I wanted to kill some time, and the day was too pretty to stay cooped up indoors. So I took the car out for a spin.
I took these photos from the highest part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, in Jackson County, near Sylva. It still looked like winter up this high (around 5500 – 6,000 ft). Most of the trees are still bare, though a few are starting to bud. A little higher up, and deciduous trees give way completely to Fraser firs (a type of conifer native to the Southern Appalachians that grows on the highest slopes).
The microclimate at these heights has been compared to that of states much farther north, and even southern Canada. It never gets very hot here, even in the summer, and it gets a lot more snowfall than we do in the valleys and lower elevations. I don’t think anyone actually lives this high up, though.
This was the view on the way in to work this morning.
I was at a neighbor’s house, and suddenly, we witnessed four black bears emerging from the woods in the back of their yard: a mother and her three adolescent cubs. Black bears are not very large, not terribly aggressive, and will usually avoid humans, although they do have a reputation for living near humans, because of easy access to trashcans and the smell of cooking food. Many homeowners around here chain down the lids of their trashcans or even lock them. Raccoons are also a problem.
Black bears are very common in the western North Carolina mountains, and are especially easy to spot in the fall, since they are out foraging for food before winter sets in. They are not endangered here because many people are so entranced with them, they actually leave out food to attract them.
On this day, my neighbor and I could see them lumbering closer until they finally stopped under a berry tree almost directly under the second floor window we were looking out of. Mama was the first to climb up the tree (the bears’ agility is amazing for their size and shape), and she seemed to “call” to her cubs to come get some berries. The cubs seemed pretty content to graze on the ground looking for berries that had dropped there, although one did attempt to climb up there with Mom, but wasn’t too successful at it.
After the bears ate their fill, they lumbered off across a field into another part of the woods.
I wish the pictures were clearer, but at least we were pretty close!
The world, in spite of climate change, burning rainforests, and widespread hatred and violence, is still a beautiful place, with so many beautiful and fascinating things in it.
I find taking pictures like these soothing to my soul.
The first photo is of an enormous praying mantis on the screen of my front porch (I believe this guy was close to four inches long!). The second is of an oak tree in my neighborhood, that by the size of its massive trunk looks to be even older than I am, and perhaps even a hundred or more years old. It sure looks healthy though, like it could live for another hundred, and it just might!
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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