For the last three weeks, I have found myself walking along a country road contemplating spring.

There is one thing I have learned – walking alone in a pristine area allows one to think a bit and far more clearly than listening to some trivial jabber or the sound of cars heading for nowhere and back. In my wanderings, I am often looking at the ground, searching for those early signs that tell me warm weather is not that far away.

Already I have spotted one of my two harbingers of spring. No, not that year-round resident, the robin. When in certain areas, I am watching for that white albino robin that often kept me company the last two years. I know he is still with me as I have seen him once since winter has started to melt away. My attempts to photograph him have not yet worked. I am hoping for the right conditions and the presence of my camera.

On those walks, I am watching the ground for that green growth that allows each of us to have hope. Our hopes might be of great value or, like me, just hope for nice weather and fish tugging on my line. But the second sign of spring I am searching for is the early wildflower poking its head from the surface of dead leaves.

I once had to explain to a partner that those yellow flowers decorating the terrible soil along the road were not dandelions but were in fact coltsfoot. The coltsfoot is not what one would call a lovely flower but it is one of the earliest flowers appearing in patches before the leaves show. Later in the season, the flower will have disappeared but the horse hoof shaped leaves will cover the road banks.

Each spring, Eileen and I would spend time in local woodlots looking for signs of the Hepatica. At one time they could easily be found near my home in North Strabane Township. But many past stands of this diminutive lavender flower related to the buttercup have given way to the backhoe and lawns. In early March, we would make our way to the few stands of them, and sometimes because we were early we had to turn over leaves and search to find the liver-colored leaves poking their way up. The stands of Hepatica were not big, but when we found them blooming it gave us a feeling of renewal and gladness that they were still there. Just passing through the township should tell the reader what has happened to most of them. They only thrive in areas of mature trees and, at best, are not common.

Once they are found we know it won’t be long until the woods will be covered with spring beauties and hillsides will be white with squirrel corn or Dutchman’s breeches. Rue Anemone and bloodroot will be up next. These followed by an abundance of common wildflowers at our home base. Many others can be found growing along the Enlow and Templeton Creek area in the southern part of the county. There you can see bluebelles, trilliums, sweet williams and larkspur. The Enlow is truly a wildflower preserve and should be seen. This is about the northern limit of the blue-eyed Mary’s that turn the ground blue here. There are usually adders tongue along the creek bottom and Indian paint with its bright red flowers to find, too.

Many times, looking at the wildflowers can be confusing, for much like certain fish they may have a variety of names depending on who you talk to or what book you read. Walking along the old roadbed in Enlow it is easy to find oneself doing a bit of meditating or self-study, the surroundings leads to that. Or sometimes it might be that sound of an old turkey gobbler that you hear out there calling for a mate that leads you back to spring and all its beauty.

All I can say is, this week I saw my No. 1 sign of spring: the first redwinged blackbird. I almost wrecked my truck as it startled me out of my winter contemplations and let me know that spring has sprung. Now we are getting very close to the wildflower time. This will arrive sometime in April, along with trout season and spring gobbler time. Maybe backhoe season and new construction season can go away or stay out of my wildflower viewing areas. I can only hope, and with that you my reader know, hope springs eternal.

George Block writes a weekly outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.

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