Saturday, June 17, 2017

Cades Cove Summer Wildflowers

Bumblebee on Clover 

Cades Cove Summer Wildflowers 

Dana Koogler

Wednesday June 14, 2017

Hike distance 2 miles

Pictures here starting with frame 44 CADES COVE PIX

   I had wanted to go to Cades Cove to do some exploring. I wanted to see Ragged Fringed Orchids since it was time for them to bloom. I also wanted to see the heirloom gladiolas that bloom in the fields.  I had been wanting to visit the various ponds in Cades Cove. I finally had a day when I could go and I packed my car with all my stuff and left.  It was a Wednesday morning so I had to wait until
the loop road opened at 10 a.m.. It gave me time to get organized so I did not forget anything.  

      I arrived at the gate a few minutes after it opened.  I was so eager to see the flowers more toward the back of the loop I decided to do that first.  I figured if I wanted to do the other stuff on my list it would wait until I made the loop or half of it again. Traffic was not very bad today.  Weekdays in Summer can be crowded, but I was fortunate it wasn't.   I started seeing beautiful views of the mountains. I also started seeing lots of daylilies and bright orange butterfly weed.  I saw a second shade of orange butterfly weed and even some yellow.   I was warned by a buddy that some of the orchids at a previous site were not that good this year.  They were able to tip me off to a better spot or two.  I was thrilled to go find out for myself.  

        Today was sunny and hot.  I really did not expect to see any animals during this time of day.
I got to the first place and pulled over. I got to take some photos of daylilies against the blue mountains.  It was really a sight to see. 

I squatted down to get this view.  I took my time and got a good composition. I used a manual setting.
I was so tickled with how it turned out. I had a feeling it would be good.  About the time I started back toward the jeep a park volunteer waved me down. I first thought he was going to scold me for "going off trail".  All I did was pull over and step into the field.  He greeted me not to fuss at me but to offer advice on things to see. He was really nice and just did not want me to miss things. I thanked him for the information and for volunteering.  He informed me they had a problem bear and were keeping an eye on things to help the rangers be certain no visitors got injured and the bear did not get chased.  I asked if wildlife chasing had let up any? He said yes it was a little better, but apparently it comes in spurts.   He related to me some of the uninformed ideas visitors have. It left me incredulous.
He said the volunteers try to educate visitors about such things so they hopefully leave less ignorant than they were when they came in.  If you see yourself among this kind of person please take time to read about wildlife in the areas you plan to visit so you know the basics.  You'll get more enjoyment out of it. You'll be safer. The animals will be safer from your kind.  
  • What time do you all feed the bears?
  • What age do deer have to be to turn into elk?
  • What elevation do the bears live at?

    I continued round the loop road.  I spotted one lone gladiola out in the weeds. I pulled over and parked. I got out and walked over there and waded out into the thicket.   I got my legs all scratched up by briars for my efforts. I only saw two of the heirloom gladiolas which was very disappointing.
I saw lots of leaves of them though. They were still around.  I found I was there too early. I shall have to make time to return. Maybe Ma and Pa will feel like going? I hope so.  Maybe brother Doug will feel up to a good sibling fight in the back of the car? 😄😄😄

 One especially beautiful heirloom glad above.. and one really pitiful one below!

       I pushed onward to my next stop.  I had only seen one turkey up to this point. Today I was blessed to be surrounded by courteous fellow visitors who used the pull offs!  It was very nice.
I parked and got out to hike. I hiked in one direction into the field.  I got photos of the various shades of butterfly weed.  I then continued my search for orchids and gladiolas.

 Above-- bright orange butterfly weed
Below.. yellow butterfly weed with a honeybee.

    I was enjoying the sun and the blue skies.  I hiked into the woods leaving the fields behind me.
I saw the forest floor laden with ferns. They are thick and soft and cover the ground in places.

Example of a fern patch in the forest at Cades Cove.

     On one of my winding treks in and out of the woods I spotted a flash of bright pink down low to the ground.  I looked closer and it was a pair of heirloom gladiolas that were drooped all the way over.  I gently stood them back up. They were too flimsy to stay on their own so I leaned them back against the other weeds. I was able to enjoy seeing the shades of pink. My great grandmother grew these in about every color in her garden each Summer.   I think that is why I favor them.
They have such a sense of history. They are "antiques" that come back each year!

Heirloom gladiolus in pink with a yellow center. I have searched and searched without finding any information as to the variety. It is probably very old.   It is an abyssinian type for sure.  The nearest thing I've found is a mention of the extremely old Maid of the Mist variety. I can find no photos I am 100% sure are of that so I can't compare them. I'm betting these date to the 1920s.

Great Spangled frittilary I saw today.  I only saw one of these.
I also saw a little terrapin that had crawled up beside me.

 I was not disappointed. I found Ragged Fringed Orchids a plenty today.  I found three where I expected to find them.  I also realized I had a macro lens I was not aware I owned! I had never used it before.  I used it today for detail shots on these little beauties. Turned out best macros I've ever done.
Detail of the bloom of 'Ragged Fringed Orchids. You can see the dew drops on them.

  I hiked back the way I came. I kept looking.  I decided I'd hike in the opposite direction. I went
way out through the fields of Cades Cove.  I saw lots more butterfly weed and some sundrops.
I also saw common milkweed.  I thought again of my great grandmother.  I don't know what she was as far as ethnicity. She was a dark skinned, dark eyed woman with long snow white hair she kept plaited and put up with combs. She wore a poke bonnet much of the time.  She was Brethren in her
faith. The women keep their heads covered when they pray.   She had lots of costume jewelry. The prettiest she had was some that looked like milkweed blooms!  It was made of porcelain.

 Common Milkweed is a pretty flower that looks like it is made up of tiny pink jewels!

More pretty orange butterfly weed against green fields, red brush, and blue skies.

     I had grown hot by the time I hiked back to the car. I did not see anymore orchids in this direction.   I got in the jeep. Cranked up the AC and cooled off. I sat in the back seat and ate lunch in the cool.
I was too hot to eat much.  I drank plenty to stay hydrated. Once I cooled down and felt refreshed I began to look around me.  I had been studying my surroundings, but had failed to spot the landmarks  I needed.  I was about to give up and move on when the light came on over my noggin. I looked out across the fields and there before me was what I had needed to see.  Had I not gotten in the back seat to eat and rest I probably wouldn't have noticed my sought for markings.  I was very excited and got out with my backpack and once again waded out through the fields.   I stopped as I drew nearer my destination and carefully scanned for orchids.  I saw one. Then another and another.  I counted nine at this spot. I cannot believe I even saw the one as it had not yet bloomed.  All the rest were perfect.

 Looking out at the light and shadows on the mountains in Cades Cove
 Ragged Fringed Orchid Platanthera lacera is its fancy botanical name. :-)
A macro shot of the same orchid.  You can see clear into the nectary of each bloom.

  I was so tickled to have found no less than a dozen orchids today!  Thanks to my buddies for the tips. I ain't using your names on here because I don't want anyone hassling you.  Don't think for a minute I'm not grateful.

          I heard a lady going by in a car around the loop saying something about "Look at that woman out there in the field going around. ...." I couldn't hear the rest.   I guess I was doing it wrong since I was not chasing bears or deer.    I also heard some gnu gnu holler out their car window "Get out of my picture!"  People can be all sorts of different assholes.

   Once I got done with orchid hunting I headed out to see if I could find Stupka Sink. I had recently gotten all the GPS coordinates for all the sinkhole ponds and ephemeral ponds around Cades Cove.
I had imagined I'd try to see at least a few of them today.  I pulled up within what the GPS unit said was 226 feet away from Stupka Sink. About the time I pulled over and parked a very big bear stood up on its hind legs in the weeds where it was eating blackberrries.  I was glad I saw it now instead of encountering it while I was out in the field with it.  I decided quickly I'd best wait til Winter when the bears are asleep. More likely for these ponds to have water then anyway. Also less snakey and weedy. I next went round to Forge Creek Road to see if I could relocate other heirloom glads I had seen.
None were blooming. I did get some pretty scenery along Forge Creek though.
   Advection fog has formed over the  cold waters of the creek.
Here is a video of the tranquility along this stream.

Forge Creek in Summer.

   Next I stopped off at the Gum Swamp. I got eaten up with mosquito bites. It still looked pretty and I was glad to see it still had some water in it.  You can see the trees reflected in the dark water.
I did not do much else today. I stopped to see some flame azaleas I spotted and some rosebay rhododendron.  I saw three deer... all does.   I was satisfied with my finds so I wrapped up my day and headed home.
Flame azaleas
Rosebay rhododendron glowing in the sunshine.

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