Triad Park: Spring is Setting (Here Comes Summer)

The Triad Park Woods. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Every year, one of the best treats nature gives us is the sprouting of the vegetation that has been dormant all Winter. At first, it creeps up, coming out like a sluggish student out of bed at 8:30 AM. But once it gets some “coffee” in it, it flourishes with life and purpose. Well, I think the trees have had their coffee. What started as a slow crawl has become a canter. When this begins to happen, I reflect on everything that I love about the park. I’ve been going there since I was a kid, and soon I will be a senior at Guilford College. Time is a weird phenomenon. But as the woods convey, time is nothing but a cycle; it pushes things along until they reach their end, and then new life appears and the process starts again (hey, I’m not being pessimistic here–it’s actually quite beautiful!). As I contemplate all of the memories that are within the gates of the park, a few human-animals come to mind, one of which is among my favorites.

An “Alee.” One of a kind. (photo by Ben Clark)

The animal pictured above is sometimes referred to as an “Alee.” However, after hours of contemplation, I came to the conclusion that she is a human female. Humans, also referred to as Homo sapiens by science, are actually (the only) members of the subtribe Hominina. We are unfortunately an invasive species. Humans tend to take everything for themselves and only give to things outside of their human-realm if it is convenient for them to do so. Alee must be a mutation though, because she is actually pretty awesome. We seem to be compatable, as she has not left my side since I was 12.

Wildflowers around Triad Park. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Wildflowers are the second factor that keeps me coming to the park, other than the park’s variety of trees. The ones pictured above makes everything around them glow purple; it was truly a magical moment. Whether its common blue violets or dogwood trees, Triad Park is rich in floral. Once Autumn arrives, the normally green leaves transition to different colors, making leaves almost appear like flowers in the treetops.

Fall colors. (Photo by Ben Clark)
A rough green snake enjoying the fall festivities. (Photo by Ben Clark)

The Autumn colors seem to bring out life, much like Spring; for example, I encountered a rough green snake while hiking last October. The colors were peaking, and the snakes were peeking before hunkering down for the chill of Winter. Every season brings its own magic to the forest; Summer brings intense yellow and the Wood thrush, among other awesome migratory birds. Fall paints the forest in oranges, reds, and yellows. Winter chills the air and erases the harsh humidity of the Summer, and sometimes lays a white blanket of snow over the trail. The snow melts in Spring and the green comes back out to play, along with many human and non-human animals.

Triad Park: So. Much. Sneezing.

Well, it’s Spring. You know what that means, right? Leafy trees? Sunshine? Nope. Sneezes. So much sneezing. Normally I am enamored with the park even more during the warmer months, but specifically during the month of April, the pollen gets to me. As I am sure that it’s affecting my fellow Guilfordians, it sure is affecting the attendance at the park. What is commonly a semi-full parking lot has been reduced to my car and a few stragglers. We’re the touch bunch, I guess. That’s what a lady that I normally see walking on the trail said to me yesterday; “We’re the diehards.”

Granted, yesterday, there was a tornado watch in effect and the air reeked with uncertainty, but I took what she said to heart. While many other hikers on the trail would shy away during the “yellow months” (and during tornado watches), that woman and I hike on. Luckily yesterday it was sunny enough outside to capture just how much pollen is in the air. I could feel it in my throat, and this time I could actually see it in the air, like a foreign cloud.

Can you see the pollen cloud? It’s the hazy stuff among the green of the trees. (Photo by Ben Clark)

One of the trees on the trail that I saw the most pollen drift from is the tulip poplar. These trees, also referred to as Liriodendron tulipifera by science, are one of the more common trees around the hiking trail. What gives their identity away are the tulip-like flowers that grow among the leaves. I have some around my house, so it’s easy to identify the species everywhere else that I encounter them. A fun fact about tulip poplars is that they are the tallest eastern hardwood. Additionally, they are also referred to as “tulip trees.” While tulip poplars are pleasing to the eye, the pollen that they disperse messes up my whole sinus thing. Not a fun experience to undergo (as you know).

Common blue violets. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Every time that you hike on the Triad Park trail, you pass the creek in close proximity. While I was on the trail yesterday, I noticed a patch of common blue violets (also known as “wild violets” or Viola sororia). In all my times hiking on the trail, I have never come upon these flowers, especially around the creek. When I found a patch of them (as seen in the photo above), I could not resist capturing a photo of them. These flowers are a reminder about all the different walks of life that rely on the water of the creek in order to thrive. Water really is a precious gift. One cool thing about water is it flushes pollen out of your system, and at least in my case, relieves the grainy sensation that pollen makes my throat experience. Thank you, water.

The creek at Triad Park. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Another cool thing about the forest of Triad Park is that it is littered with wild dogwood trees. These trees, also referred to as Cornus florida, have beautiful white flowers that bloom in the springtime. If you hike on the trail, you will be able to spot a good number of them in the surrounding wilderness. I have a few of them around my home, so as is commonly the case with other familiar trees, it’s a nice treat to catch them in the wild.

Triad Park: Through the Seasons

Triad Park, as I have stated numerously before, is beautiful any time of the year. It is interesting to go into my archive of photos and compare images from the same part of the trail taken at different times of the year. Through analyzing these photos, the many transformations that a forest goes through during a one year cycle become apparent. From the browning of green in autumn to the brightening of the plants in the spring, there is never a boring moment on the trail.

Triad Park in early spring. (Photo by Ben Clark)

The photo above was taken today during my daily run on the trail. It happens in an instant; the trees go from bare to lush in what feels like no time at all. What’s fascinating about Triad Park in April is how the leaves on trees and the grass on the ground seem to be creeping out of hiding, starting in patches but fanning out into what we see during the summer months. Once everything is fully grown, the forest is like an entirely new entity when compared to photos of it during the winter.

Wildflowers outside of the trail. (Photo by Ben Clark)

Another thing I love about Triad Park is how there are wonderful natural sights to see outside of the main hiking trail. For example, directly outside of the trailhead are patches of “johnny jump up,” also known as Viola tricolor or wild pansies. These pleasant-looking wildflowers also tend to grow in the yard outside of my house, so seeing them around the trail at the park are all the more special. These flowers usually spring up from March to mid-April. Whenever I see them in the grass, I know that spring has arrived.

Ice on the trail during a cold winter morning. (Photo by Ben Clark)

While wildflowers and sprouting vegetation are always pleasant to see, winter is nevertheless an awesome time to go hiking in the Triad Park woods. Evergreen trees such as the loblolly pine still add pigment to the forest, and if you time it right, you can see some icy creations such as the one in the photo above. It is also important to note that the crunching sound that occurs from walking on the icy soil is very, very satisfying.

Icy soil. (Photo by Ben Clark)

These things serve as a reminder that winter is *not* a time to avoid frolicking in the natural world. While, yes, the temperatures can sometimes be quite frigid, I still prefer cool and crisp weather to the hot and humid climate that is so common during August here in North Carolina. Plus, without the freezing temperatures, I could not have captured cool icy photos. Winter also is a good time to appreciate the beautiful imagery that the warmer months provide.

The Triad Park woods in June. (photo by Ben Clark)

The photo above is a big contrast to the more bleak-looking photos of the Triad Park forest during winter. In June, the woods are like a luscious wall of green. If the color green makes you nauseous, you’d probably throw up. It is such a sensory overload that one lap on the trail is a great way to become mindful. When in the midst of such a sea of green, it is easy to forget one’s own worries and float away on the sights of the forest.