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Trails & Trilliums 2024 with Friends of South Cumberland

In late April, I attended the 20th Annual Trails & Trilliums Naturalist Rally hosted by the Friends of South Cumberland State Parks. This rally, held at the Beersheba Springs Assembly retreat center, was like a weekend summer camp for adults.

The schedule was packed with hikes, workshops, and presentations. Because I’m a fair weather hiker and the weekend was drizzly, cold, and foggy, I didn’t participate in any hikes and focused on the presentations and workshops. But this didn’t simplify things; I still couldn’t make it to all of the sessions I wanted to attend. A good problem to have!

I learned about wilderness first aid, the battle against the hemlock woolly adelgid that's attacking our hemlock trees, and birding in the South Cumberland region. The birding session inspired me to try birdwatching again with a bird feeder at home; my last attempt was ruined by a particularly ambitious and clever squirrel. The session was taught by Angus Pritchard, a coauthor of the book Birding Sewanee: A Guide to Birding in the South Cumberland Region.

I also attended a nature photography class taught by photographer Robin Conover. If you read The Tennessee Magazine, you’ll be familiar with her photos. I learned so much in her class, and she taught us how to get the most out of our phone cameras. 

A group of people stand and crouch around a group of mauve irises next to a white building and photograph the flowers in Tennessee.
Our class photographs irises.

Conover taught us about the portrait setting on our phones which blurs a photo’s background. I took this photo using this setting: 

Two purple and white irises are in the foreground and a blurry long white building and a couple trees are in the background of the photo in Tennessee.

As a class, we went to the nearby Lover’s Leap to practice what we learned (with permission from the landowner.) We had a stunning view.

A group of people stand on a rocky outcropping covered in lichen overlooking forested hills in Tennessee.
The class practices their photography skills at Lover's Leap.

We also saw pink lady’s slipper orchids and dwarf crested irises. I’d never seen either so that was really exciting. 

On Saturday night, there was a celebration in honor of Tennessee State Naturalist Randy Hedgepath’s retirement:

People sit in wooden pews in a barn with streamers and strings of lights overhead and a band in front of the crowd in Tennessee.

I saw this neat old fire truck on my way to the celebration:

A red and white fire truck with "Beersheba Springs Fire Dept" in white lettering on the door in a wooden garage in Tennessee.

I also attended a lecture by Tennessee author Patrick Dean about his newest book, Nature’s Messenger: Mark Catesby and His Adventures In A New World. I got that book and another of Dean’s, A Window to Heaven: The Daring First Ascent of Denali: America’s Wildest Peak. He signed them for me.

I also bought South Cumberland State Park And Its Friends: A History by Latham Davis and got to meet him, and I attended a presentation by Mary Patten Priestley on the book she edited, The Essential Mack Prichard: Writings of a Conservation Hero. I couldn’t help myself; I bought Priestley’s book too. Davis and Priestley also signed their books for me. Having all of these authors in one place was such a neat opportunity!

If you’re ever visiting the Beersheba Springs Assembly, make sure you visit their gift shop. A couple of the Assembly’s employees sell their art in the shop. I got a beautiful stained glass butterfly and this gorgeous painting of Tennessee’s state cultivated flower, the iris:

A painting of a purple iris on white paper with cream backing

Keep an eye out for details about next year’s Trails & Trilliums rally. Maybe I’ll see you out there!



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