Sunday, June 8, 2008

Impromptu rescheduling, waterfalls, and more cool plants

Tuesday (6/3) we switched to North Carolina really only moving a few miles, from Devil's Fork SC to Gorges State Park NC. We met with Park Superintendent Steve Pagano who had planned for us a visit to a Shortia station adjacent to a beautiful waterfall with a fascinating "spray community of obscure and uncommon plants. There was a problem though; our vehicle would not be able to handle the 8 mile drive to the trailhead, and our schedule couldn't handle the day it would take to hike in and out. Not to worry. Steve cleared his schedule for Wednesday morning and we agreed to meet back at park headquarters at 8:00 the next morning so that he could drive us in and out.

We modified our schedule and drove <10 miles to Whitewater Falls on the Whitewater River; at 411 feet this is the tallest falls east of the Rockies. We descended from a parking area past several viewing areas then took a steeply descending trail/stairs that brought us to the base of the falls. In Devil's Fork, we had been encountering Shortia along streams. Clearly it likes moisture. The first day though, the moisture had been localized at the streams while the rest of the area, though receiving 80-100" of rain a year, was steep and well drained (hence the Xerophyllus). By contrast, the descent to the base of Whitewater Falls took us through rich moist soil and we could only imagine what it would have been like tw0 months earlier with everything in bloom. Jeanna at least, will try to get back next spring.

This is actually one of the few places we looked for Shortia and didn't find it. The literature suggested limited quantities and describes the locations obscurely but it was spectacular territory for botanizing anyway. We saw any number of Hexastylis, various violets, Goodyera, Halesia, Trilliums, Mitchella, and on and on! The fungi were nice too. Apparently there is a "spray community" here under the falls, but not accessible by our trail. This was our first 500'+ down then back up again. No doubt good for me.....Since we got back to the van about 2:00 PM we decided to go for one more location that day: Panthertown Valley.

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