Day 49: Even Brambles Have Blossoms

Leaves of Three

I get a little wigged out by poison ivy. I believe I’ve mentioned that once or thrice. I’ve gotten better at identifying it, but early on, any time I saw “leaves of three” I’d go on high alert. But lots of plants grow their leaves in thrupples, so I spent a lot of time in high alert status.


Brambles often present with leaf triplets, so they were one of the first plants I learned to identify along the AT in Georgia. I’d understood “brambles” as a synonym for what I grew up calling “pricker bushes,” but I accepted the name given them by my plant identification app. Brambles do have prickers, as Gus and I learned after bushwacking back to the trail on one of North Carolina’s Balds.

My mother, a botanist, taught me that pricker bushes were part of God’s “curse” on humanity after Adam and Eve were banished from Eden (Gen 3:18). Mom also made some pretty awesome blackberry jam. How do those two sentences fit together?


Yesterday, I posted a picture on Facebook of some glorious white blossoms in a bramble patch on the ridge above Pearisburg. Greta Cloutier, who Northstar believes to be the smartest student she ever taught, commented: “Blackberries?” I replied, “No, they’re brambles.” But then because it was Greta, I thought I’d better check, and sure enough, brambles are blackberries. Southerners see brambles. New Englanders see blackberries.

Not only do those nasty thornbushes I’ve been seeing along the trail have wonderful flower blossoms, they produce a delicious fruit I spent hundreds of hours gathering as a child. How did I not know this? I guess I sometimes see only what I’ve been conditioned to see.

Power Line Scars

The particular bramble/blackberry blossom patch I’d photographed yesterday grew inside a power line corridor. Wherever power lines cross the mountain, the utility companies cut all the trees within the right-of-way, leaving a huge scar that transects the forests as far as the eye can see. But those corridors not only provide some of the best (and only) views along parts of the AT, they are home to gardens of brambles and other flowering shrubs.

What’s Bothering the Incident?

A week ago, I posted that something was bothering me that affected by hike, but I wasn’t ready to talk about it. I still don’t think I can articulate it without being misunderstood or without risking offending some readers. Suffice to say that some aspects of thru hiking culture weigh heavily on me, but I think I’ve worked through it.

How? Partly by staying out of the (metaphorical) bramble patches and power line corridors. And when I find myself surrounded by irritating brambles, I try to look for the blossoms that will someday become berries. And when I cross the power line scars, I seek to look past the ugly steel towers and buzzing cancer-causing cables and just enjoy the view.

The other thing I needed to learn was to hike my own hike. That doesn’t just mean experiencing the kind of hike I expected to have before I left home. It means accepting and enjoying the hike I’m presented with on daily basis. Sometimes, it means ignoring the nastiest brambles, and intentionally seeking out more satisfying aspects of the trail. Mostly, it means not dwelling on what hasn’t gone well. Just hike on and leave that all behind.

It’s a daily effort, but it seems to be working. I’m happy.

Oh Yeah, I Also Hiked Today

I hiked alone, as usual. Gus was getting shaved, and everyone else was still asleep when I set out. The AT rained on me all afternoon, but the rhododendron-mountain laurel-flame azalea tunnels on the ridge above Pearisburg were spectacular. I put a long video of one delightful corridor on my Facebook page. I also saw some new wildflowers – Purple Skullcaps, Smooth Phlox, Pilosella Caespitosa, and Japanese Honeysuckle (probably an invasive, but still pretty).

Plus, I visited a convenience store that sold chips, beer, candy, soda, and a rack of automatic weapons. How awesome is that?

Daily Stats:

  • Start: Sugar Run Road (Mile 625.5)
  • End: Pocahontas Road (Mile 641.4)
  • Weather: Overcast & chilly, then rain
  • Earworm: None. Am I cured?
  • Meditation: Mt. 5:20
  • Plant of the Day: Rhododenron/Azaleas
  • Best Thing: Rhododendron Tunnels
  • Worst Thing: Rain

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Comments 13

  • Debbie Carney : May 29th

    How are you not getting poison ivy on the AT? Or have you?

    • Jon : May 30th

      Argh! Are you trying to jinx me? Lol.
      I’m very vigilant. And I always wear long pants and long sleeves.

  • Homeward : May 30th

    Good morning, Jon. Sorry about the rain. Your posts never fail to stir up memories of the many faces and facets of the AT for me when I was 59 years old.
    Your discussion (or non-discussion) of things that have weighed on you may have been part of my experience as well. If you want to discuss this further, I think that you have my email. Thanks for helping me to relive the past!

    • Jon : May 30th

      Thx! I may take you up on that.

  • thetentman : May 30th

    Brambles or blackberries are nice. Just wait until you meet Sting Nettles. Wear your gaiters.

    Great post.

    • thetentman : May 30th

      Stinging Nettles.

    • Jon : May 30th

      Lol. Stinging nettles played a key role in The Incident. We are well acquainted. Nasty.

  • Elizabeth : May 30th

    Always a good read. Thanks

    • Jon : May 30th

      Thank you!

  • Smitty : May 30th

    S–tcan the metaphor, tell us what you think and about who.

    • Jon : May 30th

      Lol. You first. 🙂

  • Mike Nixon : Jun 4th

    Hey Jon, I’m glad you worked through (or still are) what has been bothering you. I can’t fathom all the different things that go through your mind.

    2 thing about blackberries/brambles…here in the South, the stickers are also called briars. So, the same bush grows thorns and fruit. Much like Christ on the cross. He became our sin, even though He knew no sin.

    One more tidbit, he wore a crown of thorns on the cross, and he now sits beside his Father in Heaven. One day, he will return to Earth to take His bride home

    • Jon : Jun 5th



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