I've been super fortunate to have such fine weather any time I've had days off to spend in the park. The decent weather also helps bring the wildflowers out. Today's hike proved just how amazing of a spring we've been having. I began at the Ace Gap Trail where the two-way road ends at the park boundary with hopes of reaching Campsite #3 along the Beard Cane Trail. To complete the task would allow me to reach the 300 mile mark in my quest of 900. I was also curious what wildflowers I would see along the way. Was I in for a treat!
Early on there were several firsts for the year: white milkweed, starry grass, daisy fleabane, bristly locust, speckled wood lily, and galax. Even some of the big dogs have decided to rear their heads, like the mountain laurel and flame azalea. That got the hiking juices flowing! I was hoping for more out of the fire pink when I repeatedly visited Chestnut Top, but today there were tons to go around as well.
But today's gameball went to another kind of wildflower, and the competition wasn't even close. I had managed to see one lone yellow lady's slipper back at White Oak Sink, and my research told me that I could find the pink ones here. I presumed they too would be a rare find, so when I saw my first, I was ecstatic. Not sure how many more I would stumble upon, I took several pictures before moving on. Then one became two...and then four............and well......let's just say I lost count when I got to sixty. I'm positive I missed others since I was constantly having to clear my face of spider webs (you're welcome subsequent hikers). To be able to see so many made up for any other wildflower misses the last month.
After descending the Beard Cane Trail a little ways, I came to the tricky stream crossing of the creek at Campsite #3. In the process, I also surpassed the 300 mile benchmark. Now I feel like I'm starting to get somewhere in this park, but there is so much hiking left to be done. In my return trip back, I managed to spook a young bear along a ridgetop just west of Campsite #7. It was a decent size and moved quickly, but I could tell it was between one and two years of age. It wasted no time charging through the brush downhill to get away from me, which was quite alright. And then a few miles after that, I narrowly missed stepping on the head of a three foot long black snake. I jumped like a kangaroo on caffeine to avoid any repercussions, but amazingly, the snake didn't flinch at all. Even when I came back, it cared more about sunning itself on a log than dealing with me. As to its identity, I'll have to check, but I knew right after that it wasn't venomous.
One thing is for certain, the month of May is in full swing and after three fantastic hikes, I can't wait to hit the trails some more. Oh, the anticipation for next week!