We decided to take advantage of the nice weather and enjoy the spring explosion in the lower elevations by visiting both Porters Creek and the Cove Hardwoods Nature Trail.
Picture
One of our first treats of the hike was this fine patch of crested dwarf irises, a favorite of both of ours.
Picture
On the return trip we stopped by the Whaley homestead.  Upon her exploring of the spring house, Bonnie pointed out this smal crawfish.
Picture
Several slopes were blanketed in the White Fringed Phacelia at both Porters Creek and the Chimneys Picnic Area.
 
          What better way to kick off the spring season than with a hike out on Porters Creek in early April.  There was a chance of showers, supposedly, but nothing ever happened except mostly cloudy skies.  Fine with me.  I was worried that the strange winter weather would delay a lot of the wildflowers from kicking into gear.  Fortunately, I wasn't disappointed.  Even before the parking lot, there were tons of bloodroot, violets, and budding yellow trillium.  About a quarter mile in where the trail rises high above the creek, I found three wild geraniums toward the bottom of the hillside.  If you weren't looking closely, you would have easily missed them.  Straight through to the homestead, yellow and purple violets and yellow trillium were the norm.  The real treat came after the long footbridge.  Rue anemone, spring beauties, trout lilies, and dutchman's breeches abound.  Each bloom so small and so intricate but in great abundance across the lush green slopes.
Picture
          Further up near the falls, there were a few large flowered white trilliums that were budding and some were just beginning to open up.  The rocks scattered between Fern Branch Falls and the trail were covered in spring beauties.
Picture
A small cluster in what seemed infinite Spring Beauties.
          A fabulous start for my first official spring hike of the season!  To see the rest of the photos from both of my spring hikes along Porters Creek click here.
 
          Consensus among the locals is that it has been a strange winter this year.  The warm temperatures and early wildflowers that typically show up with March have been delayed.  The good thing about the rain that arrived today is that it should begin to wash away the snow and ice that still covers the uppers elevations.  Just in time for me to begin work up on LeConte.
          Yesterday I decided to head out to Greenbrier and inspect the Porters Creek Trail.  I wasn't surprised that I wouldn't see any wildflowers, but it would have been neat to see one, as a good sign of things to come perhaps.  The overcast sky and warm air made for a great afternoon.  The last time I was here was back in June when the forest was full and green, so it was neat to see everything so open, especially around the old homestead and Fern Branch Falls.
Picture
Fern Branch Falls as seen near the base.
          There were no wildflowers to be seen anywhere, which wasn't a surprise, but now I can be sure that I haven't missed anything.  The only wildlife action were four friendly deer sifting through the leaves for food.  It was still a pleasant afternoon for a stroll in the park.
          Today has been very laid back and logistical, just doing some last minute shopping before work begins and in preparation of the supply airlift for the Lodge.  The rain has put a damper on things, but it is necessary for winter to wave bye-bye and for spring to arrive, and when it does, I'll be ready!