|The Red River by the Hemlock Lodge.|
It poured again during lunch, and I was wondering if I'd have to spend the rest of the afternoon in my room, but fortunately, the rain stopped around 2 PM. I walked down the hundred or more steps to the river to explore the closed swimming pool area surroundings. There was a trail leading to the rental cottages on the other side, and a few spring flowers such as Rue Anemone, wild Phlox and a lovely wild violet with spurs that I'd never seen before.
|Red River cottages|
|Rue Anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)|
|Long-spurred Violet (Viola rostrata)|
It seemed the rain would hold off for a while, so I went back up the hill and decided to explore a new trail. Going back to the original trail, several other trails struck off to the right. After crossing a bridge over a small creek, the Rock Garden trail went off to the right, winding up around the hill behind Hemlock Lodge. That seemed like a promising trail for wildflowers...
|The Rock Garden Trail|
Just another forest trail lined with large Rhododendrons at first, after a while huge, moss-covered boulders began to show up along the path. As the terrain changed, plants grew more profusely at the base of the trees and boulders: a number of familiar species such as Hepatica and Trillium, club mosses, and Star chickweed along with unfamiliar ones to me. Just at I reached this point, it started to drizzle again, hard enough to make everything soggy. I was just at about the point of no return, should I go on or not? Remembering my problems at Glacier last year, I'd just have to try to keep my camera dry. I slipped the camera inside my parka and hoped taking it out only now and then for photos would do the trick.
|Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica acultiloba)|
|Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera)|
|Trillium (Trillium erectum or sulcatum?)|
I had hoped to see the rare Nodding Trillium which is found in the park, and thought the ones pictured above might be some, but the Nodding Trillium is white and the flower of this one was already coloring deep red, so it may be the Wake Robin (Trillium erectum) or perhaps the Southern red Trillium (Trillium sulcatum)--beautiful in any case.
|A clump of Club mosses|
|Close up: is its Lycopodium annotinum?|
Farther on there were a number of club mosses--Ground Cedar and the one above, one new to me, and even some walking ferns. Even the tree lichens were blooming--this trail certainly lived up to its name!
|Walking Fern (Asplenium rhyzophillum)|
|Sharp-lobed Hepatica and Trillium|
|Fruiting bodies of tree lichens.|
After this culmination the vegetation on the trail gradually diminished to a more usual forest as the trail began to circle back towards the natural bridge, approaching it from the other side. I passed the chair lift that I'd seen from Laurel Ridge Trail in the morning, which originated on this side of the mountain.
|Steps leading back to the Natural Bridge|
The rain stopped again, and the sun actually broke through the clouds to cast its bright rays on the rock ledges. More sets of steep steps were carved into the rock, making it a strenuous climb. After passing a number of rock overhangs, I eventually reached the saddle under the natural bridge and started back down on the original trail towards the lodge. It was getting on towards evening now, and this side of the mountain was in shadow.
|The original trail|
Tired of the food at Hemlock Lodge, I went out to Miguels' Pizza for dinner--it was just down the road and jam-packed (the pizza was evidently good). There were a number of picnic tables outside, but it was getting chilly and I was lucky to find a seat inside--very lucky as it turned out! It was a long wait to get my pizza, and it had started to pour again. Many outdoor diners had no choice but to get soaked or take refuge in their vehicles, while I was able to enjoy my dinner in crowded comfort.