Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.


A sunny, anniversary walk

Saturdays have become our Sabbath, our day of rest. Last Saturday was our anniversary, so we decided to take a long walk after missing a couple of days due to rain. We went during a break from painting the wheelchair ramp in front of our home.

At Devil’s Den, we saw yellow Eastern tiger swallowtails, fritillaries and several blooms. There were several plants we recognized that did not have blooms yet. The plants we saw included showy orchis, lady slippers, Mayapples, dwarf wild iris, rue anemone, geranium, trillium, bellwort, cutleaf toothwort and bloodroot.

Showy orchis

Showy orchis

A bloodroot leaf (left) and cutleaf toothwort.

A bloodroot leaf (left) and cutleaf toothwort.

Trillium

Trillium

The leaves of dwarf crested irises.

The leaves of dwarf crested irises.

Lady slipper leaves.

Lady slipper leaves.

Many new four-wheeler trails have, unfortunately, been created in the woods. That means there is less places for the trilliums, orchids and other wildflowers to bloom. You’d think people would have more respect for a nature preserve, but they do not. It’s very unfortunate. In years past, the hillside would be covered with trilliums. It was an ethereal sight.

We also visited the Hiwassee end of the New River Trail and saw squirrel corn! It’s the first time I’d ever seen them in person. It looks very similar to Dutchmen’s breeches, except it is round at the top. Great end to the weekend.


Easter wildflower hike

We took our annual Easter wildflower hike last weekend. For the past six years, we’ve spent a few hours Easter Sunday on the Austinville section of the New River Trail State Park.

With notebook and pen, Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide and water, we look for now-familiar flowers and identify new ones. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks now, especially since this will be our final Easter walk on the New River Trail. This year, we left Newcomb’s and the notebook at home.We were too tired from painting the ramp in front of our house, so I captured what I could with my point-and-shoot Kodak camera.

The recent cold snaps didn’t hurt the plants as much as we expected they would. Many of the cut leaf toothwort, Dutchmen’s breeches and wild columbine blooms had fallen victim to the cold, but some of the stragglers were budding or in bloom. The weather was perfect — sunny, but not too warm.

In addition to the blooms, we saw a black Eastern tiger swallowtail, a comma or question mark and a female mallard.

Here are some of the plants we found:

Dutchmen's breeches

Dutchmen’s breeches

Wild columbine

Wild columbine

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Bellwort

Bellwort

More violets

Violets

Violets

More violets

Star chickweed

Star chickweed

Hepatica with a spring beauty bloom

Hepatica with a spring beauty bloom

Ginger

Ginger

Virginia waterleaf

Virginia waterleaf

Early Mayapples

Early Mayapples


Walking around Winston-Salem

Signs of spring are beginning to appear here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We’ve had red-winged blackbirds visit the feeder. On our evening walks, we’ve heard the spring peepers’ call (a type of frog). We even saw a mourning cloak on the New River Trail last weekend.

In Piedmont North Carolina, the warmer seasons usually arrive earlier than here. On a visit to Winston-Salem last weekend we saw these beautiful flowers:

Strollway Flowers

We found these along The Strollway. We have daffodil stems pushing through the soil here in the mountains, but no flowers yet.

This trail is over a mile long and connects Old Salem with downtown. We parked at the end of a street in Old Salem and walked over to the trail. We’d looked for the strollway while wondering around downtown a couple years ago, but, for whatever reason, we couldn’t find it.

Here are some photos from the walk:

The Strollway

Winston-Tower and trees

Winston Tower

Lola — The Muse of the Arts District

Lola — The Muse of the Arts District

Full shot of Lola

Art on a wall behind the bus depot.

Art on a wall behind the bus depot.

Strollway downtown

Shot of Old Salem

Shot of Old Salem


Fisher Peak, Blue Ridge Music Center

My friend Dahna has organized a Hiking Club. The first outing was Saturday at the Blue Ridge Music Center. The center, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 213, has a couple of trails that cross a wetlands, a meadow and through the woods that cover Fisher Peak. The Fisher Peak Loop is 2.24 miles and the liner High Meadow Trail is 1.35 miles.

Chris, Sidney and I have hiked these trails multiple of times. My favorite is the loop trail, mostly because it provides a great look at how habitats can be affected by the amount of sun exposure and water sources available, among other things. One part of the loop is very dry and features hardwoods and pines. The moist side has lots of rhododendrons, undergrowth and beautiful fungi. This section is where I’ve taken photos of red efts (a form of the red-spotted newt).

I’ve written about the Blue Ridge Music Center before. Bands perform at the visitor center or on the stage various times during the year. The visitor center also has a museum devoted to the rich music history of the area. It should be on your must-visit list on the Parkway.

Here are some photos I took during Saturday’s trip:

Fisher Peak trail

Gnarly tree, Fisher Peak

Galax leaves in their winter splendor.

Galax leaves in their winter splendor.

Meadow at Fisher Peak


Smart View, Blue Ridge Parkway

We took advantage of the beautiful, sunny weekend to take a nice, long walk at Smart View Recreation Area on Sunday. It’s located near Milepost 155 off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here’s a great post about the area.

The loop trail is about 2.6 miles and loops through a hardwood-pine mix forest and over a small creek. In the middle of the loop is a large picnic area.

Snow trail Smart View

It had been many years since we last visited Smart View, so everything felt new and fresh. Though it had been in the 60s for a couple of days, the shade from the trees had kept the snow from melting. This made several places slick.

Log bridge Smart View

Sidney looked a little unsure about the log bridge posted above, but she didn’t hesitate too long.

Snow bridge Smart View

This stone bridge, further down the trail, is wider and made for easier crossing.

The first section of the trail is fairly moderate with some steep hills. In many places the trail is narrow and we had to walk in single file. On the left were steep drops into the hollow below. There were many great views, easily seen through the bare tree limbs.

Smart View view

The last mile was fairly flat and passed close by the parking lot before circling back around by the road.

Trail Cabin Smart View

This is Trail Cabin, built in the late 1800s. The trail passes behind it. This part of the trail I do remember from several years ago. It’s a popular pull-off where people like to snap photos of the cabin. I remember walking out of the woods and seeing a crowd of people in the parking lot above. It was humorous to see the reactions the people had to us wandering out of the woods. I’m sure we weren’t the wildlife they were expecting to see!

Though it was a nice day, not too many people were out and about on the Parkway Sunday. Because of the snow, the Parkway is closed to visitors. Locals, like us, know the access roads and still visit. On our way back home, we had to get off the Parkway at Highway 8 near Floyd because the remaining snow across the road made it seem impassable. The bicyclist in front of us, however, apparently thought he could do it. Brave man, biking up a steep hill caked in snow and ice.


First Day Hike

Chris, Sidney, and I attended a First Day Hike with our friend, Brenda, and a handful of other folks at the Foster Falls section of the New River Trail State Park. We toured the Foster Falls community, Shot Tower, and the Austinville site, which the park just acquired.

Group photo in front of the entrance to the old mine in Austinville, Va.

Group photo in front of the entrance to the old mine in Austinville, Va.

All state parks in Virginia and North Carolina offered hikes on New Year’s Day, and I’m sure other state parks across the nation did, as well. This was a great way to start the new year. I hope you spent Jan. 1 enjoying great company and doing things you love.

Foster Falls is my favorite section of the New River Trail. It’s the former site of an orphanage and a hotel that served the mining community along the rail line. The trail head features old mill buildings, a pig iron furnace, a livery, bike and canoe rentals and camping. The 57-mile New River Trail lies along a former Norfolk Southern rail line from Pulaski to Galax and Fries.

Shot Tower at Jackson's Ferry, near Foster Falls, Va.

Shot Tower at Jackson’s Ferry, near Foster Falls, Va.

Group inside Shot Tower learning how shot was made from molten lead.

Shot of the group learning how shot was made from molten lead inside Shot Tower.

Foster Falls furnace

Foster Falls furnace

Foster Falls hotel

Foster Falls hotel


Anchorage Trail, Anchorage, Ky.

On Christmas Day, Chris, Sidney, Chris’ parents and I headed off to explore Anchorage Trail. This 2-mile loop trail is located in Anchorage, a small city in the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Area (Ky.). Anchorage is a community full of large homes and trees. I can’t seem to find a government site about the park, but here’s some pics and a review from a local from a few years ago.

And here are some of my pics and a review of what we saw:

Anchorage Trail

Despite the cold, there were lots of people walking their pups, biking or giving their kids an opportunity to ride their scooters. True to the culture we’ve come to expect from Louisvillians and surrounding communities, most of the walkers greeted us with a smile and “Merry Christmas.”

Alongside the trail were fields of soybeans, a small pond with several mallards and a pair of swans, tree stands and views of many large homes. We saw a nuthatch, a young hawk, a possum and many cardinals and robins.

Anchorage Hawk

Anchorage ducks

Most of the trail is paved, but there are some dirt paths that we avoided because of melting ice. We did venture out onto a wooden overlook to check out the pond and ducks.

Chris and Sidney at Anchorage overlook

Residents in the area are lucky to have this available. It’s a great place to walk or bike and is connected to sidewalks so that you can walk up the street to local cafes and shopping.