Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tallassee Spring Wildflower Hike

Canada violet near the gate
Tallassee Wildflower Hike
Dana Koogler solo
Hike distance 3 miles approx.
**I lost most of my photos from this hike
when my computer crashed. I had just enough to post
a trip report using current images. I am including a link
to hikes and rides of the past. **
Pictures are here: Tallassee photos
   I enjoy hiking with people.  I also enjoy time to myself.  I find that time alone
 out in nature is vital to my health, sanity and creativity.   I like seeing new areas, but
there are times when a safe, familiar place of quiet is a real blessing.  I decided it was time
for a solo hike to an old familiar area of great beauty... down the road to Tallassee.
It is only about 25 miles from the house.  I loaded up the jeep with snacks and drinks.
Camera gear. Water shoes.  Hiking boots. Trekkers. And off I went!
Foothills Parkway was amazing today.  I had enjoyed the views but finally I just could not bear it any longer. I pulled over and took this photo.  Foothills Parkway West  rambles along the spine of Chilhowee Mountain from Walland down to Tallassee. It terminates at Chilhowee Lake.    It may some day run from Wears Valley to Tallassee. Work continues, but it has since
the 1960s!   Puts me in mind it is a government boondoggle.
    Hiking at Tallassee involves numerous crossings of Cochran's Creek.
It is what you start out with that the gate!! Back when we leased the land we could open the gate and drive through the creek avoiding the need for that first, deep, wet foot crossing.
Now there is no way to avoid it.  Thus the water shoes. I plowed through the stream up to my calves.  Only a short distance further and I knew I'd have to ford at least two or three more times. I chose to leave my water shoes on.
I tied my boot laces together and slung them over my shoulder and rambled on.
It was a decision I would come to regret. 
   I had not gone far until I came to another place I always turn aside and wade the creek and check out the flowers.  The stream is particularly pretty and wild. It winds like a ribbon through the trees.  It has always pleased me to stand up on the bank and see the curves of the stream through the forest as it carves out where it wants to go.  The stones in the stream
are colorful and just pleasing to my eyes in all that clear water!

     I had beautiful weather today. The skies were bluest blue and clear.  The sun shone kindly on me.  A light breeze fluttered the leaves.  The air smelled of flowers.  The stream flowed past babbling and sparkling.   I noticed the beavers had reconstructed their dam further upstream!
The flood waters had washed it out before so they had to re-engineer it!  
        I made my first turn at the big dogwood tree.  White dogwood blossoms shone in the sun.
I began to see some more wildflowers.  I stopped to photograph a pretty patch of blue phlox.
I was down on the ground when I heard a shuffling by me and felt movement.   It was a black
snake trying to get out of my way!  He went  his way and I took his photo. 

        My encounter with the snake did not stop me from wallowing in the experience today.
I was soon back laying on the ground in order to get pictures of Catesbys trilliums which are
hard to see. The blooms dangle below the leaves.  I am not above putting a twig against the stems to get them to cock back a little for me to have a better angle for a photo! 
I saw a few of them and some were crisp pure white and some were pink.

Two color variations of Catesby's Trillium.

   I continued ambling up the old rocky trail. The stream beside me was especially pretty.
It is a series of long, running cascades one after another.   I took pictures of one on
my way back.  I no longer have the photo, but here is a short video of it. It is so nice.  I had never climbed down
to this spot before. 

Pretty cascade at Tallassee.  I think this is a tributary stream of Cochran's Creek.

        I forded the stream again in a deep place at the crest of the hill.  I was pleased to see
that the huge downfallen tree was still there, but had mostly been removed!  I could at least ford without wiggling my way through its branches.   The crossing here is deep and slippery.
Adding the branches of a fallen tree did not do anything to make it simpler.  A short distance further I passed an old rock wall and the site of a structure.  I passed another series of scenic
cascades.  The ferns and moss and flowers here are so lush. 

      I continued on the sardine can cascade.   I noticed the dirt patch in front of the cascade
was a mat of soft, sandy earth.  Here on this spot of earth grew great numbers of pink and white spring beauties and purple violets.  A huge log had split open and filled with dirt.
It brimmed with white violets and green moss.   Life takes hold and flourishes in this place!

         I decided today the first place I'd go was the big open meadow.  I ambled along crossing
the creek a couple more times.   I soon found myself at the meadow.  It was great to see as it seemed a long time since I'd been there. 

Tall, tall trees!!  My camera only shows a portion of the grandeur of this wild meadow.
It was such a perfect day. The tall tree in the center and some of the others with palest green appeared silver in the light.  

    I grew up in a rural area of Virginia called Barren Ridge.    It is  a pine barren.  It is part of the Shenandoah Valley.  It  was wide open and quiet and pretty.  I always liked it there.  A common sight there was sage fields.   I come to Tallassee and hike and it is similar to Barren Ridge.  I feel right at home in a sage field with the birds singing.  I hiked all the way across the meadow.  I saw loads of purple birdsfoot violets and hot pink dianthus in the sage brush.
I re-entered the woods on the far side and hiked about 1/2 mile further.  I turned and headed back.   The walk back across the meadow provides a different perspective.

 I stopped and just drank it all in.   I love Spring here in this place.  There is something unmatched about the new pea greens of spring, silvery and shining against the deep, dark hunter greens of the pine trees that makes my spirits soar!   I could hear the bird songs. A hawk flew and circled in the skies above.  Far at the edge of the meadow I could hear the faint trickle of the creek.  I enjoyed a slow hike back in the direction I'd come from.   I stopped and closed my eyes.  I could hear no sounds of man.  Quiet except for the created works of God.  Nothing the hand of man could ever make could equal the splendor of the natural world.

       I realized two things.  I was growing tired.  My feet were wet and water logged. I was still in those water shoes.  I had lots of creek crossings and I was OK I told myself.   I wondered what in the world was wrong with me? I had hiked 11 miles one day. I hiked 13 miles another day.  I had only hiked a couple miles and I was weary?  Nothing for it.  Wherever you go.. you must get back.
I decided rather than push myself past the point I would be forgiving and head out.  I sat down and rested and ate a quick snack. It did nothing to relieve my fatigue so I continued heading back. I was torn since I had another leg of the Spring wildflower tour I wanted to finish. It would have to wait for another time. 
     Yellow trillium along my hike today. I  saw lots of these.
Sparkling Cochran's Creek at Tallassee on my hike today.  It is beautiful!
      I headed home and rested. I went to bed early and dreamed of this wild, wonderful place.
I dreamed of trips past climbing narrow knife edge ridges with Kenny through the pines.
Some of the previous trips we've taken here have been so exciting and pretty that I'd do them
all over again.   I am thankful for wild places and a husband who enjoys exploring them almost as much as I do! 

 I woke the next morning to sore, blistered feet. I should have taken the time and trouble to change to hiking boots! 


  1. Sounds like a wonderful walk to me!

    1. Glad you think so! I sure did. I always see that black snake in the same area. Have for a couple years!


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