Spring Break Wildflower Pilgrimage
Spring is an absolutely glorious time in the Great Smoky Mountains. Make the very most of it this year by attending the 68th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage April 24-28. Take guided tours and hikes led by wildflower experts and sit in on fascinating lectures about the beautiful splash of color and form that is the flowering world up here where the air is clean. What’s more, you can take part in an array of adventures touching on nearly every aspect of the natural world in this diverse park.
Headquartered at the Mills Conference Center in Gatlinburg, the Pilgrimage will feature 165 programs geared to whet your appetite for nature’s glory this spring in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. All of these programs will proceed rain or shine, so there’s no chance you will miss gathering with other nature lovers and learning more about this magical time in the Smokies.
Excursions range from a short, easy walk along the Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, where you’ll enjoy the cool, healing recesses of an old-growth forest while spotting ample displays of wildflowers like fringed phacelia and dwarf ginseng to a strenuous, higher elevation walk with naturalist Doris Gove in the Chimney Tops area where she will discuss the effects of the famous, recent wildfire that originated there and lead you through an unburned area where the beauty of the wildflowers emerge as a shining beacon of nature’s resilience. There are walks and hikes to fit every interest and fitness level, including, among others, a search for butterflies in Cades Cove and an aquatic insect diversity walk beside the sparkling streams of the Smokies. Some walks touch on the park’s rich history, such as that along the Huskey Gap Trail which features old homesites or the exploration led by a Great Smoky Mountains National Park ranger through the Fighting Creek and Forks of the River Communities. There will also be night excursions to search for the bats and owls of the Smokies!
Birding is an art form in the Smokies, where the diversity of species is legendary. There will be priceless opportunities to learn from the experts at this year’s Pilgrimage. Naturalist and birder Jay Sturner will lead a group from Sugarlands to Newfound Gap in search of our spring feathered guests and Appalachian specialties. Both Jay and, at a separate time, photographer and wildlife biologist Liz Domingue will open your eyes to the world of Scarlet Tanagers, American Goldfinch and other beautiful species to be found in the trees of the Schoolhouse Gap Trail. These are just a sampling of the birding opportunities offered.
Well-known Smokies photographer Barry Spruce will offer instruction in bird photography. He has achieved tremendous success at capturing the birds of these mountains, and will share insight and technical tips with pilgrims in what will be an information-packed session well worth attending!
If this small sampling of the amazingly diverse programs to be offered during the 68th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage spurred your appetite for fun, please go to www.wildflowerpilgrimage.org to register now! You’ll find detailed program information as well as all logistical details, such as fees, parking and program start times. What are you waiting for? Hikes and walks fill quickly, so sign up today! If you decide to attend at the last minute, no worries! You can register at the event itself. Come on up during the absolute heart of the spring wildflower season and make some lasting memories!