It had been a couple of years since I had walked in Gee Creek Wilderness. Since it was spring break for some of my grandkids, the spring ephemerals were in full swing, and it promised to be good weather, I headed to Gee Creek with two of my grandsons (Noah and Philip) for a walk along the creek on Friday, April 1, 2016.
Many cascades are along the creek as it makes its steep drop through the gorge. The trail is somewhat challenging, both because it is somewhat steep for short stretches, but also because there are areas where you must scramble up/down/along nearly vertical rocks – more interesting when wet – and also because there are several creek crossings above the bridge at the first crossing. I was standing in water at one of the crossings for the above photo of the falls.
While the beauty and adventure of the creek and trail are worth the trip, the area is also rich in wildflowers. Violets (V. sororia, V. palmata, and V. hastata) were along the first part of the trail before the bridge crossing, and soon I spotted a Yellow Stargrass (Hypoxis hirsuta) blossom gleaming along the trail. After the photo stop I continued on up the trail and soon ran into the beginning of many (MANY) Catesby’s Trillium (Trillium catesbaei). These are one of my favorite Trilliums, so I was pretty excited to see them.
We continued on up the trail, with the boys wanting to take side
trips to the creek until I told them that we’d be crossing it soon. After about a quarter of a mile from the parking area, we came to the bridge and crossed over the creek. At the end of the bridge was a large patch of dwarf Iris, but it was still early and cloudy, and none were open at the time. Philip and Noah stopped to skip a few stones into the creek, and we headed on up the trail.
They had plenty of opportunities to skip stones since I was making frequent stops to look at and occasionally photograph the wildflowers. Starting with the bridge crossing there were many patches of Long-spurred Violets (Viola rostrata) crowding the trail. One of my favorite violets, I stopped for a quick photo session.
Cumberland Spurge, Pussytoes, Round-leaf Ragwort, along with more violets and Catesby’s Trillium were blooming in the vicinity of the Iris, and there was a scattering of Rue Anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) starting here as well.
As I was waiting for the boys to play in the creek after photographing the Rue Anemone, I noticed I was standing next to an Eastern Sweetshrub, not quite open:
Soon we came to the first creek crossing, just below that waterfalls pictured in the opening of this report. We all managed to keep relatively dry on this crossing by carefully stepping on rocks that were only under a couple of inches of rushing water, but it took some time, since it was a pretty technical crossing. It isn’t usually this difficult, but we had a couple of inches of rain the prior day, so the creek was running high. We headed on up the trail, and I spotted a Shrub Yellowroot. The boys went on while I stopped to photograph. These are not showy, and in the forest the strands of flowers can be easily missed.
We made another challenging creek crossing (trying to stay dry; I was mostly successful – socks a bit wet – but the boys pretty much gave up on “dry”) and headed on up the creek. We stopped for a snack and water under the big cliff that comes down to the creek, and then walked up the trail to the next creek crossing. Noah and Philip wanted to play in the creek, so I just enjoyed their company for a while, photographing the play and the creek.
We headed back down the creek after about 30 minutes of playtime, making pretty good time, except for one slip by a grandson – I looked back and he was dangling off the steep creekside, holding on to a tree root. Uninjured, he pulled himself back up onto the trail, and we continued onward. The day had brighted, and the sun had brought the Irises out at the end of the bridge.
The blossoms were open, so I was able to see the ridges – Crested Dwarf Iris (Iris cristata.)
Closing out with the Perfoliate Bellwort blooming along the trail between the bridge and the parking area.