These little creatures are fascinating and unlike anything else on earth.
These little creatures are fascinating and unlike anything else on earth.
This was taken looking up at a wooded area that had been partially clearcut to make room for an apartment complex (I took the picture from the parking lot, looking up a steep hill toward the forest). New plants and shrubs hadn’t had a chance to take root in front of the trees, so you found yourself looking deep into the forest. Behind the pale trunks the dark green depths appeared almost black. Adding to the creepiness was the fact a thunderstorm was about to start.
ETA: I iked this enough I decided to make it the new blog cover photo. It was time for a change.
I took a nice long drive today to one of my very favorite spots, in Sunburst, NC. There is a campground there, an actual swimming hole (which I posted about last summer), and the most beautiful scenery you could ever ask for.
Day Trip to Sunburst, NC (if you’re a butterfly fan, you will want to take a look)
I’ve been living in this 1908 farmhouse since 2012 (yes, it’s really 111 years old!). Until earlier this year, the backyard sloped down rather steeply and seemed to end with a very thick, overgrown patch of blackberry bushes, that alas, never produced any edible blackberries (grrrr!) and had become an unmanageable tangle of brambles that had become invasive and made the grass at the base of the slope very difficult to mow.
It all started with a lost septic tank.
When our septic system needed to be pumped last fall no one knew where the septic tank was at first. It hadn’t been pumped in at least ten years! In fact, when I moved in I mistakenly thought we were on the city sewer system, but when I began getting strange odors coming from the sinks, bathtub and toilet, and finally some kind of brown sludge coming up through the drains, I made an emergency call to my landlord and he arranged for the system to be pumped. But first they’d need to look for it, because even he couldn’t remember where it was located.
Well, they finally found it. It was located under the blackberry brambles, so all of them had to be removed, leaving a large, mudpit shot through with thick roots that gave the entire back of my yard the appearance of a giant snake pit. But I was shocked at how much more space there was too. The land behind the brambles went back pretty far, down into a ditch far below that may or may not contain a small stream. It turns out, all that land belongs to this property.
I did nothing to clean up the area, other than toss some grass seed on the dried mud. Now it’s May and nature is taking over again. New plants and tufts of tall grass are growing lushly and there are even pioneer trees and shrubs beginning to take over the once bare soil and cover the sinuous roots.
Thinking like my cat.
My imagination went a little crazy. I thought about my tuxedo cat Sheldon quietly slithering into the natural nooks and crannies in the trees and shrubs, and all the secret cat trails he has probably discovered, where he finds heaven knows what. I imagined being a cat, and in my mind’s eye I saw trails leading off into the dark woods beyond, even though there don’t appear to be any there right now. Maybe we can bushwack some of the shrubs and vines and make a trail, even though in all likelihood any trail we create would lead to nowhere more interesting than the newish housing development there behind the trees, much of which can be seen in winter when the trees are bare.
An abandoned school in Ruskin, Florida: a detour.
I was reminded of Easter Day this year. It was my first full day in Florida after arriving there the night before. We had gone to visit my son’s partner Josh’s family in a place called Ruskin, which is just south of Tampa.
There’s not much going on in Ruskin, Florida, but across the road from Josh’s mom’s comfortable doublewide where we spent the entire day eating a motley assortment of potluck dishes as though it were Thanksgiving (and getting just as sleepy later), are several trails that go off into the woods for quite a long distance, but all wind up in the same place: an old abandoned school that burned down sometime in the 1970s.
No one knows if the fire was an accident or arson, or if anyone died in the fire, but seeing the darkened red brick and yellowed concrete walls of the old school (there are only three walls left standing and two of them are crumbling) suddenly emerge out from the junglelike brush and Floridian forest plants, was a rather spooky (but cool) experience.
I didn’t take photos, because my son was taking better photos on his more expensive and much better camera. It was nice to have my hands free so I could swat the hundreds of mosquitoes that swarmed around me and were happily dining on both my arms and my hands. I finally resorted to waving my arms around wildly to ward off the clouds of mosquitoes, but the next day both my arms were covered in itchy red welts. I’m glad I had the presence of mind to wear long pants and sneakers, rather than shorts and flip flops, like two of the people who accompanied us did.
Although I didn’t take pictures of the school ruins, a friend of my son’s did — on Christmas Day of all times. My son was along for that hike too. There’s also a video of his friend jumping (and almost falling into) a creek, but I’ll spare you that. I guess that’s what people do in Florida on Christmas – they go hiking and hunt for old ruins in the woods. We made the same hike on Easter. That seems significant. So here are four photographs of what they saw on their Christmas hike, and that’s pretty much the same thing we saw on our Easter hike.
Credit for the above photos: Tahoe Wolf Ⓒ 2018
Back at home.
So, getting back to my newly opened up backyard. It’s kind of ugly still, and there probably aren’t any interesting old ruins from decades ago, but it has promise. There’s more there to explore, and over time, it will become more eyecatching as the patchy almost bare ground becomes covered with new plants and flowers. I might toss some wildflower seed down there to help it along.
I’m sorry that I have no “before” pictures of the blackberry brambles that were blocking our access to anything beyond (and hiding our septic system), but frankly, they weren’t that attractive anyway.
I just found this lovely blog.
In a time when migrant children at our southern border are being robbed of their childhood (and even their lives) and children within our own borders are being taught to hate (often in the name of God), this post’s beautiful and simple message couldn’t be more timely or more important.
Please leave comments on the original post.
Today my daughter and I wandered through the woods. After three days of cold and dreary weather we weren’t going to miss 60 degrees and a sunny sky. So we put on our sneakers and headed off to Latta Plantation Nature Preserve to play in the woods and eat marshmallows!
We started at the nature playground walking on logs, slack rope, crawling through rope tunnels, and trying a climbing wall. All of this made difficult by our very wet and muddy shoes, thanks to the 4-inches of rain we’ve received. I spent an hour hovering around my daughter, ready to catch her at a moments notice. My goal: to protect her from a slip or fall, a skinned knee, or worst of all; the dreaded muddy hands!
After a time we headed down the trail. Again I was a father-hen, constantly keeping my daughter away from muddy puddles, keeping her…
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This is going to blow your mind. The ocean is mindbogglingly deep. It’s way deeper than Mount Everest is tall — it’s seven miles to the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean (Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench).
We have only explored about five percent of the ocean. We really have no idea what’s down there or what sort of huge, terrifying creatures may live in its pitch black depths. It’s really incredible just how much of the earth remains unexplored, and most of it is underwater.
We really live on two planets in one. The terrestrial planet, where we are, lies above, and the oceanic planet, with its atmosphere of water, has its own mountains, valleys, deserts, and even its own lakes and rivers (brine pools).
I enjoyed our day trip to Sunburst a couple of weeks ago so much that I decided to go back, only this time alone. I left my house early and arrived there at about 11 AM.
I was the only person there! How wonderful! I could easily imagine I was the only person in the world, and this tranquil and perfect little spot with its cold mountain water, breathtaking views, and swarms of colorful butterflies was my own little Garden of Eden.
This time I had taken along a couple of plastic gallon jugs, and filled both with the cold, clear water. I know it’s perfectly safe to drink as is without filtering it, because I tried it last time we went and didn’t get sick.
With no other people splashing the water, it was very still, and therefore it was easier this time to get an idea of how deep the water may have been in the “swimming hole” area. The slope down into it was quite steep from where I stood at waist level. My guess was the water in the deepest spot was about 6 or 7 feet. You could still see the stones at the bottom, with the water at that depth taking on a greenish tint.
Here and there in the shallows were little piles of different sized stones.
I’m not sure if these are some kind of markers, or if they’re just there for decoration. Whatever they were there for, I thought they made for interesting photographs.
If anything, there were even more butterflies here this time than last. I spent less time taking pictures of them, but I did take this one because it includes a yellow and black butterfly that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest (there were actually quite a few of them there too).
I stayed about an hour and waded out into the water up to my waist, then decided to go home because I had errands to run. On the way up the hill back to my car, I saw some trash. That made me angry. Why are people such pigs? Why would they desecrate this idyllic Eden-like spot with their garbage?
I looked in the car and found a trash bag in the back, and spent about 10 minutes picking up beer cans, chip bags, styrofoam cups, etc. Then I got in the car and drove back home. I think I’ve found my happy place. I’ll keep coming back here often. It should be lovely in the fall.
Probably the best kept secret in my neck of the woods is a swimming hole in Sunburst, North Carolina. It’s about 30 miles to the west of my home, deep in Haywood County, near the Tennessee border. It’s actually part of a river system near Lake Logan, in the Smoky Mountains. It’s one of those places that mostly just the local people know about, since it’s not advertised anywhere, there are no signs leading to it, and there is no admission to get in. Which is wonderful because it never gets too crowded, and you almost feel like it’s your own little secret happy place.
You just park by the side of the road and walk down to the water (you have to be careful — it’s very rocky and lots of roots too). But once you’re down there, you’re in for a treat. The water is cold, and probably the clearest freshwater I’ve ever seen — or tasted. There is no cloudiness to it at all. You can drink it and it tastes fantastic. In fact, I filled my water bottle with it to take back home with me. Next time, I’m taking a gallon jug!
I went up to my waist in the water (I didn’t jump off the rocks like the kids in this video were doing — and the water does look quite deep in the middle) and when you emerge you do feel rather tingly all over — I’m not sure if that’s due to the coldness or the minerals in the water. It has a very “soft” feel to it, and I did feel very relaxed for several hours after this trip, so I wonder what good, healthful minerals it might have been infused with.
There were blue swallowtail butterflies everywhere! Here is the video I made. Please excuse how amateurish it is — I’m new at making videos and haven’t figured out how to get it to fill the screen yet. I just posted this one and the Clearwater Beach one on my Youtube account, which I’ve always had but never had anything of my own on it before.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about a surprising swamp here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. At the time, I only had a couple of photos not taken by me. I’ve been fascinated by the swamp ever since I discovered it.
Today, with nothing else to do, I took a drive back to the swamp to get some photos. There wasn’t really anyplace to go down into the swamp and get closeups (not that I’d really want to do that anyway) so I took these from the highway that goes right past it. The weeds along the side of the road were too tall to walk in.
I love the creepy beauty of these pictures.
The flowering plants growing on the water are water lilies and the blooms are a lovely bright pink, but it’s hard to make out the color from the photos. It would have been worth getting closer in for that.
Yesterday as I was driving east along US Highway 70 headed toward Black Mountain, I passed an unusual sight: to the immediate left on the road was a flat expanse covered with what looked like bright pink water lilies. On closer inspection, I realized I was looking at a swamp! We don’t have swamps here in the Blue Ridge Mountains! Or do we?
I’ve actually passed the swamp many times before without knowing it. It never really stood out to me before, since this stretch of the highway isn’t especially scenic. It’s filled with used car lots, run down buildings, and sad, outdated, nearly empty strip malls. During the winter and early spring, I had seen the swamp, but because of the vast amounts of rain we’ve had this year, I assumed it was just a flooded area and would probably eventually be drained and something built there.
But the presence of the water lilies made me realize this wasn’t just a flooded area that would eventually dry up, but an actual, bona fide swamp!
I was intrigued. I wanted to find out more. When I got home, I Googled “Swannanoa Swamp,” not expecting to find much, if any information. But there were actually two articles written about it, one in the Asheville Citizen-Times and another on the River Link website. There were also a few photos, which I have copied here.
Since both articles appeared to be written in the past year, I assumed the swamp was a new thing. I had never noticed it at all until this year, when I assumed it was just a flooded area. But it’s actually at least 60 years old!
Here is the quote from the “Answer Man” on the Asheville Citizen-Times article that explains the swamp’s (actually two connected swamps) unusual history:
…The KOA Campground in Swannanoa owns the swamp ponds on the north side of the road, which are actually strangely attractive with all the lily pads and bright pink lilies in bloom.
A co-owner of the KOA, who asked not to be identified, said a divider lies between the two ponds, and they do have a resident beaver. Campers aren’t allowed to fish in the swamps.
For their origin, she referred me to Swannanoa Valley historian Bill Alexander, whose family owned much of the property around there on the north side of U.S. 70.
“When Grovestone inquired about some property they would like to get rock out of, my father and my uncle gave them permission to dig some of that area out, just for the granite or whatever they could get out of there,” Alexander said. “They did that, and because they were getting something essentially for nothing, they said, ‘We’ll make you a lake.'”
This was in the early 1950s. The lake remains as the KOA Campground lake.
“There was a body of water that came from the original lake, and it didn’t have anywhere to go,” Alexander said. “The swamp was a run-over from the lake. That’s how that body of water, specifically, came to be.”
The article went on to explain that there have been no known health issues or problems because of the swamp’s presence, but that people exploring the area should take precautions and stay covered and use bug repellant to ward off mosquitoes, which breed there as they do in any wetland.
I didn’t get out of the car to explore the swamp myself, so I didn’t get a chance to take my own photos. I think you probably have to go in via the campgrounds, which are behind it. Maybe one day I will do that. These photos don’t show the brilliant pink of the water lilies. It’s not a large area. I’d say it’s about the size of a fairly small, but long pond.