|My Casita and old truck at the Ammons Branch Campground.|
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I loved that place. I lived there for just a few years--from the time I entered the third grade until I graduated from the sixth grade. I had friends all up and down the street and some from the streets on one side or the other. We spent our days playing in the school fields, in the many patches of woods scattered throughout the area, and exploring up and down vast streams and creeks filled with fish and reptiles and amphibians, many of which we caught and released. I was lucky to have lived in an area that was filled with so many types of salamanders, which we kids were always thrilled to catch and examine and then put back into the creeks from which we'd kidnapped them.
We lived in a rambling house of wood and Stone Mountain granite. The foundation was granite and the fireplace was granite. It was a pretty darned cool place to live. We had a big living room which was more often than not piled to the ceiling with boxes of comic books from my dad's used bookshops. I don't think there was a comic book published between 1956 and 1968 that I hadn't at least looked at, and most of which I'd read. For a kid between the ages of eight and eleven, it was a pretty goddamned cool place.
Don't get me wrong--it wasn't all fun and giggles. But for the most part I had a really good time being a little boy. My parents bought me most of the toys I asked for, but I never was a greedy kid. I had model rockets and dinosaurs and books-a-jillion. There just wasn't a whole hell of a lot that I wanted and didn't have. But here, condensed into just a few items, are the things which seemed to me to have been the most important bits of silliness to the child I was then:
Whatever happened to B.K. Taylor?
When I was a teenager, I loved reading his contributions to the humor magazine, National Lampoon, which appealed to my brutish and primitive sense of what was funny. I have to say that I still have a brutish and primitive sense of what is funny, and I was curious about Mr. Taylor’s work.
Apparently, from what I’ve been able to glean from the internet, none of his particularly funny strips from Lampoon are available in book form. Which is a shame, because the material is truly good. I especially recall being amused by his “Timberland Tales”, and would love to read them again without having to dig up back issues of National Lampoon.
I did find one website with which he seems to be involved, but no other details. Someone told me that they think he does material for Mad Magazine and that he wrote, at least for a while, for some TV sitcoms.When I was about nineteen, I met BK Taylor at the great old OrlandoCon run by Jim Ivey in the day. It was a really friendly comic convention packed into a small dealer’s room and accompanying panel rooms at the International Inn not far from the airport in Orlando, Florida. He’s one of the few artists/writers I ever approached to tell him how much I enjoyed his work. He thanked me and then told me that he was one of two BK Taylors who worked as a cartoonist, but that he was the funnier (and more talented) of the two. Whatever.
Innyway, I was just thinking of the dude and wondering about his past, present, and future projects. His work made me laugh.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
You know what’s frustrating?
Being about to burst to post some news, but not being allowed to post the news because your literary agent advises against it. That’s frustrating!
Contracts are signed. Every “i” dotted; every “t” crossed. Everything delivered and done.
And you can’t brag, yet.Alas!
Thursday, February 21, 2008
When I was a kid, and very excited by the impending Moon missions being launched by NASA, I was fascinated by our planetary companion. I learned all that I could about it as a small child, gazing up at it in the evenings and using the reflector telescope that my parents had bought me so that I could see the volcanic flatlands and the monstrous craters and the ragged highlands. I imagined the frail Apollo spacecraft flying to Luna and the spider-like Lunar Excursion Module touching down on the surface to deposit its crew of two.
Those were great days to be a kid interested in nature. To look up at the moon and to know that men were heading there. To read science books and understand how it was being done. To watch the news and see it happening. I'll never forget sitting in front of the television set to watch the launches of the various spacecraft as the USA painstakingly went through each step along the way. There were the Mercury shots, the Gemini missions, and then the Apollo spacecraft with the enormous Saturn V boosters.
I never forgot the feelings of pure amazement of how things worked, both in the turning of the globe, of the orbit of the Moon, of our own journey about the Sun. I would look up at the night sky and marvel at it all.
Last night, my son and I watched the total eclipse of the Moon. I've seen such events many times since I was a kid. I'd seen so many that I actually found myself missing them from time to time, despite the opportunity to witness them. But last night my son and I set up my digital camera and tripod and we took photos as the moon slowly vanished behind the enormous shadow of the Earth.
And there, for a moment, I felt a little of the awe over such an event when I was just a kid. It was nice.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Saucony leads the way along a rocky overhang.
Our first good view of Scaly Mountain as we cross NC 109.
I love looking at old rock slides, imagining the power.
The Bartram Trail advancing up the peak.
Saucony pauses to get a drink at a stream crossing.
One of many little streams that cross the trail.
Our first view of Rabun Bald, in northern Georgia (2nd highest in GA).
Classic southern Appalachian ridge hiking.
We had to pass these horrid vacation homes along the Bartram Trail. I hope they burn down.
Andy Kunkle, Jack Thyen, and Saucony at the first set of cliffs.
Just below the 4,804-foot summit of Scaly Mountain.
On the way back down, we pass several more streams and small waterfalls.
Jack at a double stream crossing.
Just at the end of the trail, we passed through a magnificent white pine grove.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
While the hike to this waterfall is only about 200 yards from the road which runs adjacent to the wilderness area where it's located, there is no trail. I keep trying to impress upon folk what "no trail" means in the Southern Appalachians. Generally, it means extremely steep slopes, poor footing, and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of very thick vegetation. That vegetation generally being various species of brambles, rhododendron (they don't call them rhododendron hells for nothing) and often a nasty foot-grabbing plant called dog-hobble. While it wasn't very far, this is what the hike down to the bottom of the gorge looked like:
If you're up to it, then I highly recommend the scramble down to see these falls on Scotsmans Creek. Otherwise, just be aware of the kind of tough sledding you'll face. (Oh, yes. We also have lots of copperheads and rattlesnakes in this part of the country in the summertime.)
Saturday, February 16, 2008
On the way home, I talked my wife into agreeing to a detour through the Black Mountains, one of my favorite hiking and camping areas. We didn't get a chance to do more than just a very short hike (to a swimming hole), but I got this great panoramic shot of the Black Mountains of North Carolina. This spot from a golf course at the base of the peaks, is just about the best grandstand of the northern section of the Blacks.
Well worth the side trip.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
I'm convinced of it. This past weekend my son and I traveled to western North Carolina to camp and go hiking in the Nantahala National Forest near the towns of Cashiers and Highlands. Highlands has been known as an exclusive resort community for many years--decades, in fact.
(The land beyond this falls is private property. I don't know what lies beyond.)
For a long time it was a high income retreat for wealthy southerners, many from the Atlanta area. Real estate in and around Highlands has been at a premium for a very long time. Unfortunately for the bulk of the public, relatively very little of the South is in public hands. Unlike the states in the west, we east of the Mississippi River have had to make do with fewer parks and very little in the way of protected (or even regulated) forests.
(One has to hike past these hideous vacation homes along the ridge of Scaly Mountain to find your way to the summit.)
Highlands and its immediate vicinity is a textbook example of what can and will happen without stiff regulation and protection of forest lands for use by the wider public. As I've said before, every time I look upon the landscape of this part of the nation where North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia meet, I am stunned at the sheer physical beauty on display. The highest sheer cliffs in the eastern USA are here.
There are so many waterfalls that some lie still undiscovered in the few pockets of forests that are rarely visited. There are groves of trees that have not been logged in hundreds of years, and even some spots that have never felt the teeth of a saw or the bite of an axe. The land rises abruptly from the Piedmont creating what some describe as a temperate rainforest packed hundreds of species of trees and dozens of types of amphibians.
The water table that has poured forth from this amazing terrain was once the cleanest and purest to be found in the east.
(The Chatooga River, which runs past private property, much of which prevents public access.)
But now, with unbridled development, with much of the land in private hands, it is all being quite literally loved to death by the wealthy elite. Tens of thousands of acres of forests are being plowed under to make way for subdivisions.
Mountaintops and ridgelines are off limits to the public, whom this wealthy elite looks upon with disdain and contempt. Waterfalls are fenced off for the benefit of a few families rich enough to afford to carve driveways to them where they can plant their enormous vacation homes.
(Yet another vacation home being ridge built.)
In short, the stunning beauty of these mountains is falling victim to the whims of a tiny minority of land developers hell-bent on the unintended destruction of that which they advertise as the source of the lure.
One can hike trails that were once in forest and which now meander past the front yards of multi-million dollar mansions. Peaks that could be climbed are now closed to the public and limited to the very damned few who can afford club memberships or the price of a lot within an exclusive development. Waterfalls are kept invisible to most of us and are now the privilege of only the wealthiest among us. Something needs to be done. The time for conservation easements and half-hearted attempts to reclaim land for the use of the average citizen wishing to hike, to camp, to hunt, to fish, to find solitude is over.
The time is now. Parks via attrition, or parks by some method more immediate and less palatable for the rich who are wrecking it all.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The Lower Falls: Amazing!
Nothing like standing in a place such as this to make you feel quite small.
Out of the gorge. Yes, it was very steep!
Through the rhododendron and up to the top!
Monday, February 11, 2008
One of our intended hikes had to be called off because the mountains we wanted to bag are now under the complete ownership of a private concern. The public is no longer allowed there. Two entire mountains under private ownership. If ever I needed an illustration of why it's okay to condemn land and take it from private ownership to public holdings, I have to look no farther. If only we had a government with some balls, much of the high country in that part of the state could be taken from the rich who have bought it and placed within parkland so that all could enjoy it.
Until I have time to write more, here are a few photos from our trip:
Andy at a large poplar tree near Highlands after the Chatooga hike.
Andy standing beside a large hemlock tree on the Chatooga Trail. Most the hemlocks in this area are all dead from hwa.