Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis) is, as the name implies, in the Orchid family. It’s a spectacular discovery, when you find it. But as a matter of fact, both times I’ve stumbled on this beauty have been at the edges of parking lots. Not exactly the distinguished presentation that might be expected for such a regal flower. But sure enough, the wildflower books say that Showy Orchis likes the disturbed edges of roads and trails … so start your search there!
I’ve seen Showy Orchis near the first parking area in the Chimneys Picnic Area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and also at the edge of the parking area for Porters Creek Trail, which is where the photo above was taken. The Bud Ogle Nature Trail is also a good area to look.
This wildflower blooms in April at the lower elevations.
After your wildflower hike, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mtn Photography at theWilliam Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.
Whenever the creeks of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park swell with rainfall, which is often in the springtime, the kayakers come forth.
It seems like a daring adventure to me, and a paradoxical compromise between going with the flow and aggressively making your own path.
These folks must watch the weather like tornado chasers, ready to strap the kayak on the roof of the car at a moment’s notice.
The confluence of the Ramsays Prong and Porters Creek in the Greenbrier section seems to offer an attractive, boulder-strewn course. And similar conditions can be found with a good launching area in the Chimneys Picnic Area.
Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.
Porters Creek Trail is a delightful meander in the Greenbrier section of the Smoky Mountains. Head east out of Gatlinburg on Route 321, then after about 6 miles, the Greenbrier entrance will be on the right. Eventually the road will turn to gravel and you’ll pass the bridge to the Ramsay Cascades Trail. Continue straight ahead until the road finally dead-ends at the trailhead parking lot. The trail follows Porters Creek for most of the way, and as you can see from the sign it is one of the many trails leading to the summit of Mt. LeConte.
The first mile of the trail is a well maintained jeep road with an easy walking grade. Along the way are many opportunities to slow you down and take photos. Watch to the right for many signs of pioneer homesteads. There are rock walls, chimneys, house foundations, and even a primitive cemetery.
These echoes of early settler life in the Smoky Mountains testify to the harsh realities of scraping a life out of rugged and isolated terrain.
In April the Porters Creek Trail becomes one of the the best wildflower hikes in the Smokies.
For a nice two-mile round-trip hike, continue on up the trail and bear to the right when the jeep road enters a turnaround. At this point you can take a short side-trail over to visit a small group of log buildings, including the John Messer barn, which was built around 1875, and the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin, which was constructed from 1934-36.
There are many old pioneer cabins in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Most of them were constructed from native wood, shaped with hand tools such as the broad ax, froe, adz, and drawknife.
The wood in these buildings seems unique and different, with a life of its own. Or perhaps it is the life of the pioneers that remains within the wood. The example above is a classic dove-tail joint used to stack the log walls and keep them tight. The cabin is one you can see in the Cades Cove area of the Park.
The two images below are from cabins at the Mountain Farm Museum near the Cherokee entrance to the Smokies. Notice the nifty crude hinges made from horse-shoes on the barn door in the lower right image.
The picture above is the footbridge leading to the Ramsey Cascades Trail in the Greenbrier section of the Smoky Mountains. Yes, it’s still cold and quiet around here. Another cold, snowy scene from the Greenbrier is below.
But to warm things up on the waning days of winter, there’s a gallery of quotations down below. If the words are hard to read, click on any image, and you should get a full size slide show. (put your mouse over the right or left side of each picture to rotate through the slide show) I’ve tried to set each of the quotations within a supportive image.
Glory in the Greenbrier captures the feeling of autumn in the Smoky Mountains. I like shooting into the sun, and in fact it has become something of a trademark for my Smoky Mountain photos. In this photo, the colors are also quite intense. The picture was taken along the gravel part of the road into the Greenbrier, one of my favorite areas of the Smokies, several miles east of Gatlinburg on Route 321. If you search out this area, you will find some relief from the traffic snarls that are common during October in the Smokies.
The intense colors of this image were created in part by taking multiple exposures of the scene. Three separate images were blended to enhance tonalities. Glory in the Greenbrier looks fabulous printed on metal. Take a look at the How to Buy page for more information on sizes, prices, and other options. You can also purchase framed or unframed versions of this image from my online store
Please consider a stop at the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Loop on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg, TN. The Gallery features all of my photos of the Smoky Mountains. There just might be a picture waiting to go home with you!
These two Smoky Mountains photos were created as special editions for this fall. The photos were both taken in the Greenbrier area of the Smokies. Both are processed with more extreme contrast and color saturation than I normally do. This effect is something I do as a change of pace for occasional pictures. These two are both 12×24″ panoramas and are one-of-a-kinds hanging in my Gatlinburg Gallery.
The Greenbrier area of the Smokies is a wonderful place to wander in during the autumn leaf season, or any time. The crowds are much less here, and the two main trails offer everything from fabulous spring wildflowers to the best Smoky Mountains waterfall. The picture above was taken from the footbridge at the Ramsay Cascades trailhead after a heavy rain. This location is featured in my photo, Winter Footbridge.
The picture below is a typical scene in the Greenbrier with peak autumn color. The gravel road is an invitation to slow down and soak in the moment. This part of the Smokies is also rich in pioneer history, which offers another context to ramble along some autumn trails.
If you are travelling in the Smokies any time of year, please consider a visit to the William Britten Gallery, located along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg. The Gallery features all of my Smoky Mountains photos, as well as magnets, mugs, and notecards. Stop in and pick out a mountain memory to take home with you.
Greenbrier Spring was taken just downstream from the bridge leading up the Ramsay Prong Road in the Greenbrier section of the Smoky Mountains. The creek entering from the right is the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River, and straight ahead is the Ramsay Prong entering. A beautiful spring day after the dogwood blooms have faded, and the creeks are singing following a lot of rain.
The final image above is the result of merging three panels, each with the camera in the vertical position. And in fact each of the three panels was composed of three separate photos needed to capture the extreme highlights in the water, as well as the deep shadows in the woods. So, a total of 9 photos were merged together to create this one stunning picture.
Greenbrier Spring has great detail and is especially suited to large sizes. It is offered in all sizes up to 20×30. Details of sizes and pricing can be found on the How to Buy page.
The picture below is from the same vantage point during a late winter snow.
Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photos at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. I’m located in the historic Arts and Crafts Community along Glades Rd.
Last week we paid a visit to Plemmons Cemetery in the False Gap area of the Greenbrier in the Smoky Mountains. This week we are exploring further up the creek to the Bohannon homestead. The patriarch, Henry Bohannon, was born in Virginia in 1753 and was buried in the Greenbrier in 1842.
Family history says Henry Bohannon served in the American Revolution from the state of Virginia. A record in Virginia State Library’s ‘List of Revolutionary Soldiers of Virginia’ showed Henry Bohannon served as a private in the 1st Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line, Light Dragoon, commanded by Captain Robert Boling for a three year enlistment, 6 July 1778 to Jun 1781.
Henry married Amillia Shotwell, and they had eight children born from circa 1786 to 1800. Unfortunately, Amillia died in 1813, while Henry lived to be 89. The grave markers of both Henry and Amillia are shown in the photos below. Note that there is not agreement on the spelling of the family name. The Bohannons first settled in White Oak Flats (now Gatlinburg), but later Henry obtained about 50 acres in the Greenbrier.
To get to the Bohannon homestead, keep on walking up the creek past the cemetery. Eventually after another mile or so, you will come to some very well-preserved rock walls, and some not-so-well-preserved chimneys. Perhaps you might sit by the rock wall and imagine life here in the early 1800s. We are way back in the mountains, miles from the tiny wilderness outpost known then as White Oak Flats, with nothing to the south but the impenetrable wilderness of the Smoky Mountains (much the same as it is today!) Rather than take the roads as we do today, you would probably just hike over Grapeyard Ridge to visit another large homestead community along the Roaring Fork.
As always please stop in and say hello at the William Britten Gallery along the Historic Arts and Crafts Loop on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg. My complete selection of photos of the Smoky Mountains, mugs, notecards and magnets is on display most days throughout the year.
Dogwood Lullaby is one of the most comfortable and lyrical of my featured Smoky Mountains photos. You can almost hear the dogwood blossoms singing a soft melody on an easy-going Spring morning. Hard times of Winter are over, replaced by the lighthearted and feathery, warm and hopeful days of Spring. Well, I’m probably laying it on too thick, but Dogwood Lullaby is a picture that will pull you in to a friendly embrace.
Like so many of my photos, it was taken on a day with a light drizzle, during a dazzling display of dogwood blooms in the Greenbrier Section of the Smoky Mountains. I wandered for hours among the dogwoods, along the creeks. A macro lens was used, which gives the nicely blurred background and the focus on a few blooms.
Dogwood Lullaby is offered in all sizes up to 16×24. Details of sizes and pricing can be found on at the How to Buy page.
Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photos at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. You’ll find me in the historic Arts and Crafts Community along Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg, TN.
We began our exploration of the False Gap area in the Greenbrier last week. To refresh our memory, this is the area just over the first two bridges as you turn to head up to Ramsey Cascades Trail. Park near the old road with a chain across it to your right. Today we will be taking the short half-mile walk up to Plemmons Cemetery.
The largest cemetery in the Greenbrier area of the Smoky Mountains, and one of the largest in the National Park, is the old Greenbrier Cemetery. After the formation of the Park, it became known as Plemmons Cemetery, named for David Plemmons, the preacher who lived in a home just up False Gap creek.
I spent an hour or so here walking respectfully among the graves, many of which are extremely old. The names here are mostly Whaley and Bohannon … two homesteading families with long histories that we’ll explore in some later blog posts. Some of the grave markers are little more than names and dates scratched onto rocks, such as in the photo at the bottom of the page. Others have been replaced with more modern granite markers.
The grave marker below is that of William Whaley, born in 1788 in North Carolina. William went off to war as a fifer in the War of 1812, and returned to live in the Smoky Mountains for another 62 years! His brother Middleton settled further down the Little Pigeon River near Emerts Cove, which today is just outside the National Park boundary. 100’s of the Whaley ancestors lived in the Greenbrier for more than a century.
When you are ready for a break from your wanderings, please consider a stop at the William Britten Gallery on the Historic Arts and Crafts Loop on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg, TN. My complete display of Smoky Mountains photos might tempt you with a special memory to take home.
I’d like to do some off-the-beaten-path exploring in search of the history of the Greenbrier this spring. One of the best areas to start is up False Gap because you’re hemmed in with the creek on one side and mountains on the other, giving you a nice valley to explore with not much chance of getting lost. The entrance to this area is just over the first two bridges as you turn to head up to Ramsey Cascades Trail. Note the old road with a gate across it to your right. Park and walk up the old road. You’ll soon pass the foundation stones of the old school. Eventually you’ll pass the old Greenbrier Cemetery, now called Plemmons. Keep on going after the old road becomes a trail and you’ll find some fine rock walls and fallen chimneys. The wall in the photo above is a good example of the remains of old homesteads. And the photo below shows the remains of the school. You can see a close-up of this area on the historic topo map in the area in the center of the map section around the word “Gate.”
Quoting from Dutch Roth’s journal, Tales from the Woods, he speaks of the Greenbrier area that was a bustling community of over 300 people with a school, hotel, store, and many homesteads:
GREENBRIER IN THE EARLY DAYS
“As we walked through the woods in the foothills of the mountains, we came across many old stone walls, ruins of old cabins, and flowers that had been planted years ago. This is the Greenbrier section. It is about 12 miles from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to the south of Tenn Highway 73. all of it is now in the national park.
“We often stop here to take pictures and daydream by some of these old places. We could picture a little old lady, a widow, bringing her six children and coming across the Mountain from South Carolina in 1795 to settle here. What it must have been like in those days! The first white man built here in 1802. The hardships that they must have faced. We could even go back to the Civil War, when Col. Thomas had a company of Confederate soldiers in Gatlinburg. They would sneak over into Greenbrier and rob the bee hives for the honey. They would kill horses and flee up into the Sugarlands through Dry Sluice Gap and Alum Cave. Most of these were Indians. They would tan hides and make explosives.
“About a mile and a half beyond the end of the fire road on the trail to Mt. LeConte,is the remains of an old cabin, spring house and spring. This spring is called the Fittified Spring. It will be running full for about twenty minutes, then, suddenly it will stop and be almost dry for about the same length of time. The oldtimers said this was caused by an earthquake in 1924. This spring had been doing this ever since. The quake must have shaken some rocks loose underground to cause it to do this. In the last few years the roof of the old cabin here, has fallen in and trees and weeds has grown up around it. A large rattlesnake was killed here in front of the cabin in 1946. After a drink from the spring, we continued on down the trail, on the left nor very far down the trail is an old barn. Back of this barn is the remains of an old mill. Farther on down the trail on the right is the chimney of what is left of an old cabin.
“At the forks of the river, was a store, a Grist Mill and the old Schooich Lumber Co. The logs cause trouble here, because everyone wanted a profit. On the right across the river, on the road that goes up to the trails to Ramsey Falls and Greenbrier Pinnacle, was a school. In about two years it burned down. A cabin was built here and later an upstairs was added and a porch all the way around the first and second floors and it was turned into a hotel. They called it Greenbrier Hotel. There were twenty rooms in it. It has only been torn down in the last twenty years.”
When we’re done exploring and daydreaming of the old days, please stop in at the William Britten Gallery on Glades Rd in Gatlinburg. My complete display of Smoky Mountains scenes might tempt you with a special memory to take home. Or just stop by to say hello.
It’s Philosophical Friday once again. Today’s post is about making stacks of balanced stones as art and therapy.
Some days you just need to go out and stack some stones. Right? Just head out along some creek and start wandering, looking for a good selection of rocks. The right color, right shape, ability to get along in a stack. Then spend some time forming your stacks. First some failures and some flops, but finally a nice little tower of stones with good balance. And in the process you might find a little balance in yourself. Stacking stones seems to be of universal appeal.
I like to find a good location for these zen stacks. Maybe near a road where a passerby will glance over and see the stack in its natural setting and be touched by the small mystery.
The stacks in these images were all created along the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon river in the Greenbrier section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Greenbrier entrance to the Park is closest to my home, so I spend a lot of time there.
When you’re done stacking your stones and taking your hikes, come on out to the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Loop on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg. You’ll find my complete display of Smoky Mountains photos which are also full of zen tranquility. There may be a special memory for you to take home with you.
Another Smoky Mountains history entry from the journal of Dutch Roth, recounting a long Smoky Mountains hike taken in 1931 by Dutch and his friends Harvey Broome and Luther Greene on Hughes Ridge, which is known as Pecks Corner nowdays.
HUGHES RIDGE FROM GREENBRIER
“This experience was not unusual in 1931. We were willing to pay the price of two days of strenuous hiking in seeking new places. We met at 6 a.m. Saturday morning, July 25, on West Church Avenue. We had our heavy packs filled with food for five meals and camping equipment for a night in the open.
“We drove into Greenbrier and started hiking. This hike would not have been so hard, or so long, if we had had a road between Newfound Gap and Smokemont or into Greenbrier. We spent one day hiking the eleven-mile range, a range surpassed in size only by the Balsam Mountains, longest lead adjoining the state-line divide. When we got ready to make camp for the night, we found that for our comfort and convenience, someone had camped here before us and had left a lean-to of logs. There were also plenty of logs to build a fire. We built a fire beside the lean-to and got supper. Afterward we sat around the camp fire a while before turning in. The next day we made the return trip to the cars. We went through heavy woods with many large oak and chestnut trees and little undergrowth. The beauty of the woods and the good time we had made up for the tiresome trail.
“A few years ago a log shelter was built at Hughes Ridge (also known as Pecks Corner.) Later a careless camper let his fire get out of control, and it burned the shelter down.”
Winter Footbridge shows a cold, snowy scene in the Greenbrier section of the Smokies. This picture was taken from the bridge at the Ramsey Cascades trailhead. The scene is very evocative of the silence and solitude of wintertime deep in the Smokies.
Just up the trail from this spot is the location of one of my most popular Smoky Mountains photos, Winter Silence. And this location is also the vantage point for another Featured Photo: Wild Autumn.
Winter Footbridge is offered in all sizes. Details of sizes and pricing can be found on the How to Buy page.
Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photos, including several other snow scenes, at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. I’m located along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd.
Winter Silence is my best-selling winter Smoky Mountains photos. It’s a dreamy, ethereal snow scene that was taken out in the Greenbrier area of the Smokies during a late winter storm. The technique used to capture the image is unusual. The camera was on a tripod, set to a long exposure time of about two seconds. For the first second or so I kept the camera still to lock in the image, but then for the last half second I moved the camera upwards. This created a blur effect that adds to the mood of quiet, ethereal silence in the snow.
This photo was first offered without the red cardinal, and was a modest seller. After I decided that the nearly monochrome winter snow scene would benefit from a dash of color, the cardinal was blended in from a different photograph. As soon as the red bird was added, sales took off!
You can order Winter Silence with or without the red cardinal, but most people prefer the splash of red that the cardinal gives the scene.
Winter Silence is offered in all sizes up to 16×24. Details of sizes and pricing can be found on at the bottom of the How to Buy page. You can also purchase framed or unframed versions of this image from my online store
And if you’re visiting the Smokies or Gatlinburg, please stop in to see my complete display of Smoky Mountains photos at the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd in Gatlinburg.
The image above was taken from the footbridge that leads to the Ramsay Cascades trail in the Greenbrier section of the Smoky Mountains. This wide panorama was created from five vertical panels joined together with a photostitch technique. And each vertical panel was created by combining four different exposures. So, the entire image that you see above is a photostitch of 20 exposures! Click on the image above to see a larger version.
Visitors in my gallery often comment on how much easier digital photography is, compared to the old film days. I would say that the way that professional photographers utilize digital cameras is much more complex than it was with film!
Almost every image that I work with is taken with 4 or 5 exposures, taken at different settings. This is often referred to as “bracketing” but to me it is simply a collection of exposures made for various parts of the scene. For example, in the image above, the whites of the water needed a specific exposure setting, while the shadows in the rocks and woods required a very different setting. Digital allows me to take many exposures of the same scene, and combine them later to give each area of the picture its own perfect exposure. At first this seemed cumbersome, but now it is an established habit when I am out working.
I often turn my camera to the vertical position and sweep across a scene, taking 3, 4, or 5 separate vertical panels, each with 4 or 5 exposures as described above. It takes some concentration to do this quickly and accurately, so that the scene does not change too much as you work your way across. After each panel is finished by combining the multiple exposure settings, the entire panorama is photostitched together using software. Photoshop has a built in “photomerge” for this, or I also use a program called PTGui. When a scene is changing, as it is with the flowing water above, the panoramic software has a challenge to blend the water from panel to panel to make it all blend into one image. Wow! This is a lot of work. And digital was supposed to be so easy!
One final comment: to get a good panorama that will photostitch together well requires that your tripod stay level while you rotate across the scene. I use a special tripod head attachment from Really Right Stuff to enable this. I also use a special bracket from the same source that allows me to position the “nodal point” of the lens directly above the tripod center. In this way the camera body rotates around the lens, creating perfect panoramas.
Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.
Wild Autumn is one of my Smoky Mountains photos from the fall of 2010. It was taken in the Greenbrier section of the Smokies along the Ramsay Prong of the Little Pigeon River, just from the footbridge leading to the Ramsay Cascades trail. An all-day soaking rain the day before had the stream swollen and wild, and an exposure time of about one-half second captured the sense of motion in the water.
Wild Autumn is offered in all sizes up to 20×30″. Details of sizes and pricing can be found on the How to Buy page. You can also purchase framed or unframed versions of this image from my online store
This image is also available in a unique three-panel triptych (see photo below). I had been wanting to do a triptych, and this autumn panoramic was the perfect opportunity. The triptych is currently in my Gallery on three 3/4 inch thick frameless boards. Each board is 12 inches wide by 18 inches tall. The three panels making the scene therefore measure 18×36″ Each panel could also be printed at a 16×24″ size, creating a full size of 24×48 inches.
Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains photos at the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd in Gatlinburg, TN. There may be a special Smokies memory for you to take home.
Hypericum is another family of wildflowers with lots of species. Over 25 can be identified in Tennessee and many of these can be found in the Smoky Mountains, giving plenty of opportunities for misidentification. Therefore, the two species in the photos here are my best effort to identify!
St. Johns Wort is famous as an herbal treatment for mild depression. Some studies have shown the plant extract to have similar results to standard antidepressants, with half the side-effects.
Mountain St. Johns Wort (Hypericum gravolens), in the photo above and at the bottom of the page, blooms July-September in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The plant enjoys moist seeps and grassy areas. You might see it along the Cades Cove Loop Road. The images on this page were taken along Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier section of the Smokies.
Spotted St. Johns Wort (Hypericum punctatum) in the photo below is a smaller variety, with distinctive black dots on the leaves, stem and the underside of the blossom. These are different from the translucent dots found on other species in the Hypericum family. The leaves are also more blunt or rounded at the ends.
And if you are a wildflower enthusiast, please join our Smoky Mountains Wildflowers Community on Facebook. We exchange photo identifications, bloom locations, and info on these delicate and beautiful plants.
In April of every year the Smoky Mountains are showered with dogwood blooms like a late spring snowstorm. Everywhere you go … up in the Greenbrier, along the Little River or the lower elevations of the Newfound Gap Road … in Elkmont and Tremont … the dogwoods sprinkle their blooms like white notes on the bare woodlands hungry for music. The opportunities for taking great photos are everywhere!
They whisper in the breeze …
They harmonize with the wind …
They rain down on all the woods …
If you walk among the dogwood trees, and get real close-up, their blooms are a happy confirmation of the joy of life and the renewal of springtime. It’s hard to tell exactly when, but sometime between the 10th and 20th of April, the Smoky Mountains dogwoods will reach an intensely delicate peak. Some of the best locations in the Smoky Mountains for beautiful drives with the woods decked in white are the Greenbrier area and the Tremont area.
After your hike, or on a rainy day, please consider a visit to the William Britten Gallery on Glades Rd here in Gatlinburg. I’m in Morning Mist Village, right next to the Cafe courtyard. The Gallery contains my complete display of Smoky Mountains photography, with several best-selling Dogwood images: Dogwood Rain, Dogwood Tapestry, and Dogwood Lullaby.
Two random Smoky Mtn waterfalls today, one that you hike to, and the other is just a roadside pull-off. The photo above is Fern Branch Falls. This is about two miles up Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier section of the Smokies. Fern Branch empties into Porters Creek below this falls. The hike up Porters Creek Trail is a wonderful and fairly easy hike. In April the wildflowers abound. If you explore the wet boulders just below the waterfall, you’ll find lots of Wild Ginger and Brook Lettuce, and in April there will be Bishops Cap, Dwarf Ginseng, Squirrel Corn, and many others.
Below is Meigs Falls, which requires only a 13 mile drive west along Little River Rd from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. You’ll pass The Sinks along the way, which is another good place to pull over. Eventually there will be a pull-off to the left with a good view upstream to the waterfall.
The William Britten Gallery in Morning Mist Village on Glades Rd in Gatlinburg is where you’ll find my complete collection of Smoky Mtn photos. Please stop in and browse for a Smoky Mtn memory!
Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier area of the Smoky Mountains is in peak bloom for spring wildflowers right now. The upper portion of the trail, from the long footbridge over the creek on up to Fern Falls, has a stunning ground cover of Fringed Phacelia. I counted over 20 species of wildflowers along Porters Creek Trail this past Saturday. You can’t see it from the photo above, but the Fringed Phacelia are interspersed with Bishops Cap, making a wonderful white bouquet.
Fern Falls is about a two-mile hike from the trail-head. During summer this falls is often dry, but after some spring rains it is flowing nicely. The jumble of boulders below the falls seems to be a perfect environment for Wild Ginger, Saxifrage, Bishops Cap, and Squirrel Corn.
Just below the footbridge that takes you into Fringed Phacelia fantasyland, I spotted one lone Painted Trillium beside the trail.
The lower portion of the trail was not as dramatic as the upper part, but there were nice clumps of Foamflower, and Wood Anemone, lots of Toothwort of both varieties and a few Wild Geraniums. Also a few very nice colonies of Crested Dwarf Iris. And finally, a few Showy Orchis just starting to bloom along the trail, and one in full bloom as you exit the parking area.
If you’d like to follow along with the wildflower season, and you are a Facebook user, please consider becoming a fan of my Smoky Mountains Wildflowers page on Facebook.
And if you’re in the area on a vacation, please stop in at the William Britten Gallery on Glades Rd in Gatlinburg, where all of my Smoky Mountains photos are on display.
The calendar has turned towards warmth and renewal, the Smoky Mountains trails are shaking off their winter drowse, and once again we are headed towards the great spring wildflower pilgrimage. This is an exciting time of year when the trails seem to change on a daily basis.
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is a delicate, subtle beauty that blooms in late March or very early April in the lower elevations of the Smoky Mountains. As the bloom is short-lived, the plant is most easily identified by its distinctive multi-lobed leaf. There is a great cluster of Bloodroot near the start of Porters Creek Trail and along the Chestnut Top trail. Look for the bloom to start in mid-March.
This wildflower gets its name from the reddish sap found in the root. The sap was used by settlers for dye, and was also used as an herbal remedy, although modern knowledge suggests caution for the toxicity of Bloodroot, even for external use.
The bloom is short-lived, and will typically not unfurl until the day warms up.
The photo above was taken along the Chestnut Top Trail on March 20, 2011. The photo below was found near the Porters Creek trailhead on a cold, wet day that kept the bloom from unfolding. Notice the distinctive leaf in the photo below, that is the easiest way to spot this wildflower.
The Smoky Mountains area had a heavy rain earlier this week, so I was out poking around the next morning to see how full the creeks were. The photo above was taken just inside the Greenbrier entrance to the Park, at the place where families and children love to wade on hot summer days. Not today! The Little Pigeon River was riled up and in no mood to stop and play. This is about the same location where I stopped to take a shot of the snowy creek last month.
Passing storm fronts will often slam into the north side of the Smoky Mountains, especially the 6500 foot high Mt. LeConte, and stall out for a while, dumping lots of rainfall as the storm works its way around the mountains. And the huge massif of LeConte can shed this water amazingly fast, leading to a sudden rise in the water levels of local creeks.
The video below is a composite of three short dramatic creek shots. The first two are in the Greenbrier area of the Smokies, and the last was shot in the Chimneys Picnic Area on the road to Newfound Gap.
Below is another panorama photo of a Smoky Mountains creek swollen after a storm. This is the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River swooshing down through the Chimneys Picnic Area, which is a favorite location for kayakers when the water is high.
If the creeks don’t rise too high, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photographs at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, out on Glades Rd. in the Morning Mist Village.