Saturday, May 9, 2009

Flowers? How sweet!

After the 700 foot climb from the Lake Superior shore up the Cascade River, hot and sweaty, suddenly I felt like a blushing bride. Who knew I would be getting flowers!?

I hiked the big loop around the Cascade River yesterday, up the west side and down the east side for a total of about 7.5 miles. I was expecting a rugged river-side hike, and I got that. I was totally geeked out with a GPS unit swinging from my neck, two digital cameras, and my notebook and pen in hand. I'm hiking a ton of North Shore trails this month getting ready for our next book, Hiking the North Shore.

In addition to the rugged hike, I also had a wonderful surprise: for about a mile on the west side, the trail runs through great North Shore maple forest.

At first I was just captivated by the light. After slogging past mossy cliffs, through dark and dank cedar groves, and over the roots of spruce and pine, I was delighted to step into open sunny deciduous forest.

Then I happened to look down, maybe looking for the next root that would trip me up.

And there was one single flower. A spring beauty.

Wow. It's not winter anymore. Not even late winter, though I would be hiking on snow and ice later in the day, back down in the river gorge. It is Spring up here on the ridgetop.

I looked up. It wasn't just one flower. It was dozens...hundreds...thousands of spring beauties. I'd been hiking past them for ten minutes.

Flowers on the forest floor as far as I could see:

And scattered here and there, Dutchman's breeches:

After six months of hoping for snow, looking for snow, skiing on snow, my brain hadn't switched. Biologists would say, I didn't have the "search image" of wildflowers.

It was a real surprise and a real joy. The best part of a really good day hiking on the North Shore.

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