Friday, April 15, 2016

Cucumber Gap Trail Today

Tiarella cordifolia--Foam Flower along the trail today.



Cucumber Gap Trail 


Dana Koogler solo


2 miles RT 


Pix are here: 

Cucumber Gap Trail Pix

    I had a doctors appointment today at 10:45 a.m.  I did not choose the time. It was 
with a GI doctor .. a specialist and my primary care doctor set it up.   I knew it was going to mess up my morning, but figured I might get a hike in later.   I came out of the doctor's office with a clean bill of health.  I ran two short errands.  Back home I gathered my gear quickly and  thought initially I might hit up White Oak Sinks today now that it was later into the bloom season.   I was more than halfway there when it hit me: I wonder if I will be able to find a parking space?  Moreover... would I be able to stand so many people in one area? 
A glance at the parking area and cars lined up and down the road and my answer was a resounding NO!    My backup plan was Cucumber Gap Trail so that is where I headed next.

 Trail marker.
Pretty cascade on the way up to Cucumber Gap Trail 

       I had no problems finding parking.  I saw other hikers, but a far more reasonable number.
I saw a man with a dog who was being polite and avoiding taking the dog on the trails!  He was waiting and walking the dog on the roads while his wife hiked the trails.  They were taking turns.   Not everyone is a total rule breaker. Hope springs eternal.

     I just wanted to get out for a short spell today with what was left of it.  I also like 
the fact that when I don't have such an ambitious plan I take note of what is around more.
I take better photos when I am not so overwhelmed.   Cucumber Gap Trail is always loaded with a wide variety of wildflowers in Spring.  It is such a pretty trail with tall trees. Some are really big around too.  Mostly they are poplar trees very tall and straight. 
The trail winds from Jakes Creek over to Little River.  It undulates through the hollers gently gaining altitude.  The old Bent Arm Manway takes off from this trail.  

        I remember the very first time I ever hiked Cucumber Gap Trail with Reggie.
It was so beautiful. It was  May and the dwarf iris were like lavender carpet around us.
The images in my mind from that day are the stuff dreams are made of.   That day my knee swelled up to the size of an orange, but Reggie gave me some ibuprofen and fixed me up a walking stick.  The loveliness of the scenery and the ibuprofen and good company completely fixed me.  I never felt anymore pain from the knee. It was still swollen, but who cares?
 Sunbeams filtering down through the green fire of Spring in the forest.   Buckeye tree shades the slope.  False solomons seal and solomons seal and ferns are beneath it.
Purple phlox along the path. 
        
   Today it was no less beautiful.    The forest was pea green and shimmering with sunlight.
Mayapples popped up through the forest floor like tiny green umbrellas.  The edges of the trail and the surrounding slopes were thick with wildflowers of yellow, white, purple, and pale pink.
I saw sweet white trillium, smooth yellow violet, Canada violet, blue violet, yellow trilliums,
large flowered bellwort, yellow mandarin, showy orchis, wood anemone, rue anemone, 
sweet white violet, confederate violet, dwarf ginseng, squirrel corn, foam flower, frasers sedge, dwarf cinquefoil, yellow ragwort, Bishops cap, purple phlox, Chickweed, and blue cohosh. Ferns of several different varieties were among the flowers. I saw a lot of rattlesnake fern and Christmas fern today. I saw very little maiden hair fern. It is just opening.  
One small creek crossing easily rock hopped today. 
       
  I  went out so far then turned and headed back.  I had made mental notes of where I wanted to stop on the way back.  I  was stopping and photographing various flowers and the woods.   Something caught my eye that was a far different shade of color. There in the dim light was a deep red.  I had not noticed it on my way in.  It was the first hybrid trillium of the season for me.   Scratch that.. I did see one back in Mill Creek, but I did not photograph it.  
This one really stood out amidst all those white ones.  


One lone hybrid trillium.  It is certainly pretty and different.  I have seen this pattern before.  Chances are that this flower will be here again next Spring in the same color pattern.  It may also reproduce offspring that will become a "hybrid swarm".  I think the first place I ever saw that was up at Derrick Knob.    The ones up there look very similar to this one.

    I was standing there taking photos of all those pretty sweet white trilliums.  Something else caught my eye that made me do a double then a triple take.  I saw a pure white trillium.
Big deal? Yes. It is to me.  I traveled to Georgia last Spring to see Jennison's trillium only to have it be too early and it was not in bloom.  I later saw them in the Cherokee National Forest.
I had never seen them in the Smokies.  I  was unsure if they even grew here?  I drew nearer to it and took a closer look.  It was indeed pure white.  And there were a few more just like it. 
Amidst all those other trilliums.... there it was.  Look closely. You never know what may jump out at you.  I checked the Al Taxa Biodiversity Inventory when I got home. It said that yes indeed T. flexipes does bloom in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Good. I have not
had good luck reporting things to botanists.  I get a wide variety of responses some of them argumentative and wanting to contrary me.  Makes me want to say fek you very much and see if I ever report another bloody thing to you. 

Trillium flexipes--Jennison's trillium.  

         I encountered a very nice couple hiking and taking wildflower pictures. 
I greeted them and we talked flowers for a minute or two.  I tipped them off to check the hybrid trillium out.    They were coming up on it from the direction I was when I missed it!  
They were pleased.   The wife is the wildflower nut of that pair, but he likes them too.

         
 Showy orchis. I only saw a couple of these.
     Frasers sedge looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.  Flowers that resemble Q-tips or cotton balls on stalks!  

        I took my time and enjoyed the sunshine and the breeze and blue skies above.
I thought of my synesthesia and wondered if I would ever smell or taste "green" again?
I miss that part of having my brain cross wired.  
Tall trees and tall steep mountain sides around the trail.

Trout lily and in the background a wood anemone.  The trout lilies down at lower elevations are soon to be done for the season. I hate to see them fade. 


     It didn't take too long until I was back down on the main road heading for the jeep.
Past all those falling down houses. I hate to see them.  Now they are as ugly as their  history and what they represent.    I stowed my gear in the jeep.  I stopped in Townsend for a handful of grocery items.   I had an image in my mind today of cross vine draped from tree limbs with the evening sun's gold lighting them up.   I loved the idea and knew right where I could stop on the way home and photograph some.   I tried the first location and was not real pleased with the results.   I hit Old Walland Highway to ease home.   On my way I passed a huge swath of cross vine in the trees with that just right sunlight beaming through it.   I even had a great place to pull over to photograph it.  I was waiting to cross the road when a motorcyclist and bicycler 
passed me. The motorcycle dude shook his head and smiled.  I get it. She's at it again.
Her and that camera go everywhere.  It is true. I feel like my eyes are put out when my camera is out of commission.   

         I got my photos and hit for home.   What a good end to the day.  I got a good report 
from the doctor. They want to find something wrong, but no. I'm still crazy head to toe, but
I'm healthy as a horse.  I still managed to fit in a short hike and see some pretty things.

            Supper and a shower would cap off my day perfectly.  
Bignonia capreolata.. Cross Vine in the trees near Little River on my way home.


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