This section of the Appalachian Trail is narrow, with seedheads of the native carex (Carex pensylvanica) brushing the hikers’ legs. Arching just above, ferns mingle with wood asters (below), beginning their autumn floral display in early August.
Flower buds of the common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana, below) are evident at higher elevations, and several display the start of autumn foliage coloring that soon will bring so many visitors to these mountains. My wife and I have become regular hikers, and with parts of the Appalachian Trail (AT) within thirty minutes of home, this is our preferred hike whenever we’re in the mood for a thousand foot (or more) climb.
Through the summer, temperatures might be ten degrees cooler than home, and there’s nothing better than a mountaintop breeze after a heart pounding climb. Arguably, tending the garden is plenty of activity, but my wife and I enjoy this equally, though I prefer the climb while she enjoys flatter ground. Like today’s trail, many sections of the AT are bordered by ephemerals through the spring, and wild flowers in late summer, and this is an equal attraction for me to the views of the valleys below.
A week ago, I was surprised to see Blackberry lilies (Belamcanda chinensis as I knew it, now Iris domestica, below) in a wild, mountaintop meadow. Surprising, because these are not native, but likely a part of a homestead’s garden that is long forgotten, with only the irises remaining.
There are, unfortunately, stretches of trail bordered only by Japanese stilt grass, but others are edged by a variety of ferns and lichen covered boulders, with masses of mountain laurels and azaleas beneath the canopy of Striped maples (Acer pensylvanicum, below). Along today’s trail were sassafras and sapling American chestnuts (below), still vigorous at this stage.
I’ve enjoyed a resurgence of butterflies in the garden this summer, and happily, every Joe Pye and bee balm along the trail is visited by swallowtails and a number of bees. My wife must listen to my naration, identifying this plant and that, but she is patient, and helpful pointing out flowers that do not stand out in my color blindness.