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Noland Divide to Beauregard Ridge April 29, 2012

Posted by Jenny in hiking, nature, photography, Smoky Mountains.
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Flame azaleas already on April 29!

This was a leg-stretcher outing of seven miles and 2200 vertical feet, a mere baby of a hike compared to my outing that I called “Noland Divide From End to End to End”. Sometimes when I hike, a theme emerges, and in this case it was “new leaves.” We will come to that in a moment.

Like my recent Cheoah Bald hike, this one was started around 1:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. It really isn’t ideal to start a hike in the heat of the day. But the same thing happened as two weeks ago. Being a person who needs a certain amount of solitude and quiet—mainly for writing, but also, come to think of it, just for existing—I find that Sunday morning is a kind of temporal sanctuary, the time people are least likely to disturb me. I relish that feeling of lingering in bed and rising to let my deeper layers of thought dictate my movements instead of the “I should be doing this, I should be doing that” layer of thinking. Then, around noon, I start getting restless and decide to visit my mountains.

Taking full advantage of my new location near the south central gateway to the Smokies, I drove to Bryson City and the Deep Creek campground. I started at 1900′ and climbed to 4100′. I spotted the azalea pictured at top around 2200′. So the ones up on top of Gregory Bald at 5000′ must not be blooming quite yet, but they will surely be blooming way ahead of people’s regular azalea treks.

I also saw laurel in bloom. Good grief! This warm winter has thrown everything out of whack.

Butterfly on laurel. I like the faint stripes on the wings.

Laurel, flower of pentagons

I’ve noticed that every flower has a numerical identity. Trilliums are my favorite example, where every aspect, every layer of that flower comes in threes. With laurel, the number five is in ascendancy.

As I continued on, I spotted spiderwort, whose botanical name is Tradescantia, named for the traveler Tradescant who brought this plant back to Henry VIII after a voyage.

The flower of Tradescant

A little below 4000′, I emerged on the narrow spine of Beauregard Ridge. I went up to what is called the “Lonesome Pine Overlook.” There is no single obvious pine at the overlook, just some scattered pines below, but perhaps the original pine is dead now.

I had a view down toward Bryson City.

View back down the ridge

It was when I started back down that I noticed that here, around 4000′, it was still early spring. The warm weather has accelerated everything so much that I feel as though I didn’t get as much as I wanted of that tender, delicate stage of the season. I noticed some tiny unfurling oak leaves, and then I started taking pictures of new leaves wherever they caught my attention. What follows is a portfolio of new leaves.

Notice how there is a kind of fur on the stems---click on any photo for zoom

Some of the new leaves were glossy rather than furry.

It is a blessing to be alive.

A small bee partakes of spring

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