Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Textures on a road trip...

As promised, textures.

pine bark

mohawk tree


through the table at the Biltmore Estate

cloth covered chair in hotel room

barbed wire atop fence

brick wall

cloth covered chair in hotel room

moss covered stone table

lights in ceiling of elevator at hotel

vase at hotel

vase at hotel

stairs at hotel

cloth covered chair in hotel lobby


up close of water bottle in car

colorful tubes on back of truck I95 south

That's all for now.

Monday, June 12, 2017

All the metaphors of Asheville remain blurred...

We took a respite from the muggy Florida heat last week and spent some time in and around Asheville, NC. It was rather cold for a native Floridian up there, even in June. And it was wonderful!

We ate at The Moose Cafe on our first morning there. It's become a tradition to eat breakfast there whenever we visit. They have huge, buttery biscuits with their homemade apple butter. Excellent stuff. And I like to get scrapple, aka liver mush. A rare treat.

We rode the Blue Ridge Parkway southwest of Asheville that first day. 

Mountain Laurel

I saw a snail.

The next day we went north on the parkway. We hiked a trail at the visitor's center where we came across this vine wrapped around a tree branch. The branch had broken off, but the vine still held on.

That's got to mean something, right? It's a metaphor. But, of what?

We explored a popular park where all the stone picnic tables were covered with moss.

Another metaphor? A sign?

Later, we stopped for lunch in Little Switzerland. I had a chicken salad sandwich and kettle chips. Hubs deemed the chicken salad frou frou, because it had apples and other stuff in it.

Then we went to Linville Falls. Just through the entrance, at the beginning of the trail, I saw what I thought was a big red berry on a tree at the river's edge. It turned out to be a fishing lure.

Here's a picture of some of the falls. It makes no sense not to show a picture even though it's not a very good one.

The next day, we visited Beaver Lake in north Asheville to look at birds. It was lovely. There were water lilies blooming on the lake.

Cute turtles on logs.

And plenty of birds.

Then it was off to the Biltmore Estate.

We explored the grounds and gardens, mostly. On our way to the Bass Pond, we saw a couple coming down a road clearly marked "no guests beyond this point." We gloated over our superior rule abiding skills. At one point, we took a trail into a meadow, then back down and around the lake and up a road. We got a wonderful view of the house from up there.

As we continued on that road, we came to a spot that made us think we weren't supposed to be there, so we wandered back down, searching for the proper trail. And what do you know? We ended up coming down the very road on which we saw that other couple breaking the rules.

Had to get a picture.

But I'm glad we did that because I got to take a very cool picture of the bamboo.

We didn't get pictures of us hanging on it like the other people did, so we're still better at rule abiding than they are. And that's what really counts.

There was a chipmunk.

On our way back to the house, we heard singing, and when we took the steps up out of the garden area, we saw a large group of young people all wearing the same shirt. I figured they were part of a school chorus.

On our last day, we visited Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. Naturally, at Chimney Rock, the elevator is not working. To get to the level where the actual rock is, you have to climb a bazillion stairs. But I managed. I am happy to say I was also able to climb the Exclamation Point Trail even though I haven't been exercising and am way out of shape. It wasn't easy, but I did it. And then we took the Hickory Nut Falls trail to the falls.

When we climbed up onto the actual rock itself, there was a group of young people there, all wearing the same shirt. And they sang The Star Spangled Banner for us. Right there on the rock under the huge American flag. It was wonderful. Too bad Donald Trump is our friggin' president. Kind of ruined the whole patriotic thing, frankly. But anyway, I tried to read their shirts and I think they were members of the American Heritage Youth Chorus. I asked them if they were at the Biltmore Estate the day before and it was them! I can't say what they think of Donald Trump.

That's the rock, there. Very American, isn't it? A huge rock penis with a flag on it. Don't believe me? Try this view:

Okay, then, moving on. I saw a caterpillar.

I don't know what kind it is. But it doesn't matter. In the gift shop there were some frighteningly weird...pots?

You have to wonder what the artist is trying to convey.

Down the mountain, in Chimney Rock Village and saw Big Foot. He's covered with craw fish. I can't imagine why. Is this another deep and poignant message?

Lake Lure was very nice. 

I saw a bunny rabbit.

Any day you see a bunny is a good day, don't you think?

Before we left, I took some pictures at the hotel. Out back, there was a fence with barbed wire on it. It was hard to see what it was protecting... Cars, I think. But I really liked the way the barbed wire looked.

This is definitely a metaphor. A symbol. A warning. Sharp. Poignant.

I'll post an album of textures and other cool shots that I found on this trip as soon as I can, hopefully right after this post. An example of textures is the picture of the bamboo above. I love stuff like that.

We had a really good time and got some great pictures of birds. You can view Our Big Year blog by clicking on it.

That was our trip to Asheville. I wonder what it all means. And will I ever know for sure?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Birding can make you question your very existence...

The moon from St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park. May 2017

The red-cockaded woodpecker continues to elude us. People keep posting sightings of this bird at the St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park. Most of them claim to have seen the little bugger about 100 yards along the Yellow Trail. These sightings are marked "confirmed." Whatever that means.

We have our doubts.

We've set out at various times of day. Your best bet for finding one is late afternoon...so they say. So this past weekend we trudged out, yet again, on the Yellow Trail. Heat beating down on our faces, our sunscreen having lost its protective effects much earlier in the day. The sand is thick in some parts and horse hooves have bored holes to trip us up. Beware the cacti. The wind whispers its mocking hymns above us.

The Florida scrubby flatwoods

About one hundred yards in, we hear it! That twittering, broken cat toy sound of the red-cockaded woodpecker! Alas. It's some tiny perching birds of no consequence.

Oh, they're in there. You can't see them. But they're up there in the trees teasing you.

Along we walk. Bone tired, we keep on. There is hope. Always hope. The bird is out here. We will find it. Eventually, we come to this sign:

But we've been led by that lie before. Kept going that way for miles and miles and miles. Not a bird in sight. This time, we head east instead. When we come to this sign, we know we've been idiots:

The signs are, as we begrudgingly admit, meaningless. Meaningless! We are no more likely to find woodpeckers down that unimaginably long trek north as we are to find deer here. Still, we keep on our journey. We spot those white ringed trees that laugh at us. Look here, they say. This is where we've pre-drilled holes for those non-existent peckerwoods you're after. Come on, keep going. Keep looking. They're here! Really! Would we lie to you?

The white stripe of lies!

When we realize we've come nearly to the levee where we began, we give up, turn around, and head back. Along the main trail we spot a doe and her fawn, brazenly hanging out along the main trail instead of Deer Link where they belong, the rule flouters!

We spot a red-bellied woodpecker. He too mocks us.

We begin to think the sightings are either unintentionally wrong or outright lies. Maybe those people heard the broken cat toy twitters and just assumed it was red-cockaded woodpeckers. Or maybe they're all just liars! Liars!

There are no red-cockaded woodpeckers here. Red-bellied, yes. Even pileated.

Pileated woodpeckers

Yes. There are mockingbirds, meadowlarks,

Eastern Meadowlark

wild turkeys. Raccoons and armadillos.


Barn swallows. Swallow-tailed kites. Great horned owls. Osprey. Even bald eagles for Christ's sake!

Yes. That's a bald eagle. Pretty as you please.

But there are no god damned red-cockaded woodpeckers on the Yellow Trail at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park!

We did it! We finally saw the red-cockaded woodpeckers! About 4:20 p.m., on Friday, May 12, some twenty yards onto the Yellow Trail, we heard the high pitched tweets and then the twittering that reminds us of the broken cat toy. Hubs walked into the brush a few feet and I looked and looked and then he pointed. I stepped off the trail and looked some more. And there it was!

The red-cockaded woodpecker does exist! (And he had at least one friend.)