I’m back in Western North Carolina and back at Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Mondays. Never a dull day; I may think it’s may be routine when I start out but it doesn’t end up that way.
The visitor center was really short-handed. The Student Conservation Association students (the interns) have left and the seasonals are leaving this week. And the visitors were pouring in. Many ask “What is there to do around here? coming in completely unprepared. But that’s why we’re here.
At 2 P.M., I went to rove Kephart Prong Trail. I was hot in my long pants and heavy cotton button-down shirt that constitute the volunteer uniform. The summer flowers were waning. Bowman’s root, yellow coneflowers, red
and jewelweed are on their last legs. Red berries told me that nature was at the end of summer, even if it was 90 deg. in Asheville.
I climbed up to the shelter and saw no one on the way. I found a long-sleeve shirt and hat at the shelter and took it for garbage. I almost bundled it up in my garbage bag until a family of four came down and the woman retrieved her clothes.
Coming down at the second bridge (from the road), a British man with a huge camera stopped me.
“Did you see the three birds orchids?” he asked.
“Huh… I never heard of those.”
He showed me a photo that he had taken on his large camera screen and told me where they were. And then I saw them; a small white flower with three petals that look like they will take
flight. There’s a bunch of them on the side of the trail between the first and second bridge, past the CCC artifacts. I looked them up in various flower books but found nothing.
A Forest Service website identified them as Triphora trianthophora and that’s where I lifted the photo from. I felt better about my hike.
I also noticed that the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center now looks like a building – a building with a lot of growing to do, but a building nevertheless.