Archive for May, 2009

Appalachian Trail Stomp

Last year at the Hiker Talent Show at Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia, I discovered that Appalachian Trail thru-hikers are a musical bunch.

Trail Days - Talent Show - Lake[something] Playing Guitar Trail Days - Talent Show - Bagpiper (Close) Trail Days - Talent Show - Cornbread 1 Trail Days - Talent Show - The Andrew Johnson Mountain Trio 5
Trail Days - Talent Show - The Colonel Sings Trail Days - Talent Show - Amazing Grace (to House of the Rising Sun) Trail Days - Talent Show - Female Performer About to Sing Trail Days - Talent Show - Singer

Taste of Musical Hikers from the Trail Days 2008 Hiker Talent Show

That very summer, Bo Cox thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. He has some great videos of his journey, including this one which uncovers hikers making music on the trail. Keeping up with thru-hiker innovation, they use what was on-hand as their instruments– their gear, their hands and even the trail itself.

Smoky Mountain River Stompin’

Speaking of Bo Cox, he also has a great video condensing his northbound thru-hike into 20 minutes. (Hat Tip, The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog)

May 11, 2009 at 6:00 am 2 comments

Weekly Winners – May 3- May 8, 2009

This week’s Weekly Winners come from two locales. First off, we have snippets of a Sunday trip Ryan and I took to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. Next we have a Saturday trip to Maple Park near Currituck, North Carolina where my ten year old neighbor, Jacal, and his ten year old nephew, Jamontae, found their first geocache. Jamontae also got to try honeysuckle for the first time. Enjoy!

Norfolk Botanical Gardens - Lit Roses and Sky
Roses from Below, Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Norfolk Botanical Gardens - Droplets on Wet Branches
Droplets on Branches, Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Norfolk Botanical Gardens - Wet Red Rhodo From Above
Wet Rhododendron from Above, Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Norfolk Botanical Gardens - Lion and Rain Droplets From Above (Far)
Fountain and Rain at Work, Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Norfolk Botanical Gardens - Ryan Walks Amoung Roses
Ryan Walks With Roses, Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Norfolk Botanical Gardens - Water on Folded Lilypad
Water on Lilypads, Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Maple Park - Synchronized Caching
First Geocache, Maple Park

Maple Park - Jamontae Tries Honeysuckle with Jacal
Honeysuckle, Maple Park

More pictures of the Norfolk Botanical Gardens and geocaching in Maple Park can be found on my Flickr site.

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

May 10, 2009 at 5:07 am 10 comments

Cat in a Suitcase Video

I started the week with ticks and end with a species more widely accepted into American homes. A cat in a suitcase video. Hat Tip, Brian N!

For more images of domestic animals in luggage, be sure to check out the Cats (and dogs) in Suitcases Flickr Group!

May 8, 2009 at 10:25 pm 4 comments

Merchant’s Millpond State Park: Lassiter Trail

In my recent letters, I confess to the likes of my grandmother or my cousin serving in Iraq, that I find the swamplands in eastern North Carolina to be surprisingly scenic. When I moved in November, I left the Appalachian Mountains. The most diverse mountain range in North America. And yet, I still find myself dumbfounded by all of the variety here. My outings may be flat and my legs may be far from weary afterwards, but with every outing I see more, I learn more and I fall deeper in love with the area.

Overview of Lassiter Trail
If you are looking to have your own love affair with a swamp, I suggest Merchant’s Millpond State Park. The Lassiter Trail is a great place to start. It’s a 6.7 mile loop. It takes you by the the namesake of the park, the millpond. Manmade in the 1700’s, the pond is now a thriving wildlife habitat. Traveling clockwise, the trail will take you through a hardwood forest past American Beech and American Holly trees. Next you’ll pass though a Longleaf Pine Forest and learn about fire and restoration. Before returning you back to the Millpond, the trail next runs by Lassiter Swamp and its mutated bald cypress trees, draped in lacy Spanish Moss.

Merchant's Millpond State Park - Baldcypress Trees and Knees in Algae (Close)
Merchant Millpond
Merchant's Millpond State Park - Colors Off Lassister Trail
Hardwood Forest
Merchant's Millpond State Park - Lassiter Swamp - Mutilations
Lassiter Swamp
Merchant's Millpond State Park - Longleaf Pine Needles in Sun
Long-Leaf Pine Forest

During our hike, we ran across a pair of Black Vultures. They were a little pissy at first, but eventually dropped their intimidating postures and settled for staring…intimidatingly. And even though we were hiking in early March, we got to see a frog (or toad)!

Black Vulture
(Photo by Ryan Somma)

(Photo by Ryan Somma)

Flora – Plantae
Baldcypress, Pines and American Beeches were popular along the trail. At one point, I saw those three species sharing the same spot, trumping Seinfeld’s Black and White Cookie by one.

Merchant's Millpond State Park - Three Species, One Location
Three Different Species, One Spot

A section of the trail was dedicated to a Long-Leaf Pine reforestation project. Pines of various ages and sizes lined the trail and their subtle scent carried by the spring breeze was especially pleasant.

Merchant's Millpond State Park - Longleaf Pine Branches
Wonderfully Textured, Long-leaf Pine Bark
Merchant's Millpond State Park - Longleaf Pine Flower
Long-leaf Pine Flower

American Holly and Mistletoe were both prevalent and scenic.

Merchant's Millpond State Park - Holly with Berries
Holly with Berries
Merchant's Millpond State Park - Mistletoe Emerging Out of Tree Bark
Mistletoe at Work

Finally, the Spanish Moss in Lassiter Swamp was just lovely. We passed through as the sun set. If you looked at the swamp just right, the backlighting transformed it into a Winter Wonderland. Swamp Style, that is. When lit, the dangling Spanish Moss resembled the icicles after a harsh winter storm.

Merchant's Millpond State Park - Winter Wonderland, Swamp Style
Backlit Spanish Moss at Lassiter Swamp

Flora – Fungi
There were so many different types of fungus over the 6.7 miles, I had to give it a dedicated section. One black and grainy fungus was particular deceiving. At first glance, it appeared to be debris from a fire.

Merchant's Millpond State Park - Fungus Peeling Off Bark Merchant's Millpond State Park - Mushrooms Scale Up Tree Root
Merchant's Millpond State Park - Mushrooms From Below Merchant's Millpond State Park - Black Fungus

Sampling of Lassiter Trail Fungus

Thin barked trees are more susceptible at inosculation— when branches, sometimes from two different trees, merge together. That tendency is why Axel Erlandson used sycamores in his Tree Circus. The American Beech common to the Lassiter Trail also has a thin bark. It’s not a full circus, but the harsh swamp environment did produce its very own Freak Show.

Merchant's Millpond State Park - Salvadore Dali Beech Merchant's Millpond State Park - Jimmie and Beech Tree Cannibal
Merchant's Millpond State Park - Mossy Crevice Merchant's Millpond State Park - Waterslide Tree from Back
Merchant's Millpond State Park - Beech Tree Merges Into Itself Merchant's Millpond State Park - Intertwined Tree - Eating Beech Branch

The American Beech Freak Show

From baldcypress trees to hardwoods to long-leaf pines to delicate fungi, the Lassiter Trail has a lot to offer. Amazingly enough, this is just one trail, one small piece of the Merchant’s Millpond State Park. There is much more to explore in the park, particularly if you travel by canoe.

More pictures of the Lassiter Trail can be found on my Flickr site.

Merchant’s Millpond State Park – Lassiter Trail

Trail Map

Length: 6.7 mile loop

Elevation Gain: Negligible

Directions from Elizabeth City, NC

Take US-17 North

Turn left on US-158 (there will be a brown sign for Merchant’s Millpond State Park)

Travel roughly 25 miles, passing an entrance to the park

Turn left on Honey Pot Road

Turn left into the next park entrance

May 6, 2009 at 11:21 pm 5 comments

Recycling Food Lion Bags

Of course, Ryan Somma is a busy man. He can’t establish the headgear choices for ALL of Hunter Street, now can he? Last Saturday during our latest Hunter Street water fight, my neighbor Khaliya and her friend, forged their own sense of style.

Hunter Street Water Fight - Girls Waiting
Heads wrapped, the girls wait for the water fight

They wanted to keep their hair dry during the combat and they found an affordable material to do the trick. Take a closer look!

Hunter Street Water Fight - Khaliya
Khaliya wears a Food Lion bag

The girls found a way to reuse those environmentally pesky plastic shopping bags.

Want more ideas? Reader’s Digest has a seven page list of uses for plastic bags.

May 6, 2009 at 8:24 am 6 comments

Hunter Street Headgear – Part II

It appears I published my Hunter Street Headgear post a couple of months too early. In it, I had side by side shots showing Hunter Street residents copying Ryan Somma‘s head wear choices. I had thought my collection was complete but last week another example surfaced:

Ryan and Terrance
Ryan Somma in the early 2000’s, Terrance April 2009

May 5, 2009 at 12:19 pm 2 comments

Another Symptom of Baby Tick Obsession

Baby Tick Tattoo?

Sunday morning, Ryan Somma told me about a dream he had the night before.

“You told me you were getting a tattoo,” he said, “I asked of what and you said, ‘Baby Ticks!'”

May 4, 2009 at 3:00 pm 5 comments

Introducing… the Baby Ticks

From eavesdropping at baby showers and reading the status updates of pregnant Facebook friends, I’ve gathered the waiting at the end of the third trimester is suspenseful and both thrilling and excruciating. And now, I can relate a little better. Courtesy of a tick.

In March, Ryan Somma removed a tick from one of the dogs. There isn’t terribly unusual and we have a whole disposal routine involving the toilet. Only this time instead of getting flushed, Ryan put the tick in a specimen jar.

The last week of March, Ryan picked up the vial off his desk and I heard this:


followed by:

“So this is what happens to a tick after you take it off a dog.”

Well I had to see for myself. I walked over and my first reaction mirrored Ryan’s.


Our tick had laid eggs. Hundreds and hundreds of eggs.

Tick Eggs - Side
Mama Tick and Her Eggs – March 29, 2009

And like Ryan, my disgust was followed by fascination… or obsession. Both terms are equally fitting.

For that day on, I was waiting for the baby ticks. When I was home, I would wake up, feed the dogs, check on the baby ticks. Sometimes if I was having a slow afternoon, the baby ticks got checked multiple times throughout the day. When I was on business trips and called home, I would ask my usual question to Ryan, “Did I get any mail?”. And then I would ask, “How are the baby ticks?”

As with any upcoming arrival, you share your excitement with family. I told my mother about the tick eggs. I told Ryan’s mother about the tick eggs. (Neither seemed particularly impressed).

Alas, despite my enthusiasm, day after day, morning after morning, those eggs were the same disgusting blobs they were on March 29th. There were no baby ticks. With each visit to the bookshelf to look at the specimen jar, I became more and more frustrated.

Finally, convinced they were dead, I gave up. I didn’t check on the ticks at all last week…. until Friday, May 1st. When I approached the specimen jar, I could see a lot of dirt on the inside.

Baby Ticks - Entire Vial
“Dirty” Vial (Photo by Ryan Somma)

At first, I was miffed, thinking one of the neighborhood kids had decided to shake it. And then I realized…. it was the baby ticks.


Baby Ticks - Lots (by Ryan)
Baby Ticks Waiting for the Jar to be Opened (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Baby Ticks (Cropped)
Baby Ticks – May 1, 2009

Our new pets aren’t exactly pretty, but they are interesting. They like to be as high as they can get. No matter how the vial is positioned, they climb to the top. You rotate it, they climb to the new top. It’s like a reverse hour glass.

FrontLine’s website says, “Regardless of species, tick eggs hatch in about two weeks.” That wasn’t the case with our baby ticks. When it was all said and done, it took them 28 – 33 days to hatch. I anticipated waited agonized for the baby ticks for roughly one human menstrual cycle. I can only imagine the suspense that accompanies one human gestation period!

Now that the baby ticks have finally arrived, I embark on another act of waiting.

This time I’m waiting for them to die.

: )

May 4, 2009 at 12:44 pm 39 comments

Weekly Winners and Hunter Street Water Fights – April 26 – May 2, 2009

A few weeks ago, my nine year old neighbor Tyrek said to me, “People say this is a poor area, but it’s not. We have nice places to eat and things to do. It’s not poor.”

I’m prone to agree with him. Hunter Street may not be Elizabeth City’s most affluent neighborhood, but we are rich in community and experiences. Every day there are people outside and children playing. Even on rainy days, the kids are out riding bikes making giant splashes in the puddles. And this week, it was quite hot. Did the neighborhood kids retreat inside to watch TV and play video games? Nope– they had giant water fights in the streets.

Out of all the neighborhoods I have lived in during my adult life, Hunter Street is my favorite. This week’s Weekly Winners share a glimpse of why.

Hunter Street Water Fight - Khalif and Khaliya Getting Ready
Khalif and his sister, Khaliya, get ready

Hunter Street Water Fight - Filling Up
Filling up in our backyard

Hunter Street Water Fight - Determined Jacal Gets Khalif
David vs. Goliath (aka Jacal takes on Khalif while Tykee approaches)

Hunter Street Water Fight - Dada Gets Khaliya
Khaliya is hit by Dada, Khalif and Jacal in the background

Hunter Street Water Fight - Qualik Attacked by Jacal
Qualik is hit by Jacal

This last one is blurry. But I just love little Tykee’s face as he comes after ME!

Hunter Street Water Fight - Khaliya, Tykee Coming After Me
Tykee comes after me, Khaliya in the background

Before the water fight last Sunday, I was getting sleepy and unmotivated. After the water fight, I was completely soaked…and completely invigorated. It set me up for a very productive evening.

So if you are feeling sluggish, I suggest a good ole water fight.

More pictures of the Hunter Street Water Fights can be found on my Flickr site. Also, be sure to check out more of Weekly Winners out at Sarcastic Mom!

May 2, 2009 at 8:57 pm 15 comments

Arbor Day: North Dakota

American Elm Leaves
(Photo by gravitywave)
Happy Arbor Day, North Dakota!

North Dakota celebrates its Arbor Day the first Friday of May, so Happy Arbor Day North Dakota!

The American Elm, North Dakota’s State Tree, was a favorite of Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmstead and he wasn’t alone. American Elms were planted along the streets of cities and towns across the nation, including North Dakota!

Despite the presence of Dutch Elm Disease, the city of Fargo still has 7100 American Elms along its streets. Just like with oaks, the affection for the species is reflected in names. Only this time, it is manifested in items named after the tree. North Dakota is home to an Elm Road (Hazen), at least six Elm Avenues (Barnes, Morton, Richland, Stark, Dickey, LaMoure) and at least seven Elm Streets where nightmares may or may not be had (Fargo, Cass, Ransom, Benson, Traill, Morton, Barnes). The state even has a small town simply named Elm.

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

May 1, 2009 at 9:52 pm Leave a comment

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