It's just a walk in the woods for spring wildflowers

Bil Bowden

Last week's warm temperatures had nearly everyone outdoors, some neighbors cutting grass. With the grass comes wildflowers, trying to suck up the sunlight before the emerging leaves push the flowers into shadows.

It's still a bit early for the mass blossom eruption in this area, but Shenk's Ferry Wildflower Preserver in Lancaster is starting to wake up. Thousands of Dutchman's Breeches cover the hills today, some spring beauties, wood anemones, trout lillies. Trilliums are budding and Virginia bluebells are in blossom in places, especially on the top of the hill to the left of Grubb Run as visitors walk back the one-mile trail.

From the website-- Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve is one of the best wildflower areas in the eastern United States and certainly one of the most popular natural spots in Lancaster County. It is best known for its large variety of woodland flowers -- at least 73 species of flowers bloom from mid-March until the end of May, including Dutchman’s-breeches, wild geranium, Virginia bluebells, wild phlox, trillium and spring beauty.

While Shenk's Ferry is considered the prime spot for wildflowers and an unhurried walk-in-the-woods kind of outing, there are other nearby places to check as well. Bowman's Hill Wildlife Preserve  in New Hope, Pa., is a more controlled environment with a visitor center, plant sales, buildings and cultivated gardens. New Hope is about 130 miles and two hours from York.

Bowman's Hill insists that commercial and marketing photographers have permission and are subject to fees, in addition to the regular $6 adult admission fee.

Nixon Park is the best bet of the York County Parks for wildflowers, hikers along the lower trails have seen sprouts.

Joining Shenk's Ferry as part of the Lancaster County Conservancy is Ferncliff . Located just a few miles north of the Maryland state line, Ferncliff is more known for its  trees, but in spring, flowers take top billing. It's unspoiled, natural and beautiful.

From the website -- Since 1972, Ferncliff has been recognized as a National Natural Landmark, because of the old growth forest that has been maintained here. There are wildflowers galore in spring, including three unusual ones, round-leaved stemless violet (Viola rotundifolia), putty root (Aplectrum hyamale), and cranefly orchis (Tipularia discolor).

To get there from York, cross the Norman Wood Bridge in southern York County to the Buck.  Continue three miles, then turn right on Chesnut Level Road at Valley View Restaurant. Continue on Chestnut Level Road to River Road.  Left on River Road, first right on Slate Hill Road, right on Harmony Ridge Road, across Furniss Road, to left on Bald Eagle Road. This road leads down a hill; Ferncliff Preserve is at the bottom of the hill on the right.