By the end of April, I’ll have hiked the first 300 miles of the Appalachian Trail. It has been a delight to watch spring begin to unfold on the landscape. Hiking up and down and up again, I’ve had the chance to see all shades of the season, from leafy green valleys to still-wintry 6,000 ft. summits.
If you live farther north or at higher elevation, here’s a preview of some of the beautiful spring ephemerals – those all-too-fleeting wildflowers that bloom before the trees leaf out – I’ve been seeing over the past few weeks.
One of the very first flowers to appear is bloodroot:
Bluets are another very early bloomer. I was seeing these tiny little flowers even in very early April in the Georgia mountains:
There are several different species of violets in shades of yellow and purple:
But it is spring beauty, this lovely little white flower (often with pink rays on the petals), that really signals to me that spring has come:
Not long after the spring beauty, and often intermingled with it, the cheery yellow blooms of trout lily will begin to appear:
Subtly tucked in amongst the showy flowers are the more discreet green blossoms of jack-in-the-pulpit:
Several species of trillium, like the toadshade featured at top or the painted trillium here, also make an appearance:
So if you’ve been hankering for spring, never fear, the ephemerals are here!
All planning complete,
all logistics done, I am
now growing nervous.
I benefit from
of backcountry trips,
But I am also
acutely aware that
this is different.
I cast myself on
the waters of the world, and
Hope they bear me up.
My Appalachian Trail adventure begins this week at Springer Mountain, Georgia. It will end when it ends. I don’t know when that will be, but I hope I know where it will be: Mount Katahdin, Maine.
In the wild, coyotes hunt small mammals like mice, voles, and ground squirrels. It's great fun to watch coyotes at work in the winter months, when they use their keen sense of hearing to detect prey under the snow. Yesterday I had the chance to photograph a coyote as it trotted along a nearby trail in the Upper Geyser Basin.
Framed by lodgepole pines
Lion roars, sprays water high
Into foggy air.
Fierce Montana wind
blowing over snow-capped peaks
brings me home at last.
Home is where I carry it. Here, my pack rests alongside my partner’s on the shore of Heart Lake in Yellowstone National Park.
This tent has been home on many joy-filled backcountry trips, including to Tiger Key in Everglades National Park …
… and the west slopes of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park.
Care to see others’ visual interpretations of the notion of home? They’re sure to be different from mine. Check them out at The Daily Post.
As a park ranger, I’ve lived in lots of beautiful places … but I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world that can match the Badlands of South Dakota for the beauty of its sunsets. This brilliant pink sky is from two weeks ago, the night before a major winter storm hit the area. Though all sunsets are the same, in that the earth’s rotation brings the sun slowly out of view behind the horizon, every one is different.