Sunday, April 05, 2015

Backpacking in Late March

The world is coming alive now after a long winter's nap. By late March, fire season was officially over in my playbook, so it was time to hit the trail for early spring backpacking. The screech owls have fledged, whinnying all up and down the creekbed, and Eastern phoebes are hawking insects all over warm glade openings before setting up their nests.

I pitched camp early in the day in a wooded bottomland, protected from the fierce south winds and surrounded by blooming spicebush. Just above was a little unmanaged dolomite glade with a few blooming drabas and bird's foot violets, my first of the year. The natural events seem to be on schedule this year, with the songs of Louisiana waterthrush beginning well before the streambank vegetation comes on.

Forested coves are awash in flowers, all taking advantage of the light and longer daylengths, but the fire-mediated dry woodlands and glades also harbor rich floral displays. It's a wonderful time of year when the insects emerge and turkeys gobble. Deep in the valley at my campsite, I didn't hear any traffic noise, just the bare branches of maples rustling together and the early morning bird song. Mourning cloaks were everywhere that warm March day, and really skittish Grapevine Epimenis butterflies were mobbing the scattered flowers in the uplands. Their larvae feed on grapevines, which are abundant in our Ozark woodlands.

Spring is such a fleeting season, the warm rains encouraging an amazing floral display and all the elements of our spectacular natural world renewing itself on its own.

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