I said I never would. Revisit the park.
It was the site of our Chapter’s biggest plant rescue to date and occurred nearly 8 years ago. And, the site was a special one. Home to the only publicly owned Bigleaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) population in Gaston County, as far as I knew. And, so much more. Ancient Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia), Silverbells (Halesia tetraptera), Galax (Galax urceolata) – mountain plants! Catesby’s Trillium (Trillium catesbaei), Pinxter Azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides). I could go on and on. It was a heartbreaker. The fact that this was occurring in my home county made it all the more personal. Flooding this beautiful land for a fishing lake (and, it’s not like Gaston County didn’t have plenty of those already). Very hard to imagine a good outcome here. So, we came in with the Park’s blessing and assistance and took what we could. Left some plants to be replanted at the Park. And, tried not to look back. Until a couple of weeks ago when I saw some pictures posted on Facebook from there. Bigleaf Magnolia. Mountain Laurel. Even, Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) which I’d never even seen there. Hmmm…
So, on this Mother’s Day – with neither a mother nor any offspring on the horizon – I thought I might go and take a peak. I even talked my husband into accompanying me. And, what we found was almost glorious. We started with a completely new trail, across the road from the original rescue site. We didn’t get far before baby Bigleafs began to pop up here and there. And, at the head of an unfinished trail down to the (Southfork) river, Black Cohosh. Beginning to bloom!
And, at the bottom, no Goatsbeard (I never did find it) but Leucothoe, great swaths of Christmas Fern, Spicebush. Lush biodiversity! And, on the way back up the paved trail, a blooming Bigleaf Magnolia! Lots of babies, too.
Encouraged, we made our way over to the dreaded lake site. And, surprise! By and large, it was very well done. The lakeside wasn’t turfed to within an inch of its life but vegetated. Mostly. With many of the same plants that we’d rescued all those years ago. I’ve never seen so many Christmas Ferns growing on an open bank in the Piedmont. Wish I’d taken a picture of that. And, the ‘lakeside’ trails meandered through the same beautiful and bounteous landscape that I’d remembered. By and over the rocky creek that feeds the lake. Lined with masses of ferns, wildflowers, Bigleaf Magnolia, Pinxter Azalea and Mountain Laurel.
I left feeling tired but hopeful and grateful. By days end, I’d even heard from all of the children and step-children and shared ice cream and conversation with the only child who still calls North Carolina home. More often than not, life is pretty darned good.