Chasing Spring

A Blue Ridge nature retreat
May 17-19, 2019

Appalachian Spring Wildflowers ~ Cloud Forests ~ Old Growth ~ Migrating Warblers ~ Blue Ghost Fireflies


  • How strenuous will it be?  We will be walking outside for several hours each day, but the hikes will be accessible to anyone who is moderately fit. The terrain is hilly, but we will choose outings that match the group’s abilities. Each full day will entail at least 2 excursions, ranging from 2-4 miles in length, with up to 1000’ of elevation gain (and loss). The pace will be slow to moderate, since we will stop frequently to observe and learn about the natural wonders of the Southern Appalachians. If you are familiar with Road Scholar's Activity Level system, this weekend would rank as "Outdoor: Spirited."

  • What should I bring?  Once registered, you will receive a detailed packing list, but essentially, you'll want clothes that are practical and comfortable. You can expect to get water on your feet and dirt on your clothes.

  • What about the weather?   We will be outside in the weather all weekend, so you should be prepared for rainy in the 50s or sunny in the 80s. The woods are amazing in all sorts of weather, and May is a fantastic time to be in the mountains. Typical temps are 60s and 70s, and a bit cooler at night. 

  • What about transportation?  Plan to arrive at the Celo Inn on Friday evening. All sites we will visit are within 45 minutes of the Inn; driving will be limited to no more than 90 minutes each day. We will carpool or use a van, details will be worked out once everyone is registered.

  • What about foraging? Will we learn about wild edibles?  At Snakeroot, we are firm believers in an “eat something wild everyday” ethos. We will certainly incorporate some wild foods into our Saturday evening meal. Eating wild plants, animals, and fungi is an important way to connect to nature and deepen our relationship with other species. However, we also believe that wild plants and fungi should be appreciated for what they offer to the world in beauty, in complexity, and for each species' essential role in an intricate and coherent ecosystem. If you ask, we will tell you what is safe to taste and we will instruct you on ethical harvesting techniques; but learning about edible plants is generally not the focus of a Snakeroot tour.

  • What about fireflies? Will we see blue ghosts?  It's impossible to predict precise firefly timing at this point, but mid-May is typically at the very beginning of firefly season. It will likely be right before the peak of the Blue Ghosts. We will almost certainly see some, but bright moonlight diminishes firefly displays (the full moon rises right after sunset on Saturday). I will offer an additional night (Sunday) to participants who can stay longer for a better shot at seeing Blue Ghosts closer to their peak -- I just figured some folks would need to get home Sunday night. 

Sample itinerary:

  • Friday: 7-8 p.m. arrive, meet your fellow-venturers, followed by short moonlit walk or slideshow​​.

  • Saturday:

    • 8-9 a.m. breakfast​ at the Inn

    • 9-12 orientation to Appalachian cove forests: visit rich coves full of spring wildflowers, and explore acid forests with hidden orchids

    • 12-1 p.m. picnic lunch

    • 1-4 explore the finest So. Appalachian bog in the region (rare plants, blooming pitcher plants)

    • 4-6 time to relax by the river or explore on your own

    • 6-8 delicious farm dinner

    • 8-10 Full moon walk in search of blue ghost fireflies

  • Sunday:

    • 8-9 a.m. breakfast at the Inn​

    • 9-12 creek hike to a hidden waterfall

    • 12-1 p.m. picnic lunch

    • 1-5 explore high elevation cloud forests, full of rare endemic species

    • 5-6 departure (or stay for an optional extra night at the Inn - not included in price)