Wildflower season returns to the Deam Wilderness, Hayes Trail
I’d already fulfilled half my mission by the time I contemplated another 250-foot Hayes Trail ascent in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness last Monday afternoon.
Evidence that spring wildflower season had arrived in the Hoosier National Forest – a smattering of emergent cutleaf toothworts not far from the trailhead – had already been digitally captured. Deep in the valley, some delicate, youthful spring beauties – in full bloom – had presented themselves, in full sun.
Aside from wildflower hunting, Monday’s mission included much-needed exercise. That, plus a too-powerful-to-be-ignored intuition that a reward awaited atop the north-facing slope’s switchback trail, led me to the afternoon’s photo find – a sturdy bloodroot, once again in full bloom, basking in direct sun, at the base of a massive Hoosier hardwood.
“Bloodroot is a signature plant of early spring wildflower blooming season,” Indiana State Botanist and Plant Ecologist Michael A. Homoya says in Wildflowers and Ferns of Indiana Forests. Spring beauty is “perhaps the most familiar wildflower in the forest.” Cutleaf toothwort is “a major player in the spring flush of early woodland wildflowers.”
Other spring wildflowers I've photographed there include hepatica, dogtooth violet, Dutchman's breeches, common blue violet and star chickweed.
An unofficial mission was what has become a tradition -- (June 2015, April 2016 and now March 2017) -- a spring excursion to the Deam and the 2.5-mile Hayes Trail, probably my favorite Hoosier footpath, for a number of reasons.
Hayes is the closest Deam Wilderness access point from Bloomington, which makes it ideal for afternoon jaunts through the woods.
The trail is also the cleanest. I’ve never seen evidence of horses or overuse, at least on the 1.5 miles or so that I’ve traversed so far.
And it’s wonderful exercise, descending into the valley from the trailhead, climbing another 250-foot ridge that parallels and drops back to the creek, before ascending to what I will now think of as Bloodroot Ridge.
From there Hayes sinks back to the valley, where it connects with the 11-mile Grubb Ridge loop trail’s northwestern stretch and crosses the Saddle Creek into some of the Deam’s most rugged and remote areas.
There aren’t many places in the Deam I haven’t explored, but this part of the Grubb Ridge Trail is among them.
Next Monday, perhaps.
Photographs: Charles C. Deam Wilderness, Hoosier National Forest, Hayes Trail: Top, bloodroot; Center, cutleaf toothwort; Bottom, spring beauty