Spring Accelerates

The Passage has a split personality. 

The Allegheny Mountain leg from Frostburg, MD to Connellsville, PA tops out at Deal, in the region of the highest point of Pennsylvania.  From there is knifes through Negro Mt., Laurel and Chestnut Ridges following the Casselman and Youghiogheny Rivers.  The deep narrow water gaps are relatively mild microclimates compared to the surrounding higher and colder ridges. 

Past Connellsville the Passage meanders along with the Youghiogheny through the Pittsburgh Plateau Physiographic Province at a lower elevation within a generally warmer region. 

The climatic difference of the two regions, mountains and the plateau, are especially marked in the spring with the appearance of vernal wildflowers.  Spring travels the Passage west to east.  When the hillsides along the placid Yough near Cedar Creek Park are greening with bluebells, larkspur, spring beauties and patches of snow white bloodroot, the north-facing slopes in Ohiopyle State Park between Ohiopyle and Confluence still have patches of snow-white snow. 

On my ride between West Newton, PA to the I-70 Bridge yesterday, between Mile 112 and 111 Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) cascaded down the adjacent slope next to the trail.  The arched flower stalks with pendular blue flowers were basking in the warm sun.  The just opening flowers were mobbed by anxious insects seeking their first sips of sweet spring nectar. 

Alongside were the first cut-leaf toothwort flowers, stately bloodroot, and the first of the ubiquitous spring beauties. 

All of these will open more and more blossoms over the next days and weeks decorating the Passage through the Pittsburgh Plateau.  Meanwhile, in the mountains, spring will still have to wait, but not for long.    

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