Connections for Sustainability

Connections for Sustainability home

Walk in the Woods

Tamassee Knob

with Livability Educator Jaclin DuRant

Early spring in South Carolina is a time of contrasts. Cold mountain nights, where you can sit by a roaring camp fire wrapped in blankets and two pairs of socks give way to shorts and t-shirt weather afternoon hikes. Early spring is one of my favorite times to hike in the South Carolina Mountains.

A tufted titmouse checks me out

A tufted titmouse checks me out

I went with a group of friends to Oconee State Park, about an hour and a half drive from Greenville. There are quite a few trails available near the park, and we chose the Tamassee Knob trail, an out and back hike that was a little over 2 miles each way.

Bloodroot in flower

Bloodroot in flower

In early spring, the forest floor is densely littered with brown leaves, twigs, deadfalls, and other remnants of winter. Sunshine reaches the forest floor in abundance, peeking through branches that are just beginning to develop buds. The carpet of brown makes the perfect backdrop for spring wildflowers. We saw trilliums, violets, wild strawberries, asters, and more.

Jack-in-the-pulpit: such a unique little plant

Jack-in-the-pulpit: such a unique little plant

Many flowers have evolved to stand out in order to attract pollinators, helping the plants reproduce. There are few times that this strategy is as obvious as early spring when the white, red, purple, pink, and yellow blossoms are easy to see; their bright petals and new green leaves providing a brilliant contrast to winter’s detritus.

Butterflies

Butterflies

Color isn’t the only strategy that plants use to attract pollinators. Flower shape, nectar or pollen rewards, and scent are all related to pollination. This fact became quite clear when one of my friends made the mistake of smelling the beautiful red trillium flowers and leapt away with a sour look on her face. Red trillium is pollinated by flies, and in order to attract these pollinators, the flowers produce a scent that is reminiscent of rotten meat or garbage. It may stink to us, but for a fly, it’s a lovely perfume.

Red trillium: beautiful, but these flowers smell bad!

Red trillium: beautiful, but these flowers smell bad!

In stark contrast to the bright flowers, the animals that I saw along the trail were almost all camouflaged, with brown and grey mottled bodies blending into the carpet of dead leaves. Though the nights are still cold in the mountains, if it’s warm enough for me to hike around in a t-shirt, then it’s warm enough that snakes may be out and about. I was lucky to see the copperhead snake coiled in a brush pile to the side of the trail. He was an important reminder of the importance of being careful and observant when hiking in the mountains (and wearing appropriate footwear).

The first copperhead of spring

The first copperhead of spring

The Tamassee Knob trail leads to a beautiful picnic spot, on a large flat rock where you can see the countryside for miles and swallowtail butterflies flit through the tree tops. The hike itself is moderately strenuous, but the view and the abundant wildlife are absolutely worth it!

The view from Tamassee Knob is breathtaking

The view from Tamassee Knob is breathtaking

Return to Walk in the Woods homepage Woods Walk Homepage