Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Skunk

This evening I was in the backyard messing with my plants.... when I looked up for a moment there was the skunk. I almost trampled myself trying to get inside before he noticed me. Then, whilst running to grab the camera to snap the little stinker because I can never get a decent pic of him, I almost broke my toe on the stairs. By the time I made it back out, he'd traipsed across the street. Little fink.
So I didn't do all that in vain, I present for your viewing pleasure the crappy skunk shot:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ramsey Cascades Trail

On Sunday we hiked out Ramsey Cascades Trail in the Smokies. A really interesting trail, lots to see along the way. It is a 4-mile hike to reach the falls with an elevation gain of about 2,200 feet. The most strenuous section is within the last 1/2 mile of the falls.... due to combination of steady incline and tiredness of legs :-) But definitely worth the effort - the falls are spectacular!

The trail starts as an old gravel roadbed. After 1.5 miles, you reach a turn-around loop.... the unnamed footpath branching off left of the loop heads up toward Greenbrier Pinnacle. The falls trail continues on at the back of the loop.


The first log footbridge is about the halfway point. We hiked up here this winter but turned back due to snow and ice, which made the log slick as a sheet of glass.






Erosion along the trailbed.... thousands of feet and countless storms have exposed the root system.
Paying attention is high priority, one small misstep can lead to a twisted ankle or a tumble.





Beautiful bee balm was spotted along the trail in several places.
Lots of rhododendron in bloom .



Traveling onward, the trail winds by three of the biggest trees I've ever seen - pass through two huge sentries to the hall of the giant king, of record proportions!
Cross over another footbridge, just rebuilt in May and still smelling fresh of sawdust (one of my favorite aromas).

Finally after some diligent rock scrambling, the roar of the falls could be heard. As they came into view, so did a grim reminder of the dangers associated with waterfalls. A fun day of enthusiastic exploration can turn deadly in a second..... and so often we witness foolish or careless acts within view of such signs.


We were the first to reach the falls that day and were lucky to enjoy them all on our own for about 10 minutes, until the rest of the hikers started trickling in.
One girl hiked the entire 8 miles in flip-flops. Yeah.
All said, we passed roughly 35 people while on the trail, and our hike-time was 4.25 hours.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Box turtle

About a month ago, I looked out the window to check on the rain (we'd been having a lot) and I spied a box turtle trundling around in the street. We don't get much traffic here but there are a couple resident speed demons who'd likely mow down a turtle and not even notice.... so I embarked on a mini rescue op to get it off the road.

Having done this a few times in the past, I was fully prepared for the inevitable peeing that goes along with carrying a turtle. I brought it onto the patio for a few photos before moving across the road in the direction I assume it was heading - the retention pond. Poor little thing was caked up with red clay from the empty lots next door.

Very enjoyable to examine such a beautiful creature so closely.
Here's a video that displays the turtle's locomotion, watch those little legs go!
video

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Meigs Mountain Trail to Campsite #20

On July 12 we hiked one of my favorite trail sections in the Smokies: Meigs Mountain Trail, from Jake's Creek Trail to just beyond backcountry Campsite #20. It is a relatively easy footpath through some nice forest with a brief, steep descent to the camp.


We've been this way several times before, but only in the 'dead' seasons. It is always something of a surprise how different the same place can look during each season.







An eye-popping burst of color along the way, tiny orange mushrooms just over an inch tall.






This area was historically home to about 20 farm families and logging communities. Some evidence of their presence along the trail..... a stone foundation or wall, and a metal can.




After about 2 miles we reached campsite #20. We've not encountered anyone camping out during our visits, and in fact today we didn't see anyone at all along the trail.
I hope we'll camp here someday.



Someone has done a bit of debris hunting since last we were here. They unearthed a rusted fry pan among other things....







An intact metal wagon wheel rim... where did they find that hiding, I wonder? The railroad wheel has been uncovered for some time.
I love this photo.




Following the trail beyond the campsite, there are a few more stream crossings and more interesting debris to observe.
This looks to be a railroad piece leftover from the logging era.



Closer inspection revealed the part came from Knoxville. Not a surprise!





Hungry, we turned back with thoughts of lunch on our minds.

Our only wildlife encounter of the day was a great one.
After hearing a couple crows in the distance, I got out my trusty crow caller and 'spoke' to them briefly.... the response was excellent! They flew in like stormtroopers and the warrior of the tribe (the loudest and with the most ragged feathers [maybe that's who the cast-off belonged to]) buzzed us at a mere 15 feet. They set up a perimeter and watched us from a fair distance as we finished the hike out. Must have thought I was smuggling a crow in my backpack :-) As always we depart empty-handed, but with my heart full of joy and a few photos to share.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Family visit

Mom and Dad (and Zippy the wonderdog) are in town visiting for a couple weeks and house shopping.... we're having a good time and hopefully they'll find a place to make a home base up here!
At least they are enjoying our cooler weather, low-to-mid 80sF is *much* more pleasant than upper 90sF. Ugh. That's why WE moved away. Don't get me wrong, I love LA and the Gulf Coast.... the food is amazing and the people are great, and it will always be "home", but sweating like pig 10 seconds after going outside (and that's just standing there, not even working!) is not my cup of tea. I'd rather be partially frozen :-)