Tuesday, September 8. 2009
here though). But I wanted to get something up here. You see, our route took us along part of the Appalachian Trail, and we encountered several groups of "thru-hikers" intent on hiking the entire 2,000+ mile trail. Each had already hiked more than 200 miles from the beginning in Georgia. Among those I talked with, I met two women from Massachusetts. Each had decided to hike the trail separately but had teamed up. "Mother Nature's Daughter" and "K-Bar" are both blogging. So I wanted to link to their blogs here, as they are both in Maine now and should be finished with the entire AT soon. They hike faster than I can blog, apparently.
Saturday, August 23. 2008
A couple weeks ago I went north to Tennesee for the 2008 BugGuide Swarm. Two and a half days of bug photography in the Smoky Mountains. I didn't get much sleep as we stayed up late taking pictures of moths at the lights and then up early to head out for day trips into the national park. The bug photos and IDs are still coming in, but we've turned up lots of interesting bugs so far. It was a blast.
Then while cutting my grass this week, I spotted a striking pattern slowly gliding across the rocks that border our shrubbery. My foot on the riding mower was maybe a foot away from those rocks when I saw it. I quickly recognized that pattern as that of a copperhead. I was freaked out about it being so close to the house where my boys play. Fortunately while I was debating what to do about it, I saw the snake slither its way from the house and into the woods out back. It was only about 18" long, but still spooky with that bold coloration. Note to self: keep the grass trimmed and the yard more tidy in the summer!
Tuesday, April 15. 2008
I've been getting a little more kayaking in lately, mostly to new places. In February I paddled the South Fork Edisto River. In March I went on my first whitewater trip to the Lower Green in North Carolina. My 14.5' boat managed the Class II rapids and I stayed dry, but plenty of that was luck. Last week I did a jaunt along the Lake Greenwood shoreline and found Black Crowned Night Herons living in an inlet near my neighborhood. This past Saturday I paddled the Enoree River. It started with an hour of steady rain, but ended with quite pleasant weather. It's good to get out on the water!
Friday, April 4. 2008
Last week I took the boys for a hike. I decided on Steven's Creek Heritage Preserve, about an hour's drive south of here. In the past, I've enjoyed paddling and hiking Stevens Creek and its tributary Turkey Creek, so I figured this had to be a good destination (search the blog for 'Turkey' to see related posts). The DNR website notes that the preserve contains 15 rare plant species, so I wanted to check it out.
We got there around noon in fairly warm (for March - 78°F) and breezy weather. Soon we were geared up and on the trail. The early part of the trail was disappointing; we walked through a huge dry area of fallen pines. I'm not sure if this was storm damage or an attempt to down trees killed by pine beetles. The trail here was cleared by small earth movers and was soft. It would've been a mess if it was wet. Some of the trail work made the correct path unclear but we managed to not get lost.
We descended a bluff through the damaged trees and finally started seeing normal growth again. Soon we came upon a little feeder creek, and wildflowers were in bloom everywhere: purples, pinks, whites, and yellows, gently resting on a background of green. I would have loved to spend an hour photographing them all, but the boys were too busy to stop for such things. So I just enjoyed the view.
We walked along the base of a bluff with large rock faces, damp with moisture. If I were a botanist or just knew more about plants, I'd guess that some of the preserve's rare species would be found here. Someday I'd like to identify them, but for the day we were content to wander through a beautiful place.
Soon we were walking parallel to Stevens Creek. The trail never quite gets to the bank of the river. I was hoping there would be a good spot for lunch here, but there wasn't much to work with. The trail began climbing a hill away from the stream, so we settled for a fallen tree as our picnic table. The boys ate heartily and drank most of their juice and all of mine. Then we were ready to finish the hike up the bluff.
At the top it was dry and brown we had nice views of the other bluffs through the mostly bare trees. There were less fallen trees here. We ambled over a good flat trail. I saw my first dragonfly of the year, but it didn't wait to be photographed. Then I was startled to come around a bend and see a small, treaded, hydraulic digger staring us in the face. It was silent and no one was around. I figured we must be getting close to finishing the loop trail to be finding vehicles out there....
I was wrong: someone had driven that thing a heck of a long way up and down hills to get it there. It was hot and dry up on the hill, and the kids were starting to drag. As the trail began to descend, I realized we had yet to get off of this bluff and back to the starting bluff. We came upon the feeder creek again and had to begin the climb through the downed trees. Everyone was tired but we kept at it.
Finally we got up the hill and arrived back at our car. The boys had done great, and we made a well-deserved stop for ice cream on the way home. It sure beat sitting around the house.
Saturday, March 15. 2008
A stormy day today! There were rain and thunderstorms on and off, all day, especially in the afternoon. Our neighborhood had several trees knocked down including some big pines in undeveloped lots. A tree came down in our backyard and smashed our earliest-flowering tree as it fell. But we came out pretty well compared to other folks in the upstate.
I made an ill-advised trip to pick up pizzas for a birthday party. The skies in Greenwood were spooky with some very low hanging dark clouds. Winds and hail came as I arrived at the pizza place. Finally it abated and I was able to get the food and drive home through some heavy rains.
It may be just me, but it seems that South Carolina's roads typically don't drain very well. It's been years since I lived in Ohio, but I don't recall dealing with water in the roads as much when I lived there.
The birthday party was late on account of the weather, and attendees got to enjoy another episode of rain and hail, but the party went well, all things considered. A big thanks to everyone who braved the storms to be here.
Monday, December 10. 2007
"It was summer in December, blowing heat waves in my mind..."I think that line was meant to give you a feel for how unusual the southern hemisphere seasons must feel to those of us up "on top." But whether you've been below the equator or not, it hasn't been hard to get a feel for austral summer in South Carolina lately. It reminds me of being in Sydney in December years ago. Yesterday the temperatures here hit the mid 70s. I've seen that in December before in the years I've lived in SC. But I don't recall a December forecast like the one I saw this morning. Highs of 76°F for the next three days, then 72 and maybe some rain (please!) on Thursday, and then the cold rolls in on Friday, only a high of 67.
Having grown up north of here, I guess I have a mindset that it's supposed to be cold for the holidays. And usually it is somewhat cold in upstate SC for December. But it's hot out and we should be kayaking instead of Christmas shopping!
Friday, November 16. 2007
Comet 17P/Holmes on SpaceWeather. Last night I finally went out to have a look. Once I was out of range of our annoying streetlight and the neighbors' lighting, I was able to pick the comet out with the naked eye. It's just a smudge in the sky, but apparently that smudge is bigger than the sun.
I got my camera gear out and braved the cold to take a few photos. This one turned out OK. Now I just need a telescope and clock drive to take pictures like this.
Tuesday, November 13. 2007
The past couple days the Asian lady beetles have really been out in force. They are all over the outside of the house. At least they helped me find a gap in one of my window frames which I was able to close up. This is probably the most of these beetles that I've seen at one time...wonder if it has any connection to the drought. Perhaps they are flocking to my house exterior since there's a water source nearby.
Friday, October 19. 2007
It takes a steady day or two of rainfall to get the Turkey Creek to the optimal 2-4 foot paddling level. As it has been ridiculously dry here in western South Carolina all summer and fall, I was sure that I'd be able to walk in the creek. I arrived at our standard put-in, just below the Key Bridge. Normally the water is around the bottom of the steps (like this). This time the water was almost completely gone; there was just a trickle in the middle of the creek, far from the steps. I thought I'd be in for a totally dry hike, but I was wrong. Not too far down-"stream", there were spots where the creek was full from bank to bank, but not really moving.
At the dry put-in I found several small pools, teeming with speedy water bugs. Didn't have much luck photographing them, but as I was doing it, nearby movement caught my eye and I spied a frog. It was an unusual brown color and fairly bumpy, but to me it looked more like a frog than a toad. It was a good photo subject, and from looking at my field guide at home, I think it was a cricket frog.
From here I decided to start slogging down the creek. The water was fairly warm and mostly shallow. In general it was clear enough to see the higher ground, but every once in a while I'd have to cross a dark, deeper section. I started out by telling myself I wouldn't get deeper than my knees. Getting those wet, I decided not to get the shorts in the water. But it wasn't long before the pantlegs were a little wet. I eventually decided to not go deeper than my waist in order to protect my camera backpack. A couple times the creek got so deep that I had to find a fallen tree trunk to wade across and balance with my hiking pole. But I was able to get about a third of a mile downstream without getting my shirt or the camera gear wet.
The creekbed alternated between rocks, gravel, and mud. The mud had trapped gases which got released as I walked, bubbles popping with lovely stagnant fragrances. Once I came across a nice section of what looked to be the same sort of jagged phyllite I saw last winter.
I didn't see a lot of wildlife while I was actively wading. It is noisier than kayaking and perhaps my element of surprise was diminished. I managed to see a few turtles, lots of fish confined to the shallow sections, and I heard plenty of birds. However, as I stopped to take a break on a gravel bar, I was treated to four deer crossing the creek in the distance. Wish I'd had the camera ready for it.
I stopped for lunch on another gravel bar. Most of the shoals were overgrown with vegetation, a testament to how long it had been since these bars were fully submerged. After I ate I watched a flycatcher in a tree and debated whether it would wait for me to put the telephoto lens on the camera. I decided to give it a try and of course the bird bailed just as I was ready. But that did prepare me to photograph the flash of yellow that appeared nearby in the same tree. The bird stayed just long enough for me to identify it as my first Hooded Warbler, but not long enough for me to get a decent photo. The blurry result resides at BirdSite for now. Still, it was great to see a new bird species out there in the middle of "nowhere."
I got a little sloppy on my return hike/wade. There were a couple deep sections where I couldn't remember exactly where I had come down, so I had to guess heading back up. At one section I was walking along a submerged tree trunk and slipped, soaking my shirt and getting the bottom of the backpack wet. Fortunately I had recovered without getting any of the lenses wet. Grateful, I resolved to be more careful for the rest of the walk.
I arrived back the steps in good order and headed back uphill. The last time I was here there was unfinished trail bridge just below the Key Bridge. It looked finished, so I hiked up to it and was able to walk out on it. It's in good shape for future hiking and mountain bike traffic.
And so ended my little adventure. It was interesting to travel the creek on foot, but I think I still prefer to paddle it!
Tuesday, July 31. 2007
Check the photo album
BugGuide Gathering. I had a great time and it was fun to meet several of the BugGuide members I've known online for years.
The meetup was at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, which was the perfect place for it. They are up a small mountain with lots of wilderness, but they've got a sizable meeting room with a PC projector and WiFi internet. One minute you're looking at moths attracted to blacklights and the next you're trying to ID it on BugGuide.
Friday the 20th I flew up to Duluth. I didn't realize that I sat next to one of the BugGuiders on the flight from Detroit. I did a little sightseeing along Lake Superior on my way north to Wolf Ridge. In the evening we met up and chatted about dragonflies and damselflies with Kurt Mead and folks who were attending the Minnesota Dragonfly Gathering simultaneously with us. After dark we set up blacklights and tried to attract some moths to the Science Building. The first few moth arrivals were subjected to papparazi-like photography. It was quite a scene. Eventually with the arrival of more moths in various places and folks going to bed, the flash gun rate dropped to a less blinding level. I was excited to see my first Polyphemus moth.
Saturday the whole group loaded up into several cars and headed for a boggy area between Finland and Isabella. It was the first time I've walked into a bog and it was fun. The mossy ground is squishy and in some places a footstep will sink just enough to flood your sandals. The bugs weren't as busy as we thought they might have been, but we still found several species of butterflies and a couple dragonflies. And I can't forget the deer fly that bit my knee. We moved on to lunch at a lake, my first of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes, or maybe the second if you include Lake Superior. At a creek with some dry brush, I did some photo hunting of beautiful red dragonflies, the white-faced meadowhawks. Just before we left I got a good photo. At the next stop we had to fix a flat on John VanDyk's car and I saw a female white-face. The final stop was the treat of the day, a beautiful large bog and a pond, with lots of damselflies. In the evening I got my first chance to try rock climbing on a very nice indoor climbing wall. That night we did some more moth blacklighting, but a cool breeze kept their numbers down. We did see a nice Laurel Sphinx, and some of the night owls were treated to views from Wolf Ridge's telescope and the sound of wolves howling in the distance.
Sunday the group started to break up as some folks had to be on their way. But several stayed and did their own exploring of Wolf Ridge. I joined up with a former Wolf Ridge guide and a forest service worker. We decided to go canoe Wolf Lake. I agreed to let them paddle and I would take pictures from the middle of the boat. Despite being an experienced paddler who should have known better, I slipped on the dock trying to get in and soaked my pants and shoes. At least the camera gear stayed dry! I eventually got in properly and we circumnavigated the lake, not seeing any bugs due to the cool weather. But we did spot a pair of beavers. After the paddle we made an easy hike up Marshall Mountain, which gave us a view of Wolf Lake, plus Raven Lake and even Lake Superior, which was a little tricky to see, since the lake was the same color as the hazy sky. After lunch I went with several folks to Raven Lake, where I made a much better showing in the canoe and did some paddling myself. Kurt Mead took the bow and captured a few damselflies right from the boat. He did a good job explaining how he made his IDs using a hand lens and a well worn field guide. Later a small group of us hiked into the wetlands on one side of Raven Lake. That evening, I enjoyed a great meal with Kurt and his family and a few other Odonata enthusiasts, and spent the night in a treehouse!
Monday I was up a little early, driving up Highway 1 looking for moose. I struck out in this endeavour, but I did get a few bugs on a poorly maintained walking trail. From there I started my run south, stopping at points along Lake Superior. First I drove up to the Palisade Head cliffs. It's precarious up there (reminds me of Jumping Off Rock), but I was careful and got some good photos. Then it was down to the Split Rock Lighthouse, a very picturesque subject, though it's probably a better photo in winter with snow all over the place and fewer tourists climbing around. From there I went to Two Harbors and had a chance to shoot the lighthouses there before returning to Duluth and the flight home.
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