Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Road Trip 2017 - Part 4

Arriving in Waynesville, NC, Alyssa and I enjoyed a nice dinner at a Thai restaurant before getting back to the cottage to plot out some plans for the next day.

We settled on the exploring a few trails in the Cataloochee Valley which is located in the southern part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  As it turned out, the valley seemed to be rather dry and kind of limited in the wildflower department.

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) was blooming at a high elevation and we saw our first Eastern Towhee of the trip rustling around in the brush surrounding the lookout.

Dashing across a creek after a white butterfly I was happy to locate my first West Virginia White for the trip.  I'm hoping to go out to a couple of spots in Cambridge this weekend to look for this species which feeds on Toothworts (Cardamine spp.).

As the group discussed lunch timing this brown butterfly caught my eye.  After searching my resources later that night I had landed on Brown Elfin. Cool!

Roundleaf Yellow Violet (Viola rotundifolia), kind of rolls off the tongue.
A highlight for the day for sure was getting good looks at a dozen or so Elk.  I later learned that this population was re-introduced in 2001 when 25 animals were brought in from Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in western Kentucky.

Bear Corn (Conopholis americana) added a meager amount of colour to the bone dry leaf litter.

The following day we travlled to the north end of the park to hike the Schoolhouse Gap Trail.  This location doesn't disappoint with stunning displays of blue and white wildflowers.  There had been some significant damage caused by Wild Boar recently and park staff had set up cage traps.  Here's hoping they can effectively manage them.  I met a guy from Alabama in the Smokies in 2015 who when asked about the boars simply said "Oh you don't want to mess with them, they're assholes!"

A nice patch of Sweet White Violet (Viola blanda)

Long-spurred Violet (Viola rostrata)

A violet bonanza (27 species in GSMNP)! Striped White Violet (Viola striata) is rare in Ontario.
The cream-yellow coloured flowers of Sessile Bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia), one of my favourites.

We spotted a sizable patch of Narrow-leaved Glade Fern (Diplazium pycnocarpon) growing along a watercourse.  The sori (spore capsules on undersides) form an interesting herringbone type pattern.

The fruits of Buffalonut (Pyrularia pubera), below, resemble Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) which is also found in the park.

I never did ID this skink...(there are 5 species in the park).  These guys are quick!!!

Andrew and myself were giddy when we arrived for a guided hike only to see that it was being led by one of the awesome trip leaders we had back in 2015.  Gabes Mountain Trail led us to a waterfall for lunch and further up in elevation to get some great views of the surrounding valleys and ridges.

Oh and there were more cool plants too...

Sawbriar (Smilax glauca)

Pink Turtlehead (Chelone lyonii)

False Green Hellebore (Veratrum viride), resembling an orchid leaf (but actually in the Lily family).

White Clintonia (Clintonia umbellulata)