Indian Pipe Legend


On our last adventure, we ran across several specimens of Indian Pipe growing. 

    Indian Pipe is known by several names. Just to name a few : Ghost Pipe, Ghost Plant, and Corpse Plant.

    Indian Pipe is more commonly found pure white but may have black specks on it and have pink colorations.                                       Rare variants may even have a deep red color.


A Cherokee Legend...

"Before selfishness came into the world, which was a long time ago, the Cherokee happily shared the same hunting and fishing lands with their neighbors. However, everything changed when selfishness arrived. The men began to quarrel with their neighbors.

The Cherokee began fighting with a tribe from the east and would not share the hunting area. The chiefs of the two tribes met in council to settle the quarrel. They smoked the tobacco pipe but continued to argue for seven days and seven nights.


The Great Spirit watched the people and was displeased by their behavior. They should have smoked the pipe AFTER they made peace. The pipe is sacred and must be treated with respect. He looked down upon the old chiefs, with their heads bowed, and decided to send reminders to the people.


The Great Spirit transformed the chiefs into white-gray flowers that we now call “Indian Pipe.” The plant grows only four to ten inches tall, and the small flowers droop towards the ground like bowed heads. Indian Pipe grows wherever friends and relatives have quarreled.



Next the Great Spirit placed a ring of smoke over the mountains. The smoke rests on the mountains to this day and will last until the people of the world learn to live together in peace. That is how the Great Smoky Mountains came to be."

~Lloyd Arneach

Spruce-Fir Nature Trail 13Aug2017

The Hellgrammite and Dobsonfly


    When fully grown the Dobsonfly is also sometimes know by the name Luciferfly.


   It starts its life as larvae living in streams, creeks, and rivers.                            At this stage of its life it's known as a Hellgrammite.                                       Once its starts maturing it will come out of the water and grow wings as an adult. This is when it's referred to as a Dobsonfly.


                                The males have very large mandible jaws that look very fierce.


  While the females have much smaller mandibles.

The bite from a female can be more painful than the male and will sometimes bite if felt threatened. 



The Elusive Morel Mushroom


  Here on the Cumberland Plateau the Morel mushrooms are sometimes referred to as  "Dryland Fish."


   Morels can appear overnight and are a gift of the early spring woods. I have heard all my life an old saying that says when Oak tree leaves are the size of mouse ears it's time to look for Morels.


    They can be very hard to spot even to the well trained eye! You have to really key in on what your looking for and it definitely gets a little easier with experience. I've had days when I've walked several miles and haven't found any at all and other days I feel as if I've hit the mother load!   Anyone who knows me knows this is my favorite time of year!


  Morels are often found around certain types of trees depending on what area your from. So I definitely recommend learning the different types of trees if you want to become a seasoned mushroom hunter. Here on the Plateau I like to watch under fruit trees, Tulip Popular ,Cedar, White Pines, Sycamore, Hickory, and Ash trees just to name afew.


  If your lucky enough to spot a Morel take note of what type of trees are nearby and the area because usually they will grow in the same general area year after year. 

   These mushrooms will not grow unless the soil and weather conditions are just right. A wet and warm Spring is generally a good sign of a great mushroom season. 


   Usually the first Morels of the season tend to be darker and found on the Southward or South Westward slopes because in early Spring the ground in those areas usually seem to warm up faster. Soon to follow you will start finding them in other areas as well. The Morels in the later part of the season tend to be more yellow, white, and grey. The Morel mushroom season is very short usually only lasting 3 to 4 weeks.

 Some mushrooms are very toxic and afew can be fatal ! So I recommend being 100% sure you know what your doing when gathering any wild mushroom.                                      Even with Morels there is a False Morel that is very toxic and to the untrained eye can be very misleading.       (So be very careful and learn how to tell the difference!!! "

NEVER eat any mushroom that you aren't 100% sure is safe!

                   ~Backwoods Adventures~                  



February's Snow Moon


This year we had a special event take place in the night sky on Feb.10 ! We just had an amazing Full Moon called the Snow Moon but at the same time we had a Lunar Eclipse and also had a Comet passing by.  


  This months Full Moon was named the Snow Moon many years ago because this is the month we usually get our heaviest snow. 

  Some of the Native American tribes also referred to this Moon as the Hunger Moon because it was a very hard month for the Native Americans due to the fact hunting for game becomes difficult  because of heavy snowfall that is often on the ground.



Hiking along the path that my Great Grandfather C.D. Phillips traveled so many times.

   This hiking trip I was honored to have the chance to follow the footsteps of some of my ancestors.


I visited the spring that my Great Grandfather C.D. Phillips (born June 1st 1866) used to drink from and carry water from to his home. Later my grandfather Ethridge Phillips used this same  spring and once my dad  Earnel Phillips was old enough one of his chores was to carry water from this spring to their home and also lead the milk cow and  horses to an area to the right of the spring that was used to water the stock a safe distance away from the family's drinking water supply. 


     Near this spring is also an area where they would collect clay to use for several projects. This clay is so white that they would often use it to make a white wash to paint the walls inside their home. 

   If your out hiking and run across a very old homesite here on the Cumberland Plateau chances are if you look close you will find a spring nearby. Often these springs are contaminated today. But years ago these springs would often determine where a family would decide to settle and build their home. They were prized and taken very good care of and cleaned out often to keep from getting clogged up. Now a lot of them no longer flow water above ground or are unsafe to drink from. It was nice to see this one is still there and flowing fresh cool clear water!

( I do not recommend drinking from any spring or water source today without filtering it or boiling it unless you know forsure the water is pure, clean and safe.)


My Great Grandfather CD Phillips       My Grandfather Ethridge Phillips and barely visible my Great Uncle Erbin Phillips.




My Grandfather and Grandmother Ethridge and Winnie Phillips and 3 of their  children including my Dad  Earnel Phillips, my Aunt Maxine and Uncle Robert.


The Spotted Eastern Red Newt or Eft

We all know the story of a frogs life as a Tadpole that lives in the water as a baby and then lives on land and water after it matures. But many people don't know the story of the Red Newts life which is a bit more complex and to me even more interesting.

   Baby Newts live in the water and at that stage of their life they have gills.  Once they start to grow and become older they leave the water and rome the earth usually staying in cool shady areas of the forest. 


  The juvenile Red Spotted Newt is actually known as an Eft and will live on land for usually 2 to 3 years but sometimes as long as 7 years.


    Once they become an adult they will return to the water to live out the rest of their life. As an adult and back in the water they often can change color to more of an olive green body with a yellow belly. They will most often keep their spots at that point in their life also. The Red Spotted Newt can often live for 12 to 15 years of age.

    I found and photographed this one inside the Big South Fork NRRA on a warm day back in December.