|Stunningly beautiful Shortia.|
|Glimmering along the stream bank.|
|Dense patches of Oconee Bells along the Foothills Trail|
|Stairs? What stairs? All I see is shortia!|
When I reached the shore of Lake Jocassee at Canebreak by mid-afternoon, I considered setting up camp. But seeing the stumps from trees killed during the construction of this reservoir gave me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. The shores were littered with trash, and I could see a few houses on the hillside. Back in the early 1970's, 4,500 acres of land had been flooded by building a dam to form Lake Jocassee. This was prime habitat for the Oconee Bell, and it's estimated that 50% of the habitat was lost (Zahner and Jones 1983), and many more populations are threatened by erosion along the shoreline of the lake (Lackey 2004). Oconee Bells do grow in dense colonies and appears vigorous and hardy, but habitat destruction and population fragmentation are serious threats to this species.
Finally, it started to get really dark, and I found a place midway up a ridge that was tucked out of the wind that I hoped would stay warmer. After doing some stretching, I went to bed early and I slept soundly, like I usually do in my hammock.
I made a point on this trip to focus on hiking my own pace. Rather than some arbitrary goal to hike a certain number of miles, I purposefully did NOT calculate my mileage, or my miles per hour like I normally do. Last year I made it my New Years resolution to hike 20 miles, and I trained hard and felt good about achieving that goal. Since then, I'd been trying to focus more on enjoying myself, and less on achieving goals. So, I paid attention to my body, my energy levels, and stopped when I needed to rest, and hiked when I needed to move. I was tired when I got to my car, but it was that pleasant and contented soreness. Only when I got home did I calculate that I'd actually hiked a little over 22 miles the first day out-- two miles more than I'd ever hiked before, and I was even carrying a winter-weight backpack. Ah, such is the inspiring power of Shortia!
|Stretched out on a log, taking a rest break with a view of Hilliard Falls.|
Lackey, C.E. 2004. The fragmented habitat of Michaux's beautiful discovery: Shortia galacifolia
Zahner, R. and S.M. Jones. 1983. Resolving the type location for Shortia galacifolia T.&G. Castanea 48: 163-173. T.&G. (Diapensiaceae). Castanea 174-177.