Spring Wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains
I've always loved the Great Smoky Mountains. Maybe it's the density of the trees, or the quiet nature on the backcountry trails, or maybe it's their ancient and storied history. Walking a trail in the Smokey Mountains always makes me feel reverent.
It been more than 2 years since I last visited the mountains. When I saw an announcement for the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage I thought here's a good way to ease back to into a part of my life before the pandemic, when I would sign up for events, drive the 4-6 hours west, and immerse myself in the mountains. I signed up for daily guided walks mostly on trails I've not explored before. I dug through my closet to find hiking clothes that still fit, scoured my brain to remember what to pack in my small day hiking backpack, and hit the road.
On my first guided hike I quickly realized that the pace at which the group traveled along the trail was not for me. Stopping every few feet to admire a flower and discuss it's properties meant that it took us 4 hours to hike 2 miles. I wanted to feel alone in the mountains, discover wildflowers on my own, and hike at my own pace. So in the following days I set off alone to rediscover the trails I love so much. I saw more than 25 different wildflowers and enjoyed matching them to the photos and information in the wildflower book I'd picked up in the park gift shop.
Trilliums The ground along the trails was bursting with trilliums - white erect trilliums, yellow trilliums, and white trilliums that turn shades of pink as they age. And yes, white trilliums are different from white erect trilliums!
Bluets, Phlox, and Irises
When I first came across a patch of Wild Geraniums I thought, "oh! This is my favorite wildflower!". Then I saw a group of Prostrate Bluets growing among some tree roots and I thought, "No THIS Is my favorite!". Then I saw the Dwarf Iris and realized I can't have a favorite, because I love them all.
Yellows I have always loved yellow flowers. They just seem.... happy. A happy yellow flower. And now I know the names of a few of these little happy yellow flowers. My favorite name in this bunch is the "Hairy Buttercup". Just when you thought you knew buttercups!
In addition to two kinds of white trilliums the forest floor also displayed several other treasures in white.
Other cool things
As I walked along the trails, eyes searching the ground for new flowers and interesting plants, I realized how diverse the flora in the Smoky Mountains truly is. All these years I've hiked miles and miles of trails with my eyes intently looking for tripping hazards and checking my watch to see how much further there was to go, missing the incredible beauty in all sizes, shapes, and colors along the path.