Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Carver's Gap and the Gray's Lily on June 28 on the Roan

I have hiked Carver's Gap northbound and southbound for a few
miles many times. It is always delightful. There are plenty
of people and plenty of plants. The weather is different,
and beautiful.

Many years ago Brian Cross, Rick Knight, Beth Hogan, and
I made an early morning run up to Carver's Gap. We got there
probably between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. The gap was socked in.
Visibility zero. Ceiling zero. In those days the northbound
trail went straight up from the gap to Round Bald, the first
of the bald, treeless tops. The trail then continued pretty much
straight up and down the balds for about two miles before
breaking off to the left staying on the ridge line.

So we charged up the hill still enveloped in the fog. I couldn’t tell you how far we hiked or if we just lucky on the first bald but pretty soon we broke out of the cloud in to clear sky and bright sun. Below us was the tops of the clouds and poking through them some of the surrounding
peaks. Islands in the sky. It happened only once and even then as the day warmed the effect went away rather quickly.

Other times I have hiked this part of the trail along with most of the rest of the population of the east. I one time counted 70 people along the trail with me. Today was about the same. There were groups of people. Not ones and twos but sevens and tens. Like every hiking club, plant club, ecology class decided today was the day to hike this short stretch of the trail.

This year I encountered Mike Poe and Jerry Greer photographing a chestnut-sided warbler at the gap. Mike Poe is no slouch photographer, either, I just can't find his website.

My personal goal had been to photograph the Gray’s Lily. This two-blossom beauty comes out after mid-summer but disappears mid-August. They’re hard to find. You won’t find them in clumps or spread out across the trailside. One here. Three there. None for a long stretch. Then one. Then two. There have been summers where I missed them all.

This day might have been rained out. We’ve been having a spate of hot and muggy days and rainy afternoons so I figured this for a wet trip. As usual, things were different at Carver's Gap than here in Johnson City. It was blowing like a banshee with clouds racing across the balds,
followed by gaps of bright sun. I marched northbound knowing about how far I wanted to go. The new trail is an easy climb through the trees up to Round Bald. This is so much easier than the old route. And it saves the knees on the way down.

Periodically, the property gets visited by goats and sheep to help fight back the wild thicket. The balds are rare in their openness and treeless view of the landscape. I can also remember Beth Hogan and I hiked with one of the local clubs from Carver’s Gap to Grassy Ridge in an evening and hiked back under a full moon. Because the balds are relatively bare and the night was clear, you could see the trail in a moonscape glow. It was quite a treat. But you can’t do this on the southbound side because you’re back in the forest.

This year they’ve fenced in goats on Jane Bald to help eat up the shrubbery. Where the trail nears the fence right after the top of Jane Bald is where I found the Gray’s Lily.

I hope goats don’t like flowers.


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