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.
Yesterday (3/27) was one of the rare days this spring – mostly clear skies and warmer weather – into the 60’s. As a plus a couple of my grandkids wanted to join me, so a great time at The Pocket was guaranteed. Several of the “signature species” at The Pocket – Virginia Bluebell, Wood (Celandine) Poppy, Dutchman’s Breeches (or, as my grandson called them, “Upside Down Pants from Holland), Trout Lily are blooming right now. I’m developing a checklist to use so I won’t have to photograph or remember what all is blooming, and of the 51 species on my current version of the checklist, 25 are blooming right now.
While the weather is keeping things slow, things are picking up at The Pocket. Several species have started blooming, and even more are “almost there.” Checking last year’s reports, we’re tracking pretty close to 3/10/2013. The big excitement for me today was finding that a few Dutchman’s Breeches have started blooming.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised considering the cold weather we had in January and February, but I do continue to be surprised about how late the wildflowers are starting at The Pocket. Even so, today’s trip was a good one – not only because it was a beautiful day, but also because what is blooming is beautiful. The biggest “news” is that Bloodroot is now starting to bloom.
While there were only a few Bloodroot blooming along the boardwalk, there were hundreds up the Pocket Loop Trail.
Eight warm days after my last trip by The Pocket I expected more. I thought I’d see Harbinger of Spring, Hepatica, and Toothwort blooming, and possibly a few other early bloomers – maybe some Chickweed and Spring Beauties. Well, I guess as far as expectations are concerned two out of three ain’t bad, as the saying goes. Harbinger of Spring and Hepatica were all that was blooming; very similar to Feb 4 last year, so it looks like we’re nearly 3 weeks behind last year’s early bloom. I did get to spend some quality time with a few Hepatica. Start planning your trip to The Pocket – remember it is now a fee area.
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…
This is Leap Day. For this once-every-four-years day, I thought that rather than the normal Native Plant of the Day (#NPOD on Twitter) I’d post a few native plants from and a report on the early spring status of the wildflowers at one of Georgia’s premier wildflower locations, The Pocket at Pigeon Mountain. As things worked out, Feb 27 was the day available to make the short trek down to that part of Walker County.
It was a beautiful day. When my wife and I headed down to The Pocket on Monday, Feb 27, 2012, we considered both the beautiful day and the time we were able to spend together a blessing from God. We also expected to find wildflowers, since we’ve had very little real winter and quite a warm February. However, we had no idea!
Bloodroot – Sanguinaria canadensis at The Pocket at Pigeon Mountain