While we had a very cold January, February warmed up, and with the next week also expected to be quite warm – temperatures in the 60s, 70s, with even a possibility of reaching 80 degrees – I would expect a lot of action by next weekend. It was reported to me that a few Hepatica (Anemone acutiloba) and Harbinger of Spring (Erigenia bulbosa) were blooming a week ago; those are abundant now, and I found a few other species blooming along the Shirley Miller Wildflower Trail as well.
A discussion on Facebook a few days ago reminded me that the Collins Gulf area of Savage Gulch State Natural Area in Grundy County, TN was on my list of areas I wanted to check out for wildflowers. Originally I had targeted it because of reports of Fringed Phacelia (Phacelia fimbriata), but when I photographed that species in the Smokies, Collins Gulf got bumped down a few places on my list. But I wanted to get into a wilderness with my grandson while he was on spring break this week, so I bumped it back up. Checking the weather, Tuesday, April 4, was forecast as the best day, and this time the weatherman was right – rain on Monday gave us good water for the waterfalls, and a beautiful, sunny day showed up Tuesday morning – as forecast. Grandson Joseph and I headed out about 9 AM for the 50-mile drive to the Collins Gulf West Trailhead of Savage Gulch, for Waterfalls and Wildflowers (31 species; see the list at the end of the post.)
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.
Today (3/07/15) was one of the rare days so far this year – mostly clear skies and warmer weather – into the 60’s. That made for a great day to get down to The Pocket for a status update. There’s not a lot of change concerning which species are blooming (with an exception) – but those that have been blooming are picking up the pace a lot. The one new species I found blooming – Carolina Spring Beauty; a single plant along the trail to the falls.
On April 2, the next day after our Walls of Jericho hike, Dave Ridge and I went by Tennessee’s Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park in Manchester. After the strenuous hike of the day before, we wanted something that was easy. Both of us were impressed by this park, and we only explored a relatively small portion of the available hiking trails. In addition to some trails in other parts of the park, you have several options to explore the section which includes the 2,000-year old earth-covered stone walls – you can stay fairly level up along the top, or take alternate routes down to the river. As we walked along the trail, we heard falling water – the drop off the edge of Tennessee’s highland rim into the central basin forms several very nice waterfalls on both the Big Duck and Little Duck Rivers, just before they converge within the park to form the Duck River.
A little over a year ago a good friend (my wife said I should use BFF here, but I’ll pass…) invited me to visit a place I’d not heard of before – Walls of Jericho astraddle the Alabama / Tennesse border. I wasn’t able to join him last year, but we made the trip together this year on Tuesday, April 1. It’s advertised as a “strenuous” hike, and it lived up to that billing – there is about 1,000 of elevation drop in less about 2 miles out of the Alabama trailhead (meaning “increase” on the way back out) – but it was well worth the effort.
My wife and I were passing through Toccoa Falls, Georgia on Saturday, March 22, heading back home from Devil’s Fork State Park in South Carolina, and decided to stop in to see the namesake waterfalls. My sister had attended Toccoa Falls College in the 1960’s, and a friend of my daughter’s family from Papua New Guinea is attending there now, so we knew the waterfalls was on the campus of the college. We stopped at the guard’s gate for directions – straight down the road until we come to the gift shop in the Gate Cottage. Access to the falls is through the gift shop, paying a small fee – $2 for most adults, $1 each for those of us over the age of 60. A short walk of about 100 yards up a nice trail along Toccoa Creek brings you to a view of the 186′ waterfalls.
Saturday, March 14, 2014 was a beautiful day with perfect morning temperatures for hiking, and fortunately my grandson Philip had asked me to take him for a hike, so around 9 AM we headed out from Camp Vesper Point for a visit to the nearby North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area. This was my grandson’s first visit to the North Chick, and I hadn’t been there in many years, so while I was hoping for wildflowers, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
We’ve had a pretty harsh winter, with two significant snow storms and a stretch of extremely cold weather (for North Georgia, anyway), so I was not expecting much action at The Pocket at Pigeon Mountain in mid-February, but it was a beautiful day and I wanted an excuse to get out, so my wife and I headed down to The Pocket after lunch. It was pretty much as expected – signs of coming spring, but no floral action, even though this is almost 2 weeks later than the first flowers I found last year. The falls was pretty, though, and worth the walk:
Following are a few photos of the “signs of spring:”
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 (2013). 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.