Archive for March, 2009

Spring Peeper Serenade

Saturday, my family held a party for my brother’s 30th birthday party. We estimate about fifty people were in attendance. We had catered food from Famous Dave’s, an amazing video presentation by Aaron Evans, live music by numerous friends and an ice cream cake.

When it was time for that ice cream cake, the crowd gathered in the living room and kitchen, my cousin Samantha lit a series of candles that formed a “3” and a “0” and the whole house belted out a rendition of the Happy Birthday song.

Three days earlier, I celebrated my own birthday at Fairy Stone State Park in Virginia. I didn’t have a party, but I had an even larger crowd sing to me. At dusk, Ryan Somma, the dogs and I were on a Nature Trail at the Fairystone Farms Wildlife Management Area. We passed by some marshlands which were inhabited by little one inch chorus frogs called “Spring Peepers“.

They may be small, but their song most certainly is not. These guys were loud!

Here’s a quick video of the most impressive Spring Peeper display I’ve personally encountered. If you need a frame of reference for their volume, listen for Ryan Somma’s voice saying “Wow” about three seconds in.


Spring Peepers Sing at Fairy Stone Wildlife Management Farms

How do these little frogs do it? Creative Commons and Flickr have the answer:


Spring Peeper at Work (Photo by Norm Walsh)

In birthdays past, I have been sung to by family. I have been sung to by friends. I have been sung to by the reluctant staff of a local Red Lobster.

But this song on the evening of my 34th birthday…

This is my favorite birthday song yet.

March 23, 2009 at 5:30 am 5 comments

Weekly Winners – March 15th – March 21, 2009

This week’s Weekly Winners come from a variety of locales. I started the week at home in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Wednesday was an eventful day. We woke up at dawn, did some hiking in Fairy Stone State Park, Virginia. Next we attended the planting of a blight-resistant American Chestnut. The afternoon brought more hiking and then a quiet night in a lake front cabin. The weekend was spent in Occoquan, Virginia where I attended my brother’s 30th Birthday Party.

Elizabeth City - Henry Yawns
Henry Relaxing – Elizabeth City, NC

Fairystone State Park - View From Cabin at Dawn
Fairy Stone Lake at Dawn – Fairy Stone State Park

Fairystone State Park - Little Mountain Falls Trail - Holly Silhouette
Holly at Dawn – Fairy Stone State Park

Fairystone State Park - Little Mountain Falls Trail - Mossy Log and Falls
Little Mountain Falls – Fairy Stone State Park

Fairystone State Park - Little Mountain Falls Trail - Jimmie and Henry with Shadows
Shadowy Trail – Fairy Stone State Park

Fairystone State Park - Little Mountain Falls Trail - Neat Leaf
Learning a New Leaf – Fairy Stone State Park

Philpott Lake -  Susan Martin and Cathy Mayes Head to Planting Site
Park Ranger Susan Martin and American Chestnut Foundation Virginia Chapter President Cathy Mayes Head to Planting Site – Philpott Lake, Virginia

Philpott Lake -  Susan Martin Digs
Future of the Appalachian Forests? – Philpott Lake, Virginia

Stuarts Knob -  Beach View
Fairy Stone Lake from Stuart’s Knob – Fairy Stone State Park

Fairystone State Park - Jimmie and Ryan on Cabin Couch
Jimmie and Ryan Rest in Cabin – Fairy Stone State Park

Jay's Birthday -  Jay and Jacqueline Hug
Birthday Boy Hugs Girlfriend – Occoquan, Virginia

More pictures of Fairy Stone State Park, the American Chestnut Planting and my brother’s birthday party are available on my Flickr site.

Also, be sure to check out more of this week’s Weekly Winners out at Sarcastic Mom!

March 22, 2009 at 5:06 pm 6 comments

Arbor Week: Oklahoma


Redbud Flowers on a Salad
(Photo Courtesy of Corwyn Celesil)
Happy Arbor Week, Oklahoma!

Oklahoma, which is home to six silo trees, celebrates trees the last full week of March, so Happy Arbor Week, Oklahoma!

Oklahoma’s State Tree is the Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis). Redbuds are extremely easy to spot in the spring as they are absolutely covered in pink flowers. Those flowers are not only lovely, but they are EDIBLE and make a colorful and tasty addition to salads.

To find out when your state celebrates Arbor Day, check out Arbor Day Dates Across America at ArborDay.org.

March 22, 2009 at 1:00 am 1 comment

links for 2009-03-21

  • Are you an AT hiker interested in hearing about trail conditions, bear activity or the status of water sources? In addition to their posted Trail Updates, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is also posting podcasts of the Ridge Runner Reports.

    Even though I am not hiking that section anytime soon, I listened to the March 3rd report on Molly’s Ridge to Peck’s Corner in the Smokies and found myself learning something! They talked about all the ice, particularly near Clingman’s Dome. Crampons were even necessary for safe passage. Then they talked about a privy that is almost full.

    “Crews will not be able to address the problem until the matter thaws.”

    I’ve never thought about privy contents freezing before! 🙂

    In other news, if I ever start a band, I’m kinda digging “Frozen Privy” as a name.

    (Hat Tip The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog)

March 21, 2009 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

links for 2009-03-20

March 20, 2009 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

Season Compare: Sinking Creek Mountain

Here are a few season compares of Sinking Creek Mountain, starring pictures from my 33rd Birthday Hike and a trip back up the mountain last October. Enjoy!

Sinking Creek Mountain - Slanty Rocks (Cropped)
Three Trees on Slanted Rock Face – March 18, 2008

Sinking Creek Mountain - Trees on Slanty Slope
Three Trees on Slanted Rock Face – October 19, 2008

Sinking Creek Mountain - Wind Mangled Tree (Heading Northbound)
Twisty Tree at Top – October 19, 2008

Sinking Creek Mountain - Top - Wind Mangled Tree (Cropped)
Twisty Tree at Top – October 19, 2008

Sinking Creek Mountain - Jimmie and View (Cropped and Adjusted)
View – March 18, 2008

Sinking Creek Mountain - Top -  Changing Leaves in Valley (Cropped)
View – October 19, 2008

More pictures of Sinking Creek Mountain in March and Sinking Creek Mountain in October are available on my Flickr site.

March 20, 2009 at 6:00 am 2 comments

Arbor Day: Arizona and North Carolina


Palo Verde Tree
(Photo by davidanthonyporter)
Happy Arbor Day, Arizona!

Arizona celebrates its Arbor Day the third Friday of March, so Happy Arbor Day Arizona!

The State Tree of Arizona in the Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida). Palo Verde is Spanish for “green stick”. It is an apt name because the tree’s bark is green! The Palo Verde tree is what’s called “drought deciduous”. In other words, it loses its leaves during dry periods. When it does, photosynthesis is carried out by the bark.

Happy Arbor Day, North Carolina!

North Carolina celebrates its Arbor Day the first Friday after March 15th!

The State Tree of North Carolina is generically listed as “Pine”, but the Long Leaf Pine (Pinus palustris) makes an appearance in the State Toast. All pine trees were instrumental to the North Carolina economy during the state’s early history, providing resin, turpentine and timber for navy and merchant ships.

P.S. North Carolina is also home to three silo trees!

Merchant's Millpond State Park - Curling Longleaf Pine Branch
Longleaf Pine
(Photo by Me)

To find out when your state celebrates Arbor Day, check out Arbor Day Dates Across America at ArborDay.org.

March 20, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Furthering the Case for Sinking Creek Mountain

Dear Southwest Virginia Hikers,

You should hike Sinking Creek Mountain! I wholehearted and fully believe that this section of the Appalachian Trail is as worthy of a day hike as Angel’s Rest, Kelly’s Knob, Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee’s Knob or even Tinker’s Cliffs. Yes, you do have to hike 3.7 miles and ascend 2000 feet to get to the top. But once you are there, you have 1.5 miles of slanted rock faces and beautiful valley views! I am so fond of this mountain, it was my selection for my 33rd Birthday Hike. To help further my case, I present some pictures of a visit I made last October.

Sincerely,
Vicky TGAW

Sinking Creek Mountain - Ascent - Colors
View on the Way Up

Sinking Creek Mountain - Ascent - Evergreen From Trail
Snippets of Ridges from the Ascent

Sinking Creek Mountain - Ascent - Jason
Jason Poses on the Way Up

Sinking Creek Mountain - Top - Layers of Ridges From Top
Layers of Ridge Line From the Top

Sinking Creek Mountain - Top -  Black Lichen on Slanty Rocks, Changes Leaves and Ridges Looking Northbound (Portrait)
One of the Slanted Rock Faces Covered in Black Lichen

Sinking Creek Mountain - Top -  View Looking Northbound
Looking in AT Northbound Direction

Sinking Creek Mountain - Top -  Changing Leaves in Valley (Landscape)
View From One Slanted Rockface

Sinking Creek Mountain - Top - Lichen Rock and View (Landscape)
Looking in AT Southbound Direction

More pictures of my October Hike to Sinking Creek Mountain are available on my Flickr site.

Appalachian Trail: Sinking Creek Mountain

Length: ~10 Miles Round Trip

Elevation Gain: 2000 Feet

Directions from Blacksburg, Virginia

1) Take 460 West

2) Turn right on Craig’s Creek Road (VA-621). The Pandapas Pond Turnoff will be on the left hand side of the road.

3) Craig’s Creek Road will turn to gravel, pass Caldwell Fields (worth a stop!) and then eventually turn back to pavement. Once it does, the AT crossing will be within a couple of miles. There will be a camping and parking area on the left side of the road.

March 19, 2009 at 5:00 am 4 comments

Birthday Hike 2008: Sinking Creek Mountain

Birthdays are a time to indulge yourself and do what makes you most happy. On my birthday, I choose to hike. At the time this post publishes, I’ll be in Fairy Stone State Park, Virginia on my 34th Birthday Hike. So it seemed to be an appropriate time to share pictures from my 33rd Birthday Hike.

Overview
I celebrated my thirty-third birthday with a round trip hike up Sinking Creek Mountain. I started at Craig’s Creek Road (VA-621) and hiked southbound on the AT for 3.7 miles. Once you are at the top, the next 1.5 miles offer a series of rock outcroppings… and views! You ascend 2000 feet in your journey, but it doesn’t feel like 2000 feet. In fact, it feels relatively easy.

I don’t know why, but Sinking Creek Mountain gets about…well, zero attention. Everyone hits Kelly’s Knob to the south or look northbound to Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee’s Knob and Tinker Cliffs. That’s a shame. I find Sinking Creek Mountain to be every bit as fulfilling as the other destinations.

Views
As you climb the mountain, you do pass through a rocky section with lovely views of the surrounding mountains and once you are at the Continental Divide at the top, you are walking on ridgeline with opportunities to take in scenery in all directions. I had the added bonus of hiking when the leaves were long gone, so my views were amplified. I could glimpse ridges that would be obscured in the coming months.

Sinking Creek Mountain - Dawn from the AT
View at Dawn (within the first mile of the hike)

Sinking Creek Mountain - View To the West
Looking Westbound from the Top

Sinking Creek Mountain - Sample of Slanty Rocks
Sample of the Rock Faces at Top

Sinking Creek Mountain - Jimmie Looks at View
Jimmie Enjoys Eastbound View

Flora
I was hiking the day after St. Patrick’s Day. Even though our mountaineous area hadn’t fully embraced the notion of spring, nature was color coordinated for the holiday. Evergreens such as pines, rhododendrons and mountain laurels gave me a consistent dosage of green. Ferns, lichen and moss joined in that effort.

Sinking Creek Mountain - Pine Needles and View
Green at the Top

Sinking Creek Mountain - Pine Needles
Pine Needles

Sinking Creek Mountain - Rock Beats Scissors, Moss Beats Rock
Comfy Green Moss

Sinking Creek Mountain - Lichen Coexisting
Mountain Laurel Supports Two Types of Lichen

Other colors made it into the mix as well. I was particular struck by some bright yellow fungus I saw growing on the tree barks. It was so bright, it looked like someone had spray painted it.

Sinking Creek Mountain - Yellow Fungi
Bright Yellow Fungus

Sinking Creek Mountain - Lone Leaf
Lone Orange Leaf Dangles

Sinking Creek Mountain - Mushrooms
Beautifully Textured Mushrooms

Oddities
The trees at the top of Sinking Creek Mountain are particularly subject to the elements. Just like the Red Oaks on Apple Orchard Mountain and the Icicles near Mann’s Bog, the effects of the environment are documented in the trees’ postures.

Sinking Creek Mountain - Wind Mangled Tree (Heading Northbound)
Twisted Tree at Top of Sinking Creek Mountain

There were some other oddities as well. I loved how this tree’s burl forced a smaller tree to bend out of the way.

Sinking Creek Mountain - MOVE!!!!
Tree Tumor Makes a Sapling Move

This branch, I thought looked like an inch worm.

Sinking Creek Mountain - Inch Worm Tree
Tree Inch Worm

I found Sinking Creek Mountain to be a beautiful hike as always. It was an excellent way to usher in my 33rd year.

More pictures of my 2008 Birthday Hike are available on my Flickr site.

Appalachian Trail: Sinking Creek Mountain

Length: ~10 Miles Round Trip

Elevation Gain: 2000 Feet

Directions from Blacksburg, Virginia

1) Take 460 West

2) Turn right on Craig’s Creek Road (VA-621). The Pandapas Pond Turnoff will be on the left hand side of the road.

3) Craig’s Creek Road will turn to gravel, pass Caldwell Fields (worth a stop!) and then eventually turn back to pavement. Once it does, the AT crossing will be within a couple of miles. There will be a camping and parking area on the left side of the road.

March 18, 2009 at 5:00 am 3 comments

links for 2009-03-17

March 17, 2009 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

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