Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New camera and 2 hikes in 3 states

Kind of like the commercial says, "Like a good neighbor, State Farm was there!" Insurance is one of those things you hope you never need to use, but if you do, it's sure great to have it. Thanks to that policy, I now have a nice new Nikon D90 D-SLR camera. It isn't too different from my D80 except that it is a higher resolution and it will take movies. One thing I don't like about though, is it came with an 18 - 105mm lens, my old camera had an 18 - 135mm which would zoom in closer (that lens has been discontinued, what was Nikon thinking?!). Oh well, it is just so nice to have a camera in my hands again! :) I had been suffering photography withdrawals!

I had a couple of good opportunities to try it out this past weekend. On Saturday, Kenny and I went hiking with our friends Terri and Rod up at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park at the confluence of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. This was where Daniel Boone blazed a road through the Gap in 1775 allowing settlers to spread westward into Kentucky. We hiked on a very popular 9-mile loop called the Ewing Trail. It led up to the spectacular Sand Cave and White Rocks Overlook, 2000 feet above the valley. Had it been a clear day, we would have had some spectacular views from the top. However, a cold wind and the clouds settled over the mountain making for less than perfect sights. Unfortunately, due to heavy horse travel, the trail was in bad shape in many areas. It was the muddiest trail we had ever hiked! When we got home, I had to soak our pants legs in a bucket of water before I could wash them! There were some interesting rock formations at the top. All of the rock is sandstone and conglomerate with large, round, white pebbles imbedded in it. The amazing thing is that at one time, a "gazillion" years ago, those pebbles were washed down river beds from the Appalachian Mountains! There were some interesting potholes on top of the rocks, I'm sure they make nice homes for some creatures (although I didn't notice any). Thanks to Edgar, who took this group photo for us! (l-r: Kenny, me, Terri and Rod)

The next excursion was the hike to Sand Cave. It is a HUGE sandstone / congolomerate overhang with an enormous "sand box" underneath. The formations in the cliff were interesting to look at, some were white and orange sandstone, others were curly outcroppings of iron-infused sandstone.

As an added treat, there is a lovely waterfall near the base of the cave. Thanks to all the recent rain, it was flowing nicely. A large group of Boy Scouts were hiking there that day, had it been warmer, I'm sure there would have been a lot of wet boys! :) Rod brought out his campstove here and we enjoyed a hot bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup. Here, Terri is savoring her bowl.

The fine sand was difficult to walk in and it sure made a mess of our boots! After last week's soaking and this week's mudbath, my poor boots may never forgive me! :(

Of course, with all the rain, there was a nice showing of mushrooms, puffballs and lichens. My favorite was the beautiful orange slime mold (yes, I did say "beautiful"!) I found growing on a log. I enjoyed showing to some of the other hikers, they were surprised to see how pretty it is! As best I can tell, this is Insect-egg Slime Mold (Leocarpus fragilis).

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