rattlers and rhododendron
Wow!! That doesn't even begin to describe the past ten days or so and especially the past three days. Catawba Rhododendron is in bloom all around the county. There is one who hill side along Dry Run Road along the creek that is magnificent. Also nice plants on the east side of Warm Springs mountain along route 39. I really love the buds of this rhododendron. They look so much like a big brush dipped in paint ready to spread glory across the landscape.
One of my favorite shows of the year continues along Route 39 from the Jackson River bridge over the mountain to Blowing Springs. So many variations and colors of Flame Azalea with some that clearly live up to the flame name. I don't think the Parkway can match the show along 39. But with warm days and warm nights here at last, flowers won't last long
including the azaleas. Some Yellow Lady's Slippers and a few other flowers have held on longer than normal with the cool nights last week. But all the early orchids will be gone in the next few days I suspect. We are beginning to show the need for rain again, so hopefully some mid-week showers will arrive. The Lily Leaved Twayblade orchids are just beginning to bloom. Over the
weekend I saw plants with the lower flowers open. Like many orchids that have multiple flowers on a stalk, the twayblade flowers open from the bottom up. Also blooming now is Puttyroot orchid. You might still see the leaves of this orchid that appear in the fall and die back as the plant blooms.
On Friday, while walking out a gated Forest Service road to check on some orchids, I was reminded of a couple of things. On my way back I met a couple of fishermen heading up the road to tangle with the native trout in the small stream. A worthy challenge I'm sure given the thick rhododendron along the stream. However these men had chosen to take a short cut to their quarry and were riding motor powered dirt bikes. While I'm sure they didn't think two little motorbikes would do any damage to the gated part of the road, the fact is the road is closed to motor vehicles this time of the year.
These gates make life hard on all of us who enjoy the forest at one time or another. But they are closed for good reason and should be respected. Two of the reasons are the tiny little flowers I went out to look for which could easily be destroyed by a passing vehicle a bit too close to the edge of the road.
And the other reason is the critter pictured here. I was busy looking down the hill on the right side of the road when a bit of movement caught my eye off to my left. And there ten feet away was this beautiful rattlesnake. I was about two miles from my truck on foot and my truck was two miles from the state road, so I kept my distance. But a motor vehicle could have been quick death for the snake. Out in the open like this, even poisonous snakes are no match for humans anyway.
A big part of enjoying the wild outdoors is respect. Seeing the rattler reminded me of a simple rule I was taught many decades ago -- always know what is around where you put your feet and hands.
Just as important as rules for personal safety and respecting the dangers in the wild, it is important to remember that humans are the guest. We are much more dependent on these wild creatures than we realize. And even the most careful of us cannot go into the wild without having some impact. Enjoy, be careful, be respectful.