Sunday, September 30, 2012

Back Home!

Back home! Details later!

Alpenglow in Chicago Basin.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Two Weeks!

Well, folk, I'll be gone for two weeks to visit Colorado. See you then!

One of my favorite photos of me. Taken by Jack Thyen. Don't know when I'll be physically able to do stuff like that again, but hopefully not too far in the future (after they fix the old back).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rumbling Bald: Climbing a Mountain from the Inside

Here's an old blast from the past. Part of a hike I took with Andy Kunkle and Jack Thyen back in 2007.

Andy, Jack, and I had hiked that morning to the top of a summit called Eagle Rock on Rumbling Bald Mountain in what is now Hickory Nut Gorge State Park. The State had just acquired the land but had not done anything to the property at that time. But it was accessible for hiking. (I'm not sure if the land is still sitting as is, or if any trails or other amenities have been added since then.)

After the hike to the top, Andy left to head back home, but Jack and I continued on to another trail leading to a cave that goes inside Rumbling Bald Mountain. The unique feature of this cave is that there is a route inside that you can use to climb to another cave entrance much higher on the cliff face, a spot known as "The Attic Window".

This remains the only time I have hiked inside a mountain.

This is the base of the cliff where the entrance to the cave is located. If Jack had not been there recently there is no way I could have located the place. Fortunately, he remembered the way in.

Up there somewhere is the opening called "The Attic Window".

Jack standing above near the cave entrance. If you look to the right you can see a blue blaze on a tree that was a marking for the unofficial trail to the cave.

Jack patiently waiting for me to climb up to the ledge.

Getting closer...

In the 1800s Rumbling Bald Mountain was the epicenter of a pretty severe earthquake. Great plumes of granitic dust that rose above the mountain for days made people think that it was turning into a volcano. In fact, it was just the pulverized rock tumbling down from the mountain.

Andy Kunkle was still with us until we got to the cave entrance, then he had to head back to Charlotte to keep an appointment. You can see another blue blaze just to Andy's right.

Jack at the cave entrance.

Inside the cave! Some of the chambers were pretty large. Keep in mind that the place was basically pitch dark. We had headlamps, but the spaces were illuminated by our camera flashes when I took these inside photos.

Jack leading the way. We had to climb up and up. The climbing was easy.

Some light leaking in past some broken slabs.

Heading up toward some tight squeezes on the route.

There are other "trails" in the mountain. One of them leads to a stream inside the mountain, but we elected not to follow it. I was nervous enough just navigating to the Attic Window.

The following views were taken after I got to the Attic Window. You can't go out since it drops off a good distance straight down.

It was chilly that day and in fact had snowed on us earlier when we had climbed to the top of the mountain.

That's Lake Lure off in the distance.

Then it was time to start downclimbing back to the entrance.

Steep climb down! Careful!

A few places were really tight. Fortunately I only have mild claustrophobia.

I thought we'd have seen a lot of bats, but we only saw this one.

I "think" this is the way out!

Outside once more and looking back up in the general direction of The Attic Window.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Joe Sinnott!

Jack Kirby was one of the busiest comic creators of all time. He was arguably the hardest-working man in comics. From what I've read, he didn't like to ink his pencils. They say that once he'd finished writing and penciling the story he was anxious to move on to the next project. Therefore, he generally gave his penciled work over to another artist to ink, thus leaving him free to create new stories.

Because he was such a prolific artist, many people inked his work. His pages were, I would assume, easy to ink because they were so dynamic and so logical in construction. But some guys were just uniquely suited to ink Jack Kirby's pencils.

To me, the best of the lot on Kirby's work was Joe Sinnott. Sinnott had a very smooth, fluid way of inking any pencil artist he was given to delineate. Sinnott's inks were always solid and seemed to bring out the best in the artist over whom he was working. In fact, my favorite work by John Byrne, George Perez, and other 1980s and 1990s-era pencil artists were inked by Sinnott. He improved their art and made it all friendlier to the printed page and to the viewer.

Other folk could do a creditable job of inking Jack Kirby, but the best of the best was Joe Sinnott!

Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott! What a team!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Old Lookout Tower on Mount Mitchell

A few years ago they decided to tear down the old viewing tower on Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain in the eastern USA. I'd always liked that structure, but apparently it wasn't handicap accessible and so it was ordered destroyed and rebuilt. These days it's a much shorter platform, more like a big concrete table than a tower. And there's a ramp leading to it so that those who are in wheelchairs can get up there. Plus a paved pathway from the parking lot to the platform.

The old lookout tower on Mount Mitchell. Gone, now.

I know I must have taken more photographs of the old tower, but I can't find any. Just the long-distance shots I made of the summit, generally taken from nearby peaks. This one I took from near the top of the East's second-highest, Mount Craig. Craig is just a tad shorter than Mitchell and, to my way of thinking, is a more spectacular peak by just about any standard other than height. Because Craig is not the highest, there's no road to the top, no buildings up there, no restaurant, no bathrooms, no paved access, and--best of all--no crowds.

I snapped this one near the top of Mount Craig, with Mitchell and the old tower looming on the horizon.

This is Ridgepole Mountain. Ridgepole Mountain is located just barely north of the NC/GA border. If not for a bit of interesting history, this mountain would have ended up in Georgia instead of North Carolina. Since Ridgepole Mountain is over 5,000 feet above sea level, it would have easily displaced Brasstown Bald as the highest peak in Georgia. If that had happened, Ridgepole Mountain would--like Brasstown Bald today--have a paved road leading to the top, along with a museum and visitor center and bathrooms and who knows what else. But because it ended up being just another 5,000-foot peak in a state packed with mountains that tall, Ridgepole sits in the middle of a huge wilderness area with no roads whatsoever and only a couple of trails on it (including the Appalachian Trail), providing habitat for a vast population of wildlife. Mile for mile there are more bears in this area than even in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So, happily for those of us who love wilderness, it didn't end up being Georgia's highest peak and instead is just one more 5,000-foot summit in North Carolina.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Beartown Video

Back in 2007 Carole and I encountered a black bear as we were finishing up a short hike in Beartown State Park in West Virginia. For some reason I had forgotten that I had shot a brief video of the bear before I took some photos of it.

Oh, well. Better late than never.

They call it "Beartown" because the locals figured the maze of rocky grottoes and caves was prime bear housing.


The bear seemed like it didn't want to be too close to people and was just looking for wild food to eat.

You can see that the bear had a tag in its ear.

Despite appearances, I was never very close and was using a telephoto lens.

I never did find out what it was eating, but figured it must have been acorns.

Sunday, September 09, 2012


We had a really weird day. So weird that I'll have to write about it. Just some other time.

In the interim:

Monadnocks! What are they? And how does Mother Nature make them?

North Carolina has a number of monadnocks. In a nutshell, a monadnock is an isolated mountain, usually standing as an area of relatively high relief and surrounded by a large area of relatively low relief. Most monadnocks are formed because they consist of tough rock that is surrounded by soft material. The soft stuff is carried down slope to the sea, while the tough rock remains, eventually revealing itself and standing in some cases as a mountain.

The term is named for Mount Monadnock in NEW HAMPSHIRE (I had it listed as in Vermont...DUH!). We have a number of impressive monadnocks here in North Carolina, and quite a few of them are so special that the state has protected them as official state parks. Thus, we have Crowders Mountain State Park, Pilot Mountain State Park, and Hanging Rock State Park. Most monadocks are so isolated that they don't have an active aquifer associated with them. But Hanging Rock is actually part of a complete range of monadnocks (called the Sauratown Mountains) that have their own systems of streams.

Last year I visited Hanging Rock State Park, so here is your geology lesson in photos and video. Enjoy.

This formation is part of a huge cliff face called Cooke's Wall. Visible from the famous summit called Hanging Rock, it is proof that a race of space-faring apes once colonized Earth.

I caught this view of Hanging Rock on the hike to the summit.

A great view from the top. What looks like a road below is actually the very wide and graded trail leading to the park's signature mountaintop.
Looking up at the park's namesake: The Hanging Rock itself.
Although the quartzite capstone that created the range of monadnocks is tough, as you can see, water eventually has its way with the stuff.
The State of North Carolina has lavished much attention and infrastructure on the park. Here is part of the very nice and complicated trail that leads down to the park's most spectacular waterfall (one of several in the park).

I like the waterfalls in the park. They're all located down in cool, shady grottoes.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

No Pesky Humans Allowed!

People aren't allowed to go everywhere in our parks. This is such a case:

The summit of Pilot Mountain State Park is off limits to people. Pilot Mountain is one of the few peaks in the eastern USA that doesn't have a walk-up route. That is, you can't get there by just walking on two legs. At some point you have to use all four limbs to make it to the summit. The routes to the top are anywhere from Class V technical routes, to Class IV to Class III (scrambling). There is no casual stroll to the top.

However, no one is allowed up there. The cliffs that surround it, and the area at the pinnacle, are prime raven and raptor nesting areas. For that reason no one is allowed to summit the peak. Back in the day when the mountain was under private ownership and part of a tourist park, there was a ladder that took the adventurous person to the uppermost elevations. But now that option is gone.

And I like the fact that no one is allowed on that nub of real estate. The critters should have a place to live without being bothered.

Sometimes called "the Green Muffin".

Friday, September 07, 2012

Cades Cove Whitetail

I took these photos over eight years ago. Sometimes you get lucky and are in the right place at the right time. Carole and I were in Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We saw this Whitetail buck come out of the forest and begin walking across a grassy field. I took the photos with my very first digital camera which was not very good by modern standards, but it remains one of my favorite cameras. I took some good shots with it.

The rack on this buck was not huge, but it seemed almost perfectly symmetrical to us. Man, I would loved to have had a better camera with a good lens. Compared to other places where we camp and hike, we don't see many deer in the Smokies. So it was exciting to see this healthy animal walking across the field.

I need to get back to the Smokies. We haven't been in over a year.