On Sunday morning a local TV station presented a feature on the sunflower fields at a nature park in our city. When I say fields, I mean fields, as in acres of sunflowers. This looked like a great opportunity for Easin’ Along so, after church, I hitched Midnight (my bicycle) up to Sophie (my truck) and lit out for Ijams Nature Center.
Ijams Nature Center is a 300 acre urban green space that is dedicated to all things nature. It has over twelve miles of hiking trails and a large water-filled quarry for swimming and kayaking. The nature center has been in existence for many years and on most travel and visitor guides for our area it is ranked among the top three “must see” attractions. Nevertheless, until about two months ago, I had never visited.
Our church held an outing there in late spring and since I had never availed myself of the opportunity to see what everyone was talking about, I told Helen (adorable wife) that we should go. Fortunately, I took my camera with me and many of the pictures for this posting were taken on that visit.
On that visit we arrived and joined a small group of fellow church members gathered to walk the River Trail which would lead us along the banks of the Tennessee River. Our guide was a very pleasant man named Lyn Bales. This very knowledgeable gentleman would be better described as a Naturalist. Lyn did an outstanding job of describing the various species of trees and other plant life we encountered along the trail. He answered all of our questions and pointed out trail highlights.
Since I am always curious about what leads someone to do whatever it is that they do, I asked Lyn to tell me how he became a Naturalist at the center. He was glad I asked. Lyn told me that he once had an office job (I can’t remember where) and that he volunteered at the center until one day he was offered the Naturalist position. He said he leapt at the opportunity and never looked back. He loves what he does and it showed.
The River Trail was a delightful experience and we were in no hurry to move along. We came across a couple in a boat out for a little fishing, but hopefully we didn’t disturb them. After we came away from the river, we walked to Meade’s Quarry where visitors are able to swim or kayak in the large spring fed lake. Kayaks are available for rent at the shop adjacent to the Quarry.
The trail took us to the ropes course where visitors can test their rappelling skills or try their hand at the zipline that had recently been constructed. We watched as a couple of eager young rope enthusiasts made their way safely along the zipline. Our tour along the trail soon concluded and we thanked Lyn for his excellent presentation and he left in search of another group to tutor. The world needs more folks like Lyn.
Having made one trip to Ijams, I was looking forward to a return trip, and so were a lot of others…
The sunflower fields are actually not a part of the nature center, but are within walking distance of the parking lot at Meade’s Quarry. The flowers were planted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) as a means of giving food and shelter to the wildlife in the area. The sunflowers were planted to attract birds, bees, and butterflies as well as deer and other animals. They attract people too!
I was fortunate to find a parking place as a family was pulling out of the lot when I arrived…better to be lucky than good I always say. I pulled Sophie into the space and unhitched Midnight for a ride along the trail with my camera in the saddlebag (uh, basket—got a little carried away there). Slowly, I worked my way around the walkers and made it to a huge field of sunflowers. The flowers were planted in thick rows and some were now about six feet tall. These big flowers were stunning and I wanted to get the best picture of them as possible so I waded into the rows with my camera strapped to my shoulder. The blossoms were as big as dinner plates and the bees were busily working them over. They looked to be at or near their peak blooming period. Please enjoy them with me.
Bee on Sunflower
Midnight and I made it back to Sophie and left, but this was a huge treat. Hope you enjoyed it.
I’ll be Easin’ Along.