We usually just call it “Virgin Falls”, both to refer to the 1,551 acre plot of land, as well as the namesake waterfalls occupying the far end of it. The official name for the land, however, is ”Virgin Falls State Natural Area” at least since the state of Tennessee acquired it in 2012. When I visited it previously it was known as “Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness” and was owned by the Bowater Southern Paper Corporation. Bowater owns and maintains a number of “Pocket Wilderness” areas, and admirable public benefit and, I’m sure, public relations activity. Tennessee acquired the land using a number of funding sources, including a grant from the federal Endangered Species Recovery Land Acquisition Fund. These funds were provided in part due to the presence of Virginia Spirea (Spiraea virginiana), one of the rarest shrubs in North America.
When I heard about Virginia Spirea being in the Virgin Falls area I decided I needed to add that to the USWildflowers Waterfalls and Wildflowers series, and I was fortunate to make an overnight hike into the Virgin Falls State Natural Area on March 8-9 of this year. While many wildflowers were already in full swing down my way in north Georgia, 70 miles north and a bit of elevation gain makes a difference, and this will be more waterfalls and less wildflowers than I expected to report.
On Monday, Feb 4, I took a ride down to The Pocket at Pigeon Mountain with a couple of my grandsons – Chase and Jeff. To a great extent this was to get them out from in front of their computers/video games, but also, since we’ve had such a warm winter, to check to see if there were any early signs of spring. We walked the boardwalk and all the way up to and above the falls. We had a good time, and even though I was expecting some indication that spring is around the corner, I was surprised…
Chattanooga has done a great job of developing its riverfront and greenways over the past 20 years. The Riverwalk that runs for 10 miles along or near the Tennessee River from the Tennessee Aquarium on the riverfront in downtown Chattanooga all the way up to Chickamauga Dam is a jewel of that development. It’s one that I’ve so far neglected to explore except for a couple of small pieces. My wife, Cindy, and I will start trying to correct that neglect. On Friday and Saturday we walked and photographed a section of the Riverwalk near the Amnicola Marsh, visited the bridge over Chickamauga Creek, and also enjoyed a Great Blue Heron rookery on the Chattanooga State Community College campus. Here are a few photographs from this past week.
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus – along the Riverwalk near Amnicola Marsh
I made a July trip over to Cloudland Canyon State Park to see the waterfalls with an expectation that I’d also see many wildflowers along the way, and I wasn’t disappointed. While recently posting a report on a visit to nearby Lula Falls, I discovered that I’d never written the planned report on the Cloudland Canyon trip. I quickly realized that I didn’t remember many of the details of the walk – and I was relieved to discover that the July trip was in 2011, not just this past July, so the memory fade was more reasonable. But to refresh that failing memory, I made another trip up there on Dec 5. Here are a dozen photos from those two “waterfalls and wildflowers walks.”
(Click on any image and you’ll go to Flickr where you can view larger sized images.)
Unnamed Falls along Sitton Gulch Trail near the Waterfalls Trail junction – Cloudland Canyon State Park
Burgess Falls State Park is a gem that my wife and I discovered on our way to a family reunion at a house on Center Hill Lake near Cookeville Tennessee. We visited the park on Saturday, March 24, and Monday, March 26.
Large-Flowered Trillium at Burgess Falls State Park
I wasn’t planning on going down to The Pocket this weekend, but my wife had other plans for Sunday, so she suggested that I do something to take advantage of the beautiful day, so I headed down there shortly after getting home from church. In addition to walking the boardwalk and the trail up to the falls, I did a little back country walking above the bluff north of the horse trail. Wildflowers are abundant; here is my report, and a couple of photos taken off the beaten path in The Pocket at Pigeon Mountain.
The Phacelia are blooming. There is a Phacelia in the field to the right as you walk down to the boardwalk; they are blooming along the boardwalk and all the way up to the falls. The photo above was taken up on the top of the north bluff.
Forestry Service Road 283 provides a great drive in the mountains of northeast Georgia during the spring wildflower season. This is the second season we’ve driven this road looking for wildflowers, and were not disappointed. At one of our stops at a campsite along the road my wife spotted this moth (perhaps a Spilosoma species?) on one of dozens of Pink Ladyslippers (Cypripedium acaule) in the area.
What a difference a few weeks with some warm weather makes! On Feb 13 we made a trip to The Pocket and there was still a little snow on the ground and no sign even of Harbinger of Spring. I made a quick trip down to The Pocket this morning to check on the status, and the wildflower season has begun! Read on…
In the past my good friend Dave Ridge and I made a point to get at least one winter backpacking trip in each year, and for several years had our annual “Piece o’ the AT Winter Hike.” For various reasons we hadn’t been able to do that for several years, so I was pumped when Dave called to invite me along with a couple of other guys for a 2-nighter – and the scheduled worked. This past weekend we hiked around 17 or 18 miles in the Smokies, including a great side-trip up Rocky Top.
Friday night I learned that the area at the base of Lucky Peak where I hiked on Friday morning is known as the ‘Black Cliffs.’ While the originality of this name is similar to the name of a cat I owned (“Cat”) and my parakeet (“Bird”), it is appropriately named, and it’s a great place to hike.
There are five trails that lead to LeConte Lodge, which sits atop the third highest peak in the Smokies. On perhaps a dozen prior trips to the lodge I had hiked each of them at least once except for Trillium Gap Trail. I hiked that trail on November 11.