Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Our Beautiful Mother

I stitched this together from a number of photos I took on the Boogerman Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This was in a classic cove hardwood forest, about as pretty a place as one is ever to see. This was in the midst of summer and the place was GREEN. I love Nature. This photo captures much emotion for me.

Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Picking up the Pace, Dropping the Camera

In 2009 I had hit a wall in finishing one of my novels. So I took several days off to take my travel trailer and go by myself to a campground in the Pisgah National Forest. I spent several days there just wandering around, taking photos, and writing. I didn't quite finish the novel, but I closed the gap so that I was able to finish the book a week after I returned. I produced a lot of fiction on that trip.

One of the things that I did was drop my camera off of a huge waterfall. I've told that story here before. In trying to get that camera out of the pool of water at the base of the falls I ended up falling and really hurting myself. I got one hell of a hematoma on my hip when I went down hard.

At any rate, the trip was, despite the dropped camera and the subsequent fall, one of the prettiest and most pleasant vacations I'd had in some time. The views still rank up there with the best I've witnessed in a while.

Here's some video footage I shot.

The falls where I dropped the camera. You can imagine my horror as it bounced right into that water and went over the event horizon. That's exactly what happened about five minutes after I shot this video. Weirdly, after drying it out, the camera kind of survived the drop and dunking, but later succumbed to the damage. It was the best camera I ever had. Alas.

This video was taken even earlier. I was enjoying the solitude and the beauty of the cove hardwood forest so much that I had to stop and record it. There's not much more peaceful than a southern Appalachian hardwood forest. It's pretty damned amazing.

Shortly before I faw down go boom.

The edge of the falls.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Various Waterfall Videos, 2007

The following are just some short video footage I shot at different places we visited in 2007.

Self-explanatory. Virgin Falls, likely the strangest waterfall I've ever seen. The experience was striking for many reasons--unique topography, solitude, and the amazing temperature inversion as I descended into first the gorge and then the sinkhole.

This is the cave from which Virgin Falls emerges. Notice the clarity of the water. It was very cool and inviting in the mouth of that cave!

The view of Virgin Falls that you get if you hike down into the sinkhole. The water just vanishes into the ground without a trace.

This one is near Mount Washington in Hew Hampshire. I saw it when I went to climb the peak. The colors of the rock in New England are something else. We don't tend to have that pink granite here in the South. (This is a very famous waterfall, but I can't recall the name! Sorry!)

Blackwater Falls in Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia. Dig all of those then-healthy Eastern hemlocks! I wonder if they're still doing well!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Some Waterfalls from 2007.

Not too much work on the novel today. Work was high pressure due to the retirement of our longest serving letter carrier at the station. Archie Smith is calling it quits after more than forty years working for the USPS. Yep, 40+ years. There was a huge going-away party for Archie which put us (appropriately) off schedule, thus making for a longer day and correspondingly tougher work. I had to walk a lot faster to try to make my normal leave time. But the celebration was the best one in a while. Our station is currently experiencing a high level of retirements since we have more than our share of employees who have more than thirty years of work in at USPS. We've seen quite a few retire this year with more scheduled to cash in their chips before December. It's sad to see them go (especially when I have to stay).

Here are some of the waterfalls Carole and I visited (or sometimes just me) in 2007.

This one, I assume, has no name. It's a falls located in the Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington in New Hampshire.

Also on Mount Washington just a short hike above the Joe Dodge Lodge.

I shot this one with the telephoto lens from the opposite side of the Blackwater Canyon in West Virginia. Notice all of the living hemlocks in this shot. I wonder if they're still alive?

This isn't really a natural waterfall. But this old footbridge on the Toe River below Mount Mitchell in North Carolina makes for a great swimming hole. We had a good time there in the summer of 2007.

I found this waterfall by accident when I took the wrong road and trail trying to find the Woody Ridge Trail in the Black Mountains of North Carolina. I think it's called White Oak Falls.

Probably one of the strangest waterfalls I've ever seen. It's called Virgin Falls and is located in the Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness in Tennessee. The hike down into the valley was hot and muggy. This waterfall appears out of the mouth of a cave and drops down into a sinkhole and then vanishes into the earth again. The amazing thing about the sinkhole was that the temperature PLUMMETED when I hiked down into it. Which was a very refreshing relief from the heat through which I'd been hiking. This is the only waterfall I've ever seen that seems immune to drought. I visited this wilderness in the midst of one of the worst droughts in the past 200 years and while all of the other waterfalls in the area were either dry or nearly dry, this one was chugging away at its normal rate.

Burgess Falls in Tennessee. This waterfall was doing okay during the drought because it's partially fed by a dammed lake above it.

Another, lesser falls, in Burgess Falls State Park in Tennessee.

This is Twin Falls in Rock Island State Park. Although it's not advertised as such, this is an artificial waterfall created by an impounded lake on the other side of the ridge.

Another waterfall in Rock Island State Park.

Blackwater Falls in Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia. There have been efforts for years to turn this area and the gorge around it into a new National Park. However, the coal, timber, and gas industries in West Virginia have fought this effort relentlessly. This is why it's important to keep government stronger than corporations. Without government, the population of the USA is at the complete a total mercy of greedy, rapacious, jackass industrialists.

Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee. Again, in the midst of a hideous drought. This waterfall is normally a thundering sight. But the days we were there it was reduced to almost a slight mist filtering over the precipice.

I stitched this together from shots I took from the base of Falls Creek Falls. Technically, this is the single highest drop for a waterfall in the eastern USA. There are higher falls, yes, but none with a higher single unhindered drop.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

More Waterfalls, More Writing

I'm pretty sure the novel's going to take me right down to the wire, as far as deadline is concerned. I'm doing really well and have managed to catch up to where I should be from the week I took off in February to go to Los Angeles. But as the book continues the plot is becoming more complicated. That's the way of novels--the characters and the situations become more complex as you write. They really do take on lives of their own. At some point, I tend to become not so much a puppet master as an observer. This has occurred on every novel I've written since I was a young man. Even after all of these years, it's strange to observe.

Here are some more waterfalls. Most of these were trips I took in 2006 and 2007. For a guy whose main hiking hobby is peak bagging, I manage to see an awful lot of waterfalls.

Douglas Falls, North Carolina, with my nephew, Harris.

High Shoals Falls on Jacob's Fork in South Mountains State Park, North Carolina.

This waterfall is also in South Mountains State Park. It has a name, but I can't recall it.

Schoolhouse Falls, Panthertown Valley, North Carolina.

Laurel Falls, lower section, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Me, Carole, and Andy at the upper section of Laurel Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Waterfall along the Virginia Creeper Trail near Damascus Virginia. With Cindi and Emily Aiken sitting on the right.

One of my favorite waterfalls: Backbone Rock Falls, in Tennessee.

I forget the name of this waterfall, but it's in Virginia not far from the Applachian Trail. I hiked several miles to see it, and it's not as high as I am tall. For the effort involved, it was a huge disappointment. Still, a pretty little minor cascade.

Midnight Hole on Big Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is my ultimate all-time favorite swimming hole. No other swimming hole even comes close. Just be sure you swim there in the hottest weather possible, because even in the midst of summer the water is COLD!! COLD!! I MEAN COLD!!!

Sliding Rock in the Pisgah National Forest.

Some waterfalls on Bald River, Tennessee.

Greenland Creek Falls, Panthertown Valley North Carolina.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Waterfalls, While I'm Writing

The writing is going well. Every day the scenes come to me and the keyboard is friendly and not my adversary. I'm having quite a good time with the new novel, but it leaves me no time for other writing.

In the meantime, here are some of the waterfalls I visited between 2004 and 2005. Where I can remember, I'll post the locations.

Stone Mountain Falls in Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina.

Waterfall in Hanging Rock State Park, North Carolina. I took a shower here to clean off the grime of hiking in the park all afternoon in hot, muggy weather.

Same waterfall.

DuPont State Forest, North Carolina.

Triple Falls, DuPont State Forest, North Carolina.

Granny Burrell Falls, Panthertown Valley, North Carolina.

Unnamed waterfall in Holly River State Park, West Virginia.

Shupe's Chute, Holly River State Park, West Virginia.

Upper Waterfalls, Holly River State Park, West Virginia.

This is one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. The setting is amazingly beautiful and very peaceful. The pool below the falls pretty much BEGS for the viewer to swim in it. Mill Creek Falls, in Kumbrabow State Park, West Virginia.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Me and the Trees

I love going for long hikes in the forest. Many times I go alone, but sometimes friends head out with me. Of course the trees are everywhere when you're in the southeastern USA. We are very lucky to have such a wide and vast and varied landscape of trees here in this part of North America.

As I continue to work on my new novel, I'll keep posting photos from old hiking trips. These are from various journeys into places like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Congaree National Park, various National Forests, and even to some state and county parks in Florida.

It took me many trips to find this tree. This is the Sag Branch poplar, the world's champion Tulip poplar tree; located in the Cataloochee area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

An enormous red oak which grows near the Sag Branch poplar.

This big old hemlock was growing in the Citico Creek Wilderness in Tennessee. It, along with all of the other hemlocks there, is now dead.

This was taken on one of my failed attempts to find the Sag Branch poplar. In winter, in the cold. It was roughly about this moment that I got extremely sick and realized that I had the flu. I had a very hard time hiking out and then driving home. I came close to checking in to a hotel and calling my wife for help. But I toughed it out, drove home, and was sick for most of the following week.

This was on a hike with friends on Mackey Mountain in the Pisgah National Forest here in North Carolina. I took this photo for one main reason--that being that almost every tree in this photo is dead. All but about two or three of them are hemlock trees and the adelgid had killed them all.

An enormous Overcup oak in the Congaree National Park in South Carolina.

Another gigantic oak in Congaree.

The former world champion Yellow pine in Congaree.

The current world's champion Yellow Pine, just a couple hundred yards from the old champ.

As far as I know, this is probably the single largest tree in the eastern USA. It's a Bald cypress and is named The Senator, located near Orlando Florida.

On one of my early trips to find the Sag Branch Poplar. Just a typical tree in the Boogerman Grove.

This is what is commonly referred to as a "relic" old growth tree. The area was logged, but some few old growth trees were spared for one reason or another. This, too, is in the Boogerman Grove in the Smokies and has to be one of the most photographed trees in the park.

Same trip, same grove.

This grand old hemlock along the Boogerman Trail is now dead, from the hideous adelgid infestation that will end up killing all of our Eastern and Carolina hemlock trees. I'm glad I got to see the grove when it was still alive and healthy. Alas, no more.

This huge poplar tree is located in my second favorite old growth grove in the Great Smoky Mountains--the Albright Grove.

A big old cypress in Manatee Springs State Park in Florida.