It’s time to emerge from the house you’ve been hiding in and wipe the sleep from your eyes. Stretch, shake out your winter blues, and kiss your cabin fever goodbye. Yes, it’s the long awaited arrival of the spring season, making its 2014 debut on the vernal equinox- March 20th. As life begins to bustle and stir, what better way to explore its new arrival than to do a little ramblin’ outdoors?
Hit the back roads and become an adventurer. Look for pops of color emerging from the fading winter landscape and learn to identify the early signs of spring. A long drive though the countryside might reveal splashes of yellow from blooming forsythia bushes and daffodils, deep purples and hues of blue in crocuses and tiny wild violets, and a rainbow of colors from cultivated tulips and hyacinths lining old farm houses and fence lines. You can even make a scavenger hunt checklist or bingo board along the way and include many of the other early spring indicators- vibrant red buds, wild phlox, bluets, coltsfoot, and the heat producing skunk cabbage, which helps to melt and thaw the icy ground to make way for healthy growing.
If sightseeing isn’t quite enough and the bear inside you has a hankering to dig and root around after hibernating all winter, then head to the woods and pay homage to the king of stink- the ramp. Loved and loathed, this pungent plant makes its first appearance in early spring and has become a popular icon of Appalachian culture, with countless dinners and festivals held each year in its honor. March may be a little too early for harvesting these garlicky goodies, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get out and look for the plant in its youth, just sprouting from the ground or scout for good areas where it might grow. You can always return in April to gather your smelly treasures; just be sure to pick them in a conscious and conserving manner so that they can grow and thrive next spring and for years to come. Another food you can forage and feast upon is the morel mushroom, which is usually ready for gathering in early April. This pitted, honeycomb-like edible is a great starter for learning about the diverse culture of fungi in West Virginia and it’s also a great excuse to spend the start of spring scouring the great outdoors.
*Please be sure to thoroughly research or consult an expert before consuming any unfamiliar foraged plants of fungi.
For those of you yearning for some fresh air or looking to lose that extra notch in your belt that you had to create over the winter season, be sure to check out all of the great trails that the Greenbrier Valley has to offer. Hike to the top of the Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory in Monroe County or bike the Greenbrier River Trail, which stretches over 75 miles along the scenic Greenbrier River. Head to Pocahontas County to stroll along the boardwalk in the Cranberry Glades botanical area or traverse the trail to the Falls of Hills Creek to see stunning views of the three sets of waterfalls. Get in contact with a local watershed organization, such as Friends of the Lower Greenbrier River in Alderson, and ask about volunteering for an upcoming river clean up so that you can help the environment while getting in your exercise and getting to bask in the spring sunshine.
No matter which way you chose to celebrate the oncoming of spring, always take time to remember that it is a season of renewal and rejuvenation. You can even make use of the rainy days by getting a start on your spring cleaning so that you can sweep out the lingering bad luck and unwanted vibes from the previous year and make way for a fresh new beginning. Take advantage of every opportunity this year and enjoy the abounding seasonal beauty that our area has to offer. Most importantly, keep your eyes open to spring’s subtle cues that remind you to open yourself up to new experiences and to always make room to let in the light. Ramble on!
– Jennifer Sprouse, LBSPY #51 (March 10-April 7, 2014)