Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Random Shots, Random Thoughts

My two favorite states to ramble around in (other than North Carolina) are West Virginia and Florida. West Virginia gets the edge because of the mountains, of course. And their state park system might not be the slickest one around, but it kicks major league ass in the beauty department. If West Virginia were a woman, it would win Miss Universe. (Just don't tell the judges about those unfortunate mountaintop removal projects.) For about five years we spent at least one, sometimes two vacations every year in West Virginia. Besides the beauty, the other thing about it is that it's generally not crowded. Plus, most of the people are pretty friendly.

When we visited there a few weeks ago I wanted to get a shot from Lindy Point to show them in contrast. One taken in depth of summer about four years ago, and one taken in 2011 in the depths of winter. So here they are.

Lindy Point looking down into the Blackwater Canyon.

And Lindy Point this winter (between heavy snowfalls) from a similar vantage point.

This 'n' right here is one of my favorite North Carolina mountains. It's not a really big mountain, but it's a classic granitic pluton. That is, it formed beneath ground, as volcanic rock, then through metamorphosis changed into granite. As the softer matrix around it eroded away, the granite mass was revealed...in this case as a 700-foot tall mountain.

If I was ever going to learn any technical rock climbing, I would go here to take one of the courses they offer through either the Sierra Club or REI. The walls on Stone Mountain are not terribly dangerous and with the right equipment are a bit forgiving of minor mistakes. Andy and I talk about going in for a father-son rock climbing expedition there to learn how. Only costs a few hundred bucks. We should do it.

If you click on this image and blow it up, you can see two puny humans climbing the mountain.

Here's a telephoto I took of them. Wish I'd had my new camera back then.

North Carolina does have a few good state parks. But overall, my home state sucks when you compare it to some of the other state park systems that I've enjoyed. While I have a particular love for West Virginia--and they do have a nifty and impressive park system--the state park system in Florida is just uncanny. It's insane is what it is. I've yet to encounter a state that packs as many parks and as much natural beauty into those state parks as the state of Florida. You want beaches? The best. You want fishing? Neptune his own self filled the waters with the best game fish you could want--salt and fresh water, too. There are parks with salt water, fresh water, and mixed brackish water offering the entire range of fishing goodness.

You want forests? They've got virgin forests and forest types you just aren't going to see anywhere outside of Florida. They have beautiful forests that's curl yer toes. And rivers...Jove, the rivers are the best. Fun to float, packed top to bottom, side to side, and end to end with wildlife and scenery. Island parks? Yep. The Keys are hard to beat, and I've been all down in the Caribbean to see those. Gimme the Keys, for access. (Don't shoot me.)

Wildlife? Florida's got it. In spades. Everything from tiny little beach mice all the way up to manatees in the tributaries and whales just off shore. If you can't spot a couple dozen rare birds on a week long trip, you're not lookin'.

For the east coast, nobody beats Florida for state parks. Hell...I doubt anyone but California can top 'em. I hope to find out when I can finally retire and check out the systems from one state to the next.

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