Sunday, May 26, 2013

Max Patch Hike

Painted trillium at Max Patch

Max Patch Hike

Thursday May 16, 2013

Dana Koogler solo

Pictures are here starting with frame 86
Max Patch Pix 

   I had a chance this season to visit Max Patch Mountain during Spring wildflower season.
Max Patch is a mountain where the Appalachian Trail crosses right over the top of an open, grassy bald with expansive views.  It is located at Harmon Den, North Carolina.
Harmon Den is one of those exits off Interstate 40 where a person might wonder "Why in the world would I want to get off the highway here?".  It has no businesses in sight.
It is out in the boondocks.  Lucky for me I happen to be from the boonies and love it there.   It is a place with lots to see and explore.

       Max Patch is known to me to have an excellent display of Spring trilliums.
I've been there before and enjoyed it a lot.   Today I wanted to take time to do some checking on trillium hybridization as a follow up on the previous blog I wrote on the topic.
It was the kind of day where I knew I'd be better off alone than accompanied.  My husband can only stand so much of my botany studies.  I packed a nice picnic and 
drove over to spend the day.

      I stopped first at the base of the mountain to walk over to see a pretty cascade along the dirt road. Next I stopped to see the waterfall on Little Falls Branch. We've had ample rain lately and the falls was flowing heartily along.
I stopped by a spot where Adam & Eve orchids bloom only to find they are up, but just in bud. It will be another week or more before they are open well.   The trilliums at the base of the mountain were just about gone, but several other types of wildflowers were in bloom.   I saw wild geraniums, Canada mayflower, umbrella leaf, solomon's plume, golden alexanders, wild stonecrop, jack in the pulpit, squaw root, Canada violet, marsh blue violet, and wood anemone, foam flower, and wild heartleaf.   Ferns were abundant in varying types. I saw one dried up morel mushroom. 

Cascade along the gravel road.

Little Falls Branch waterfall

High above Little Falls Branch were ledges filled to overflowing with wildflowers!
This ledge has masses of Solomon's Plume.

      I saw other pretty things today.  The fields for picnics were filled with buttercups.
I saw yellow and black butterflies everywhere.  I also saw several kinds of flowering trees and shrubs.   Todays bloom list of those includes:  flame azalea, wild cherry, tulip poplar, yellow buckeye, black locust, cucumber and large leaf magnolia, silverbells, and sweet shrub.

Sweet Shrub growing along the road at Max Patch. Bruise the bloom and warm it in your hands to get a good scent!

Native Magnolia tree in bloom in the forest.  I am working on learning to tell the difference between the four native species of magnolia trees in our area. Its hard!

     I stopped by the picnic area when I realized it was 12:30 already.  I figured I'd sit down at the picnic tables by the creek and eat lunch now and have plenty of energy for hiking the rest of the day.   I brought homemade chicken salad, grapes, potato chips, and green tea.  I am recovering from a giardia infection and my appetite is better, but was not 100% that day.   The antibiotics for the cure have messed with my sense of taste.

     I began driving up the mountain after lunch to see what I might find along the way.
I knew the upper elevations would have lots of trilliums still around.  I was not disappointed.  The slopes of the mountain began to fill up with large swaths of trilliums in bloom.  They were not long left to bloom and some had aged pink in varying shades. They ranged in color from pale pink to almost red!   
Waves of trilliums in the forest

Beautiful pastels

    I had just purchased and begun reading the Trilliums book by Fred and Roberta Case.
I learned about trillium species, hybridization, mutation and disease processes that can cause odd looking flowers!   I was driving along the mountain road and pulling over every little bit to park and get out to walk in the woods. I was my own boss today so I could do that without anyone fussing about it.  I indulged my curiosity to the fullest.  I began to wear myself out with all my gawking.  I finally got back in the jeep and decided I'd best head on up the mountain a bit faster than I had been.  I came around a turn and there was another spot down in the woods where trilliums bloomed among lots of mayapples. For some reason I did something unexpected. I just stopped immediately. I left the jeep sitting in the road and grabbed the camera and went down over the bank.  I had left room to go around me, but it was abrupt and uncharacteristic.

     Down in the middle of all this patch of trilliums I began to see something I'd not witnessed before except in photos. The colony of trilliums I was standing in had the disease mycoplasma.  It was just as described in the book!  I saw three or four Trillium grandiflorum which had the odd rosette shape the disease causes. It also gives the flower a greenish white tint.  Very pretty but very weird!   I don't know what radar caused me to stop, but I was glad I did!
Here is the trillium that has the most impressive look for having contracted mycoplasma.

    I calmed down at last and quit snapping pictures long enough to go move my vehicle to a pull off a little ways down the road. I then walked back and resumed checking the surrounding flowers for more evidence of disease or hybridization. I did not see anymore of either at this point.  I then decided to continue up the mountain.   Its worth noting that at the biggest intersection on the way up there is a great place to pull off and see wildflowers.   I saw tons of showy orchis in peak bloom there. I also saw yellow mandarin, wild geranium, golden ragwort, dwarf crested iris, buttercups, violets, perfoliate bellwort, and large flowered bellwort.   All this was in addition to the great patches of trilliums!

Showy orchis. I saw a dozen plants of this in one immediate area.

Pink striped trilliums. Second place I've seen this striped pattern this year.

  I was checking for oddities and found in this patch of trilliums both the striped pattern of pink and white which suggests hybridization between two Trillium grandiflorum parents. One regular white and the other Trillium grandiflorum var. roseum.. That is a trillium that opens pink to begin with. It doesn't simply turn pink as it ages. 

Mutated trillium.  It was found in this patch across from the intersection sign. It
has six petals and five sepals.  It does not look like it has mycoplasma, but merely extra genetic material. I've run into this before on Porters Creek Trail and Hyatt Ridge Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains.  It is odd, but not as odd as the infected ones!
Not one other trillium in this area showed any mutation or disease.

   I stopped here at this intersection in a nice large pull-off to check my map.  I remembered Kenny and I had made a wrong turn last trip and I didn't want to waste time back tracking.   I quickly confirmed I needed to bear left and continue up the mountain.
It is worth mentioning that the last time we were there we arrived during a wedding party. The couple was being married atop Max Patch. They were staying at a local lodge and the lodge was providing trips up and down the mountain for the elderly guests too feeble to hike.  We watched them pack down a track on the mountain and watched the bridal party traipsing along in fancy gowns.  It was not as fun a visit as we'd hoped.  A few months later was when it was reported that vandals on ATV's were caught shredding the mountain side.  We are ATV enthusiasts but we stick to areas designated for that purpose.
Today I knew that I should arrive well after the area was reported to be repaired.

Patch of painted trilliums on the way up the mountain.

   I stopped twice more on the way up.  I pulled over to check out one of the biggest patches of mountain bellwort I'd seen to date.  It was all along the rim of the gravel road.
Very pretty. I also saw numerous patches of painted trillium. I was especially pleased to see the painted trillium since so far this Spring I hadn't seen any!   Both were healthy and beautiful.

Large patch of mountain bellwort.

     I finally got up top to the big parking area for hiking to the grassy bald of Max Patch proper.   The parking lot was crowded, but not as bad as it sometimes is.  I could at least park in the main lot.   I did see the area cleaned up from the ATV damage and they have planted some rhododendrons.  It looks nice and will naturalize in time.  I headed out to the spot around the back of the mountain where I'd seen the most interesting hybrid trilliums another year.  I hoped I'd be able to find the spot again and determine if they reproduced the same color pattern.  
Repair Work in the parking area

I found the exact trillium flower in the same spot with the same hybrid color pattern repeated! Success! It is not as fresh and perfect as the previous year, but I will take it!

    I hiked around the hip of Max Patch and satisfied my curiosity. I noticed the old spring box below the trail. I know I had to see that last time, but I did not recall it.  I saw chipmunks and birds.  I noticed great carpets of Canada mayflower covering the ground and the last of the trout lilies for the year.  I finally turned and headed back to the jeep.
It was only 4:30 pm. I sat there in my jeep wanting to continue my days adventures.
I wanted to drive to Round Mountain and visit Wolf Creek Falls.  I hoped to find some yellow lady slippers there. My wander thirst was about to take me on a continued flight of fancy.  My grown up side recalled that I had a husband who would be coming home and expecting help to pack for a camping trip. I could indulge myself and keep galivanting or go back home like a considerate person and help pack?  I had talked Kenny into taking a day off work and finally heading out to Royal Blue Resort for a weekend of camping
and four-wheeling and exploring.   It would not be very nice of me to put it all on him. He was coming home at a good time today to get packed.  It will have to wait for another time.  The call of the wild has to be silenced now and then or I'd be like the Flying Dutchman never making my home port.

    I enjoyed the views today as well as the forest the trails and the flowers.
I had the most extraordinary experience caring for a lady with Alzheimer's Disease. The patient, her daughter and myself were in her hospital room one evening.  The patient.. and elderly woman.. had a lucid moment and was able to communicate with us where she went when she was absent and wandering in her mind.  She told us these words "In my mind are GOOD THINGS! BEAUTIFUL THINGS!". She had been a nature lover, a mom, a friend, wife and teacher of English literature and lover of poetry and music.
She conveyed that when she was not able to be clear in mind and interact with us that she was in her own mind and that it was a good and beautiful place filled with lovely memories and goodness.  We all hugged and held hands and cried tears of joy.  I took her advice quite seriously. I fill my mind with those good and beautiful things and memories regularly.
I hope I never find myself trapped inside my memory palace, but if I do.. I want it papered and decorated with places and sights like today.  Fill it with the good and beautiful things. You may need it later. It will nourish you now too.

I could stand in my memory palace on the slopes of Max Patch with great lichen covered boulders and clumps of trilliums and be quite happy.

Or stand in my memory looking out at a view like this and be satisfied and quiet in my own thoughts.

Good Things. Beautiful Things. All of it. 


  1. Great blog post! LOVE the banner photo. The mycoplasma trillium is really cool! And the four petaled one is really nice. Makes me want to visit there in the spring. Can I link to your blog on my FB page?

    1. Thank you Kelvin. I would be honored! Hope you get the time to do just that! And perfect weather to go with it.

  2. Very nice blog entry! You truly take in what's around you with brilliant detail! Sounds like you had a great trip. I love that place!

    1. Why thank you! I am glad you enjoyed it. I certainly enjoyed the trip and I always enjoy reading the trip reports of others. I find it very helpful in planning where to go. You've got good taste in hiking destinations. You set the standards high and I am trying to keep up! :-)

  3. Wonderful report. Everytime I drive I-40 between Knoxville and Asheville I see the Harmon Den exit and say to myself "This looks like a great place to explore." Now I know I've got to try it - maybe next spring. Thanks!

    1. Take some time and treat yourself! Thanks so much for reading the trip report. :-)


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