Monday, May 31, 2010

Back from the AT

I just returned from my backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia/West Virginia. We saw some fantastic scenery and experienced some grueling hiking. I'll write more about the experience in the coming days.

Taken on the summit of McAfee Knob in Virginia. This clifftop provided one of the finest views on the trip.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Appalachian Trail

I've been a long time gone from the mountains. So I'll be away from the keyboard and away from my blog for a number of days. I'll be hiking the Appalachian Trail and exploring a wilderness area where I've never been. No, I'm not really going to Argentina. The Appalachian Trail. For real.

When I return I hope to have a tremendous batch of photographs. I have a new backpacking tent and a new sleeping bag (bought them a year ago) that I've never used. So I'll be breaking those in. Lightest of both that I've ever owned. The tent weighs a tad over two pounds. I'm getting way too old to lug heavy stuff over the ridges. Fortunately, the techies have been busy creating lighter weight backpacking equipment since I started in 1973. The first long backpacking trip I ever took my pack weighed 63 pounds. And I only weighed 185 in those days. I was carrying one third of my body weight on my back! I don't even want to think about it.

Here are a few mountain memories from recent years past:

Mount Pisgah, North Carolina

Beartown State Park, West Virginia.

Allegheny Front, West Virginia.

Grayson Highlands, Virginia.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Almost Forgot...

I almost couldn't recall where I took this photo. And then I remembered that it was a place called Eagle Rocks on Rumbling Bald Mountain part of which is now owned by the state of North Carolina and is being incorporated into the new-ish Chimney Rock State Park. Once I recalled where I'd taken it, I was able to call up these other photographs from my external hard drive.

This was at the uppermost terminus of our hike, the formation they call Eagle Rocks.

I hiked that day with my usual hiking partner, Jack Thyen. Yes, his hat is a funny one, but he claims its the warmest cap he has and it was a particularly cold day. In fact, at one point the sky dropped a bit of a snow flurry on us.

This was also my first hike with Andy Kunkle. That's Andy following Jack to the top. I'll be hiking next week with Andy on a three-day backpack on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.

And here we were on the summit, rewarded with a fantastic view on a nice chilly winter day.

A dead, weathered snag that was standing just below the summit rocks.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

We're Killing Everything

It's obvious to me that our Earth's ecosystem is in the final stages of dissolution. You don't even have to go very far to see it. Just in the area of the Carolinas you can witness the devastation wrought by invasive species introduced by that most horrible of invasives, Mankind. There are so many of our native plants and trees in peril of extirpation and extinction that I tire of thinking of it. So, too, are many of our animals at risk of vanishing entirely from the scene.

We sit and watch as oil companies destroy our seas, and coal companies wreck our watersheds, and timber companies denude our forests, and real estate firms pave over our rural green spaces and farmlands. Every day we lose unique areas forever. With each passing hour we see ancient species wiped away.

And there's nothing, apparently, to be done for it because we are led by a tiny group of masters whose goal it is to gather about them indescribable personal wealth. And all of this wealth at the cost of the very things that support us all. We sit and do nothing to stop these greedheads when, in fact, they should all be killed.

We're never going to see things put right. Of this I am finally convinced. All we can do at this point is wait while the tiny group at the top of the mass of humans finishes off what remains of Earth's Pleistocene glory. Like an overpopulation of pests degrading their own environment until their system collapses, we seem to be aimed like an arrow at a target we know as extinction. We'll never reach the stars. We'll never touch the planets. We'll never again venture outside the orbit of this globe whose atmosphere we are even now poisoning beyond repair.

As I have learned in my relatively brief life: generally speaking, the bad guys win. Alas.

Thanks for small favors, you pro-corporate Tea Party assholes.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nationalize BP

Nationalize British Petroleum!

Our government needs to do it now. Without delay. Nationalize every scrap of property currently owned by British Petroleum that lies within the sphere of influence of the USA. Take every dime in their bank accounts. Seize every millimeter of land under them. Take each and every piece of equipment, hardware, software, and paper trail connected to that company and any company owned, co-owned, or controlled by BP. Then go after their assets in other nations, including the United Kingdom. Hold every BP executive under arrest, with no bail (flight risk), and keep them in custody until they can be charged and tried for crimes against humanity.

This is a corporate crime that cannot be allowed to stand!

And once this is all over; once every BP executive has been dispensed with, sell off the company's pertinent assets, place those funds into the hands of the US government, and destroy the company's existence. Shut it down. Wipe it off the books. Eliminate it from the Earth.

Insert BP executive in place of Nazi rat bastard.

Take 'em out now. Every BP executive we can grab.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Four Views of a Waterfall

Four views of a waterfall in Camp Creek State Park:

I stitched these together from photographs I took at one of the better known waterfalls in Camp Creek State Park in West Virginia. Since I don't own an SLR camera with a wide-angle lens I often take a series of photos and use the Canon stitch program to link them into an image resembling a wide-angle photograph. This sometimes yields good results, but most of the time there are glaring anomalies in the pictures.

These turned out relatively well with glitches in the lighting and joints. But overall they give a good indication of the scenic quality of that waterfall. The flow of water on the creek was decent the day I was there. The week before the area had experienced some extreme flooding, to the point that parts of the park were closed from water damage, including one of the campgrounds that had been inundated.

Taken from a boulder level with the top of the falls.

Not sure if the pool would be good for swimming, but it looks like decent wading territory.

The water was really inviting the day we were there.

I like the layer-cake aspect of the sedimentary rock.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rand Paul is a Sack of Shit

And here's a particularly huge bastard, Rand Paul, pining for the days when it was okay to be a racist shithead. The people of Kentucky are dumber than they look.

Rand Paul: Officially a sack of shit.

I mean, totally FUCK YOU, RAND PAUL! You lousy, stinking, worthless, pro-corporate, racist bag of buzzard puke! Fuck you and your stinking goddamned stupid shithead Libertarian father, too!

Take your so-called apology and change of mind about being a racist fuckhead and jam it up your asshole, you shit-smeared, scum-crawling, vomit-eating pig.

Death to the BP executives. Take care of them with a type of "top kill". It involves shooting lead bits into them through steel tubes.

Friday, May 21, 2010

When Sugar was Good for You

This looks like a commercial produced by Jay Ward Studios. Back when no one thought twice about advertising a cereal that was "shot with sugar, through and through". Man, those were the days!

Sugar Pops Pete!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Spy...

I was looking at some of the photos that I took roughly twelve months ago on a trip to the Virginia/West Virginia border area. Examining a picture that I took at a spring that was emanating from a rock wall along a trail in Camp Creek State Park, I noticed something I hadn't seen before: a little critter looking down at me while I was crouched there to take the photo.

If you click on the photograph and look, you can see the (somewhat blurry) image of a little salamander peeking out at me.

Animals do the damndest things.

Still can't see her? Well, I'll make it easier for you:

(Click to enlarge the photo.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Linville Fools


Some years ago on a day-trip to Linville Falls and the Blue Ridge Parkway a friend and I hiked down to the base of the falls with the idea of going for a swim. Back in the day there wasn't much of a big deal made about swimming in the plunge pool beneath the falls. These days, there are signs up claiming that it's not allowed, but I suppose folk still go there to swim.

On the day we went we did indeed go swimming. It's a great place for it. The water's good and deep there and
it's just a perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day.

However, when we got there we discovered that a family of insane people had preceded us to the falls. The family consisted of a father, and children of various ages and their friends. The dad was standing at points around the plunge pool using a bulky old-style video camera to record the antics of his various kids and their pals. What they were doing was climbing as high as they could up the walls of the gorge and leaping into the river far, far below.

His oldest kids, teenage boys, were jumping from heights varying between 75 and 100 feet. The younger kids, girls, were leaping from about twenty to thirty feet.

The worst aspect of what was going on was that the target one had to hit from the highest parts of the jumps was a circle of water about ten or twelve feet on a side. If you varied beyond this target you were likely to hit a boulder or shallow water and be killed. I had never witnessed such insanity. This went on for the entire time we were down there swimming, and they were still making the incredible leaps when we climbed out of the pool to hike back to the top.

No one was killed while we were there, but one of the older boys finally did manage to hurt himself by hitting the water at a bad angle. He then dragged himself to shore where he was obviously in a great deal of pain. However, after some time he seemed to recover and was once again scaling the cliffs around the falls and leaping back into that small target.

I've always referred to these folk as "The Linville Fools". It seems appropriate.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Looking Forward

Roughly a year ago I was in the mountains on the Virginia and West Virginia border. It's a breathtakingly beautiful area. It's packed with gorgeous scenery, a great system of clean waterways, lots of wildlife and plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities. Because we opted to take a really big step and splurge on a very expensive vacation in August (Yellowstone/Grand Tetons), we've had to put off our normal excursions to various locations in our native southern high country. I really miss the mountains, and every week I miss it a bit more.

In two more weeks I will hit this same general area when I go backpacking with a couple of friends. Unfortunately, I don't think that I'll get another chance to find a way to the southern mountains before that, and only a few chances after that. In the meantime, I'm pining for the mountains of Southern Appalachia.

For the time being, here are representations of memories from last year:

Overlook near the summit of Walker Mountain.

Afternoon rain returns to the skies after a brief downpour along a road cut.

Pausing for a self-portrait at Monster Rock on Walker Mountain.

Moss along a trail.

Camp Creek Falls on the Virginia/West Virginia border.

Monday, May 17, 2010


A couple of years ago, when the Republicans were really trying to generate some racist groundswell, things were reaching a fever pitch when it came to the subject of "illegal immigrants". Everyone knew who they were talking about--generally people who hailed from Mexico, but also from other points mainly in Central America. One guy I knew seemed very upset at the "illegal aliens" and was complaining to me about them, asking me what I thought. This guy is Italian and Catholic and has a Jewish wife, so he should have known better than to buy into that "illegal immigrant" bullcrap.

So I let him have it. Both barrels. Twelve gauge JR Smith double-ought buckshot.

I think he got the message.

The thing is, I don't care about "illegal immigrants". I don't care. If they get health care, so be it. If their children can go to school, then great. If they can make money and buy groceries or even get some welfare, I don't give the first speck of shit. Good for them! As far as I can tell, almost all of them work, and they work hard. They also spend the money they make. If we all end up having to learn to speak Spanish...well, I don't care.

The way I see it (and I know the historical facts), we stole about half the nation of Mexico from them. We suckered them into a war, beat their asses, and took Texas, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Arizona, etc. and etc. We fucking stole it. So if "Mexicans" are coming across the border...well, they're just coming back.

And even if you take the position that Mexico screwed the Native Americans out of their lands the same way the USA did, then I still don't have a problem with claiming that we stole half of Mexico. You know why? Because most people from south of our border are mainly of American Indian descent. They have the blood of the Incas and the Aztecs and the Apache and the Pima and the rest of the great tribes flowing through their veins. So even then, they're just returning.

Welcome home.

Pancho Villa.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

And the Hits Keep Coming:






Unfortunately, the human population keeps soaring. Where's a good world-wide plague when the Earth really needs one?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

This Year's Tiny Garden

We planted this year's tiny little garden today.

It's even smaller than last year's garden. Only tomato plants and squash, this time. Four tomato plants and two hills of squash.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Something to be Said for Solitude

More photographs from solo trips. I took all of these pictures while hiking alone. It's a great way to get outside and enjoy our vanishing wilderness.

Waterrock Knob, NC.

Clouds from Waterrock Knob, NC.

Elk, Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Great Smoky Mountains.

Rock wall, Boogerman Trail, Great Smoky Mountains.

Relic old growth poplar, Great Smoky Mountains.

White-tailed deer, Stone Mountain, NC.

Stone Mountain Falls, NC.

Stone Mountain, NC.

Schoolhouse Falls, Panthertown Valley, NC.

Rhododendron tunnel, Panthertown Valley, NC.

Mosses and flowers, Little Green Mountain, NC.

Little Green Mountain, NC.

Whiteside Mountain, NC.

Summit of Whiteside Mountain, NC.

Tiny bird's nest, grotto, Hanging Rock State Park, NC.

Moore's Wall, NC.

Moore's Wall, NC.

More solo trip photos another day...