published Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Wildflower hikes are good exercise

John Johnson, a forestry technician with the University of Tennessee Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, explains what hikers are likely to see while looking for wildflowers.
John Johnson, a forestry technician with the University of Tennessee Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, explains what hikers are likely to see while looking for wildflowers.
Photo by Contributed Photo.

IF YOU GO

What: Wildflower hikes.

When: Noon (CDT) Saturday and Saturday, April 7.

Where: Sequatchie Valley Institute, 1233 Cartwright Loop, Whitwell, Tenn.

Admission: Suggested donation of $5-$20.

Phone: 423-949-5922.

Exercise has its benefits, but Carol Kimmons of the Sequatchie Valley Institute said a guided wildflower hike is like getting the benefits with a bonus.

"There is a lot of possible exercise," she said of the hikes, which are this Saturday and Saturday, April 7. "It's rolling terrain all through mature forests on narrow trails. There's fresh air, lots of oxygen. It's excellent exercise."

The hikes through Lane Cove will begin at the Sequatchie Valley Institute in Cartwright, Tenn., halfway between Dunlap and Whitwell, 45 minutes from Chattanooga.

"The hike will definitely get your heart going," said John Johnson, a forestry technician with the University of Tennessee Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries who will be the nature interpreter for the hikes. "It will be a healthy-heart hike."

Participants have a choice of a long, strenuous hike or a shorter, more relaxed walk.

Kimmons said the longer hike is "fairly flexible" but is generally three or four hours. The shorter one, she said, is "a good hour."

The walks are taken together until the first group retraces its steps back to the Sequatchie Valley Institute.

The warmer winter, said Kimmons, has pushed redbud and dogwood trees into blooming. But, surprisingly, a lot of the wildflowers have waited to bloom, she said.

"A lot of stuff is coming out," she said.

Hikers, according to Kimmons, are likely to see trilliums, including the rarely seen white trillium; mayapple, phacelia, trout lilies, dwarf buckeye and wild pink azaleas, which grow up to 12 feet tall.

"This is not like going to a nature center," she said. "This is completely wild."

In addition to wildflowers, Kimmons said participants will wind through a mixed mesophytic forest with trees more than 100 years old. Since they'll be hiking up to just below the mountain bluffs, she said, they'll also see streams, springs and the "beautiful, rocky mountainside."

Tricia King, who has participated in many of the hikes, said the annual pilgrimages afford both education about the native flora and threats to the ecosystem from invasive species.

"Around each bend of the trail are breathtaking sights -- a sudden wave of blue and white phlox," she said in an email, "or maybe a big cluster of buckeyes or mayapples.

"The knowledgeable guides are very familiar with each step and notice changes from year to year, so every hike is different."

For an initial workout, Kimmons said, participants can even hike the three quarters of a mile trail uphill to their home, which doubles as the Sequatchie Valley Institute headquarters.

While there, they can check out a home sustainable by solar electricity, gardens and the new greenhouse.

"Everything is so beautiful, Kimmons said. "Every time I walk down, I see something new and unique." The birds have been singing like mad, and I even saw a barred owl."

Children are welcome to hike, she said. "They can go run and scream and yell. They will not be bored." The trail is not appropriate for strollers, though, but backpack carriers work well, she said. Participants also are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch. Pets are not invited.

Kimmons said the beauty of the hike will be enhanced by "good companionship and intellectual discussion."

"And you're guaranteed to go home a little bit sore," she said, "even on the easy hike."

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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