Thursday, November 17, 2016

Morons I Have Seen

I once saw a clueless tourist walk up to a bull bison in Yellowstone. The bison was lying down in the dust. Massive, one-ton beast. The tourist walked up to the furry critter and leaned back against the bison's spine so that his equally stupid wife could snap a photo.
Unfortunately, the bison took it all in stride and did not squash the two morons into paste. But it could have (and probably should have) been otherwise.

Bull bison. I took this from a great distance. Keep your distance, people.

I once saw an idiot tourist in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park walk up to a bear and begin to toss it slices of bread, one slice at a time. After a few tosses the bear realized the freaking moron had a whole bag of bread and was just doling it out like a greedy asshole. So the bear charged. To, you know, get the whole bag. The moron tourist had his tiny toddler daughter beside him. When the bear charged he ran. Just left his tiny girl there, alone. Fortunately for them all, he dropped the bag of bread and so the bear veered aside at the last possible second and did not trample the toddler. (It had no interest at all in the girl, only the bag of bread.)

Black bear I encountered while hiking in Douthat State Park in Virginia. I took this from a great distance as the fleeing bear turned to make sure I wasn't following him. Keep your distance, people.

A few years back I hiked into the Shining Rock Wilderness Area. It was on a Saturday so that wilderness was packed to the gills with humans, many of them having set up tents. This wilderness does not allow fires (signs posted at all trailheads), and being a wilderness, all plants and trees are protected. As I hiked along the air was filled with firesmoke. Every campsite had a campfire. In addition, I saw people with axes chopping not just dead, dry timber, but actively felling living trees. I even saw some of these scumbags chopping down living rhododendron.

There are few things less likely to burn in your campfire than the wood of a living rhododendron. Don't cut them down.

We don't have anywhere near enough rangers (a classic case of politicians trying to starve our parks and wilderness areas into extinction); but I also cannot imagine being a National Park ranger and having to put up with so many idiots.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Campground Review: Hurricane, Jefferson National Forest, Virginia.

Carole and I have used a LOT of National Forest campgrounds in our years. Both when we tent-camped and after we got our Casita travel trailer. We have had almost uniformly wonderful experiences using the campgrounds in our National Forests, but some of them stand out above the others.

While not our all-time favorite campground, Hurricane--located in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area--is easily in the top three. What it might lack in some of the things some people expect in a campground, it more than makes up for in others.

As luck would have it, we were able to grab our favorite spot in the campground (#19). All of the sites have paved surfaces for your vehicles. We were able to back into our site with our truck and had much space to spare. There are no hookups (neither water, nor electric), so if you want to use electric appliances you'll have to have a generator. Also, fill up your onboard water tanks at home, or use a water spigot at the campground. These minor drawbacks (for some, not for us) are made up for in the campground's isolation from paved roads and subsequent lack of traffic and the peacefulness of the forested surroundings.

The campground has two bathhouses with flush toilets and warm water showers. But there is no dump station. Just a couple of miles down the road from Hurricane is Raccoon Branch Campground, another National Forest facility. It does have a dump station and it is open to campers at Hurricane.

We like this campground so much for many reasons. But at the top of our list is that it is very, very quiet. There is no noise from passing autos because the only nearby roads are gravel Forest Service roads and not heavily used. The forest is deep and lush, classic Southern Cove Hardwood. Plenty of trees of an amazing variety and lots of flowering plants in spring and summer.

There is no shortage of things to do here. I love to hike and there are hundreds of miles of amazing trails. You can access the Appalachian Trail from the campground. One can drive to Damascus and bike the Virginia Creeper Trail, which I very highly recommend. Start at the Whitetop Station and you can bike pretty much all downhill to Damascus. A very inexpensive and gorgeous way to spend part of a day. Grayson Highlands State Park is nearby, and the trails there make you feel more like you're hiking in Montana than in Virginia. Seriously. I have shown photos I've take above Massie Gap to people and they think I took them in the Rocky Mountains.

To our way of thinking, Hurricane Campground is one of the best options in the southeastern USA for camping. Trails. Quiet. Solitude. Waterfalls. Wildlife. Deep forests. What the heck else do you need?

Entrance to Hurricane Campground.

Our site was level. All we had to do was park and use the tongue jack. Level as could be!

Carole is always in charge of the campfire. She does about half of her cooking over the fire.

Unlimited firewood was provided free of charge by the campground hosts! They did this on their own. They had permission to cut up and split downed trees. Then the hosts would pile it up in a huge stack near the center of the campground. Take all you want!

Our favorite site: #19. Streamside.

Bathhouse with shower.

I didn't see much wildlife on this trip, but I did get this photo of a grouse.

A hike I took to bag a 4,500-foot peak. I got lost. This was actually taken after I'd gotten lost.

Monday, November 07, 2016


I might be eating some crow. Details Thursday. Maybe, if I have some free time.