Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ride Royal Blue Camping & Four-Wheeling Trip--Day 3

Flowering Quince bloom at an old home site.



Ride Royal Blue Camping & Four-Wheeling Trip-Day 3
Daily Ride Mileage 32
Pictures are here:

Videos are here: 





Upper & Lower Flatwoods Falls



   We woke Sunday morning to the rain having stopped.  It was still overcast but looked like it might clear off later.   Outside it was quieter than it had been the day before.  A look outdoors let us know most folks had packed up and left.   A few souls lingered in campers and staying in the cabins.   We were in no hurry today.  We planned on riding the trails close-by today and just taking it easy. We cooked bacon, eggs and toast for breakfast with some fresh melon, orange juice and coffee.  Yummy!

   I got out and walked around to see what the rain the night before had caused?


Stinking Creek muddy and swollen. I wished I'd taken a photo of it the day before when it was clear and pretty.  You can see the fog in part of the picture.  The woods around here are beautiful. American hornbeam, native magnolia, beech, hemlock, pine, poplar, hickory, maples, oaks, American holly, black locust, and yellow buckeye were just some of the beautiful trees. Many of them were blooming and smelled so sweet and fresh.  I go past hemlock trees or sassafras trees I pinch off some leaves and crush them to sniff.  I never want to forget how special these things are. 



More mud holes along the trail. Some of the mud was thick as peanut butter!

    We loaded up and headed out for our  ride.  We wore our rain gear.
It drizzled off and on.  It was cool and overcast. The sun tried to peek out.
We made our way back over to the trails we wanted to access with more ease and speed than before. We were getting the hang of navigating the new access.   We decided to ride the new #26 Ivydell Trail. It would give me a chance to see if the little black water swamp I liked was still there?  We would then come down off the mountain and ride back Ollis Creek Trail which should be very pretty. We guessed the waterfalls there would be rolling right along!   Ivydell Trail turned out to be fun, beautiful and awesome!
It went down in deep hollers with high cliffs. It passed some rock bluffs that were level with the trail. Partial views out from the forest canopy with the misty mountains visible.
Parts of it went round curves like a rollercoaster again with no safety rails! Especially where it started down off the mountain toward the Ivydell Snake Handling Church.

The Cumberland Mountains and the  glowing mist.


Split Bluff with ferns. Right even with the trail.


Black water gum swamp along the trail right at Campbell Split

    We came down and turned onto Ollis Creek Trail.  The stream was raging. I'd never seen that much water on it ever.   The old LaFollette Reservoir is usually blue-green and beautiful.  Today it was powerful and so were the dams on it, but it was not pretty. Just impressive in its power.   I put a video of it on the top of this trip report.
We saw several wet weather waterfalls and cascades along Ollis Creek we'd never seen before!  I saw a lily leaf twayblade orchid just in bud.  Kelvin helped me figure out what it was.  I saw the cutest box turtle ever along the trail. He was boldly colored. 
Eastern Box Turtle. I really liked this little guy.


Yellow Branch Falls was running good! Most water we'd ever seen coming over. It is about 15 ft high.  We stopped to see this pretty falls on our way.

   The rain began while we were at Yellow Branch Falls.  It rained pretty hard, but by the time we pulled up at Flatwoods Falls it had quit.  Eddie told Kenny the steps at Flatwoods Falls were gone. We thought happily that he was out of his mind when we arrived.  The steps were still there!  Rounding the bend we saw that the second section of steps was still there, but a big chunk of them was gone and what was left was slick, rotten, pieces missing and generally unstable to use!  We had to scoot down the slick bank and stay to one side of the steps to make it down. 
Upper Flatwoods Falls is about 40 ft high.


Kenny carefully climbing down the bank


Lower Flatwoods Falls is about 50 ft high. Today the plunge pool is murky from all the rain.

    We checked out these falls today and were back at the top before anyone else arrived.
We greeted our fellow riders and moved on.  They were the first and only people we saw riding besides us today!  We took a few trails back toward the campground we wanted to check out.  We went flying past the speed limit on Short Mountain Road.  I laughed til I cried. It is so fun! Here is a video of Drive It Like Ya Stole It that was made during that ride.  I had to add music to it because for some reason the sound did not record on this one. 




Trail #9 the Slide Rock Trail was challenging and fun. It was also quite pretty. Pink lady slippers along it in a few spots.  We turned onto #39 .  It was fun and scenic.  Narrow, lots of ups and downs. Drop offs. Ferns and lush growth. Beautiful forest.  I'd go back on that one in a hurry!  We made no wrong turns heading back to the camper and were glad to see it when we arrived.  We were wet, a little cold and hungry.  It was pouring rain when we pulled up.  Kenny said there was no way he was going to try to pack up stuff while that went on. He said we'd just cook some lunch and get going when the rain let up.
We cooked burgers on the grill and macaroni and cheese for lunch. It was delicious and
we did not have to stop anywhere on the way home to eat out.  We had time to change into dry clothes and warm up.  About the time we got done eating the sun came out.
I helped him pack up and soon we were on our way down the road.

It is always good to go camping, but its also good to come home.
I like both. I think I can speak for both of us that this weekend was a much needed get-away and will be a fond memory for long time to come.  I love my hubby. He's my partner in crime.  :-)

Cinnamon Ferns growing along Trail #39. These are favorites of mine!

Ride Royal Blue Camping & Four-wheeling Trip--Day 2--Tackett Creek Do-Over

Yellow Lady Slipper at Tackett Creek


Ride Royal Blue Camping & Four-Wheeling Trip-Day 2
Daily ride milage 40
Tackett Creek Do-Over 


Pictures are here:

Tackett Creek Pix

Quiet & Beauty of Tackett Creek Video


    We woke Saturday morning to the rumbling of ATV's around us.  It was going to be a busy day at Royal Blue.  It had rained in the night and was looking like more on the way.
We got up and fixed a nice hot breakfast of pancakes and bacon. We packed our lunch and gear up and got ready to go.  Outside the campground and resort was filling up with riders and machines.  We were pleased to be riding elsewhere today to avoid the crowds.
We headed north and it wasn't long before we were at the parking area on Duff Road for the Tackett Creek trail system.  It is a coal mining area.  Some parts of it are still actively being mined, but where we went today we had little contact with that. We saw an elk on the drive there. 



Can't tell from this distance if its a bull or a cow?

   We  had a general plan in mind what we hoped to see today. We thought we'd ride out the trail toward McCloud Mountain and hike out to the formations there.  We also hoped  later in the day to ride north and see Primroy Arch and Drive In Triple Arch.   The main things I wanted to accomplish today? I wanted to check out an area on the stream below Sand Cave to see if there was a waterfall. I wanted to explore the ridge top forests where I hoped to find yellow lady slippers. I also wanted to explore the river bottom lands below the old Tackett Creek Railroad.

      We headed up the mountain and today was a good orientation for Kenny and me.
It was the first time we'd ridden Tackett Creek area without someone guiding the way.
Kenny did a great job. I was still disoriented most of the time.  We turned and went toward McCloud Mountain first.  It was fun and beautiful.  The fog closed in so much around us you could hardly see at times.  The trail was lush and green and beautiful.
The forest smelled fresh.  We saw a few wildflowers and lots of mayapples.   The trail was so narrow in places on the ridge it was like a knife-edge. You could literally spit from one side to the other.   We both agreed we wanted to come back here again when it was clear because we were unable to enjoy the views from the trail!  We did see quite a few pink lady slippers up there.

Foggy forest
     We passed some neat looking rocky outcrops that would be so worth exploring.
The trail finally ended abruptly just as Buck had said. A massive rock blocked any further progress forward. It was not a Boyd's boulder, but a huge monolith.  We got out and walked around it. Resurrection ferns grew on top of it.  A road turned and went down off the mountain. We followed it a short distance to see where it went? It dead ended at a row of boulders as a road block.  We decided not to bother hiking out to the rock formations seeing as how we'd have no view from them once we got there.  It would be best to wait for another day. We have decided to go spend the night at the lodge and see all of them when it is clear and enjoy a little get-away.

    
The patch of ferns here went on as far as the eye could see. Beautiful!


Rock stopping any forward progress!

    We turned and began heading back down to the intersection. It was great fun with some whoop de doo's along the way!    One scary thing that happened which could have been a deal breaker/life ender was thinking a path was the trail down when it was a short section of dead end with a huge drop off.  Holy schnikees!  Hard to tell in the fog what is what!
We got down off that part of the mountain and headed to our next stop. We ate lunch at the intersection and went toward the Sand Cave to see if we could find any new waterfalls?!

Rocky bluff along the trail

    We enjoyed the ride up toward the Sand Cave, but investigating the creek turned up no new waterfalls. What I had seen was just a series of pretty, but small cascades.  Getting out and going over and looking behind the huge boulder brought no new finds. It did give me satisfaction of being able to check for myself.  Once done I was ready to move on.
We found a neat rocky cliff see above. We also found a newly constructed trail that was very challenging and fun.  Lots of hooting and hollering and laughing coming up and down that!   We went ahead toward the overlook above Sand Cave.  No view whatsoever today.
See for yourself below!
You can't see a thing today!


Pair of mating ruffed grouse. The male was dancing and drumming for the female.

   We crept along the ridge toward the areas I wanted to do some wildflower hunting.
We saw something move in the fog.  It was a pair of ruffed grouse. We got a video of them as well as good pictures of them!  They were so romantically involved they weren't afraid of us.  They are really pretty birds and remind me a lot of a domestic chicken.

     We didn't have to go far until Kenny hollered that he saw yellow lady slippers!
We stopped and got out and here is a view of the foggy forest.
All kinds of growth here in this cloud forest. Lots of golden alexanders and purple wild
geraniums.



And then there were these!


And these!


And this! Yellow Lady Slipper in the Clouds!


    Most who like muddy ATV trails don't care about wildflowers, but I refuse to be pigeon-holed. I can like it all and do it all.  I am always going to be more of a hiker and naturalist ,but I'll keep my rough edges thank you very much. 
Mud holes! I like them too. That's what I love about Kenny. He lets me be myself.
He appreciates me the way I am. And vice versa!

 I was tickled to death to get to see all these gorgeous yellow lady slippers in peak bloom.
I was satisfied as taking a long drink of water.  It was what I had wanted and I was now quenched.  We decided to mosey on down to the river bottoms to see what was there??
Perhaps we'd have time to make it to the arches today!



We saw this massive rock cliff on the way out. Long way up!

    We made it down to the river bottoms area and I was not disappointed.  It turns out the area we call Tackett Creek is right, but THIS .. THIS is Tackett Creek itself!  Had we not come down here to the river I'd never have gotten to see for myself how pretty it is and what the area was named for.  The river bottoms were thick with green growth and trees.
It smelled Heavenly.  Mud. Fresh earth.  Rain. Magnolias.  Lots and lots of native magnolias perfuming the air.   Tackett Creek looking upstream


Downstream on Tackett Creek


Trail leading into the woods with lots of magnolias around.


Closeup of magnolia flower


Another view of Tackett Creek from a camp site.

     We enjoyed riding around the river bottoms for awhile. We thought we'd head toward Primroy Arch and Drive In Triple arch, but we soon realized how late in the day it was getting. We also realized it was further off than we'd anticipated.   We will save those two features for another ride.

    We headed back to LaFollette to get some movies from red box. We got no TV reception at the campground.  Since it was rainy and we weren't going to be able to have a good campfire to sit around we opted to watch a couple movies and stay dry and warm.
It was turning cool. We were again muddy, tired and happy. We were going to just have warm ups of roast beef for dinner and some corn on the cob and cantaloupe melon.
We went home and had a nice dinner and movies. We watched Jack Reacher and got snookered into renting True Justice thinking it was a new Steven Seagal movie.
We took hot showers tonight in that stinky water and slept like the dead while several inches of rain poured down on the camper roof!

Tomorrow we'd fix a leisurely breakfast and ride Royal Blue again before heading home. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ride Royal Blue Camping & Four-Wheeling Trip --Day 1

Pink Lady Slipper on Lost Ridge Trail 


Ride Royal Blue Camping Trip
Day 1
Dana & Kenny Koogler

May 17-19th, 2013

Pictures are here starting with frame 162
Ride Royal Blue Pix

Videos Here:
Meadow Branch Twin Falls

Rock Creek Falls



    I had been planning a backpacking trip with a friend, but I came up against unexpected
gear issues.  I went to Dick's Sporting Goods to purchase a replacement core for my water filter and new backpack.  I found that they had little to pick from in the way of overnight packs.  They have gotten to where they cater to the runners and fitness buffs instead of outdoors enthusiasts.  They sell an extremely limited selection of water filters and NONE of the replacement cores for them.  They were even less interested in helping me.  It is just as well because the guy not only did not want to help me, but was not competent to answer the questions I was asking.  I was told Dick's Sporting Goods hired people who knew this stuff to work the departments. I did not find that today. I went home and purchased all my things online.  The problem then became not knowing if the needed things would arrive in time for my trip?  I went ahead and phoned Cathy and asked if she minded re-scheduling our trip until I was certain I had everything lined up? She was gracious about it and it worked out well since she had a last minute Childrens Church to do on Sunday.  

       I talked to Kenny about what we'd do with our weekend?  He had worked several weekends so I had no problem convincing him to take a Friday off and go do something fun with me.   The weather forecast was looking dismal. Rainy all weekend was they predicted for our area.   We had long discussed taking a camping trip to Ride Royal Blue Resort, and yet kept putting it off.   We agreed now was the time to go.  We'd take the camper.  We had just gotten it back freshly repaired from a roof leak. I had missed it.
It would be the best and most fun way to enjoy a rainy weekend.  Camping in our little
home away from home and four-wheeling.   I had needed a Do Over for Tackett Creek anyway after that last episode.   Redemption Weekend was what I was looking for.

    

The "Battle Star Gallatica". This photo was actually taken upon returning home nice and muddy!


Inside the camper. Nice and warm and dry on a rainy weekend.

      We packed and headed out early Friday morning. I was surprised how fast
we arrived. It is only  65 miles from the house.  We set up the camper and got ready to ride.  We had planned to ride Royal Blue trails Friday and Sunday. We would ride 
Tackett Creek on Saturday and avoid the crowds at Royal Blue. They were planning a charity ride and hundreds of people were to attend.   The cool thing about this campground is that the trail system starts at the back of it!   We had never been to this area. We always came in from Flatwoods Rd down at the Huntsville exit.  Stinking Creek is the name of the area with Pioneer being across the interstate and Elk Valley on out the road to the north.  The best thing about this campground was convenience.  Easy access & they were very laid back. They let us check in early and check out late! That point alone wins points with me toward a return trip. 
Drawbacks to the campground were:
  • a bit pricey $38 plus per night for a campsite.
  • no trees for shade at all. You are camping on a gravel lot.
  • noise. We like to ride, but we also want to be reasonably quiet when we are trying to sleep or watch TV.
  • the water here is horrible. They don't call the area Stinking Creek for nothing. The water seems to contain iron and sulfur both. They sell filtered water for $1 a gallon at the store. It is the same water.. just run through a filter and it is only marginally better after filtration.  Bathing in it is not much better. 
  • The website does not give you the option to choose a campsite
  • No dump station .  You either have to hope for full hookups or hope that one of the full hookup sites is available to pull through to empty the holding tanks on the camper.
 

    We had a good time and made the best of it. I am not saying we will never be back there, but if we do we will bring plenty of bottled water, fill the reservoir with fresh water from home, and book reservations through a person ensuring full hookups instead of doing it online.


    The first day of riding we got a free updated map from the general store at Ride Royal Blue.   We had our colored topo map of Royal Blue and the surrounding area.  We compared the two and they have added so many new trails that we were amazed.  I checked the maps available in the local stores and they are the same out of date ones we had.  Don't spend money on them to get an update yet.  We would have been in rough shape without the new map.  We headed out the back of the campground and had not gone any distance when I spotted a yellow lady slipper up on the bank! 
Single yellow lady slipper


   We liked Trail 27 coming up from the campground. It is very pretty.  We decided we'd go round to see the Meadow Branch Twin Falls and the pink lady slippers in that area.
We also wanted to head way out to the far north end to ride some trails we had never explored.  I learned of a new waterfall out that way and had the waypoints to it. 

Meadow Branch Twin Falls


Saw lots and lots of Pink Lady Slippers

    We had two other goals in mind today which was to visit the new waterfall we'd learned of way out there on the far side of Royal Blue.  The route we selected took us out a trail that was supposed to be for an overlook or "Scenic view".   We had never been on this trail and were eager to learn if it was a good one.  It was very pretty. We did find a couple decent views along it.  Tulip poplar bloomed along the trail and drooped right down IN the trail in places. 
One of the views. It was real pretty.Out over the misty Cumberland Mountains.


Tulip poplar bloom up close. Such a cool looking, neon flower!

   We crept around trail sections that were like a real rollercoaster without any safety features!  Out on the edge and precipitous drop off to one side.  We came up through the weeds, brush and brambles to the back side of the elk viewing platform on Hatfield Knob.  We've been there a couple times before and hiked all around that meadow. Today we did not bother with it.  We were waterfall bound!  We had waypoints leading us, but there were still decisions to make as to how to approach.  We did great except for one wrong turn. We encountered a gated section across private property and had to backtrack.
The second way we tried was the correct one and we found ourselves crossing a nice stream of water and coming out on what the GPS said was Rock Creek Lane.  We were getting close!  We passed a few houses.  All were small and some looked like weekend dwellings. "Shabins" where people stay part of the time.  We only saw five houses in all.
We were way out here in the depths of Campbell County.  
Rock Creek Falls is right by the dirt road and about 20 ft high. It is real pretty.

We soon noticed a shady pullout along the dirt road and glimpsed the falls down there!
We stopped for a break and to check out this nice spot. We turned around and tried to find a different way back , but after speaking to a fellow out in his yard realized the gated road we passed was the short cut we hoped for. We couldn't go back that way so we had to backtrack.

    I was growing very bored and restless after all this riding. My stomach felt gross too.
Kenny suggested I drive awhile and see if that helped? It did help with the motion sickness and soon I was having fun again.  I still prefer hiking but four-wheeling and splashing through mud is great fun.  Ripping up dirt roads and carrying on is good for the soul!
I surprised myself that I remembered as much about the area as I did.  We went back down toward Hickory Creek and visited what the map calls "Barley Falls".   It was running good today but not very pretty. Murky and muddy. 
Barley Falls aka Hickory Creek Falls. Looks terrible today. Here is how it looked the first time we visited it.

Nice pretty blue hole of water

   We decided then to try to locate Small Hollow Falls. It was not much further by the waypoints, but we did not find a waterfall there.  It was a piddly stream.  Maybe we'll hunt for it again sometime.  We had a long way to go back so we began to make our way back in the direction of the campground.

     I had wanted to ride a ridgetop trail we took before #10 to see if we could find any yellow lady slippers. I had seen them there in the past.  They were not blooming there, but it sure was a pretty ride way up there in the forest with partial views down below. We turned onto another trail and kept looking for another place we'd seen yellow lady slippers.
We did not have to go far until the second location panned out! There they were up on the slope!  Some of the lady slippers were past peak bloom and one was totally dried up.
The others were quite pretty!  I saw nine plants in all. 

    
Yellow Lady Slipper in peak bloom


    We were both growing tired and getting hungry. I had a roast beef with carrots and potatoes and all the fixings back in the camper.  We headed that way and tried to make the best time.  The trail system is so pretty with such variety.  I have evolved so much from the first time I ever came riding here.  I remember crying the first time I came to Royal Blue. I was upset at the mining and so forth that has gone on in the area.  I have come to realize that the same thing I fretted about is the very thing that makes the land available for use!  Prospecting for and accessing mineral resources in the earth as well as logging have
kept areas like this free for multiple uses.  Recreation is one of them.   East Kentucky and East Tennessee have a certain character to them and I have had to adjust my thinking and accept reality.  I may not like everything about it, but I do like the access it provides. I also have been proud to see how the Royal Blue Rangers maintain the trail system.  When a section of trail becomes too eroded or muddy they close it.  They re-route it and let the area rest.   I see the value of it now and I am glad I've come past the initial upset.

     We ended up riding 67.5 miles today. I found that while that was enough to dog me out it was not as bad when I have the freedom to choose. When I can have a say in it and freedom to do some of the driving. When I can get out and take pictures and enjoy the surroundings and investigate a little I am fine.

     We made one wrong turn on our way back and ended up at the Stinking Creek Access parking area. We then had to ride the road back to the campground, but we did not get lost and that was the main thing.




Trail winding on through a green forest.

We made it back tired and hungry and very dirty and a little wet, but very happy.
A good dinner and a change of clothes and we were happier yet.   We spent some time
planning and preparing for the next days ride.  I was too tired to even take a shower and wore mud on my face to bed! Cool!

 Tackett Creek & the Cloud Forest tomorrow.  Sweet Dreams!

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.