As a result of the year's strange weather, annual wildflower walks being led by park rangers in southern West Virginia this weekend are expected to include the unexpected.
The walks, which are scheduled at Babcock, Hawks Nest, and Pipestem Resort state parks and in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, will at least be the warmest in the 14 years the walks have been led, according to Jodi French-Burr, ranger for the National Park Service.
"The weekend is looking good, though bloom-reports from the field are varied with this odd season we're having. Some things are blooming later than usual, while others are earlier than in a typical spring," French-Burr said. "It's crazy stuff, so it will be interesting to see as we get boots on the ground today."
"I'm especially excited about possibility of seeing showy orchis at Grandview. It's already early blooming there and we've never gotten it on our event list before, so we'll see what we see. The weather is supposed to be good, too, though it should be the warmest New River Gorge Wildflower Walk yet."
All programs free, French-Burr reminds participants, who should bring water and wear sturdy hiking shoes for guided walks. Snacks, binoculars, a hand lens, and a favorite field guide are also useful. Participants are also welcomed to visit artists whose work has been inspired by spring in their studios at Tamarack from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
The art of students from Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh, and Summers counties who were inspired by area wildflowers will be on exhibit at Tamarack daily.
Hawks Nest Botany Blast
Friday, April 28 — Hawks Nest Rail Trail parking on Hawks Nest Road (CO 60/2) in Ansted, WV. Bring your favorite nature apps or field guide to discover the flora of Mill Creek. See waterfalls on this easy two-mile walk. Try new ID tools and record your findings. Some field guides will be available. 11:00 am to 1:00 pm
Twin Falls Spring Nature Explosion
Friday, April 28 — Meet at the lobby of Twin Falls Lodge at Twin Falls Resort State Park. Enjoy an afternoon of Earth Day crafts, nature games, and activities for the entire family. 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm
InstaMeet Nature Adventure
Friday, April 28 — Endless Wall Trail’s Fern Creek Trailhead in Lansing, WV. Come together to connect, explore, and celebrate the biodiversity of the New River Gorge and your creativity with your camera. Make friends, take photos, and exchange ideas. All ages, levels of experience, cameras, and smart devices are welcome. Share your photos using #NRGWFW and follow @newriverNPS on Instagram. 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm
Smart Tech Birding at Grandview
Saturday, April 29 — Meet at shelter No. 4 at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in Grandview. Bring your smart device loaded with your favorite bird ID apps and your binoculars to get an early start with our avian neighbors. Have fun with new birdwatching tech tools or use traditional guides. Binoculars will be available. 7:30 am to 8:30 am
Hike Into Spring!
Saturday, April 29 — Meet at shelter No.4 at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in Grandview. Join naturalists on a leisurely 2.5 mile hike from Grandview down to the New River, finding wildflowers and other natural wonders along the way. Be prepared for some steep terrain as we travel down an old dirt road. A free return shuttle will be provided. Reservations requested by April 24; call 304-466-0417 9:00 am to 1:30 p.m.
Falls View Hike
Saturday, April 29 — Meet at the lobby of Twin Falls Lodge at Twin Falls Resort State Park in Mullens. Explore a variety of habitats on this 1¼ mile easy hike on the Falls Trail. 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Old-Growth Science Trek
Saturday, April 29 — Meet at Patterson House at Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park. Hike to Pierson Hollow’s old growth forest to take a close look at this diverse ecosystem. Bring your favorite field guides or smart devices pre-loaded with nature apps to help document as many species as we can, plus keep an eye out for rare or threatened species. Be prepared for an easy one-mile hike with some moderate terrain. 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Spring Birding at Babcock
Sunday, April 30 — Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State Park in Clifftop, WV. Stroll the diverse habitats of Babcock in search of regional beauties, birds. Bring biniculars, your favorite field guides, or smart device pre-loaded with nature apps. Some binoculars will be available. 8:00 am to 9:30 am
Hawks Nest Botany Blast
Sunday, April 30 — Meet at Hawks Nest Rail Trail parking on Hawks Nest Road (CO 60/2) just off US 60 in Ansted, WV. Bring your favorite nature apps or field guide to discover the flora of Mill Creek. See waterfalls on this easy 2 mile walk. Try new ID tools and record your findings. Some field guides will be available. 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Falls & Flowers: the Nature of Brush Creek
Sunday, April 30 — Meet at the Nature Center at Pipestem Resort State Park in Pipestem, WV. Enjoy waterfalls and blooms along Brush Creek on this moderate 3 mile walk. Those who wish can add an extra mile to thier day’s walk by hiking down to the Bluestone River. Meet at Pipestem’s Nature Center to car caravan to the trailhead 20 minutes away. 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Hot ID: Skills with Apps and Guides
Sunday, April 30 — Stone Cliff Trail near Thurmond, WV. Hike two miles along the New River and try your hand at species identification using the hottest flora and fauna ID tools, from new technologies to traditional field guides. Bring your favorite nature ID tools, like field guides or smart device pre-loaded with nature apps. Some tools will be available. Share your favorite nature identification tips and techniques too. 2:30 pm to 5:00 pm
For more information on these programs and others, visiting the official Wildflower Weekend page for the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. For more information call 304-466-0417.