Winged Deer Park
- 2.13 miles
- 1:39 duration
- 338 elevation gain
- 66° F and partly cloudy
- 4 geocaches found
This week I have been enjoying a visit from my friend Jana who lives in the Czech Republic. She is a pastor in Prague and is the mission coordinator for the United Methodist Churches in the Czech Republic. The United Methodist district that I work for – formerly the Johnson City District and now Three Rivers District – has participated in an In Mission Together partnership with the Czech District for 13 years. I have known and worked with Jana that long.
After several days of inactivity sitting in meetings and such, we were ready to get outside and stretch our legs. I had been seeing photos on Facebook of the bluebells at Winged Deer Park and decided to go there.
We arrived at the park at 3:15 in the afternoon. The sky had many clouds, but as Jana pointed out they were quite high and orderly so did not threaten rain. I told her I would carry my rain jacket with me so to insure that the rain would stay away.
Before visiting the park I had looked at the geocaching map. Because I ALWAYS look at the geocaching map when I visit some place different. I had logged an EarthCache and traditional here in January 2014 but there were four more caches in these woods that I had not yet found. I decided to look for the two that were near the bluebells if Jana was agreeable.
The route to the bluebells is along a wide, paved path. I immediately began seeing a variety of wildflowers along the path and kept stopping to take photos. I worried that Jana might grow impatient until I noticed that she was also taking many photos.
The first geocache was very near parking, and Jana was happy to go with me to find it. She is not an official geocacher, but has accompanied me and our Czech friends Ondra and Kuba on many geocaching excursions in the past. We left the paved path and followed a bike trail uphill toward the cache, stopping along the way to take many more photos.
The cache was a short distance off-trail. I had to step very carefully to avoid trampling the beautiful little wildflowers that carpeted the forest floor. I spotted the cache from several feet away as it had not been covered well by the previous finder. I signed the log, placed the cache back in its hole, and then covered it with a piece of bark. I then tiptoed back toward the trail and we followed it back down to the paved path.
Along it we saw our first, lonely bluebell and Jana stopped to take a photo of it. We then began to see more and more until we topped a hill and saw the forest floor covered with bluebells.
They were beautiful. Photos cannot adequately convey the vibrant blues and greens that we saw everywhere we looked. A woman stood on the trail watching her husband and young daughter who had gone into the middle of one huge patch of bluebells. He was taking photos of the daughter as she kept changing poses like a supermodel. She told us this had become an annual tradition for their family and I remarked that they must have some beautiful photos showing how she has grown up over the years.
I found a spot to go off-trail so that I could try to capture as much of the scene as possible, and found more wildflowers along the way that I had not yet seen and photographed.
Back on the path, we continued to another bike trail called Bluebell Loop. We followed it through the bluebells and I was overwhelmed with the profusion of color all around me.
When I came back to earth, I remembered that there was another geocache nearby to find. I checked my phone and saw that this trail seemed to lead us in that direction.
I began walking toward the cache. I had noticed on the topographical map that it appeared to be at the top of a hill. It was indeed a bit of a climb up to the cache location, but it was a beautiful route. I walked up the trail with a goofy grin on my face and my head on a swivel as I was continuously scanning the forest floor to see all of the various wildflowers. They were everywhere!
As I neared the top of the hill I spotted the geocache from the trail. This was a nice, metal ammo can. It was hidden in the midst of a pile of limbs and other forest debris, but was plainly visible.
After I had logged the cache I stood at the top of the hill and enjoyed the 360° views. Jana pointed out a house atop a nearby hillside and remarked that they must have a beautiful view, but that it would be difficult to drive up the steep driveway in snow.
I used my PeakFinder app to orient myself to what mountain peaks we were seeing. If you enjoying hiking in the mountains, this is a fun app to use. And since I’m speaking of apps, another that I recommend is Tennessee Wildflowers which helps you to identify wildflowers while you are out in the woods. Both apps can be used off-line when you do not have cellular service and have proved to be very useful.
We returned the way we had come, once again walking through the patch of bluebells. When we were back on the paved path, Jana asked if there were more caches in the park. I told her there were two more that I had not found, but that they were on the other side of the woods. However, when I looked at the app, they were not very far and we had plenty of time, so we decided to search for them as well.
We followed the paved path for a little while, and then saw a bike path leading in the direction of the next cache. We followed it for a little while, but it eventually began to go away from the cache. We left the trail and went uphill through the trees. The path had curved back and we found ourselves on it again. My phone showed that the cache was very close, so we began looking for a “scarred” tree as described in the hint. Jana found the tree which several people had carved their names and initials on. I found the cache behind it. The log sheet inside was damp, but I was able to sign it with my gel pen.
We then hiked on to the next cache. It was along the same trail a short distance away. When I found this cache, the container was full of water and the log sheet inside was much too wet to sign. I took a photo of the container and the soaked log sheet to post in my “Found It” log as evidence that I had indeed found it.
Because we still had plenty of time after finding all of the caches, we took the long way back to parking, looping around on the paved path. There were plenty of other people in the park on this beautiful day. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the nice weather.
Earlier we had seen a plant that had tiny buds on it but was not yet blooming. The stem and buds were all a very deep purple and I wondered what it would turn out to be.
We finally saw one of these that had started blooming, and boy was it a surprise!
Our route took us back past the bluebells and I enjoyed seeing them again. The only thing that marred my visit to this park was the sight of a young child that had pulled a bluebell plant out of the ground and was carrying it. The child’s mother did not dissuade him, and even said that she would plant it when they got home. I man passing told them that this was not the right thing to do, but she ignored him. It made me angry that she did not respect the park, and was teaching her child such disrespect.
This was only a short walk, but a very enjoyable one. I was amazed at the variety of flowers I saw here. I believe I will be returning to this park often in spring to enjoy the beautiful flowers.