Yesterday, I led a photography hike as part of the Spring Wildflower Foray at TC Steele with a great group of participants. The weather the last few days has been very rainy with some strong thunderstorms. On Friday and Saturday morning, I was beginning to wonder if we could hike. As an alternative, I spent time creating a PowerPoint presentation and demo. Linda left a single butter weed plant in the garden for me to uproot and use as a demo. I managed to find some of my lighting equipment, extension cords, and a software application to show my camera’s view on small monitor. However, as I was driving out to the location, the sky started to brighten and all looked well. We actually had a few glimpses of sunshine on the hike.
We decided to venture down the ridge into a beautiful holler to see if we could locate the showy orchid. The hike down the ridge was not too bad although the mud cover rocks were slippery and I almost lost my footing two or three times. We spotted some fresh 5-6 foot strips of wood that looked as though it had been stripped from a tree. My first reaction was that the black bear from Kentucky had ventured further north in Indiana and was tearing at a tree in search of food. Then, we saw the tree. It had been struck by lighting and had an open tear in the bark from the top all the way to the bottom. Several large 1×1 inch pieces of fresh tree were scatter on the forest floor. A reminder as to the power of lightning. Once in the holler, it was simply beautiful and a place I want to return to photograph. Unfortunately, the best time will be after some heavy rain like we had this past week that means the hike down and up will be slippery. The streams, however, will be full of water with several very small waterfalls and rapids.
Fortunately, one of the participants was on one of the earlier hikes and knew where the lone showy orchid was located. After photographing a few other wildflowers (I could not find most of the ones I scouted on Wednesday), we found the showy orchid. It is beside the trail and splattered with mud bits from the rain. As we walked on a few more feet, I found a much nicer flower that was a couple of feet off the trail. The showy orchid is small and just sits on top of the leaves. It made for a great photo opportunity as everyone very carefully stepped around the plant. We found a third plant a few feet away.
The hike out of the holler was up a very steep ridge. For the first 75 feet, the trail was flowing with runoff water from the storms. As we climbed higher, we found other wildflowers including the lone prairie trillium on the walk and some squawroot. The climb up the ridge was one of the steepest I recall. But, the reward was worth it although my body says otherwise today!