Sunday, May 31, 2009

Jewelry designs

Today I thought I'd post a couple different designs from my Spacewreck Collection of jewelry. The collection is a marriage of themes, combining the look of artifacts recovered from historical shipwrecks with the hard, cold style of futuristic cinema. The pieces are cut from sheet copper, etched, oxidized, patinated, drilled, riveted and sealed; they hang from oxidized sterling silver chains.
There are endless possibilities with this collection which I look forward to exploring for a long time.This is "Celtic Spacewreck Necklace", a fitting amulet for any celestial Celt.
I want to buy a larger punch and die set so I don't have to cut the discs by hand - faster and neater. The center one here is punched and the outer is hand cut. They're cold-connected with a copper rivet.

This is "Fleur-del-lis Spacewreck Necklace". Laissez les bons temps rouler, even in the depths of sea and space. Sometimes I like to add a couple matching accent beads on the chain to bring out the tones of the patina. Sections are cold-connected with 4 copper rivets.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Finley Cane, Bote Mtn, Lead Cove Trails loop hike

On May 25, we made a loop hike of Finley Cane, Bote Mtn, and Lead Cove trails near the entrance to Cades Cove in the Smokies. The 7.1 mile loop covers a variety of terrain. An article from Knox News describes the loop with a little history.

We started off on Finely Cane trail, which is relatively flat and shaded most of the way. It had rained heavily the days before and the trail was very muddy in areas. Not to mention horses had just been through and left some hoofy bogs and plenty-o-poop.

We saw *lots* of these millipedes along the beginning of Finley Cane. Really beautiful. As long as they don't touch me.

An amazing patch of Indian Pipe within the first mile. I believe this is the largest grouping I've seen, there were several patches in this area but this one topped them all.
Also known as Corpse Plant, Indian Pipe has no chlorophyll to make it green.

We reached the cane patch for which Finley Cane Trail is named. It is pretty narrow through this stretch. We passed a handful of ladies on horses here. They had just turned back in a wide spot ahead, so after that the trail was less stirred and muddy since they hadn't been there.

After 2.8 miles we reached the intersection of Finely Cane and Bote Mountain Trails. We debated heading over to backcountry campsite #18 (a beautiful, flat, stream-side camp) via West Prong since it was getting hot, but we've been there before and I was determined we were going to do this loop.

Ok, there are some beautiful views here and the absolute best display of mountain laurel I've ever seen, but this stretch of the Bote Mountain Trail (under sunny conditions with heat, high humidity and abundant bees) was rough. It covers a length of 2.5 miles with an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet, hardest of which is made within the first mile along the very rocky old roadbed.

We did this trail "Eco Challenge style," if you ever saw that tv show. Full-on, flat-out, don't-stop-unless-you're-gonna-die (or take a picture) mode. Note the haze in these photos caused by the film of sweat on the camera lens.
Halfway up Bote Mtn, my other half declared himself retired for the rest of summer, aside from evening firefly hikes and tubing. [Edit: 8.31.09 - we haven't even taken one weekend off from hiking this summer! So I win :-) ]

But wow, it was worth it. How beautiful is that?!

The roadway narrowed and leveled out (kinda) and became less rocky, more sandy. We followed what looked to be coyote prints along the trailbed for about 1/10 mile.

More clouds moved in with a nice breeze, a bit of cooling and welcome relief from the sun. So quiet up here.
Back and forth along the mountain ridge, a few more brief ascents.

A stunning patch of flame azalea greated us at Sandy Gap. I don't recall seeing any before, maybe I just never noticed or appreciated it..... I earned seeing it today and enjoyed it fully.

The uphills are behind us now. Here at the Gap is the intersection with Lead Cove Trail (named for the mineral mined in the area) . We met a backpacker coming up that way. He headed off toward the Appalachian Trail and we headed down Lead Cove.... almost all downhill, for 1.8 miles back down to the parking area.

The beginning of this stretch looks and feels like a tropical jungle. It was great, and it felt so wonderful to be in full, cool shade. Back into muddiness again, though.

Some nice specimens of galax along the way.

I love vine twists in the mountains and this was a great one along Lead Cove.

By this time, we were glad to be nearing the Jeep.
Made it back at 3:45pm.

We'd started out at 12:20pm, so it took us 3 hrs 25 minutes to complete the 7.1 mile loop.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Turkey time

Sunday and today I've seen the same young wild turkey in our backyard, I think it's a hen. She's a beautiful bird and a lot of fun to watch.
I keep hoping she'll drop a feather out there for me but all I found after her visit today was a few muddy footprints and some poop.
She stops to munch on the birdseed I spread out every few days. This morning she hung around the yard a long time and had to share the buffet with a blue jay, a flock of starlings, 3 of my tribe of 5 crows, and a rabbit that she chased off. I heard her vocalizing in the woods later, I considered getting out my turkey caller but I don't want to confuse her or scare her away :-)

Here's a video, at the end she saw me standing in the window:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Baskins Creek Falls hike

On May 18th we hiked out to Baskins Falls, via the east side of Roaring Fork Motor Trail. We've hiked from both sides and have concluded the east trail access is indeed the shorter, less steep route. Each way is just under 1.5 miles.... and from both ways you hike down to go in, up to get out.

At the beginning of the trail is a very picturesque cemetery.

I wonder if this section would make an awesome toboggan run in winter? We stopped just short of this area when hiking in the snow a few months ago while the road was closed.

Giant millipede in defensive coil.

A lot of mountain laurel budding and blooming along the sandy ridge portion of the trail.

After descending, there is a rock-hop crossing of Baskins Creek then another a brief ascent-then-descent to the trail junction. The unnamed footpath heading off back of the sign is the way to the falls. There's another cemetery a bit further along the trail toward Trillium Gap way.

The falls (which are part of Falls Branch and not actually on Baskins Creek) spill over a large rock ledge. The 'best' view is on the other side, of course, which means a bit more rock hopping or log scrambling.

Recent rains made for higher water. Today there was another couple leaving as we arrived, they simply waded across and soaked their shoes. I hopped over most of the way fine, then plunged one shoe in. It dried out surprisingly quick, though. Of all the hiking we've done, that was the first foot soaking I've taken. Not too shabby.
2 pm at the falls. Not the best time of day for photo lighting, better to arrive early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Still.... simply beautiful.

Here is a link to a trail map and elevation profile, though it describes the hike from the west access and it rates the trail as "easy"...... while it may be for experienced hikers, the average tourist/daytripper will more likely find it to be "moderate". We hiked in from the right side as shown on the map below.
Also, here's a brief YouTube video I took at the falls.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Now that's a bean

I think it may be time to harvest these pole beans. These vines are the result of 2.5 months of growth since I planted the seeds. They're pretty impressive growing in the kitchen. And I think these pods make the ones at the market look puny. There's only 5 big ones, but the quality makes up for the lack of quantity. The ones closer to the ceiling probably don't get enough sunlight and are much smaller. And 7 flowers/tiny pods fell off and didn't mature at all.

How should we eat them?? Can't decide.....

Friday, May 22, 2009

Grotto Falls, Trillium Gap, Brushy Mtn hike - Pt 2

Continuing the Part 1 trail summary .....

We passed under Grotto Falls and continued on up Trillium Gap trail. There are some nice sights along the way, including a pretty creek cascade you have to rock-hop across and tons of ferns.

Can you see me?

I'm the blue thing at the bottom of the rock wall.

Trail junction at Trillium Gap. To the right takes you up to Mt. LeConte Lodge.... there was a noisy couple packing down, we heard them long before we saw them. Straight takes you to Greenbrier along Brushy Mtn trail. Left is a spur to the Brushy Mtn summit.
We went left.

The spur trail is a rocky footpath slicing through a tunnel of rhododendron. It is a very neat stretch and I think we enjoyed it all the more due to the fog and mist, which created a very creepy atmosphere.

Check out this 1 minute video of our hike through the rhododendron tunnel:

A few painted trillium were spotted along the way......

Sand myrtles are abundant up there, very beautiful little flowers.

Nearing the summit. No view whatsoever today.... but we LOVED it. It was almost totally silent except for a few birds and the occasional bee.
The footpaths become sandier and wind around the top of the scrubby heath bald.
We sat on a couple rocks and enjoyed the silence and a snack before heading back down.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Grotto Falls, Trillium Gap, Brushy Mtn hike - Pt 1

On the 11th we hiked Trillium Gap Trail up to the summit of Brushy Mountain. Along the way we passed the much-visited Grotto Falls. As another local hiker recently put it, this trail has been "loved to death". The heavy foot traffic (and llama traffic to and from the lodge on Mount LeConte) has eroded the trail and when wet creates some large muddy patches.

One definitely must keep paying attention, these "ankle-breaker" roots could quickly turn a fun outing into a journey to painsville.

Not far from here there was a momma bear and two cubs up a tree. I didn't try to get a snap, they just looked like big black shadows.

Our typical outing weather, misty and cloudy. The falls were gushing since it had just rained. To continue along Trillium Gap trail you must walk underneath the waterfall - always a treat! You can often see salamanders under there if you have the chance to stop and enjoy yourself.... we had to push on through quickly due to others today.

Wheeeee! I'm getting misted!
*quick snap, jams camera in armpit*

Once you pass the falls, the traffic diminishes greatly aside from folks up to or down from the lodge.

I'll continue this trail summary in a second post, so busy tonight!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Reshooting products

So I'm not happy with a lot of the product shots I've taken of my jewelry, it's been bugging me and I've finally gotten around to doing a little experimenting. My monkey-rigged light box and 'natural' light bulbs just don't always feel like they give me the most accurate reading of the items, color-wise and depth-wise.
Not a bad shot here, just looks, I don't know.... flat and a bit lifeless.

Today I shot using natural daylight, with some actual sun exposure, instead of using the light box and bulbs.
I'm happy with the results and think (hope) I've achieved an acceptable formula: the back windowsill, around 5pm, with reflector sheets, tripod, and timer.

Definitely *not* as convenient as the 24-hr light box, though!

Tiny discovery

I was checking out my pole bean vines growing in the kitchen today, counting up the pods. There's 5 skinny ones as long as my little finger, a few flowers.... and then I saw this itty bitty pod lying on the floor. It is 1/2 inch long (1.27 cm). Not sure why it fell off the vine, perhaps it was 'rejected'. But on the bright side, it offered me great photo ops.

After a couple hours off the vine it was starting to get limp and bruise easily, might as well slice it open with the exacto knife and get a look at the inside.....
seven tiny beans the size of sand grains!
ohhhhh, sweet :-)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Laurel Falls wildfire hike

On Monday, we hiked out Laurel Falls Trail to examine for ourselves the effect of a recent wildfire, which was sparked by an illegal campfire during high-fire-risk conditions. Although some areas were heavily burned the damage appears relatively minimal and concentrated in pockets, thanks to firefighting efforts and soaking rains.

Laurel Falls Trail is one of the most heavily traveled trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.... so much so that the park service has paved the 1.3 miles to the falls in order to combat erosion due to excessive foot traffic.

What this all means is that you will encounter a wad of people. Young people, old people, people with strollers, people with canes, church groups.... experienced hikers who keep a 'rapid' pace in comparison with the casual tourist will find themselves bobbing and weaving through slower parties.

About halfway to the falls, evidence of the fire appears. It is hard to visualize firemen out here battling a blaze. Reportedly water and fire retardant were airlifted in via chopper, as well. All that dangerous effort and expense because somebody had to break the rules of common sense.

Just before you reach the falls, you pass the last of the fire damage. There are some very nice views here across the surrounding ridges, great photo ops.

The trail crosses the falls on a concrete footbridge, built because crossing was very dangerous and many injuries occurred. They still do.... in fact two weeks ago as we drove past the trailhead parking lot, there was a person being lugged out strapped to a stretcher board.

Many people were crowded into the small space, milling around and taking photos.... I snapped one quick shot with nobody in it to show the high water after the rains. We've been there before and our goal was further along.

As we walked away from the falls, we also walked away from virtually all the other people and that's the way we like it. There is little more annoying to me than being forced to listen to loud, inane chatter while trying to enjoy the beauty and solitude of the mountains. We usually avoid crowd-trails.
So, onward and upward. The trail winds around the ridge then into a beautiful old growth forest with huge trees. The ground was carpeted with violets, foam flower, and a few trillium.
It started drizzling a bit, which gave us a nice break from the bugs. We passed a couple , early-mid 20s, headed back down the trail.

What a specimen of orange shelf fungus! It grows on rotting trees and this log was quite covered. The best display I've ever seen.

Farther on, we reach the intersection with Little Greenbrier Trail. If we turned onto that trail, it would bring us out near the Walker Sisters' Cabin. We kept straight on toward Cove Mountain.

At last we reach the junction of Cove Mountain Trail, and a 0.1 leg up to the fire tower. By this time, the elevation gain and high humidity had sapped our energy pretty well.

The tower.
You can't go inside because it is now used as an air quality monitoring station. Air conditioner or something was running....
It started raining. Hard. We huddled under the tower, broke out the ponchos, and refreshed with trail mix and water. After about 5 minutes it slacked off and we headed back down.
At the Greenbrier junction sign we passed an older couple, and then we passed a 40-ish couple about 1.5 miles from the falls.

On a huge tree trailside up from the falls I spotted this 5-inch leopard slug. Yargh.

Thru the falls again, dodge some strollers, and back into the fire zone. The smoky wood smell hangs in the air. But new growth will emerge soon..... and before long many of the burn marks will be covered with leafy greens.