Photo: Gary and Jack

Wildflowers on the 2002 MMT Course

by Gary Knipling

(To see pictures of many of these flowers, visit John Coiner's Blue Ridge Flowers site)

Photo: Lady SlippersThe MMT experience is not just from 5:00 Saturday morning until late Sunday afternoon. It starts as soon as cars start rolling into the Skyline Resort parking lot carrying runners from all over the Country. After the briefing and dinner Friday evening Frank, Stan, Marge, and I were trying to absorb as much Nature as we could by viewing the western sky. Because of spotty cloud cover, we were only able to see three of the five planets that were there. Who of us will see all five planets when they are aligned again in 2040?? Frank pointed out some Black Locust tree blooms across the finishing field and I made a mental note to be sure to document them on Sunday afternoon, assuming a finish . . . I forgot! While running along the paved road section in the dark Saturday morning I was saddened to hear only two whippoorwills in that 2.4 mile section. Even in the past several years, it had been a continuous serenade where one stopped singing another took over. Where have they gone?

Photo: The Happy CoupleOverall, I saw fewer numbers and species of wildflowers this year along the MMT course. The most concentrated area for flowers that I saw was just past the Visitor's Center along the path called the Wildflower Trail - imagine that! I was looking for John Dodd's favorite flower, the Bastard Toadflax, near Jack's Notch between Habron and Roosevelt but the only beauty there was a spontaneous embrace by America's trail running couple: Steve & Deb.

At Roosevelt, the aid station was completely stocked including "proof" on the table. By previous arrangements, I had told Peyton that if a certain libation/nourishment was there that I would take a "hit". It was there! I was joined by at least one other runner, an unlikely one at that, to take the "octane jolt." I wonder if she discussed her early run hydration with Dr. Horton? Word of the antics at Roosevelt must have moved along the trail faster than the runners because I was welcomed as an easy target at the next aid station. I am still grateful to Michele, Tom, and Russ for saving me from the wrath of the Tequila Monster at Gap Creek - both times.

For fear of imposing upon the literary domain of the John's (Prohira and Dodds), I will get back to an area I can more easily bluff my way through: wildflowers. And with the built-in backdoor statement of "as far as I can remember," the list of wildflowers I saw on the MMT course in 2002:

Wild Azalea--Photo by Dee Allen

-- Wild Azalea (white/pink), you all saw and smelled them mostly on the high ridges, the official flower of the MMT
-- Bluets (blue/lavender), common , grow just 3--4" off the ground
-- Star Grass (yellow), common, they especially looked beautiful as they welcomed the runners to daylight Sunday morning
-- Violets (many shades of blue to yellow wnd white), common
-- Blackberry (white), common down low along the roads
-- Pussytoes (white), common , small white cottonballs at the end of arching stems 6--8" long
-- Dandelion (yellow), even they are pretty when isolated and not in a lawn
-- Rattlesnake Weed (yellow), fairly common
-- Field Mustard (yellow), common down low
-- Mountain Laurel (white to pink), barely starting to bloom, Habron Gap, Gap Creek
-- Deerberry (white), Habron Gap, Bird Knob
-- Beardtongue (purple), Buzzard's Rock, Rt 613
Photo: Star Grass-- Bowman's Root (white), Buzzard's Rock
-- Buttercup (yellow), Rt 613
-- Moss Phlox (lavender), Buzzard's Rock, Bird Knob, Bear Wallow Tr - John's book is right, it does have 5 petals shaped like a propeller
-- Pink Lady's Slipper (pink), Milford Gap, Visitor's Ctr, Bird Knob
-- Wild Geranium (blue), Duncan Hollow, Powell's Fort
-- Garlic Mustard (white), Rt 684, FDR 274
-- May Apple (white), Scothorn Gap, Rt 613
-- Speedwell (lavender), Kern's Mt
-- Lyre-leaved Sage (blue), Rt 684
-- Dwarf Iris (blue/yellow), Bird Knob
-- Squawroot (yellow/brown), Duncan Hollow, Kern's Mt
-- Vetch (blue), several species down low along roads
-- Multiflora Rose (white), Rt 613, Rt 684, a bad plant that likes to take over
-- Wild Comfrey (white), just a single plant seen near Jack's Notch
-- Daisy Fleabane (lavender rays with yellow center), Rt 613
-- Golden Ragwort (yellow), Rt 684
-- Sundial Lupine (purple), FDR 274, growth had spread some from last year's first sighting
-- Spiderwort (purple), Shawl Gap, seen on Sunday morning only

Mountain Laurel, photo by Dee Allen

Two special notes of interest were the Sundial Lupine blooming beautifully among the charred ground from a localized forest fire this past winter near the road from Kern's Mt to the Visitor's Center and the single Spiderwort plant in Shawl Gap that I saw Sunday morning but was not there Saturday morning. This was also observed and confirmed by Sue Donnelly.

Each MMT is different for the runners, crews, and pacers. But one constant for the MMT is the tremendous effort and support provided by Ed Demoney and his many helpers and volunteers. Anstr is already counting the days until MMT 2003 on the homepage.

Happy trails,
Gary (# 59)

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