Sunday, April 1, 2012

Trail Dames at the Pocket

"Happiness held is the seed; happiness shared is the flower."  ~Author Unknown

You may have noticed that I've been doing a lot of solo backpacking trips this spring.   But this weekend I took a break from my loner ways, and instead led the Trail Dames on the Third Annual Hike to the Pocket. 

The Pocket of Pigeon Mountain is an extremely special place for wildflowers in Georgia.  The setting is stunning too, with steep rock walls surrounding the valley and a clear blue-green stream and waterfall.  The remote location-- lack of signage, (sometimes rough) dirt road, stream crossing-- combine to keep this place protected.  Though it's several hours drive away, I've taken the time to visit the Pocket repeatedly each season for the past few years and it has always filled me with awe and wonder.

I arrived at the Pocket at dusk the night before the Dames hike, hot tired and cranky after a long drive.  My mood darkened further as I walked around the short boardwalk.  The plants I'd been eagerly anticipating, the Virginia bluebells and poppies, had dropped their petals and gone to seed already.  All I could see was a drab, empty forest.  I was horrified and mad at myself for not changing the timing of the hike to coincide with the earlier emergence and warmer temperatures this year.  I thought, "What if all the Dames were disappointed and felt like I wasted their time bringing them all the way out here?  What business did I have leading hikes anyway?  I didn't know anything!"  I contemplated canceling the hike.  In retrospect, I was having a serious case crankiness and (what I later recognized was ) Imposter Syndrome.
Faded Virginia bluebells
Thankfully, an evening spent listening to owls calling back and forth across the valley, a good night's sleep in my hammock, and an early morning walk around the Pocket cleared my head.  The magic of the place soaked into me.
Morning beauty
Rather than missing the familiar early bloomers,  I noticed flowers I'd never seen before, including wild hyacinth.  Masses of wild blue phlox, wild geranium, and purple phacelia created a sea of purple.  I was actually lucky to have gotten the timing "wrong" and to find these late bloomers I'd missed in previous years.  More importantly, I remembered that the thing I do best (or so I've been told) in leading hikes is sharing my enthusiasm for nature.  I resolved to keep my lack of self-confidence hidden, and try to be myself and be there.
Purple phacelia
Wild geranium
Wild blue phlox
Wild hyacinth
Bent trillium
When the Dames arrived, I watched with delight as everyone started pointing out plants and bugs and a million other things, and asking all sorts of fascinating questions.  I could feel their excitement echoing off the walls of the valley.  They totally felt the magic of the Pocket too!  Listening to their laughter and seeing the wonder in their eyes, I realized that what makes the natural world come alive, more than anything else, is having the opportunity to experience it and share it with friends.

Photo by Jules
Photo by Donna

Please note: if you are lucky enough to visit the Pocket, please keep this place preserved for future visitors and generations by staying on the boardwalk and trails, never ever picking or trampling the flowers, and please pick up the GORP pass (which is now required) to help support this place (there is no way to get one at the site, so order it ahead of time online).

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