Sunday, March 25, 2012

Quest for Shortia (Part 6): Finishing

On the way to completing my last section of the Foothills Trail (from Laurel Valley to Canebreak), I found Shortia (Oconee Bells) dropping their petals and going to seed.   Two weeks ago, some were in still in bud, and many were open.  It was treat to watch their grand finale too.  I was also excited to be finishing my section hike of this 77 mile trail.
Shortia (Oconee Bells)
I had one of those moments of happiness, for completing something and being in the process of doing something that I loved, and wished I could bottle the feeling up, give it away.  Some of my friends really needed it more than me.  If only there was a way to pass it along...  But it seemed this was the non-transferable types of feelings.  I let it bubble over, and then I went on.

Laurel Fork Falls
The Foothills Trail between Virginia Hawkins Falls and Laurel Fork Falls criss-crossed a stream through a wildflower garden exploding in new spring green.  Patches of bluets, masses of foamflower, a couple of perfoliate belwort, at least four types of violets, pussytoes, jack in the pulpit, dwarf iris, tiny mayapple, even wood betony.  A trillium in bud was getting ready to steal the show.  I'd been wondering what I'd do next-- once the Quest for Shortia and the Foothills Trail were over.  Seeing the forest the color of fresh beginnings, I knew there'd be something out there to find next, even if at the moment, I didn't know what it would be. 
dwarf iris
On the bank of the Toxaway River, I made camp in a grove of hemlock.  An open beach stretched along the edge of the river, widened by the construction of the reservoir forming Lake Jocassee.  Light rain started the spring peepers chirping.  Mayflies hovered over the river-- they have a single day of adulthood to fly about looking for mates before they drop their eggs into the water and die.  Getting to see them made me feel lucky. 
Toxaway River emptying into Lake Jocassee
Staying dry in the light rain.
The next morning, there was still about a mile to go to reach my previous stopping point, Canebreak.   Crossing the Toxaway River bridge, I paused to take a photo.  My ever-cold hands fumbled with the dials on the camera, dexterity lost to the chill, but I appreciated the discomfort, the cold, thinking about how the oppressive heat of summer would soon be here.

Crossing the Toxaway River
Instead of following the edge of Lake Jocassee, the Foothills Trail goes steeply up and down ridges, hillsides and rock formations.  The term hikers have for this is "P.U.D."  Pointless Up and Down.  I started to curse the slippery wet leaves over the wet wooden stairs.  Then, I recalled something my father would say.  Whenever my sister and I complained we were bored, he would counter "Only boring people are bored."  We learned to cultivate curiosity and the ability to entertain ourselves.  It occurred to me that P.U.D.'s are only "pointless" if you can't see their point.
Is the point this view of the dogwoods?
What would be the point of the trail designers taking the trail up steep ridges, only to go more steeply down the other side, even though it seems like we could have gone near the lake on flat trail and avoided all that elevation change?  To help us burn more calories and build our leg muscles?  To see the view of the lake, and blooming dogwoods dotting the hillsides?  To take us near patches of moss green like the new leaves exploding in the trees the color of optimistic hope?  Or maybe they just love building stairs.  I started to delight in the PUDs.  What else is there to do?  Sometimes happiness comes easily, and sometimes it takes a lot more work to figure it out.

It was only in the 70's and mostly cloudy, and the water was cold, but I decided it was still warm enough to play in the water, and to explore along streambanks.
Cool waters of Virginia Hawkins Falls beckon.
It is never too early to have lunch.
Lingering near moss and mushroom.
I finally got tired the last hour or so-- the PUDs, the excitement, everything caught up to me.   My pace slackened.  I stopped taking photos of flowers.   All I could dream of were the snacks stashed in the cooler of my car.  I am glad I had to forethought to pack the things I knew would fuel me, would be there I most needed that extra boost to make it home.
Chickpea, asparagus, feta cheese salad with strawberries.


  1. I'm always amazed at how quickly some flowers come up, flower and disappear. Trout lilies are the same way!

  2. It sure is amazing! Really makes you appreciate seeing them.

  3. It's like hiking this section reading your post and seeing your pictures. I love your comments on PUD's.

  4. I really enjoy that section of the FHT. The scenery thru there is worth all the "PUDs". I've never done that in March, but after seeing your pictures, I know that's going to change. Thanks for taking us along.

    1. Yes, I agree this is my favorite section too. Despite the PUDs!