You can tell spring and warmer weather are coming based on the number of N.C. State Parks programs scheduled this weekend at the coast and in the coastal plain. Of the 10 programs Saturday at State Parks, 9 are down east; of Sunday’s six programs, five are at or near the coast. Three of our favorites:
- The Origin of the Sandhills, Sunday, 2 p.m., Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve, Southern Pines. Join a geologist to get the true lay of the land, from topography to plant ecology. Learn more here.
- Jones Island Eco Tour, Saturday, 9:30 a.m., Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro. Boat over to nearby Jones Island, located in the White Oak River, to learn about the various ecosystems on this wild spit of land. Free, but registration is required, by calling 910.326.4881. Learn more here.
- Snakes of Southeastern North Carolina, 10 a.m., Jones Lake State Park, Elizabethtown. Get to know the snakes of the coastal plain at this program in the Visitor Center. Learn more here.
Also this weekend:
- Outdoor Adventurers of Color: Increase Your Activity Through Geocaching, Sunday, 2:30 p.m., Kathleen Clay Edwards Library, Greensboro. We love that this is promoted as a way to get outside and enjoy winter, a time when we’re typically content to stay indoors. But who can stay put when there’s cool stuff to be found in the woods? An especially good family activity. Learn more here.
Searching for spring
You can also tell spring is nigh based on the appearance of the first spring wildflowers. Near our basecamp here in the central Piedmont, the first responder of spring is typically the trout lily. It’s mottled green leaves — resembling the skin of a trout — appear with the first warm, sunny days of the year. A couple days latter, if the weather holds, out pops its delicate fingerling blooms of yellow striped with maroon. A more appropriate harbinger of the season you could not create.
I’ve seen the bloom as early as the last week of January; typically, it appears no later than the second week of February. This year, due to a long run of wintry weather, it’s been shy.
This morning, however, there was hope: in a floodplain along the Eno, my check-in point for the first signs of spring, I spotted the trout lily (above), on the cusp of bloom. All it needed was a little more warmth and a ray of sunshine — who knows, it might have bloomed a half hour after I passed. More importantly, though, with temperatures this weekend forecast for the low 60s under cloudless, sunny skies, your chances of seeing the first wildflowers of the season are darn good. A couple suggestions to enhance your sighting opportunities:
- Wait to go out in search until the temperature has warmed. Your best bet is likely between noon and 4 p.m.
- Locationwise, a floodplain hardwood forest is your best bet right now. The trout lily, like other spring wildflowers, needs to get its business down before the trees leaf out and hog all the sunlight.
A gorgeous weekend is in store. GetOut! And Enjoy!
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Guide to 3 Daffodil hikes
Another key harbinger of spring, one that is definitely in bloom: the daffodil. The daffodil is an ornamental and not technically a wildflower. But they are easy to spot (see photo) and typically mark another treasure in the woods: an old homestead. Find a daffodil off the trail, look around and you’ll likely see signs of the human past: a crumbled rock foundation, a bathtub-size (or larger) depression indicating an old root cellar, stately oaks that once sheltered a homestead.
If you’d rather avoid the uncertainty of stumbling across a daffodil in bloom, we can help, with our GetHiking! Guide to 3 Daffodil Hikes. Each guide includes a detailed route description, map, and information key to executing the hike, starting with how to find the trailhead. Learn more and download a copy here.