Though I love hiking in the winter, with the open woods, open views, lack of reptiles and insects, sparse human contacts, and no sweat (if properly layered with proper clothing), spring is an amazing time to watch nature and the Earth be reborn. This is the prime time of the year to see new life emerging and experience the transformation from stark grey tree trunks and dead leaf litter on the ground to various hues of green and the spectacular palette of spring wildflowers.
A hike this time of year to one of the many trails in the Dahlonega area will reward one with many opportunities to see nature in bloom. Whether along a ridge of the crest-hugging Appalachian Trail or in bottomlands of the Etowah or Chestatee River, the woods are rife with the signs of spring.
As the stately trees of the Chattahoochee National Forest, heavily covered with tulip, or yellow, poplars leaf out, the forest becomes a light green, deepening to darker green as the leaves mature. This is the time to hunt for morel mushrooms that prefer to pop up under the tulip poplar on moist days.
The sign of blackberry winter, the inevitable cold snap that occurs in late spring, is the white clusters of blackberry bramble blossoms. Mark their location for some good blackberry picking in a month or so.
Lowering your field of vision to the ground, the incredible number of colors and patterns in spring wildflowers quickly become evident. Trilliums are rampant throughout this part of the mountains. They are very distinctive with 3 large heart-shaped bracts that are sometimes called leaves. In a few weeks, these plants will bear varying colors of flowers. Another iconic spring plant is Virginia Creeper vine with its five leaflets growing up the forest trees.
From the beautiful soft violet color of wild violets, to the purple-blue and yellow of the dwarf iris, these tiny flowers are like a miniature garden. Both have distinctive leaves that are stunning even without the flower. The brilliant pinks of the wild geranium are particularly distinctive in spring.
And not to forget the early spring favorite, the wild azaleas, with colors ranging from salmon, to deep orange. They are just beginning peak bloom this week.
In a few weeks, the current crop of wildflowers on the trail will be done for the season. Now is the time to go on a hike. Long or short. At Yahoola Creek Park or further afield on the AT. Don’t miss out on nature’s spectacular free display. Take a Hike!
Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber & Visitors Bureau | 13 South Park Street | Dahlonega, GA 30533 | (706) 864-3711 or (800) 231-5543.