Spring is a time of new life – of blossoms and color, of getting together and making memories. And each year, the Arc of Appalachia has an event which embodies that spirit of spring: the Wildflower Pilgrimage.
The April 13-15 event will mark the pilgrimage’s 12th year. According to Arc of Appalachia Director Nancy Stranahan, it is the organization’s “longest running education event.” It is also the most attended, she added.
This year’s pilgrimage will be held from the evening of Thursday, April 13, through the afternoon of Saturday, April 15. The event is centered at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary in Bainbridge and will include naturalist-guided field trips, evening programs, and meals.
New this year, Stranahan said, is an evening presentation being held at the Paxton Theater. In addition, one of the meals will be served at the Appalachian Forest Museum.
Also offered this year, concurrent to the pilgrimage, is a photography workshop with Tom Croce, a professional photographer and author.
The pilgrimage is $135 per person. The pilgrimage and photography workshop are $185 per person.
Stranahan said that interested individuals can still register for the event.
She added that if people cannot attend the pilgrimage, they can still enjoy the wildflowers by visiting the Highlands Nature Sanctuary and walking the two trails open to the public. Those are available at no cost.
Differences, she said, with going on the pilgrimage rather than on a solo hike is that a person can visit locations that are otherwise closed to the public. In addition, there are also meals and evening programs.
However, Stranahan said, the major difference is enjoying the wildflowers with the “great company” that comes from being “surrounded by these big-hearted people.”
That experience, Stranahan said, makes it difficult to determine what the highlight of any pilgrimage truly is. “(Is it) from the beauty of nature or the beauty of humanity?” she asked.
As an example of that beauty, Stranahan described her “greatest memory” from the past dozen years.
“It was the perfect spring day,” she said. She was in a group walking along a trail, with rock faces surrounding them, when they came across “so many beautiful flowers just pouring out of the rocks,” Stranahan said.
“This (was) a peak life experience,” she added. “I felt like I was floating. And I think a lot of people have that experience.”
And, Stranahan said, in this region, “We have the most beautiful wildflowers in the state.”
Among the flowers that could possibly be seen are wild geraniums, Bishop’s caps, and shooting stars. However, according to Stranahan, this area of Ohio is “well-known for one of the prettiest (types of) trilliums.”
Those, which are “just so dense around the Rocky Fork Creek,” are a showcase flower of the pilgrimage. Stranahan said they should be blooming by April 15.
But, above all, Stranahan said that the first appearance of wildflowers should be cherished. She said, “Wildflowers are something we should fill our souls with once a year.”
To learn more or to register for the event, visit http://arcofappalachia.org/annual-wildflower-pilgrimage/.