Monday, April 27, 2015

Comparing Notes

When we are preparing for a new trip to a relatively familiar location, I always dig through old photographs of past trips to get some ideas of what we will try to do. So, I went to see what images I had captured on our last vacation to Florida. It will have been pretty much exactly two years since we've been down there when we leave in a few weeks. May. You blink, and two years have vanished.

Carole and I both like Florida. It's not the greatest place we frequent, but it has so much to offer that we don't get tired of it. That's because it's a pretty darned big state and has a lot more variety than the average travel brochures would indicate. Sure...if all you do is lie around on a beach all day or pay a week's salary to gain admittance to a lousy amusement park it can get really stale very fast.

But that's not what we do when we visit the state. There's almost no limit to outdoor activities in Florida and we have more than enough to keep us busy from day to day. And that's what I was doing as I went over the old photos from our latest trip there...just taking a look at what we did and the kinds of things that we can accomplish in this new park which we've never visited.

Campsite on the Chassahowitzka River.

Florida must offer encounters with an alligator or 500.


Carole and I kayak over one of Florida's biggest springs.

A duck!
What's the deep South without some live oaks and Spanish moss?

Saturday, April 25, 2015


The computers that I have owned are like the motor vehicles that I've owned: they seem like something you need, but they are often headaches and more trouble than they're worth.

Recently the printer that I've been using for a few years stopped working. I tried everything to get it to work right, to no effect. Frankly, it was a poor design from a crappy manufacturer that I bought because it was cheap. I go what I paid for.

However, I had a printer that came in a package with my current computer. I never unpacked it because I already had the previously mentioned printer (now on the fritz). So I wasn't worried about having to buy another one. All I had to do was unpack the one that came with my desktop and hook it up.

So that's what I did. Hooked that sucker right up. Plug and play. Just connect it, turn it on, and start printing.


I did everything as per the instructions, but no dice. The printer would power up. But the software wouldn't quite load. The software would get about 90% installed and then malfunction. I know almost nothing about computers and how they work. I did take a computer course offered by the local community college, but that was just the basic. In all reality, I don't know much about how the programs operate.


But I learned years ago not to lose my temper with the computer. Just remain calm and keep trying various fixes and generally things would work out. I have grown to become very stubborn in that respect. So...I looked up various fixes on the websites of the maker of the printer (HP) and the maker of the computer (also HP). I downloaded the software online instead of using the disk that came with the printer. I tried many things.


The printer and the computer still would not communicate.

Finally, I went over various programs on the startup files, one at a time, looking for something I may have missed, or for something that might help. And that's when I noticed an update from HP that I had not downloaded. I looked at the description for it, and it informed me that it was to correct a flaw that prevented the computer from communicating with the printer.

I downloaded and installed it. The printer works.

I'm glad I'm stubborn.

Woo HOO! It works!

Friday, April 24, 2015


The English language is a weird thing. I suppose other languages may be just as weird, but I wouldn't know since I don't speak any other language. I once took German, but I never got beyond a second semester. And even the English that I do speak is in a heavy low-country dialect and peppered with various bits of southern slang.

Which is why I wanted to mention the word in the title of this bit of my blog:


Now, when most people hear or see that word they either have no idea what it is, or they recognize it as a small fish known for flopping around on the California sand to lay its eggs in vast numbers before either being eaten by predators (including humans) or retreating to the sea.

But here in the corner of the South where I grew up, grunion was something else entirely. What it meant was generally a person of less than average stature and/or strength. Grunion was reserved for the smallest fry who either tried to go out for a spot on the football team, or who actually made the team, but were still tagged with the epithet for being shorter and weaker than everyone else. In fact, most football teams generally have one or two grunions on the squad.

Why did this word make the leap from a fish to a type of person? I reckon, perhaps, because of the allusion I made above ("small fry"). But that could have served for any type of little fish, or maybe some small animal. Why didn't something else catch hold? Why grunion? is kind of cool, unique word. And there is something in the sound of it that indicates a certain level of contempt toward those on whom it is used. From what I understand it is pretty much a uniquely southern use of the word. If you played football in vast parts of the southeastern USA, then you likely heard the term or used it, or perhaps were even the target of it.

Football players can be real assholes.

At any rate, from the Big Thicket of Texas to the coast of Virginia I suspect that there are little guys running around on the footballs fields trying to make the cut, or trying to earn a starting spot who hear it to describe them.

Go get 'em, grunions.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


I figured I'd post some photos of my son (Andy) today. He's all grown up of course, but we still manage to find the time to go on trips together as our tiny family group. Some of our best vacations were taken as a family, including to the Florida Keys, and to Yellowstone National Park. And this year we'll head out to Glacier National Park together.

This was at Mason's Ruby and Sapphire Mine in Franklin, NC. I can't remember why Andy was laughing.

Something  was funny, though.

One of Andy's hobbies is geology. He especially likes to hunt for gem stones. At this joint they let you mine your own earth from the hillside and take it to the sluice to find gems. Andy found a few decent sapphires.


Andy on a hike in Linville Gorge with his old man a couple of years back.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Otter

When I first started hiking and backpacking it was hard to find some wild animals that were historically a part of the South. They'd been hounded by over hunting and habitat fragmentation to a point where some of them were genuinely rare. It's hard to believe, but even alligators were once scarce throughout parts of their former range.

One animal that always eluded my quests was the river otter. I would keep my eyes peeled for them, but never so much as a glimpse. You just didn't see them because they were few and far between. In fact, I didn't spot one in the wild until I was almost 20 years old, and it was at the edge of Liptrott Island in Brunwick, Georgia. Because I'd been waiting for such a thing for so long I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Yes, they were that rare.

These days I do encounter them when I'm in the low country. But because they're aquatic and also extremely active, they are very difficult to photograph. Usually when I see them I'm actually on the water in a canoe or kayak and that's when I have one of my cheaper cameras along. So I've never been able to get a nice photo of a wild river otter.

So, when we arrive in the panhandle of Florida in few weeks I will look--as I always do--for the elusive and hyper-active river otter. Maybe, finally, I'll get a nice photograph of one.

Sadly, the clearest shot I've ever taken of a wild otter. This one had just caught a fish and was chomping away on it. Taken on the Rainbow River below Rainbow Springs.

This is about all I ever see of otters when I'm on the water. Generally their heads popping up or their backs as they roll and dive. They move like greased lightning through the river.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Florida Preparations...

Well, one of the main reasons for the Mills River trip was to test out all of the repairs to the Casita. And everything worked perfectly. The freshwater tank works great; the new hot water heater is fantastic; and the new awning worked out perfectly, too.

Now all we have to do over the next few weeks is pack and resupply the trailer. And plan which waterways we're going to kayak and which of the big springs we're going to visit to go swimming and snorkeling.

We can hardly wait!

Say what you like about the weirdness of Florida...but, it's a great place to vacation with some of the best wild and rural landscape on the east coast.

Who needs the Caribbean when we have this?

Great state park and National Forest campgrounds abound.

Fantastic, other-worldly wildlife habitat.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mad Monster Chick

Just to see how many hits this post gets because of a few words. This young woman was at the Mad Monster Party here in Charlotte last year. I don't know what she was doing there, but people were gathered around and she was cute so I took her photo. Later, someone told me there was a snake.

Hot Chick with a Snake.