A Hike With the Virginia Native Plant Society

The Virginia Native Plant Society group
The Virginia Native Plant Society group with Wes in the back

Wes and I stepped out onto our front porch this past Friday morning to welcome twenty-four members of the Virginia Native Plant Society to our home studio and gardens. Instantly, we acquired many new friends as the group enjoyed wandering throughout our home, admiring paintings and learning a bit about our personal history as artists and what we do as a couple of modern day miniature painters. We thoroughly enjoyed sharing our miniatures and larger older paintings, as well as the paintings we were currently working on with them, and did so while answering many questions for over an hour. Many of them also enjoyed walking through our paths and seeing what was blooming throughout our gardens. Leaving our house as a caravan, we headed to the nearby visitor center here in Townsend, to decide who would be doing what for the day. Wes and I along with about half of the group headed for the Schoolhouse Gap Trailhead, where we strapped on waist packs and backpacks and began our journey to the White Oak Sinks area. With several days of recent sunshine and warmer weather, there was much more blooming this time compared to our hike there a week ago.

Wild Ginger photo
A beautiful blossom on a Wild Ginger
Wild GInger plant
A Wild Ginger plant
Witch's Butter fungi
A lovely little snail on Witch’s Butter Fungi

Most of the Trillium in assorted varieties had opened up, accompanied by blooming violets in several species, as well as numerous other wildflowers. Thankfully the misting rain stopped as soon as we parked our cars at the trailhead, and just left us with clouds and a brisk breeze. Slowly we made our way along the trail, taking time to stop and examine many of the blossoms as well as different clumps of foliage. Before too long it was time for lunch, so we stopped where a large tree had fallen and it served as a perfect seating area for most of the group. We were blessed with sun in this perfect spot while we enjoyed our lunches and lots of conversation. While sitting there, Wes spotted a beautiful snail, the largest one we’ve ever seen here in the Smokies in fact, slowly making its way across the moist ground cover. Of course with this group of nature-loving enthusiasts, this snail became an immediate superstar and was bombarded with the paparazzi! Soon all had finished lunch and we were once again on our way. Sometime later, and several wildflower sightings and photo sessions later, we arrived at the meadow area leading to the Blowhole Cave and the waterfall.

Catesby's Trillium photo
A beautiful bloom on a Catesby’s Trillium
Longspurred Violets photo
A stunning clump of Longspurred Violets nested in the crotch of a tree.
snail photo
A gorgeous large snail making its way along the forest floor

When we first walked through the area, there were numerous Blue Phlox already blooming, with many more starting to bloom. They were accompanied by hundreds, no probably thousands, of May-Apples covering the ground, while reflecting the bits of blue sky now showing above, thus creating a stunning scene! The small dome shaped plants looked like an army of umbrellas marching across the forest floor, all sporting lovely little water droplets from the rain the night before. As we walked along, a magnificent scene unfolded before us, and one could almost see them slowly and quietly marching along in unison. Winding our way along the narrow path leading through the meadow area, we reached the falls. Just as we all got there, the clouds disappeared and the sun came out shining directly down on the falls and bringing them to life! It was perfect timing and we were able to point out why these falls are sometimes called Rainbow Falls, as the sun creates a beautiful rainbow at the bottom of the falls, where they fall into the cave opening below, before joining the underground stream that flows back the direction from which the water came.

May-Apple photo
The army of little umbrellas or May-apples covering the forest floor
May-Apple photo
A May-apple sporting lovely little water droplets
White Oak Sinks or Rainbow Falls photo
The beautiful White Oak Sinks or Rainbow Falls
rainbow falls photo
Why it is also called Rainbow Falls

We enjoyed this peaceful setting for a short while, before starting our journey back. Walking back through the meadow area towards the Blowhole Cave, we noticed that several more Phlox had opened up just in that short time of life-giving sun shining down upon them, creating an even more beautiful sight! Several butterflies had also come to life and were flitting about bringing the forest floor alive. Leaving the cave, we stopped to admire several Shooting Stars, which were blooming and looking most stunning with the sunlight bouncing off of their delicate petals. The hike back was relaxing, and dotted with stops to admire yet more wildflowers that had sprung to life. That evening we all enjoyed another wonderful dinner together at our local restaurant, Miss Lily’s Café, here in Townsend. It was delicious food once again, and was accompanied by lots of lively conversation of what we had all seen and enjoyed that day! Later on, Wes and I said our goodbyes to the delightful group of new friends we had made, and then enjoyed a visit with our dear friends and fellow artist Lou and John Greiner, as well as Nancy Vehrs of the VNPS here at our house, over some nice chocolate and steamy cups of coffee. It was a great day and adventure . . . another one for the memory book!

Shooting Star photo
The gorgeous bloom on a Shooting Star
West Virginia White Butterfly
A pretty and delicate little West Virginia White Butterfly
Trailing Arbutus photo
The pretty blossoms on a Trailing arbutus

The rest of the week has been spent painting on our miniature painting for upcoming shows, as well as enjoying our daily walks and the first bike ride of the season. We also enjoyed playing Canasta at our neighbor friends Jim and Uschi’s house, where the girls won . . . Yippee!

the Blowhole cave
One of the many stunning rock formations by the Blowhole Cave

Currently On Our Easels: Wes and I both finished paintings of Bison for the upcoming Invitational Miniature Show at Trailside Galleries in Jackson Hole, WY. Wes is about to finish his painting of a bull Elk, which will also be featured in this show. I’m currently painting on my miniature for the upcoming Western Visions Miniatures and More show at the National Wildlife Museum this fall.

painting of a bison
“A Western Treasure” by Rachelle
~ 3 ½ x 4 ½ inches
painting of a bison
“Resting Bison” by Wes
~ 2 ½ x 3 ½ inches

Come See Our Paintings This Week:

~ Miniature Art Exhibition (Wes received the Best of Show!)

Until April 28th at Ridge Art Gallery, Winter Haven, FL



Until June 2 at the Museum Of The Gulf Coast, Port Arthur, TX


~ The Sea of Cortez  Produced by David J. Wagner

Until June 2ndat the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ


To view all our upcoming exhibits: http://www.artofwildlife.com/exhibitschedule.html




 Have a loved one or a beloved pet you would like captured in miniature? Contact and commission us!

Don’t forget to “Sign Up” to receive an email each time I update the blog!

Until next time ~ Rachelle


6 thoughts on “A Hike With the Virginia Native Plant Society

  1. On behalf of the Virginia Native Plant Society, I thank you for your wonderful hospitality, Rachelle and Wes! We had a fabulous time with you both. The White Oaks Sinks area was a magical place for us all and we thank you for sharing it with us! Your photos here are simply exquisite!

    1. Hi Nancy,
      You are most welcome! It was a real treat for us to meet you all, and we so enjoyed your enthusiasm for and knowledge about nature! We were more than happy to share our home and one of our favorite hikes in the spring with you all! Glad you enjoyed the photos!!
      Rachelle 🙂

  2. Sally Anderson

    I agree wholeheartedly with Nancy, and I was really happy to get to know you both. Your photos from the walk are wonderful and make me feel like I’m right back there.

    1. Hi Sally,
      Thank you . . . and I’m glad you enjoyed the photos! Just today Wes and I were wondering what the name of a certain flower was, and said “If Sally were here she would know!” Thanks for all you taught us!
      Rachelle 🙂

  3. Betty Kelly

    Hello, Rachelle and Wes,
    Many, many thanks for the wonderful memories our group made visiting you
    and hiking with you all. Your photos are stunning. I want to be there
    hiking some more trails I missed this past week. But I am looking forward to getting on the trails here near Roanoke.

    1. Hi Betty,
      You are most welcome and I’m so happy that you enjoyed the photos! I love sharing them! It’s beautiful here today and makes me want to be out hiking a trail as well!! Have fun hiking the trails there and enjoy your spring!
      Rachelle 🙂

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