Thursday, December 30, 2010
We spent three days in Milton, FL visiting my parents. Unfortunately, we missed the first white Christmas that Oak Ridge has had since the early 1990's! Grrrr! :( It was wonderful to get to spend time with my folks though!
I have been excited to see a couple of uncommon birds (to me, at least). A little Brown Creeper came to the tree behind the house yesterday. I had seen one a few years ago, but couldn't get a good photo of it. Fortunately, this one stuck around long enough for me to put my telephoto lens on my camera and get a few shots.
The other bird was a pretty little Ruby-crowned Kinglet, it was the first time I had seen this bird. I managed to get only one shot before it took off, it is a pretty crazy photo!
Happy New Year to my blog readers! Have a wonderful, nature-filled 2011!
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
We saw some pretty fall colors along the way, including these Red Maple leaves. I liked this half-red, half-green leaf!
One thing I saw along the trail really irritated me, I HATE it when inconsiderate people spray paint graffitti on anything, but ESPECIALLY on the beautiful rocks along the trails! I wonder how the person who vandalized this cliff with religious graffitti would feel if someone came into his or her church and wrote environmental messages on the walls!? I hope it wasn't a student from nearby Bryan College in Dayton (from the Stokes Monkey Trial fame), they should know better!
Parts of the trail are very rocky. There are some of the biggest boulders in the creek that I have ever seen, some are the size of a small house! I turned on the camera as we walked over one rocky part of the trail. I didn't realize how much noise I make when I walk through the leaves and over the rocks, I sound like a pack horse!
The trail to Snow Falls eventually crosses the creek by way of a 150-ft. bridge over some of those huge boulders. The first boulder has posts with cables and grooves cut into the rock to make walking on it a bit safer. I'd love to know how the trail crews got those long pieces of railing back there!
From this point, the trail took a steep turn up the side of the gorge. It was approximately 1 mile of 8 switchbacks to gain 700 feet in elevation! As we hiked along the trail Kenny suddenly stopped and motioned for me to come up to him quietly. At first I couldn't see what he was pointing at, finally I saw a beautiful Mourning Cloak butterfly resting in the leaves. They are quite shy creatures, so I was surprised to be able to get so close to it.
After hiking up and up and up over several boulder fields such as the one on the right, we finally made it to the rim of the gorge. The trail has lots of white trail blazes painted on the trees, but at the top some were painted on the bare rock. Just past the powerlines, we were rewarded with a fabulous view of where we had hiked. I've drawn a rough sketch of the trail in red. From here, we still had about another 1/2-mile to go to reach Snow Falls.
This area was once owned by the Bowater Paper company. The upper parts had been logged, the more inaccessable sides of the gorge had not. It was obvious that we were walking in a younger, second-growth forest up on top. After crossing a dirt road that led to a clearcut area, the trail came to another creek. Fortunately, the water was low enough that we could easily walk across it. Finally, the trail started losing elevation and we could hear falling water, we knew we were getting close to Snow Falls! We could not find a trail to go to the bottom of the falls, so we had to stay at the top. I hung on to a tree to get out far enough to take this photo!
After a picnic lunch, we packed up and hiked the 3 miles back to the car. It was a strenuous hike, but we were glad we did it!
Friday, October 22, 2010
A little farther upstream we came across another pretty little waterfall, I don't know if it has a name or not. The reflections of the colorful trees on the still water below were gorgeous!
We finally made it to Bald River Falls, but the direct overhead light made for not-quite-optimum conditions. It is a hard waterfall to photograph because it is either in shade or blown out by direct sun due to its east - west orientation. This is a very easy waterfall to get to, I was standing on a bridge when I took this photo! That is one reason it is so popular, it doesn't require a strenuous hike to go see it like many of the others in that area.
After a quick stop at Indian Boundary Lake, we headed on up the Cherohala Skyway. "Cherohala" is a combination of the two national forests where it is located; the Cherokee on the Tennessee side and the Nantahala on the North Carolina side. The leaves were breath-taking up at about 3000 feet in elevation. We were amazed at the variety of colors! Sights like this could give New England autumns a run for their money!
Our last part of the adventure was a drive down Hwy. 129, a.k.a "The Tail of the Dragon", an 11-mile stretch of highway with 318 curves! It borders the Smokies and is very popular with motorcycle drivers. It begins at Deals Gap in North Carolina and ends at Hwy. 411 near Maryville, Tennessee. When we stopped at the "motorcycle resort" (I question the word "resort", the place had bunkbeds!) at Deals Gap, we saw the "Tree of Shame". The trunk and lower branches were covered with pieces of motorcycles that had been involved in crashes, and memorials to riders who did not make it back. We met two riders from Toronto, Canada, one fellow laughed when he found his mirror on the tree that he lost in a 2003 crash.
I'll end with a couple of short videos of a rider zooming by and our car going through the corners. This is no road for anyone who gets carsick easily! :(
Here are a couple of the curves we encountered!
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Other places we visited included: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, Sunset Crater National Monument, Mt. Agassiz ("ag-uh-see") via the AZ Snowbowl ski lift (the 2nd highest peak in AZ at >11,500 ft.) and the Lowell Observatory where Pluto was discovered.
We didn't see many animals on the trip other than a few lizards, but one animal we did see was quite a thrill. Near Hoover Dam at Lake Mead, there is a herd of Desert Bighorn Sheep. These endangered animals have found a great food source in a nearby park where there is irrigated green grass. They have become quite a tourist attraction since they are so easy to see and photograph. Unlike deer (which have antlers, not horns), the female sheep have horns, they just don't get as large as the males'. It was 106 degrees when we were in the picnic shelter, the sheep spent a lot of time in the shade of the trees and sometimes would even walk through the shelter with us! We saw a couple of Jackrabbits and several Desert Cottontail rabbits there too.
On our last night we stayed at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. We are not casino or city people, so it was not our favorite part of the trip. But, I guess everone should see Vegas once for the experience. I hated having to go through the smoky casinos when we walked through the hotel. It is amazing what people will do to make money in that city, besides Elvis, we also saw Michael Jackson, the Avitar characters, showgirl "wannabees" and Edward Sissorhands! We did enjoy seeing the beautiful fountains at the Bellagio, which was right across LV Blvd. They were even more spectacular at night: