Great expectations

The Jake and Bull Mountain Trail System of the Chattahoochee National Forest weaves all around Booger Hollow, so Tom and I know the trails well.

When you hike a trail year after year, in all seasons, you know exactly where you’ll see certain plants.

On the Lance Creek Trail, I know there will be stonecrop at a certain log on the left just before the intersection with the Saddle Back Trail:


I know the two spots to look for the Carolina sweetshrub, too:

sweet shrub

In April, I expect to see sessile-leaved bellwort, rattlesnake weed, yellow star grass, cinquefoil, and halberd-leaved violets – what I call “the yellows.” And I did.


There should also be bluets, blackberry shrubs, several kinds of blue violets, poison ivy, foam flower, chickweed, and dwarf crested iris. And there were.

Dwarf crested iris
Dwarf crested iris

Next month I will see loosestrife in bloom, jewelweed bushes, agrimony … and in June will come the mushrooms…

Each month has its delights. Each time I see a first-of-the-season, I greet it:

Welcome back, yellow root!

Hey, glad to see you, lobelia!

Agrimony! Been waiting for you!

My reward at the end of this particular hike is birdfoot violets – Viola pedata (featured image, above). There’s always a cluster of it right at the end of Saddle Back Trail, where it meets Lance Creek Trail.

And there it was.

Knowing what to look for creates a happy anticipation. It also highlights what’s new and different.

Each year has its unique abundance, set like a painting in the frame of my expectations.

Today there was one brilliant orange flame azalea that I don’t remember from last year. Quite a lot more sessile-leaved bellwort than previous years. And, like everywhere else in North Georgia, the iris was having a boom year.

Last year it seemed all the young trees on Lance Creek Trail were sweet gum. Today the trail was dominated by young beech trees, their leaves barely out of the cigar-shaped bud.

young beech leaves

Familiarity doesn’t dull observations. It sharpens them.

Today’s penny is a 2013, the first year I identified stonecrop, Sedum ternatum, on the Lance Creek Trail.