Hiking With Friends to See Wildflowers!
By Rachelle Siegrist
We left early this past Friday morning, and headed for the Townsend Wye, located just inside the Smoky Mountain National Park, along the Little River. We had a few minutes before the Virginia Native Plant Society group arrived, so I went down to enjoy the company of the river for awhile. I found the perfect large rock, where I comfortably sat adjacent to the rivers edge. The surround sound of rushing water quickly mesmerized me with it’s symphony of splashes, and I became completely relaxed sitting there enjoying having this gorgeous spot all to myself! A Canada Goose quickly came into view and curiously swam right up to where I was sitting, stopping a few feet away. I said “Good morning . . . How are you?” To this he of course didn’t answer, but obviously was fine, as he commenced to taking a bath and preen, while I sat watching. Occasionally he would stop and look at me, then return to his morning bathing ritual. It felt as if we were the only two beings in the world for a short time, while we enjoyed each others company. The group soon arrived and I told my feathered friend goodbye, thanking him for making my morning with his visit!
We greeted the group, reuniting with several friends we had not seen in quite awhile, and making a few new ones as well. Then we started up Chestnut Tops Trail, one of the best trails in the Smokies for viewing wildflowers. It was a very slow hike, with everyone stopping to photograph and study the numerous wildflowers along the way. Seeing large snails at several locations along the way, I realized sometime later that it was actually the same snail that was passing the slow moving, inquisitive group by . . . Ha! We passed Dwarf Crested Irises, Trilliums, Chickweed, Stonecrop and so much more as we slowly made our way up the trail.
I had so hoped to see the beautiful, bright red blossoms of the Fire Pinks blooming along the trail, and thankfully there were several beautiful specimens at the precise location where we turned around on the trail and headed back down.
After a picnic lunch, the group headed for the Middle Prong Trail. Recent rains had the water rushing along with great force creating a spectacular show as we hiked along the curving trail. The large lush green leaves of wild Ginger lined the paths, and offered beautiful blooms, when one stopped to lift the leaves and peak beneath.
Decaying logs lying beside the trail provided the perfect growing conditions for a lovely and interesting variety of fungi and mushrooms, and as always provided great photo-ops!
No hike in the Smokies is complete without a Salamander hunt, and having someone in the group who desperately wanted to see one, made the hunt even more exciting! Within a few minutes, Wes had found a good sized one, so we carefully placed it into a friend’s small container just long enough for those who wanted to see it closer and photograph it. It was then gently returned to the stream where it happily and quickly disappeared!
Keeping an eye out and looking in just the right locations, where the water was more tranquil and still, Wes soon found another one . . . an adorable little baby one at that!
Beaked Violets, as well as lavender and yellow violets, bloomed in thick patches along the way, but I was most intrigued when I saw a purple and white variegated one. Friend Butch informed us that they were known as Confederate Violets, so I was happy to have learned something new and seen a beautiful little flower as well!
After a couple of hours we turned around and started back down the trail, continuing to admire the numerous wildflowers and cascades along the way. One of the group members found a gorgeous Jack-in-the-Pulpit, obviously at its peak, which I just had to photograph.
We soon found ourselves getting close to the trailhead once more, and just as we were crossing the bridge, someone spotted a beautiful Luna Moth on a nearby tree. Leaving the trial we scurried down the hill to get a closer look at it. We soon discovered that it had obviously had just filled its wings and were letting them dry while it clung to the tree.
Needless to say, I was thrilled with getting to see and photograph this favorite moth of mine! Growing closer to where we had parked, we noticed a large Sweet Shrub profusely blooming and stepped closer to admire it. I figured with the name “sweet” in it, that it should smell nice, so I found a couple of newly opened blossoms and bent to inhale its fragrance. Alas, I was not disappointed, as it offered a delightful fragrance, not too strong, just nice and sweet! That evening we ended our wonderful day in the Park, with dinner at a local restaurant, Miss Lily’s.
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~ The latest paintings off of the Siegrists’ Easels ~
I have spent my time this past week painting on a surprise dog commission, so I will have to wait until it is okay, to share it with you, but am very excited about being able to do so. Wes finished his miniature painting of a Kangaroo, trying to get to an itching spot, which with his short little arms, was obviously quite hard to reach!
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Until next time . . .