I sometimes find myself questioning the influence we have on our students simply because of the amount of time we are able to spend with the kids on a Wild Child trip. While we certainly have a far different relationship with these students than the teachers that spend an entire year in the classroom with them, this week with Wild Child has reminded me of the impact one single day can have on a young student. We saw kids start the day off needing three people to help them step onto the boat, then 4 hours later take off scrambling over rocks and jumping into the water with no inhibitions. I had one student that would not speak to me or tell me his name without talking through his brother, but by the end of our trip he was asking questions and chiming in with the rest of the group. Kay has often said that there is something special about this lake that is able to pull kids out of their shell. That is so true, and it does not need long to do so. ~Matthew Stamey, JLT guide

BLOOM REPORT: This past week on the Lake was very special as we hosted the kids, teachers and other chaperones from nearby schools as part of the “Jocassee Wild Child” program. It was great sharing the uniqueness of this special place we love – swimming, waterfalls, and documenting the wildlife and plants that we saw. We stay busy on those days, and I don’t always have time to capture some of the beauty there with my camera… So, this past Friday afternoon, I kayaked from the remote ramp to go into one of my favorite coves – where Bad Creek flows into the lake. This time of year, the blooming flowers of Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) and Gorge Rhododendron (Rhododendron minus &/or R. carolinianum) overlap. After studying the details of Weakley’s Flora regarding Gorge Rhododendron, most of what I saw was the R. minus, since it tends to overlap with Mountain Laurel. It is stunning!! Both Gorge Rhododendrons are also referred to as “Punctatum”, because on the underside of the leaf have thousands of tiny ‘punctate scales’ that look like shiny dots. That’s another way to distinguish it from the Great Rosebay Rhododendron as well as Mountain Laurel. The kayak is the ideal way to get ‘up close and personal’ with these flowers and makes it easier to photograph. Another one of my favorite native shrubs, Maple Leaf Viburnum (Vibernum acerifolia), is beginning to bloom. The leaf looks very much like a maple leaf but has a typical Viburnum flower that is unrelated to the maple family. The Great Rosebay Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum) with its white to pink blooms is getting close to blooming. I only saw one Great Rosebay Rhododendron beginning to bloom amongst several non-blooming ones. Head out to Jocassee to see the beauty and go for a plunge in the cool, clear water! ~David White, JLT guide and Forest Ecologist