway 70 East 0.8 mile to Elizabeth Brady Road.  Turn left on Elizabeth Brady Road and go north 0.5 mile. We'll meet at the Occoneechi Speedway parking lot on the right.
November 9 & 16 - Meet in downtown Hillsborough.  Park in the free parking deck next to Weaver Street Market, then walk 100 yards west to the beginning of the elevated Riverwalk.  We will meet by the large Riverwalk sign just before the footbridge over the river. 

Celebrating Thoreau at 200:  Gleaning Treasures From His Journal - A ten week course offered by Duke Continuing Studies at OLLI. 

January 11 - March 22, Thursdays 9-10:30AM, (no class 2/11/17) Bishop's House - Duke East Campus, Registration at 919-684-6259  

       On July 12, 2017 we began a year long celebration of the 200th birthday of Henry David Thoreau.  A number of events throughout the world are honoring this great American naturalist, philosopher and poet. Although many facets of Henry’s life and works can be appreciated, perhaps his greatest gift to us is a two million word journal spanning a quarter of a century.  It may be the largest personal journal ever published that still remains in print. 

       Using weekly home reading assignments and a class discussion format, we will examine the intimate contents of Henry's journal, packed with vibrant natural history observations, deep cosmic philosophy, mundane 19th century New England politics and dry Yankee humor. Weather permitting, a portion of a class or two may move outside beneath the pines next to the Bishop's House. 

       Our required text will be I to myself - An annotated Selection From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau, edited by Jeffrey Cramer, curator for collections at the Walden Woods Project in Lincoln, Massachusetts.  

       Riverdave has made numerous pilgrimages to Walden Pond and participated in Thoreau Society events in New England since 1992. Animated by Henry's example,  Riverdave has kept his own personal journal since 1980, mining it for creating essays that form the body of his online natural history compendium known as Riverdave's Journal. He has previously taught Thoreau's Walden at Duke Olli and co-taught Thoreau's A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers in the Department of English at Duke University. 


Tropical Tree Camp - Part One: Medicinal Plants of Tropical America 

Winter 2018 dates to be posted soon, 1:30 - 3:30PM 
       This two hour winter Tree Camp, held in the Magic Wings Tropical Butterfly Conservatory in Durham NC, is an opportunity to study the traditional medicinal uses of plants in the Vegetalismo, Curanderismo and Root Medicine traditions of the American tropics.  Riverdave invites you to come in out of the cold and enjoy a winter tropical adventure in Durham's largest greenhouse. 
For class outline see: Tropical Tree Camp - Part 1  
Tropical Tree Camp - Part Two: Medicinal Plants of Tropical Asia 
Winter 2018 dates to be posted soon, 1:30 - 3:30PM 
       This two hour winter Tree Camp, held in the Magic Wings Tropical Butterfly Conservatory in Durham NC, is an opportunity to study some of the living medicinal plants of the Ayurvedic herbal tradition of South Asia.  Riverdave invites you to come in out of the cold and enjoy a winter tropical adventure in Durham's largest greenhouse. or call 919-684-6259.  
For class outline see: Tropical Tree Camp - Part 2

Cedar Grove, Orange County: Annual Pilgrimage to the Source of the Eno River 

March 2018 - exact date to be announced ...

Links to other Tree Camp Info:
Tree Campers Respond:                                                                                   
Dear Riverdave,
     Thanks for a wonderful class at the Butterfly House today. This was my first introduction to Ayurvedic teachings and it will be interesting to see how they might be incorporated into life going forward.  The fruits and spices to taste, or to ponder in the case of the giant palm seed, added a lot to the experience.  I'll be on the lookout for courses you give in the future!  Best wishes, Margaret

     All I hear are wonderful memories and stories about those who know you or know of you in Durham. I can tell from the words of others, your website, your writings, and your photographs that you have an incredible connection to your home and the nature that is in and around it.  I would love to see NC and the Eno through your eyes.   Kate

Hi Riverdave, 
     Thanks again for a great Tree Camp experience!  Sue and I had a wonderful time!  We're going to try to inventory Sue's yard and also pay more attention to the trees on the Umstead trail that we hike frequently. Jill
Dear Riverdave, 
     We are basking in the memory of our tree camp encounter on New Year's Day and cannot help examining every tree in our path. What a wonderful thing you are doing.  Joe & Mary Kay

 Hello Riverdave!
     I just wanted to say thank you for the really enjoyable and meaningful walk to the source of the Eno yesterday.  Until then, I had never given much thought to the source of rivers or the source of many things, other than my belief in a Spirit/Being that is the Source of life.  I thoroughly appreciated the spiritual and reverential dimension you shared.  That was my favorite aspect of the hike.  I did, of course, love learning about the trees, the Smilax, pollination, and of that very plain/hillside being the source for not only the Eno, but the Neuse and the Roanoke Rivers!  It was such a relaxing hike and a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Thank you for asking us to pick up a stone or something to bring to the source and for allowing a few moments of contemplation as we placed our offerings.  Thank you.  In our busy city lives, spending time, particularly outdoors, with someone like you is rejuvenating.  You are an antidote to the toxins of life's many pressures. Your hike yesterday will stay with me for a long time.  Gratefully,  Aniko 
    Tree Camp was spectacular!  I'd never before cared much about the names of trees,  mainly because I found remembering all the information about each tree daunting. Tree guides focus on minute botanical features with confusing names.  But Riverdave keyed in to the most important characteristics of each tree, and gave me simple ways of remembering - like a River Birch casts a Monet effect, or an Ashe looks like it's sparsely leafed, or an Elm splits into slingshot trunks.  After 5 hours of observation, and a lot of gentle quizzing, I think I've got it!  I'm a Boy Scout leader, and I was always a little embarrassed that I didn't know my trees as well as I know my knots. Now, I'll be able to hold my own in the woods.  Greg - Assistant Scout Master

     My wife and I had a great time.  We walked around our neighborhood the past two evenings trying out our new "skill."  Looking forward to the fall sessions of your camp.  Michael
Dear Riverdave,
     Your Tree Camp program for my freshman class was perfect.  I was hoping they would hear more than just the botanical facts.  You gave them a lot more to think about.  I especially liked the "cosmic" tree discussion.  We had talked already in class about how cultures bonded with nature in various ways and how we now ignore this ancient reality.  Hope we can do this again.  Professor Schauman, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
      Eating lunch outside today, under my favorite oak in the parking lot, with leaves falling on me, I felt more connected and aware of the trees' presence than normally.  Although the six hours of tree camp exhausted me, I realized at lunch that the long hike was a kind of immersion education, where one's familiarity with the topic is deeply reinforced. Thanks, Didi
Hi Dave,
      I wanted to say thanks again for the Tree Camp experience.  I thought I'd never remember all that you taught us, but I went past my neighbor's house and they asked me all about it.  I amazed myself in naming tree after tree!  My neighbor is 81 and has lived on the Piedmont all her life, and I think I now can teach her a lot about trees!  As I look back on the day, I especially appreciate the afternoon when you made us put all our just-learned knowledge to work.  Excellent day - thanks so much. Shel

Hello, River/Arbor Dave!
     Thanks so much for a great day!  I learned so much and it was so fun!  I found myself identifying the trees along my long running route today...which I hadn't done before.   Please keep me informed of any other special activities. Katrina


     Thank you so much for the Tree Camp yesterday.  My knowledge and confidence is growing with every camp.  So glad to have your instruction. What a great program you've created.  Sincere thanks. Mary

Hello RIverdave,
      I had a wonderful time yesterday! I learned more about trees in 6 hours yesterday than the previous 43 years of my life! I find that the more that I know about the nature around me, the more I enjoy it. There is so much to know that it can be overwhelming, but your tree camp and mentoring approach really provide an intimate access to nature that is hard to come by these days. It was a pleasure indeed!   Steve
     Thanks so much!  I have learned a lot and figured out most of the trees in my yard.  Hope to come again in the fall!  Carter

Photo: Co-teachers of the Fall 2017 Tree Camp series, Riverdave and Suki Roth listen to a venerable tulip tree along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in Orange County.