CRYSTAL COCKMAN COLUMN: A spring hike at Morrow Mountain State Park

Published 8:37 am Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Recently, a friend and myself went for a morning hike at Morrow Mountain State Park.

We did the Fall Mountain Trail, a loop trail of approximately 4 miles in length, that starts down near the boat landing on Tillery. It was a bit chilly and windy when we started, but the sun was shining and we warmed up fast as soon as we started moving.

Crystal Cockman writes a column for The SNAP through the Three Rivers Land Trust.

I love this time of year when the leaves are just emerging on the trees and they are lots of lovely shades of light green. The climb up to the top of the mountain is a little strenuous, with some wooden steps and some loose rock, but the view from on top is stunning. You can see the distant Uwharrie Mountains and Lake Tillery in front of them. There are lots of rocky outcrops and open areas that provide great landscape views.

We saw a lot of beautiful spring wildflowers on this hike, including two very nice patches of painted buckeye – one near the start of the hike and one near the end. Painted buckeye is a deciduous shrub found in rich bottomland forests. They are native to the southeastern United States. They have panicles of yellowish-green flowers, and each leaf has five short-stemmed leaflets.

A friend of mine gifted me one from his property last year which I planted in my yard, and I was pleased to see it come back this spring. It will probably be a few more years before it is big enough to produce blooms.

Another wildflower we spotted on our hike was Carolina silverbell, a tree with dainty white, bell-shaped flowers that blooms in early spring in the mountains and Piedmont of North Carolina. They prefer rich, well-drained, moist soil, and are an understory tree that does best in some shade. It is found from West Virginia to Florida to eastern Oklahoma.

We came across a beautiful large wild pinxter azalea, near the end of the hike along the shoreline of Lake Tillery on the banks of a small creek. This is a beautiful pink wild azalea with a very showy bloom, that is also a deciduous shrub preferring moist soil and some shade. A friend had also sent me pictures from earlier in the week of some dwarf crested iris, a beautiful purple flower that blooms this time of year, but I didn’t see any on my trek.

Spring is undoubtedly my favorite time of year, and our beautiful native wildflowers are no small part of the reason for that. I look forward to seeing what else may be blooming the next hike I venture out on.

You can even hike the same trail over and over again and see new things emerging during springtime in North Carolina.

Crystal Cockman is associate director of Three Rivers Land Trust.