Saturday, April 18, 2015

Spring Saunter

Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata)
I'd say I had a successful afternoon sauntering the woods at Montgomery Bell State Park. My goal was simply to get in a good dayhike while carrying my pack loaded as if for a weekend backpacking trip. I managed to cover the 11 mile Montgomery Bell trail in slightly over 5 hours. As I began hiking, I wasn't thinking too much about wildflowers but was pleasantly surprised by the current display. I was particularly delighted at the profusion of Dwarf Crested Iris along Wildcat Creek and by a large colony of Squaw Root next to Four Mile Creek.

In my hiking, I was testing out new shoes, a new approach to hiking socks, and continued overall refinement of my ultralight kit. I was quite happy to be carrying a pack weighing only 18½ pounds, including water and a weekend's worth of food. That's a long way from the 35-40 lbs I was carrying a few years ago!

A trail-side Wood Violet (Viola palmata) coated with rain splatter from our recent storms. Notice the palmate leaves easily distinguishing this violet from the more common but very similar and closely related Viola sororia.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

Fire Pink (Silene virginica)

Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata)

Star Chickweed, Giant Chickweed (Stellaria pubera)

Phlox at Wildcat Shelter

Stream Crossing, III
(Yes, this photo might look familiar. I've taken the same basic shot in this spot on two previous occasions.)

I won't go into too many details, but I learned a few lessons on this walk. The most important is tip # 27 in Mike Clelland's excellent book, Ultralight Backpackin' Tips. I immediately thought of this tip when I went to treat my drinking water and reached for my reading glasses. They were gone! The pouch I carry them in was empty. I had no doubt laid them down when taking pictures somewhere, but I didn't have the foggiest notion where. To retrace the trail looking for the glasses would be futile, so I vowed to be more careful and thanked my lucky stars that wasn't on a long trip and didn't need to read the map. Mike's tip # 27 reads "Don't lose anything!" His explanation of this tip reads:
If you brought it, it's probably important.
Paring down your camping essentials to the bare minimum means there ain't much wiggle room if you lose something. If it wasn't truly NEEDED, you would have left it at home.
There is a minimal redundancy built into the UL system, so if any one item disappears, it could have big consequences. Every piece of gear should be considered essential. Don't dangle stuff off your pack. Don't hang sunglasses in trees at night. Don't leave your sleeping pad unattended when it's windy! Do a thorough camp sweep every time you pack up to hike. And do a good sweep after you take a break too.
I realize this would be even more true when you're hiking solo. As far as I'm concerned, tip # 27 should now be considered a rule.

Trail crossing Wildcat Creek

Perfoliate Bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata)

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

Quaker Ladies, Common Bluet (Houstonia caerulea)

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
   
Squaw Root, Bear Corn (Conopholis americana)
I guess it's not much to look at—certainly not what most people would consider a wildflower—but I find Squaw Root completely fascinating. You will notice there a no green parts. Having no real leaves or chlorophyll, Squaw Root gets its nourishment from the roots of oak trees, which it parasitizes. As hinted by the common name, Squaw Root, this plant was collected and used as a food source by many Native Americans. It is also a favorite food of bears, which gives rise to the name Bear Corn.

Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata), one of my very favorite wildflowers

Wood Betony, Forest Lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis)

Four Mile Creek

Senecio sp. (I think. Yellow composites confuse me. )

Four Mile Creek

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