• Kathryn Solee


“Never yet was a springtime, when the buds forgot to bloom.”

Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

The Catawba Rhododendron, native to the mountains of Western North Carolina, usually blooms early to mid-June. One of the best viewing sites is Roan Mountain on the Tennessee North Carolina border. It’s been a couple of years since I went to the annual Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival and the Roan Mountain State Park Rhododendron Garden and was looking forward to seeing the Rhododendron there this year. Unfortunately, the festival is canceled, and the gardens are closed due to COVID-19. No worries, the dogs and I are heading north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Craggy Gardens at milepost 364.


First stop, watching the sunrise at Tanner Rock Overlook.


It’s a short hike on the self-guided nature trail with a moderate uphill climb to the trail shelter: form there, another short walk to the summit of the bald with 360-degree views.

The views from the bald were as expected, spectacular even with the haze. However, the Rhododendrons were only beginning to bloom, so not as breathtaking as I had hoped. Perhaps we were a little early in the season, or the bald is in one of many mini-climatic zones in the mountains.

There were several occurrences of the Flame Azaleas in bloom on the drive up the parkway. They were on the bald also.


One of the reasons I enjoy coming up here is the bench between two trees that offers a perspective of infinity. With your imagination, you can see anything.

As the birds sang around me, the message from nature and the universe is to listen. Tune in to all of the sounds around you – the music playing, dogs barking, babies crying, and birds singing. Pause long enough to hear all the sounds around you. Pause long enough to listen to your heartbeat. The heart of love. The heart of courage. The heart of forgiveness and gratitude. Listen to the sounds today with your heart filled with love, kindness, patience, courage, gratitude, and forgiveness.


In hopes of finding Rhododendron in full bloom, I headed up to the Glassmine Overlook, where there is easy access to the Mountain-to-Sea Trail. A spectacular view, but no Rhododendron.


It was when we headed home I saw the view I was looking for – long range mountain views with Rhododendron – and a place to park!


As a bonus, butterflies were feasting the nectar of the blossoms. (Click the arrows on the right/left side of the image to advance.)


Typically, Zorro and Essie are on their leash, which is in my hand. When I need two hands, I'll tuck the loop of their leash over the toe of my shoe. Today, I did just this, but they escaped. The following short videos express absolute doggie joy running free on the bald.

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