April 11, 2014

On The Rebound: Looking for what I had lost

By Mitch Howard
Sports Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — I thought I had lost her.

It might not seem like a big deal, but she had been with me a long time. She’s a little on the thin side and showing some age. I tried not to think about it as I hiked the East Narrows Trail at Bee Rock, but everything seemed to remind me. Somewhere on this trail I had laid down my walking stick and now she was gone.

The first person I saw when I exited the trail asked the obvious question. How could you lose a walking stick? It’s easy when you are stopping every few yards to take pictures.

I’m not really a flower walker, but there were so many wildflowers on this damp spring trail I couldn’t resist.

I saw many sharp-lobed hepatica, yellow trout lily, blood root, and trillium. There was a flower so blue it looked like it had been painted with watercolors. The way I usually identify a flower is to look at the little plastic tag when I buy it. I did have a good source for identification once I got home with the pictures.

A house is really just a place to sleep and keep your books. I was pretty sure there were some wildflower guides on my bookshelf. Turns out I had a copy of Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky signed by authors Thomas G. Barnes and S. Wilson Francis. I met the authors at an event at the Laurel County Public Library. I always knew I would need it someday.

I had no idea there are more than 45 types of ferns in Kentucky.  Nothing in my guide matched the blue flowers, although it most resembled a wild geranium. There were actually some flowers pressed between the pages I had forgotten.

The most amazing sight of the day was while making the turn from the Rockcastle River to the mouth of Cane Creek. The water flowed an emerald green and it was stunning.

There were signs of beaver’s living nearby, but no live beavers. The only wildlife I spotted were an amazing number of waterfowl and woodpeckers. There were a dozen squirrels and one fat groundhog. And of course I saw turkeys because I was not hunting turkey. There was one gobbler singing his lungs out at 2 p.m.

As I left the trail, a group of about six people were at the trailhead. They asked if I had seen a brown wallet. I said no, but I lost a walking stick. Turns out they had found her and put her in the back of the truck. They still seemed puzzled that someone could lose a walking stick, but I could describe her down to every scratch and scar. I explained that it might just seem like a stick, but she had been to the top of Mt. LeConte and down a dozen other trails with me. I’ll try not to let her slip away again.