Spring wildflower hikes and more planned at Sequatchie Valley Institute

Authored By bobbutters

If you’re eager to welcome spring by getting out in nature, you might check out one of the upcoming spring wildflower hike and open house events at the Sequatchie Valley Institute.

The hikes will be held two days: March 28 and April 18.

Located in Sequatchie Valley’s Lane Cove, between Whitwell and Dunlap, the Sequatchie Valley Institute rambles over 300-plus acres on the slopes of the Cumberland Escarpment.   

The hikes will begin at 11 a.m. Central time, with two options available. One will be a moderate one- to two-hour hike through the woodlands to experience the local flora awakening after the long, cold winter. The other will continue higher up the canyon sides for a more rugged, four-hour adventure. The hikes will be accompanied by naturalists, foresters and bioenthusiasts familiar with the geography, ecology and biology of the area. Ragwort, dwarf buckeye, phlox, bloodroot, trout lily, trilliums, wild geranium, redbuds and dogwoods are some of the plant species likely to be encountered.

Participants are welcome to arrive at 9:30 a.m. Central time for a tour of the gardens, handcrafted solar homes and the Liquidambar Art Gallery (home to displays of pottery, paintings and glass art). Bring a lunch to eat in one of the picnic areas in the woods before the hike. Be aware that the trails have been laid out with minimal modifications to the natural landscape, so dress appropriately-sturdy shoes, long pants, etc.-and bring plenty of water to drink. Click here for more details about the hikes. (Note: The link is for April 18, but the information is applicable for both dates.)

Promoting a sustainable lifestyle
Johnny and Carol Kimmons settled with their family on the property in 1971 and have operated the Sequatchie Valley Institute as a nonprofit educational organization since 1997. The SVI is a place to learn about permaculture gardening and greenhouses, natural handcrafted building, solar power, forest ecology, food and nutrition, and sustainable forestry. Tours, informal workshops and other events encourage and support the art of sustainable living and the appreciation of outdoor activities in the local bioregion. Visitors can hike the self-guided nature trails and picnic in secluded rocky nooks.

I was recently given a tour of the grounds and buildings at SVI, which included hiking a new trail that initially follows alongside Hicks Creek (a swift-flowing mountain stream) and then works its way up the mountainside to eventually arrive at Moonshadow, a rustic house made of rocks and timber from the property (which serves as the Kimmons’ residence and SVI headquarters). Moonshadow and surrounding structures are totally off-grid, solar-powered and supplied by spring water that flows from higher up the hill. Other buildings of particular interest include a cob house, constructed of clay, sand and straw; and a three-story pavilion known as the Barking Beetle Conference Center.

Liquidambar Art Gallery
If you’re wondering, as I was, where the name “Liquidambar” comes from, it’s part of the scientific name for the sweetgum tree. The gallery, which houses the unique artwork of Carol, her son Patrick and other local artists, helps financially support the nonprofit work of SVI. The Liquidambar Art Gallery is open most weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central and other days by appointment.

More upcoming events at SVI
Wine in the Woods, SVI’s annual fundraiser, will take place April 4. The event is for members only, but nonmembers can join at the door. The wine tasting event features local homemade wines, meads and beers. 

A three-day workshop scheduled for April 10-12 will focus on harvesting, preserving and fermenting food, as well as nutrition, political issues, uses of native herbs and meat production.

April 19-25 is National Environmental Education Week, so SVI will be open all week for hiking and other outdoor activities, with a special emphasis on kids. Earth Day is April 22. 

SVI will host guided hikes and trail maintenance on National Trails Day on June 6. 

To learn more about these events and the Sequatchie Valley Institute, or to get directions and contact information, click here or here.  

Bob Butters explores nature and the outdoors, primarily in and near the South Cumberland region, and publishes the blog The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.

Updated @ 9:18 a.m. on 3/26/15 to correct a broken hyperlink.