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.
Sunday, February 25. 2007
Friday the 16th we stayed at Amelia Island, which is the northernmost island on Florida's Atlantic side. We visited Fort Clinch State Park, with an old civil-war era fort. The main park road has a short trail which gives pretty good views of the Amelia Island Lighthouse which is normally closed to the public. After having a look at the fort, my oldest son and I played in the sand on a freezing cold beach.
Friday night I went by myself to downtown Jacksonville and saw Colin Hay (former lead of 80s Men at Work) play with the Jacksonville symphony. I enjoy his solo stuff, and it was a rare chance to see him play as he's mostly on the west coast. The crowd at the symphony was odd...a mix of his fans plus a lot of white-haired older folks who I think have season tickets to the symphony and weren't prepared for electric guitars. But the music was good, and I got to meet him after the show, which I think counts as the only semi-famous person I've ever met.
Kennedy Space Center to let the boys see the old rockets. They've turned the place into a semi-amusement park which was disappointing. However, by coincidence there was to be a rocket launch that day and it went off as scheduled. First time I've gotten to see anything launch from there. The few other times I've been there has always been a delay of some sort. My oldest son now probably thinks they shoot off rockets down there every day.
Sunday we headed down to the Everglades, at the southern end of mainland Florida. My first trip there in five years, and I had missed it! We stopped to see the birds and gators along the Anhinga Trail, and were not disappointed. From there we drove to Flamingo, next to Florida Bay. If anyplace in Florida was going to be good for camping in February, this would be it. But that night it was quite chilly and the temperature according to our car was 39° F. Not exactly what we were hoping for, but the kids weathered it well.
Fortunately, the weather was better Monday night, and Tuesday was much warmer. Unfortunately it was time for us to leave. We had one last hurrah by stopping for lunch at Alabama Jack's near Key Largo. Then it was time to fight the traffic in what I call the "concrete jungle," the 80 miles of Interstate 95 from Miami to Palm Beach. We made it just past Daytona Beach and spent the night before finishing the trip on Wednesday.
See the photo album.
Tuesday, October 10. 2006
Three times! It takes forever for me to write a blog entry anymore, so I'm just lumping some trips together.
Two weeks ago I went with the Palmetto Paddlers to camp and kayak the French Broad River near Asheville. It was a very rainy experience. Friday the 24th, I carpooled with Brian O., and we stopped off for cookies at the Wildflour Bakery in Saluda before heading up to Brevard. Several club members camped at the Davidson River Campground. On Saturday, more paddlers met up with us at the put in on the river. Many of us thought it was odd to see a river flowing north, not south or east like a typical South Carolina river. But the French Broad is on the other side of the Eastern Continental Divide, and flows over to Tennessee. The paddle trip was OK, but I'm not much for urban paddling, as there was a lot of highway noise along that stretch. The views of the Biltmore were fleeting, but we did see it. After the paddle, several of us visited the Compleat Naturalist, a little nature store in Asheville that has the most comprehensive field guide selection I've seen. That night we had dinner at the Twin Dragons in Brevard, an insanely large buffet of Chinese, Mexican, and other stuff. Sunday a few of us took a detour to the new DuPont State Forest to see three waterfalls. Brian and I took the scenic route back to SC, and stopped at Caesar's Head State Park. We had wanted to see the migrating hawks and the view, but had to settle for a sheet of white cloud, as the park was fogbound. We also stopped in Ware Shoals, doing a little prospecting for a paddle trip on the Saluda River there. Here's the official club trip report.
The next weekend we went with good friends to the area near Boone, North Carolina. It's the first I've been there, and it takes a long time to get there. But the rented cabin was beautiful and worth the ride. Saturday we took the kids to the Tweetsie Railroad and let them have fun. Sunday we drove part of the Blue Ridge Parkway and took in the views. The fall colors were just beginning to get underway, and I'm sure they'll be much better about now, but the parkway will probably be that much busier too.
In the middle of last week I took my son for a short mountain camping trip. We sort of picked Oconoee State Park at random. It's a decent park, tucked up in the mountains near the upper-left corner of the state. It was expensive to camp; for some reason they charged me a reservation fee for a walk-up, and there's 10% tax charged too. We had a section of the campground nearly all to ourselves, and it was pleasantly quiet. The following day we took a trip up to Whitewater Falls, which straddles the NC/SC border. We stopped at the upper falls. The fall colors were just thinking about appearing there. I've been there three times, and a weekday morning is a good time to go there and avoid the crowds. Sometime I'd like to get down to the lower falls but I haven't had the time for it yet.
I think I've had enough mountains for now; I need some beach time!
Sunday, July 9. 2006
Click here to see the pictures. Hopefully I'll have a chance to finish up my journal about the trip in the next week or two.
Tuesday, December 20. 2005
We just got back from one of our typical trips to see the folks in Ohio. Here are some notes:
Monday, Dec. 12: Left SC in the afternoon. Bright and sunny until we got to NC. It was interesting driving by the Charlotte airport on I-85, because I had recently been "flying" there in Flight Simulator and recognized the runways the approaching planes were using. It started snowing as soon as we climbed I-77 in to the Virginia mountains. We stopped at the Sleep Inn in Princeton, WV. It's fun to swim in an indoor pool while it's snowing outside. Tried to use their free internet but my computer refused to load their weird login page, even after I turned off the firewall.
Tuesday, Dec. 13: The motel had these cool waffle irons where you poured in a cup of batter, closed the lid, and 2 minutes later it was ready. Not bad for the typical motel "continental" breakfast. Finished the drive to Ohio in cold but sunny weather.
Wesnesday, Dec. 14: Spent some time out in the cold trying to photograph birds. Jen's folks had a lot of them eating seed off their picnic table. The overcast weather made the images turn out sort of dull. The Canon 100-400mm lens needs lots of light. Got a halfway decent shot of a red-bellied woodpecker.
Thursday, Dec. 15: Drove through some nasty rain and sleet to get to Cincinnati.
Friday, Dec. 16: Spent most of the day lounging around but braved the cold to see Katie Reider play across the river in Newport, KY. Great music and an interesting crowd.
Saturday, Dec. 17: Went to see relatives in Louisville, KY and back to Cincinnati in the evening.
Sunday, Dec. 18: Set up my dad's new computer, replacing an ancient machine from 1998. Really wish you could buy a Dell without them installing all their resource-sucking trialware. Got rid of a lot of it and installed AVG and Firefox.
Monday, Dec. 19: Time to head home. Was 12 degrees (-11°C) and sunny when I started the car at 10am. Didn't get above freezing until we got to Tennessee. We got to SC after dark and it was 40 degrees (4°C), a nice improvement. There were lots of trees down along the sides of the roads from the ice storm we missed. I was worried about my house, which has a lot of trees around it. Fortunately we had no damage.
Monday, November 14. 2005
Jen and I got the chance to get away for a weekend, and at the last minute settled on going to the mountains in North Carolina. I found a cabin at the Nantahala Village, west of Bryson City. The village consists of a lodge with rooms and a restaurant, and several outlying cottages and cabins. Our cabin was perched high on the side of a hill with a great view of the mountains to the west (and pretty good sunsets). The cabin was a small two-bedroom house with some old furnishings. The satellite receiver was from the dark ages. But the fireplace and the hottub were great!
The restaurant at the lodge served some really good food, but the service was slow. I'm not sure they were expecting the number of guests they had this late in the season. Over the weekend the lodge hosted an art show with various paintings and pottery, and some funky hand-crafted Native American drums.
The weather was cool but sunny. Some trails of the Nantahala National Forest border their property, and we hiked for a couple hours on Saturday. The trails offered some neat views of some offshoots from Lake Fontana. The only other trail users passed by once on horseback. The trails weren't really marked, so we got turned around a little, but found our way back. Along the way back we spotted several small birds. Once I got the binoculars on them they looked like goldfinches with yellow mohawks. I looked them up when I got home and I'm pretty sure they were Golden-crowned Kinglets. We also spotted a fat lizard along the trail, which I think might have been a northern fence lizard.
We had a fun and relaxing time...it was a nice spot for a getaway.
Wednesday, May 25. 2005
One day we took the kids to the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, which I think I enjoyed more than they did.
Thanks to my friends who made it a fun week and I hope we can all do it again sometime.
Sunday, April 10. 2005
Click here to check it out!
Wednesday, December 8. 2004
I finally got around to scanning photos and posting a little writeup for my Southeast Arizona trip, over a year ago. Someday I'll catch up with the old trips and photos!
Click here to read the story and see the photos.
(After blogging for most of a year, I'm still debating as to whether a trip warrants its own web page, or I should just post it as a blog entry. It's so much less effort to post to the blog, but since this trip was so long ago I put it with the old trip reports.)
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