Walks on the Wild Side
by Josh Palumbo, Forest Management Coordinator
I welcome you to The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen’s attempt to bring some nature and knowledge into your home. The Nine Minute Naturalist borrows from NPR’s lovely 90-Second Naturalist podcast. Since we all have a bit more time on our hands, the goal is to take something that is happening out in our environment and stimulate your brain for roughly nine minutes. Don’t let something as “minor” as a quarantine to keep you from learning. I hope you enjoy!
The spring of 2020 is finally coming to an end and the arrival of summer is causing quite a change to our forests at Wintergreen. Having finally achieved full leaf-out on top of the mountain, the ephemerals have finished flowering and given way to many of a my favorite summer plants. Many of the best displays of summer flowers occur on our most difficult trails. To find this beautiful vegetation you will need walk on the wild side of Wintergreen.
The trail that best defines wild is the Brimstone trail. This is a mere .8 of a mile (1.3 including the Fortunes Ridge access/Plunge access) but don’t let the short distance deceive you. This rollercoaster of a trail takes you up and down over a myriad of roots and rocks before you are finished. It is the most difficult trail in our system but to skip hiking this gem means you miss the best flower display of the summer. As a result of an abundance of sun along the rocky outcrops of Brimstone, the trail is laden with sun loving flowers. This hike is loaded with sundrops, bee balm and wild bergamot, fly poison and nodding wild onion in quantity no other trail at Wintergreen can compare to.Plan to hike this trail in midsummer and you will get to see it at its peak. Make sure to plan accordingly with sufficient water and a hiking buddy that is eager for that which is difficult.
The Devils Knob trail is another hike that gets overlooked but may be our best early summer display of flowers. This wet, rocky trail is laden with spiderwort, bluets, wild geranium, and ninebark. The damp yet rocky nature of this trail creates a unique environment that supports an abundance of beautiful flowers. The trail is .6 mile one way but should be hiked deliberately due to the wet Catoctin greenstone rock that defines this trail. This trail should be hiked in June to best appreciate the natural “gardens”.
One of the longest and toughest ventures amongst the Wintergreen hiking system is Pedlars Edge Trail. At 1.6 miles, this hike takes the adventurous hiker through a variety of ecosystems. A portion of the trail goes through a heath understory consisting of mountain laurel, rhododendron, and blueberry that yields a great early summer flower display and a midsummer snack of blueberries. The portions of the trail with richer soils yield my favorite of all summer flowers, Canada lily. This red beauty is found at a couple locations on the trail and stands out wonderfully from the mass of green throughout our forest. This trail also features a short portion along a power line which is laden with gray beardstongue and sedum. This trail is best combined with the Hemlock Springs trail or the Cedar Cliffs Main trail if you want to avoid backtracking.
These trails can be scouted virtually on The Nature Foundations website in order to get a feel of the hike before you even venture into the woods. Time is of the essence to see these trails at their peak bloom times so plan to visit these trails before the summer days begin to shorten. Enjoy!