Hiking to White Oak Sinks

Come walk amongst flowers with us!

by Rachelle Siegrist

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Surrounded by Pink Lady’s Slippers

There was a slight chill in the air as we started hiking up Schoolhouse Gap trail early one morning this past week. We were delighted to have the trail mostly to ourselves as we walked along, stopping occasionally to admire wildflowers as we hiked. Soon we cut off from Schoolhouse Gap trail and headed toward the lovely White Oak Sinks area in hopes that the phlox were still blooming.

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The delicate blossom of Stonecrop

After spotting a few small patches of the delicate lavender flowers blooming along the way, my hopes greatly increased! I was thrilled to see a couple of Yellow Lady’s Slippers blooming, and then absolutely delighted when we saw one hillside covered with Pink Lady’s Slippers blooming, scattered about.

Yellow Lady’s Slippers blossoms

Wes had recently read about their wonderful fragrance, so I carefully buried my nose in the small opening and quickly discovered they were right! The overcast skies provided perfect conditions for photographing them, and soon we hope to paint a miniature painting or two of them!

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A gorgeous clump of Pink Lady’s Slippers
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What an amazingly stunning blossom!

We also noticed numerous Yellow Trillium blooming, and several other wild flowers as well. Soon we started making our descent into the peaceful meadow area where several sink holes are located, and quickly noticed splashes of lavender from the fragrant phlox.

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The lovely meadow filled with phlox and trillium

By this time we were hiking with three fellow hikers, whom we had just met. They decided to join Wes and I as we hiked some distance to a sink hole surrounded by Virginia Bluebells. As we hiked along the narrow, flower-lined trail, Wes happened to notice a large Copperhead, coiled up in the trail! Thank goodness our guardian Angel was with us, as he saw it and told us to “Stop right there!”! Having not noticed it, Wes could’ve easily stepped right on it, thus most likely getting bit, or it could’ve went for my bare ankle and leg . . . Yikes!

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Trillium Grandiflorum turns a beautiful shade of pink towards the end

After admiring it from a safe distance, we carefully continued on our way. Winding our way along the unimproved path, I heard a loud rustle nearby and looked up just in time to see a large mamma Black Bear and her cub! Off they went deep into the woods, but what a wonderful sighting for us! Then we came up on large clusters of Shooting Stars in full blossom, as well as Larkspurs showing off their deep purple flowers! It was a beautiful sight indeed!

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A Bumble Bee visits the Shooting Star blossom

Sometime later we finally found the large sinkhole, where one lone Bluebell was still blooming. Then while hiking back, Wes spotted something large flying through the woods and we caught a glimpse of a Barred Owl! Minutes later he called out his “Who . . . Who . . . Who cooks for you” and was instantly answered by another one! It was beautiful music to our ears indeed and we listened as they chatted back and forth for a several minutes.

 A Larkspur blossom and a Virginia Bluebell

The day just kept bringing more surprises and when we sat on a moss covered log amongst the flower filled meadow to eat lunch, I was thrilled to spot a Cecropia Moth, whom was just starting to fill his wings. Relaxingly, we sat there watching as its wings unfolded and slowly grew.

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A Cecropia Moth fills it’s new wings

Our newfound hiker friend, a very kind and knowledgeable gentleman visiting from Michigan, returned in time to see the beautiful moth, and tell us of a gorgeous Red Trillium bloom he had spotted nearby. He hiked with us the remainder of the day, which we greatly enjoyed and loved his ability to tell us what birds we were listening to, since he knew most of their songs! Our trio was thrilled when we saw a Black-throated Green, and watched as she gathered nesting material at a close proximity, before flying off!

A Red Trillium (Stinking Willie) and A Black-throated Green Warbler

We watched butterflies flit along and listened to the melodic sound of springtime birdsong, accompanied by a gentle afternoon breeze, while hiking back. But our unique finds were not over, as I spotted a black snake eating something, and upon observing it a wee bit closer, realized it was a salamander it had in its clamped jaws! It was agreed that it was the first time any of us had ever seen that before and concluded it would probably be the last!

Encounters with things that fly

Soon we were back at the trailhead, where our day of adventures had started early that morning, and said goodbye to our friend, hoping that we’d all have the chance to hike again someday!

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Wes stands by ruts created by wagon wheels traveling the stream bed many years

 ~ Currently On the Easel ~

I’m currently painting on my latest dog commission of an adorable Havanese named Hugo. Just like the many other totally cute dogs I’ve painted, he is great fun to paint! I’m also currently painting a miniature landscape of one of my favorite swimming holes! Wes is currently painting on a goose photographed during our recent visit to IN.

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Recent progress on my dog commission of Hugo

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~ To Commission A Painting by Us Click Here!

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle

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