Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I just can't help myself.

Pulling out of the school drive Tuesday afternoon I notice the Bradford Pear blooming in our school woods. On impulse I pull onto Scenic Road, park on the shoulder. Grab my camera. Beep the doorlocks. And start pushing through the brush toward the invader.

But of course I can't stop here. This is the end of the campus where I haven't tried to extend our trail yet. I really should stop. But the hepatica and rue anenome that are past their prime on the upper trail, still bloom luxuriantly here.
The stream is a little bigger and still lovely down here.

I look at the flat area near the stream here. It might be a good place for a few picnic tables some day. The little white butterflies rarely pause in their search for nectar long enough for me to snap them. See the male with the yellow-tipped wings flying away as the female drinks at a toothwort.

Anthocharis midea - Falcate Orangetip Butterflies (male and female)

Back at the car, it is pointed uphill so I drive up to turn around in the entrance being used right now by the lumber trucks as Berry College harvests trees in this area. I've been curious to explore here. So, why not. I park on the gravel. Beep. And follow the dry streambed away from the parking area. It's bound to merge into our little stream eventually, I figure. So I'll check it out. Down through a fairly steep ravine. Down. Down till, oh well, it curves back under Scenic Road through a culvert. Back on the road I climb a hill that seems much steeper on foot than in the car.

I notice the pink plactic tape I've been seeing about has writing so I climb back up the bank to investigate. I am relieved to see there are boundaries to the lumber harvest. Maybe they won't mess up the woods that neighbor our stream and trail.

Back at the car I look again at the roads that diverge there. I had already taken the one less traveled by. If I kept the other for another day, I might never come back! Sheila is at work. Its 4:30. Why not spend another thirty minutes in the woods? Off I go.

This path is definely more frequently trodden. I round the first bend when a small truck with Ohio tags bounces down off the mountain past me. The air is the perfect spring temperature. There is a light breeze. I have sick friends and relatives to worry about. I have testing coming up next week. It's been a long day at school. What better way to wind down, let my mind calm itself, meditate, collect my thoughts, lift mine eyes unto Lavender Mountain, send a few prayers heavenward.

The little mountain road starts climbing and doesn't stop. And neither do I. I keep intending to turn around, but each curve demands I peek around it. The woods are lovely, a little dark and definitely deeper and deeper as I climb. Leafless hardwoods allow a full view of the lay of the steep as the ravines plunge toward Armuchee. In the distance I catch glimpses of the airport and the big Baptist church next to the new Armuchee ball fields where now someone switches on the lights.

Twice the road falls away for a city block or so, but mostly it relentlessly climbs. My cell phone display declares it to be five o'clock. I make a deal with myself to walk till five-thirty, then turn and retrace my steps. Ever the optimist, I figure I might even make it to the House of Dreams. Occasionally the still wintery-looking woods display a tree with tiny yellow-green leaves, or gold ones,

or the greenish-white immature "flowers" of the dogwood,

or deep pink/purple spray of redbud,

a primordial spread of moss,

or the brilliant flames of red maple samaras. If you get a close-up view of the red maple the clusters of samaras look like those double charged fireworks that have produced one big blast and now bunches of secondary blasts.

I find the dogwoods farther up the mountain in better bloom.

After another brief procrastination, and facing a downhill section that I would have to climb on the return if I continued, I turn around at 5:37. At 6:11 I am back at the car.

I wonder how far I have walked. Four miles. Maybe five?

Shoot why not see. Hoping I won't be arrested by campus rangers, I set the trip meter to zero and drive the Rav 4 up the trail. How could the landmarks from my walk pass so quickly? 1.6 miles! Only a little over three miles round trip! I certainly haven't set any land speed records have I? I know I stop to take a lot of pictures. I had tried to sneak up on three separate butterflies. I had climbed the bank to capture
some special bark,

a blooming apple?

a little white pine standing out so clearly with its darker foiliage and stairstep limb system,

a small hemlock, [whoops! Brain freeze!! Thanks Teresa. Make that...] hawthorn, with fresh green leaves.

Oh well, I was uphill! And the hill is the tallest in the county.

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