A Wild and Great Adventure

My great wildflower adventure has begun. I’ll admit, knowing I would not be back for four months and driving away with my camper in tow; my dog, Tipper, panting out the backseat window; and my house slowly disappearing in my rearview mirror was quite intimidating. The pandemic years – it seems like many years ago – was a dry period for traveling and, as a freelance travel writer, devastating for gathering material about places to write about. I am a firm believer that a travel writer should have seen and visited the place before putting pen to paper.

I might have been a little too ambitious planning a trip from Texas to Maine and back in one summer, but my feet were itchy, and my gypsy soul ached for something new. About a year ago, I discovered through a fellow travel media contact that the Spacious Skies Campgrounds company has 15 very nice campgrounds, starting in Tennessee and meandering along the inner East Coast region to Maine. They have plotted a wonderful route called Follow The Flowers, where each campground is located in an iconic place known not only for its beauty but also perfectly situated to follow wildflowers as they bloom.

By the time I reach Maine in July, I should have seen the best wildflowers of each state, some very rare and protected. And where there are wildflowers, there are insects that attract birds; so, not only will I see beautiful flowers, but I’ll be able to spot a lot of beautiful birds also. I will have met amazing people who share my love of nature, and I’ll see secret off-the-beaten path places that only the locals may know about.

But there is quite a distance from my hometown in east Texas to their first campground in Tennessee, so I started in early April, and my first stop was the Lake O’ The Pines campground near Jefferson, Texas. All along the way, I met Texas bluebonnets, red Indian paintbrush, purple verbenas, and deep pink and blue flowers called blue-eyed grass scattered along roads and ditches. At the campground, I just had to look down while walking around the RVs of all sizes to find tiny little white prickly poppies, pink ladies, and even more tiny violet spiderworts hugging the ground. This is a beautiful park along a lake famous for fishing, and my campsite had a great view of the lake. Tipper and I are early risers, often before daybreak, and I enjoyed a strong cup of coffee at our picnic table and watched a spectacular sunrise every morning. Fishing boats launched nearby about the same time, and great blue herons patiently waited for the boats to scare the fish toward them.

Reaching central Arkansas at a Corps of Engineers-operated campground near a dam called Toad Suck Park, we found a very nice park but few wildflowers. The foot trails that followed the Arkansas River were shady from gigantic old trees, and mowing prevented many wildflowers from reaching their potential; however, the mighty dandelions persevered. A different spectacular sight made up for the lack of wildflowers — a pair of white pelicans flying a few feet above the river in the mist, swooping down gracefully and catching breakfast. My second stop in Arkansas was at the Bull Shoals-White River State Park near Mountain Home, Arkansas, where I just missed a dogwood extravaganza but found many freshly dropped white petals lying on the ground.

This week, I’m in central Tennessee at the Spacious Skies Belle Ridge campground in the Upper Cumberland region near a small mountain town called Monterey. Along the campground’s trails, I’m finding lots of spring wildflowers and migrating birds heading to the Texas coast and maybe beyond to South America. Some of the most beautiful flowers are at the Beach Pond, a natural underground-spring-fed pond surrounded by gigantic boulders except for at a small sandy beach. Tipper and I strolled down to the pond late one afternoon and caught many woodpeckers knocking on trees. Today, I bought a Tennessee Wildflower pamphlet and my project tonight as we snuggle comfortably in our little camper is to match my photos to these flowers and give them a name.

I recently read a very long quote from John Muir that I will summarize. He remarked that people should never go hiking, but instead saunter through nature — not just see the larger picture of the forest, prairie, river, or canyon, but slow down and take time to look closely at the trees, flowers, stones, and the many little creatures that live there. This is the difference between seeing nature and experiencing nature. Sauntering is perfect for hunting wildflowers, and before this new quest to add learning more about wildflowers to my hobbies, I may never have noticed the colorful beauty near my feet.

My first stop on the Follow the Flowers route was wonderful and now I’m hooked. Wanting to take my trip home with me not only in the form of guidebooks, brochures, and photos, I received permission from the staff at Spacious Skies Belle Ridge to pinch a few flowers to press inside the guidebooks. These little dried wildflowers will take me back to these trails long after I leave this mountain paradise, and they are much lighter to carry home than rocks or seashells.


Ann is a freelance writer drawing attention to the natural beauty of our planet, amazing historic sites and eco-tourism.  A forever explorer, Ann has traveled worldwide since 1974 for either business or personal reasons. Raised in small West Texas towns, Ann has moved to other places around the world during her lifetime but returned to Texas often. Spending ten years in Houston during the 1980’s, she earned an MBA in marketing from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Ann fulfilled a rewarding 30-year career giving her best to non-profit organizations such as Preserve South Dakota, Easter Seals, Mercy Ships and the Lighthouse for the Blind. 

Soon after retirement, she found her best job ever, freelance writing.  Her specialty in marketing and public relations shaped her skills which led nicely into a writing business. Ann loves to tell her amazing stories of the places she saw and people she met along the way. As a member of SATW (Society of American Travel Writers), her suitcase is always packed ready to zoom to interesting places to do crazy things and tell her story – often taking her dog Tipper along for the ride.  She never misses an opportunity to hike a hill, watch a bird, dance with the locals, ride a motorcycle, photograph a sunset or kayak down a river. 

Most of her articles can be found with the following publications: Family RVing (FMCA membership magazine); TravelAwaits.com; Inspired 55+ (Canada), EastWestNews Service; Lifestyles Magazine, InMagazine, The Tyler Loop, Texas Living, The City Paper Bogota and Bird Watcher’s Digest.  Articles are usually found in the travel, art, history or cultural sections. Ann posts her adventures on a Facebook group page titled Green Gypsy Travel.  Her website is under construction but in the meantime, she can be reached at [email protected].

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