Posthumous Journal Notes of Barbara Wickersham
edited by Doris Gove
November 19, 1999
Photo Credit: Kemp Davis
Barbara Wickersham, club member in the 80s, died in 1995. She sent me hiking notes she wrote in 1993 to give me flower lists and other useful trail information when I was writing Smokies trail narratives. I have taken the liberty to select and edit (very slightly) portions of her notes. Doris Gove
June 25, 1993 Andrews Bald
On the bald, we saw chestnut-sided warblers, juncos, cedar waxwings, and heard the teasing "twink" of the towhee, the beautiful sound of the winter wren, and the solitary vireo. On the way back, the sky was heavily overcast and we expected to be deluged any minute, but we got only a slight huckleberry shower, as Herb called it. If you have ever picked huckleberries on a dew-ridden early morning, you know what he meant. The threatening skies, however, were probably responsible for the thrill of the day: the unusual song of the veery. The veery normally sings a bit early in the morning but most often at dusk. I have heard it on that very trail hiking back into the beautiful afterglow of a sunset... Perhaps it was Herb's huckleberry shower, the cloudy skies, or the fog that huddled the distant mountain peaks. Whatever, the spiraling cascade of this secretive little thrush stopped us in our tracks.
July 2, 1993 Maddron Bald Trail
A special treat we saw several times on old logs was the shelf-like fungus that looks like it was cast in plastic and then heavily lacquered, with the impossible name of Ganoderma tsugae (no common name). Thought at first that Frank might have bought it at K-Mart. The star of the day, however, was a huge buff-colored fungus about 18 inches wide which grew at the base of a chestnut oak. Looking somewhat like a disjointed birdbath, it had several overlapping layers of thick, fleshy growth projecting from the tree, one above the other, all quite large. This one appears to have a name to match a size: Steccherinum septentrionale, definitely not available at K-Mart.
July 9, 1993 Mouse Creek Falls
On the way up to the falls, Midnight Hole had reflected the sky, fire-opal blue. Children played there; screams of laughter fled the forest. On the return, only the children had fled. Rain spattered the water, now turned a lovely mellow green to match the welcome cloudy skies. Lightning checked its reflection in the pool as we settled in any nook or cranny to lunch. Herb squirreled away under a rock overhang on which a two-foot tall rhodo seemed to be growing proudly rooted to nothing. Everyone seemed quieter than usual as if the rain required a bit of respite and reflection. It felt good.
August 6, 1993 Lynn Camp Prong
A good day for a hike. The sweltering heat of July has surrendered its hold. Rain-freshened plants along the dark morning trail are a richly robust green. Tiny blossoms of white avens ask for attention among the false nettle and hopseed, and cranefly orchids stand serene, sublimely invisible in the shadows, not requiring attention at all. Rattlesnake plantain is a welcome thrust of color on the trailside, sometimes in friendly community gatherings. Walking a mountain trail is like experiencing different cultures, different nationalities. We find monkey flower in one area only, flourishing as if it owns the land; a few hundred yards up the trail the tall blue bellflower has staked its claim but is not to be found elsewhere. Cardinal flower has its own territory and tolerates only slight invasion from Joe Pye weed and white wood aster. Bee balm occupies a world all its own. These are private enterprises, publicly owned, with doll's eyes acting as woods inspectors, sometimes grouped like an audience at a tennis match, their heads waving from side to side. Once in a great while the weather forecasters are right. We chalk one up for them this Friday. The rain begins shortly after lunch and tries to make up for a dry morning. We are not just wet, not just soaked, we are saturated. Anyone who has a dry stitch left at the end of the hike is somehow cheating. One smart person has brought a change of clothes. As we all know, it's maddening to be smart.