Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Escaping the Heat Part II

On Sunday we escaped the heat of Charlotte for the high country near Mount Mitchell. One place that we had visited briefly in the past but never stopped to enjoy was the Carolina Hemlock Recreation Area. It's on NC 80 a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was developed many years ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps, in the days when socialist programs could be enacted and put in place without too much screaming and stomping by right wing elements in the government. Those were the days, by gosh!

The main reason for this spot being placed here by the CCC boys is that this particular area on the South Toe River has a few very nice, very deep swimming holes. One of these has a set of rock stairs and a retaining wall so that it serves now as a kind of beach. When we arrived, we were the only ones there, but we knew that would change as the day progressed. So in short order we paid our $3.00 day use fee and picked out a picnic spot all to ourselves and prepared the grill with charcoal and the table with food and such. While Carole was getting the grill ready for cooking, I explored the river and searched out the various swimming holes.

Once upon a time the recreation area was green with the namesake hemlock trees. But now the only healthy hemlocks are the ones that have been treated against adelgid infestation by the application of insecticides. You can tell by the health of the various stands of trees how much money the National Forest Service had to spend at each step of the insect plague. The hemlocks closest to the bathrooms at the campsites look like hemlocks are supposed to appear--fully green with thick needles and lots of new growth. Hemlocks further out from there look sick, but perhaps in a state in which they can survive if the nicotine-based chemicals have been applied in time. And farther away than those, you can see the trees that are a lost cause, although some of them have been marked as having been treated--too late. And, of course, there are the dead hemlocks standing bare and ghostly everywhere around where no one had the funds or foresight to treat them.

After I explored a bit and we took some photos, we just relaxed and talked. In time, we cooked up some Polish sausages with sauerkraut and mustard and had potato salad with them. They were delicious. After that, we packed up our stuff and drove a few yards to the beach parking and walked down to the water's edge and jumped into the cool waters of the South Toe River. We had a great time just soaking up the sun and swimming back and forth and up and down the swimming hole. The water is deep enough so that you can safely jump and dive into the pools. As we knew, the crowds grew as the hours passed until at some point the beach was packed from end to end with families and couples doing as we were--enjoying the recreation area.

Toward 2:00 pm the numbers of people were grating on our need for solitude, so we gathered up our stuff, took a few last photos, and then headed up the road to see a couple of other places that were on our agenda. More on that tomorrow.

Minerals Museum and Blue Ridge Parkway Visitors Center at the intersection of the Parkway and NC 226. I like this spot and almost always visit it on drives along the Parkway.

The rhododendron was in full bloom. I took this shot almost as soon as we pulled in to the Carolina Hemlock Recreation Area.

My simple Canon A1100IS isn't the best camera on the market, but sometimes I can capture a nice shot or two when I'm playing around with the macro settings. This blossom was busy with these tiny black bumblebees. These are the type of bee that stung me on Wilson Creek last year and caused me to drop my camera into a waterfall.

This is the picnic pavilion at the recreation area. You can rent this for the day. The barbecue pit on the right is double sided and you could likely grill up some huge sides of beef or pork on those babies. They keep this place very clean and in good order.

Stairs leading down from the pavilion to the South Toe River.

From the river's shore looking back up at the pavilion.

Each hemlock tree that has been treated against Hemlock wooly adelgid has these little tags nailed on them. In some cases, the trees were dead anyway.

Carole roasts yellow corn for lunch! Yum!

This was our picnic spot right by the South Toe River.

Carole took this of me in the deepest pool. You can see people leaping into the water behind me, and kids sitting on a boulder in the middle of the river.

This was the big swimming hole above the official beach area.

Nice Ron Paul article for those of you still too stupid to see how evil he and his son are.


progutopian said...

We still have a chance against the HWA. Work is progressing on a new fungal insecticide which can be sprayed from planes. Very little HWA around here. As long as I live and I've got a long way to go, I will protect my hemlocks any and every way possible and not allow any of them to become victims of HWA. Man I love those tress. Nothing like a hemlock. I only wish we could save all the hemlocks. We need more cold winters to buy us time until we can eventually wipe the adelgids out.

HemlockMan said...

I feel the same way that you do about the hemlocks. They're my favorite evergreen here in the southern Appalachians. (Where are your stomping grounds?)

Yes, the best news so far is the fungal treatment with the whey vector. I really hope that it ends up at least controlling the adelgids so that the trees can handle them.

We don't get enough cold here in the south to take them out. I'm not even convinced that New England has the kinds of weather it would take to kill the aphids in winter.

If the USA had just hammered the problem before we lost our best groves of hemlocks it wouldn't be so bad.