Dogwood Arts Festival 2014
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Wildflowers, Festivals, and Hikes: Tennessee’s Got It All This Spring

To celebrate the return of Daylight Saving Time we took a walk along a lovely little creek on our place looking for wildflowers as we’ve done each spring for nearly three decades.

Blooms are running a little late this year but soon spring beauties, trout lilies, rue anemones and foamflowers will be putting on a show, not just along the banks of our creek but all across the state.

Nature festivals, spring hikes, and guided wildflower walks are just a few of the activities to enjoy in Tennessee this spring. There are so many events planned that an opportunity is undoubtedly coming up near you to enjoy springtime in Tennessee at its finest during March and April.

Warriors’ Path State Park hosts its Spring Nature Festival April 4-6, 2014, featuring seminars on spring wildflowers, tracking, astronomy, stream life and local geology as well as guided hikes with naturalists. Call 423-239-6786 or 423-239-8531 to register.

The 64th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, to be held in the Great Smoky Mountains April 15-19, 2014, is the oldest and largest wildflower pilgrimage in Tennessee. Guided walks and talks range from wildflowers, ferns and fungi to history, medicinal plants and tree identification. Fees apply and registration is required.

Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage Smoky Mountains

My wife, Cathy, started mumbling “ooh look” over and over as she studied the listings of nearly 150 events scheduled during the 64th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Smokies. Events include guided hikes to personal favorites like the short, easy, flower-filled Cove Hardwood Nature Trail near the Chimneys parking lot, Trillium Gap Trail which passes Grotto Falls along the way, Metcalf Bottoms and Old Settlers Trail. (Photo: Cathy Summerlin)

It is said Knoxville’s celebrated dogwood trails were the result of unkind comments by a New York newspaper reporter during the late 1940s who claimed Knoxville was the ugliest city he’d seen in America. In 1955, garden club members and homeowners set out with a plan to fill their neighborhoods with bazillions of daffodils, tulips, azaleas, forsythia, dogwoods, crabapples and redbuds and invite everyone to come see the results. Now in its 54th year, the Dogwood Arts Festival continues to grow each year with events scheduled April 2-27, 2014.

Dogwood Arts Festival 2014

Knoxville celebrates the always fun Dogwood Arts Festival from April 2-27, 2014.

Tennessee’s most visited state park, Fall Creek Falls, hosts its 33rd annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage on April 5-6, 2014, with guided hikes, workshops and driving tours offered. The park’s naturalist, Tommy Solomon, says a variety of hikes will be offered during this special weekend including exploration of the Camps Gulf Branch area as it makes its way to Cane Creek. Call the Nature Center at 423-881-5708 for details or “show and go” since there’s sure to be something of interest happening when you arrive.

Fall Creek Falls Jack in the Pulpit

Commonly seen wildflowers at Falls Creek Falls State Park include Spring Beauty, Allegheny Spurge, Doll’s Eyes, Sweet Betsy, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Trout Lily and Mayapple. (Photo: Cathy Summerlin)

The 11th annual Trails and Trilliums is a three-day festival at South Cumberland State Park scheduled for April 11-13, 2014. Experienced naturalists lead nature, waterfall and wildflower hikes on more than 15 of the South Cumberland’s most scenic trails on Saturday and Sunday. Other festival events planned include a native plant sale, workshops on garden design and native plants, music, art and children’s events.

You will find a complete listing of Tennessee State Parks and all the hikes/walks that are planned to celebrate the arrival of spring at http://tnstateparks.com/about/events.

But here are a few of my favorites to consider attending:

– East Tennessee’s Panther Creek State Park, overlooking Cherokee Lake, hosts a hike at 10 a.m. ET on March 22 and again on March 23 at 2 p.m. ET on the Trout Lily Trail, a two-mile loop named for one of our earliest blooming wildflowers.

– On March 22 at 9 a.m. CT, Cordell Hull Birthplace State Historic Park hosts a hike along the Bunkum Cave Trail.

Rock Island State Park — known for its ruggedly beautiful Caney Fork River Gorge, waterfalls, deep pools and good fishing above Great Falls Dam and below it in the headwaters of Center Hill Lake – hosts guided wildflower hikes on March 22-23 and again March 29-30. Call the park at 931-686-2471 for details.

Tennessee Wildflower Hikes

Join one of the many guided wildflower walks scheduled across Tennessee or strike out on your own with camera and wildflower guide along the nearest creek or fertile slopes of mixed hardwood forests. (Photo: Cathy Summerlin)

Edgar Evins State Park hosts a pair of hikes on March 22 at 9 a.m. CT and 1 p.m. CT. Both focus on wildflowers and migrating birds. For more information call 931-858-2114.

– Jack B. Carman, author of the beautifully illustrated Wildflowers of Tennessee, will talk about wildflowers found at Middle Tennessee’s Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park and across the Volunteer State at 10 a.m. CT on March 22 at the Old Stone Fort Museum and then lead a 1.25-mile wildflower walk.

David Crockett State Park rangers will lead a twilight hike on March 22 to hear the sounds of the night before hosting a Movie Under the Stars featuring Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. Better pack a blanket and your coonskin cap for this one.

– At Johnsonville State Historic Park, a ranger will lead a 2- to 3-hour hike that visits historic sites and identifies wildflowers on March 22 at 10 a.m. CT.

– Join a sunrise event to greet the vernal equinox on March 20 at Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Area as the Woodland Mound builders did. A short walk begins at 6 a.m. CT and proceeds to the platform on top of Sauls Mound to watch the sun rise over the Mound complex. It was important to the survival of prehistoric Tennesseans to predict changing seasons and the mounds served as a calendar for them.

And that’s just a small sample of what Tennessee offers this spring! Get out there and get moving. You’ll be happy you did.

Tennesse Orchid

Part of the appeal of joining guided wildflower walks is the opportunity to learn to identify wildflowers with help from experts and other participants in the group but a quiet walk with a wildflower guide in hand can lead to memorable discoveries on your own like this relatively rare lady’s slipper, a member of the orchid family. (Photo: Cathy Summerlin)

Hi there! I’m Vernon Summerlin. Like many, I came to Nashville to break into the music industry. After years of striving, I...Read on

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