A Retiree's Rambles: Chasing Spring

by Betty Jo Riggs / May 13, 2008 /
Betty Jo Riggs's picture

One of the great discoveries in retirement is that you don't have to be satisfied with just one go-round of spring. When you retire to northern Michigan, you pretty much have to enjoy the winter, and I do. I love the first snowfalls. I love a white Christmas, white January, and white February, but when March blows in, we blow out of state searching for spring. It's there some place, we know, but it seems a long way from Michigan where leftover piles of snow have turned black, and even sunny days are still too brisk to enjoy.

That's when it's handy to have a daughter living in Charleston, South Carolina. This year we head to a condo on Edisto Island, about 40 miles south of Charleston where we can be close by. It's a perfect spot for retirees. Edisto Island's beach may be one of the last unspoiled beaches on the Atlantic: no high rise hotels or condos, only a few souvenir shops, no fast foods, not even a miniature golf. www.sciway.net/city/edistoisland.html.

 

Sunset at Edisto

 

 

 

We find our first spring on Edisto in its bright sunshine, rolling surf, palm trees, and live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Charleston, an hour's drive north, puts on a show of birlliant azaleas, tulips and daffodils. Savannah, Georgia, less than two hours south, does the same.

Reluctantly, we head back to Michigan to face lingering snow showers and wintry mixes, to view bare trees and, wait a minute! There IS a crocus peeking up through leftover snow. Spring wants to come here, but it has to wait a bit.

So, in the last week of April, with snow still predicted in the northland, even though the first daffodil bravely faces the cold, we start south once again. Traveling through Indiana, I drink in my fill of redbud, at its just-bloomed best. By Louisville and Lexington, snow drifts of dogwood fill the woodlands. We arrive at our time-share in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to savor the wild flowers on mountain hikes. From the tiny Bishop's Cap to a Showy Orchis to hosts of yellow Trillium and, especially, to an elusive Lady's Slipper, finding each is akin to unlocking a treasure box. (For the ultimate wild flower experience, take the Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Smokies during the last weekend in April. www.springwildflowerpilgrimage.org

 

Yellow Trillium in Smokies

 

 

 

Our chase for spring beauty leads us across Tennessee. still luxuriating in the chalky sprays of dogwood splashed across emerald hillsides. Virginia's Shenandoah Valley greets us with more spring blooms. Our B and B cottage in New Market is draped with wisteria while the little garden abounds in bright blue blossoms and drifts of columbine.

 

Dogwood

 

 

From the Sheandoah across the western hills of Maryland, we journey on to Baltimore for our annual spring visit to our son's family. There, the city wears spring like a chintz party dress. Wild dogwood gives way to the lush garden varieties in pink and white; crabapple and Bradford pear trees bloom; azaleas, at their peak of color, assault the senses. It's like being inside a sugary confection to stroll down the sidewalk.

Too soon, we once again head north, gloomily watching the thermometer drop at every stop. But there are heartening signs. Some woods bear that wonderful chartreuse aura of just-out tiny leaves. In Holland, the annual Tulip Festival has begun, and untold thousands of buds carpet the town. www.holland.org.

 

Tulips

 

 

North of Muskegon, I glimpse what appears to be a layer of fog against the still gray woods until I realize I'm seeing an orchard in bloom promising cherries or apples or pears. On the other side of the highway, another orchard blooms white against the pines.

 

Spring is climbing north. Forsythia and jonquils provide sunshine for the soul. This second week in May will bring miles of trillium in the Michigan forests as well as cherry blossoms from Manistee to Traverse City and beyond. www.visittraversecity.com/spring-is-cherry-blossom-time.

Soon after, lilacs will dot the landscape where once farm houses stood, and Mackinac Island will be filled with their fragrance as it celebrates a Lilac Festival in June. http://www.mackinacislandlilacfestival.com. .

 

I'm so thankful to be a retiree, to be able to soak up spring as we travel without those English essays on my lap and a red pen in my hand as I used to do. I can chase spring and create my own extended favorite season of the year. It won't be long until I plan my itinerary to extend another love: fall. But right now, if you'll excuse me, I am immersing myself in northern Michigan's most welcome spring.

 

Ladyslipper

 

Betty Jo Riggs is Co-Editor of Retiree Travel, here at wanderingeducators.om. Her column is called A Retiree's Rambles.

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Comments (2)

  • Carol Voigts

    11 years 4 months ago

    What a delightful account of your exteded spring!  This being retired is all the bee's knees!   And you pictures bring one right there too.

    Carol Voigts --RETIRED!!!

     

  • nonameharbor

    11 years 3 months ago

     

    Hello, Betty...

    I love your interpretation of colors in this traveling springtime article.  I, too, have a daughter in Charleston, a long way from our snowy mountains in West Virginia.

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