It finally stopped raining today. It’s a darned good thing too; the grass was starting to look more like a hay field than a lawn. We were really starting to think that we might have to bale it if the weather didn’t cooperate and give us a few dry days.
Not that we are complaining. After last year’s droughty conditions, all water from the sky is welcome. But a little moderation once in a while isn’t a bad thing.
In spite of the fact that the weather guessers were SURE that it was going to be a sunny day, the early morning was grey and cloudy. I decided to go to Bennet Spring and enjoy the Savanna Ridge Trail anyway. I figured I would be largely undisturbed since it HAS been raining and all the creeks are up. I contemplated taking my rubber boots with me, but I didn’t want to carry them along and I knew I didn’t wish to walk three miles in them either. I thought maybe the water at the slab that is at the beginning of the trail might have gone down during the night.
Not so much:
I had prepared myself by donning my spectacular high tech army socks, so I waded across and proceeded on my way. Although my trainers were very wet, my feet became more or less dry in short order due to the wicking action of the above mentioned socks, which showed me quickly that they were well worth the $10 a pair we forked over for them. I completed my walk with no chafing or discomfort, thanks to these items of apparel.
The path was beautiful. It wound up the hill, spangled with buttercups.
Later on, higher up the ridge, the gold spangles changed to blue, almost as if the sky had broken and fallen to the path. The Bird-foot violets (some folks call them Johnny jump-ups)(Viola pedata) were blooming profusely.
Off to the side of the path a fern was unfolding its fronds.
Behind it, the Rue Anemonne (Anemonella thalictroides) was blooming profusely. It made me think of flecks of foam on the sea of last year’s leaves as they broke against the tree trunks.
As I rounded the top of the ridge, I could hear the creek chuckling along merrily. Most of last summer its voice was silent, but today it was vociferous behind the fog of redbud blossoms obscuring it from view.
It didn’t take us long to descend below the pink fog and discover just how full the little creek was. No wonder it was talking so loudly. My favorite waterfall was actually a waterfall rather than a trickle of drops.
Nearby Mother Nature’s graffiti artist had painted all over a log.
I discovered another shy spring beauty (Uvularia sessifolia) hiding below the waterfall. This is called “Wild oats”, which is a misnomer indeed, as it is not even a member of the grass family but a lily instead. The other thing people call it is “Sessile bellwort”.
At this point, my camera started telling me that its batteries were getting low. Hoping that letting it rest would allow it to find some more juice in the depths of the batteries, I turned it off and continued on my way.
The clouds burned off as we walked and it turned into a spectacular day, all blue sky and bird song. The whitened skull of one of last year’s deer casualties enticed me from the path, and led me to a woodland pond that included frogs in its decor. We saw a live deer moving through the woods; I was hoping for a new fawn but was disappointed.
As we continued on our way over the ridge I heard a sound in the valley below that I was so rare I almost couldn’t believe it. The wash of dry gravel bars where I find so many wonderful rocks while walking along them was full of water.
Above the creek bank a lone dogwood bloomed.
I was very glad to see it. Dogwood blossoms are few and far between this spring. The heat of the summer and the long dry fall caused most of the dogwood trees in our area to drop their flower buds in order to conserve their strength. The only ones I saw today were in the cooler north-facing hollows where the water runs when it rains. Usually they make drifts of white all through the woods, a magical thing that is nearly impossible to capture in a photograph.
I turned back to retrace my steps, rejoicing in the creek valley floor. It was covered with millions of chickweed flowers forming a lacy back drop for the red trillium, yellow violets, Jacob’s ladder and other woodland flowers. I refrained from turning the camera on in case something really cool showed up.
Of course it did, and I was glad I had saved the batteries. An amazing blue flower caught my eye, begging to be photographed. It was even bluer than the Bird’s-foot violets that had so captivated me earlier. I had no idea what it was, but I made its portrait anyway,
When I got home, I looked it up. This is “Blue-eyed Mary” (Collinsia verna), a member of the snapdragon family. She is an annual flower, and I suppose that accounts for the fact that I had never met her before. I know where she is blooming, and I intend to go back there and collect a few seeds in a few weeks. I think this would make a splendid addition to the gardens.
On the way back home I discovered goldenseal (Hydrastis candensis) blooming in the creek bottom.
By this time, the newly holy church goers had made it out into the woods, and I started meeting groups of people as I neared the car park. None of them surprised me at all, as I could hear them long before I could see them. I was glad I had started off early, so I got to see deer and hear many birds, which tend to shut up and become very quiet when the chatting hordes of hikers take over my usual haunts. This is why I usually go out in the middle of the week, when they are all at work.
But I was glad the promise of clouds burning off had enticed me out early to enjoy the beauty around me undisturbed.
Hope you enjoyed the tour….