It’s time for summer wildflowers in East Tennessee, including spiderworts.
That link, by the way, is for people who want a scholarly overview of what in Latin are called Tradescantia. The truth is, I can recognize the genus, but need my Dad, Dr. Larry Pounds along to look closely with his field glass give the precise species. I love hiking independently from him, but sometimes I feel like he spoiled me in that now I miss being able to name every single species. The plant has long leaves with a small flower in the middle.
I know the name sounds like some kind of wizard school. “Wort” spelled that way is an old word for “plant” and has ended up in quite a few plant names.
I’ve seen spiderworts in the Cumberlands as my Dad and I discuss in our book: Wildly Strolling Along. Get your copy today at that link to learn more about Dad me and the plants of Tennessee!). The ones shown in this post however were from last weekend at House Mountain’s Mountain Trail.
But it’s not going to work. People will do all of the above. Which they did at Midnight Hole on Labor Day last year when I visited.
I’m more on the careful side. I just swim. And so does my frequent hiking companion Yvonne Rogers. But for many, enjoying jumping from a bolder into briefly numbing mountain water is the perfect end to the summer. And I can’t and won’t stop them at Midnight Hole.
(As a side note Yvonne Rogers, my girlfriend who can really rock a two piece on trips like this always reacts with mock anger after being called just called “frequent hiking companion.” Which is why I run the phrase into the ground on this blog).
The water is a deep pool with trout, at its deepest near the rocks where thrill-seekers routinely jump. It’s also frigid beyond belief.
Summer in the Smokies is like washing yourself in a pool full of shades of green. You don’t see far beyond the trees around you, although those are so tall that they make city trees look like grass blades, in spite of not even being the oldest growth and being silly short-by-comparison East Coast Trees, not redwoods. You’re in a room with walls that don’t end but rather just put up green leaves here and there so you only see in clearings.
There’s a voice inside me that says “Yes, it’s a forest. With trees. Enough already.” Such is the inner conflict of people who write about nature on a regular basis.
The exact look clearings with their summer flowers and butterflies such as the mourning cloak also are unique to summer. None of them will flutter about in the winter.
And just like that it will all be coming to an end. Leaves already began on my trip last year to look yellow.
I will miss the thick green. And I will miss feeling even at all like plunging in ice cold water even for a second once this summer ends too. I’m happy to be posting this when it is summer again.
Last year Labor Day came and went. And I joined many that day at midnight hole, by the side of an old logging road, trying to grab summer before it crumbled on us into dried leaves and artificial pumpkin flavoring gimmicks (which, go ahead and shoot me, I love both of). But we have to enjoy summer when it’s here and fall when that’s here and winter when that’s here.
Mouse Creek Falls
Mouse Creek Falls was our eventual destination. The road to it, was also traveled by people on horses, which we saw passing by and tried to avoid stepping in the manure.
There’s no sign marking Mouse Creek Falls. We missed it the first time passing it, and kept going until we saw a sign telling us just how staggeringly far we’d come past our point. I told Yvonne I’d chosen this spot and Ramsey Cascades precisely because it would be shorter when, in reality, we wound up going just as far. But neither of us were mad.
We headed back to a place we had thought was just a hitching post (see this page for more details on that kind of mistake However, it was worth seeing the site in the romantic light of evening. While not as large as many waterfalls in the Smokies and certainly not the roaring Bald River Falls in Cherokee National Forest, it has what Yvonne called a “fairy-tale” quality, seeming like the kind of place where she figured unicorns might likely live. I recommend it as a spot to visit with your lover, if your lover doesn’t mind stepping around horse crap.