The Catskills are different. Last weekend was my first time hiking any extended length there. It was also my first time backpacking (I know, took me long enough). It’s just so weird, how two mountain ranges in relatively close parts of the country can be so different. This was fun and beautiful in it’s own right, but at least on the east coast, the White Mountains will always be my favorite.
The Catskills, though. They’re greener. In that respect, I like it. The mountains are more modest. This one, at 4,040 ft is the second highest in the range. At the summit of the mountain, you’re still in heavy forest. The trees and vegetation don’t change much between the base of the mountain and the top. The trails are marked far better here. In the Whites, you can guarantee you’ll be hiking over boulders the entire way. Here there’s a lot of hiking up loose rocks that cover up a bed of pine needles that cover up a million roots. It’s almost exactly the same as anywhere you might hike in Connecticut, the stuff I used to do when I was younger. That said – this was perfect prep for hopefully some overnights in NH and I will never not like being in the woods.
Smoky Mountains National Park - Chimney Tops Trail
The second day at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park started and I finally got my much needed sleep. The big plan for the day was to hike up Chimney Tops Trail which is one of the mountains in the park. It is 4,724 feet above sea level. The hike is just two miles long however it is very steep as it climbs 1,400 feet in that distance. On the way there I did the occasional stop to take pictures of the views along the Newfound Gap Road and of the rivers that ran parallel to the road at times.
It was very windy and rainy when I got to the trailhead but it was better as the cold wind felt good when you are exhausted. I had to stop a couple of times as the flat Florida hikes don’t prepare you for steep inclines at all! It took me about an hour and twenty minutes to reach the last stretch to the summit. It was nervewracking to say the least as it was basically at least a 45 degree rockface that you crawl up sideways on with drop offs on either side. The rockface being wet and the constant battering of the wind was not very encouraging. There was a group of friends headed down when I got there and they said they went all the way to the top and that the view was worth it; one guy in the group also said “There’s no one there anymore so make sure you don’t slip and die!”. What lovely words of encouragement! I headed on up anyway up to a ledge that I could set up my tripod and gear on. Any further than that and it felt too dangerous to attempt already with the conditions and the tripod strapped to my backpack which didn’t help at all. I stayed there on my rock perch with drop offs on all sides for about an hour and a half just enjoying the moment and taking pictures. It was wonderful. I hiked / half jogged back down and that was much more easier with the help of gravity and it took less than an hour.
Just in time for Mother’s Day, the Bureau of Land Management celebrated National Wildflower Week (May 5-11) on social media with photos of wildflowers from our public lands.
Mojave Indigo Bush (Psorothamnus) are shrubs. They are generally thorny, thickly branched, strongly-scented bushes. The species bear bright purple legume flowers and gland-rich pods. Photo by Chelise Simmons.
Crepis modocensis – Modoc hawksbeard, is a yellow flower, seen here with a Mormon Metalmark butterfly. Hawksbeards are a prized sage-grouse food in the spring. BLM photo taken off the Grove Creek Road near the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains.
Eurybia conspicua – Western showy aster flowers between July and early September. BLM photo taken in Crooked Creek near the Pryor Mountains.
Pasque flower (Anemone Patens) blooms from April to June in well-drained soils in steps and foot hills, and mountain zones. They have deeply cup-shaped lavender and blue flowers with five to seven petal-like sepals and have many yellow stamens in the center.
Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) flowers begin blooming in late spring.
Larkspurs (Delphinium spp.) have bright blue and purple flowers blooming from May through July. If eaten in large quantities, they can be poisonous.
Alaska is full of wildflowers in the spring and summer. This whiteish flower is the Labrador Tea blossoms from along the Table Top Mountain Trail in the BLM White Mountains Receration Area. Photo by BLM Craig McCaa.
Epilobium angustifolium, commonly known as Fireweed gets its name because it grows very well in areas after a fire has cleared away the vegetation. It grows very tall and has bright pink blossoms.
Fireweed is edible and known to be a good source of Vitamin C. It is also used to make Alaska Native medicine, candies, syrups, jellies and even ice cream. Many Alaskans gauge the length of summer by Fireweed. The blossoms begin to open from the bottom of the stalk and work their way up as the summer continues. When the last blooms open on the top of the stalks, summer is over and fall is on its way.
Shooting star flowers are both beautiful and interesting to observe. The four or five petals are bright pinkish-purple or sometimes white, about ¾ to 1 inch long, and flare backward. The stamens are fused together forming a point or “beak” at the tip of the flower. This combination of features gives the flowers the appearance of a shooting star.
Shooting star wildflowers bloom from April through July and may be found growing in lower elevation valleys, forests, and mountain meadows on BLM lands in northern, central, and southern Idaho.
Over 150 native forbs can be found in the North Fork Owyhee Wilderness.
Have a wonderful Mother’s Day from all of us at BLM!