Archive for August, 2009

Blackberries without Hands

When the Bucket List Meme circulated Facebook, I did have one item to add to the checklist.

“Picking and eating wild blackberries on a hot summer day”

They are tasty. They are refreshing. And when you have really earned them– when you are hot and tired and saturated in sweat– surprise blackberries can actually alter the buoyancy of one’s soul.

I was so focused on looking for mushrooms during the Keffer Oak hike, that I totally forgot about the best part of hiking in August. Unfortunately by the time we encountered the blackberries on the trail, Tony Airaghi and I had (perhaps irresponsibly) handled nearly a dozen different types of mushrooms. We couldn’t possibly use our tainted hands. Did that mean we had to be deprived of one of life’s simplest and most fulfilling pleasures?

Sinking Creek Mountain - Eating Blackberries without Hands
Tony Finds a Way to Eat Blackberries

Nope! : )

August 31, 2009 at 1:00 pm 2 comments

Opening Your Eyes to Fungi

Earlier this year, I ran across a wonderful quote by Alexander Graham Bell:

We are all too much inclined to walk through life with our eyes shut. There are things all around us, and right at our very feet, that we have never seen; because we have never really looked.

Bell’s thoughts were particularly fitting a few weeks ago when Tony Airaghi and I hiked the 0.6 miles to the giant Keffer Oak. We brought along a copy of the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. With our eyes on the lookout, this section of trail– mind you a section I have done numerous times before– unveiled a whole other world. We found mushrooms all around us, sometimes right at our very feet.

Sinking Creek Mountain - Possible Chrome Footed Bolete
Possible Chrome Footed Bolete
Sinking Creek Mountain - Possible Chanterelle
Possible Chanterelle
Sinking Creek Mountain - Yellow Unicorn Entoloma
Possible Yellow Unicorn Entoloma
Sinking Creek Mountain - Some Kind of Cup Mushroom
Some Kind of Cup Mushroom
Sinking Creek Mountain - Walnut Mycena Mushroom
Possible Walnut Mycena Mushroom
Sinking Creek Mountain - Emetic Russula and Baby Pine 2
Possible Emetic Russula
Sinking Creek Mountain - Spindle Shaped Yellow Coral
Possible Spindle Shaped Yellow Coral
Sinking Creek Mountain - Tacky Green Russula From Side
Possible Tacky Green Russula

We found so many mushrooms, in fact, our journey to the Keffer Oak was incredibly slow. Every few steps, we spotted another specimen and began flipping through the field guide again.

Sinking Creek Mountain - Tony Looking up Mushrooms
Tony Looking Up More Mushrooms

It took us well over an hour to make it to the tree. Where, with our eyes calibrated for fungus, we discovered yet another mushroom– this one growing right on the giant oak. : )

Sinking Creek Mountain - Tony, Mushroom  Book and Mushroom on Keffer Oak
Tony with Mushroom Growing on Keffer Oak

Sinking Creek Mountain - Tony, Mushroom  Book and Mushroom on Keffer Oak (Cropped)
Mushroom on Keffer Oak

With all these new discoveries on a familiar section of trail, I have to applaud Alexander Graham Bell. When it came to fungus, I was all too inclined to walk this section with my eyes shut.

More pictures of our mushroom discoveries and the hike to Keffer Oak can be found on my Flickr site.

P.S. Do not eat anything based on my photo captions. We are beginners and have very little confidence in our identifications!

Appalachian Trail – Keffer Oak

Length: 1.2 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: There is a brief hill near the beginning of the trail, but nothing too scary.

Driving and Parking: The roads are all paved and there is a small gravel parking lot at the VA-630 trailhead.

Directions from Blacksburg, VA
Take 460 West
Turn right on VA-42
Bear right to stay on VA-42

Turn right on VA-629
Turn right on VA-630
The trailhead will be on your left shortly after passing over a bridge

August 31, 2009 at 5:00 am 5 comments

Must People Die For Me to Get Hits?

Last week I noted a spike in my hits and I saw an abnormal amount of views to one of my Caldwell Fields posts. Upon investigation, I discovered the reason. It was not something to celebrate.

2 Virginia Tech Students Found Murdered in Forest

The bodies of David Lee Metzler, 19, of Lynchburg and Heidi Lynn Childs, 18, of Forest were discovered early Thursday by a passerby at Jefferson National Forest, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Lt. Brian Wright said. Both had been shot.

Wright said Metzler’s body was found inside a car in the parking area of the Caldwell Fields campground, and Childs was found outside the car. The campground is about 15 miles from Virginia Tech’s campus in Blacksburg.

Caldwell Fields is such a beautiful place. I know a couple who got married there. That’s a event fitting of the locale. Caldwell Fields should be used for new beginnings. Not abrupt and unwarranted endings.

My heartfelt sentiments to the families.

August 30, 2009 at 9:52 am 2 comments

Heart in Nature: Pipal Leaf

Earlier this week, I posted about the practice of painting Pipal leaves. Pipal trees have a special place in history. It was under a pipal tree that Siddhartha Gautama obtained enlightenment. Thereafter he was known as…Buddha.

Today’s Heart in Nature is courtesy of Barney’s Star and highlights that sacred species of tree.

Baby Pipal Leaves (Photo Courtesy of Barney’s Star)

August 29, 2009 at 3:16 pm 1 comment

New and Old at Keffer Oak

Saturday August 15th, Tony Airaghi and I hiked up to the Appalachian Trail’s Keffer Oak, one of the largest blazed trees on the trail. A couple of things have changed since I visited last.

New Stile!
The old rickety step-ladder stile has been replaced with a new walk-through stile. (I had to do research to find out the official name of the new design. I formerly called them “Fat People Traps”).

Remarkable Trees of Virginia Project: Shooting Keffer Oak From Below
Old – Robert Llewellyn with Old Step-Ladder Stile

Sinking Creek Mountain - Tony with Keffer Oak
New – Tony Airaghi with Walk-Thru Stile

Old Branch : (
On the other side of the tree, we saw a casualty of the oak’s age. The tree has one less branch.

Keffer Oak - Long Winding Branches
Old – Lower Branch in Tact

Sinking Creek Mountain - Keffer Oak Minus One Branch
New – The Bottom Branch is on the Ground.

The hike to Keffer Oak is only 0.6 miles one way. This short little hike and this one tree demonstrate how the Appalachian Trail is always changing. It’s always a little different.

More pictures of our Keffer Oak hike can be found on my Flickr site.

August 28, 2009 at 9:23 pm Leave a comment

Pipal Leaves – Then and Now

I found a lot fascinating at the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum in Ocean City, Maryland. Here’s another item:

Bethany Beach 2009 - Ripley's Believe It Or Not Musuem - Leaf Painting
Pipal Leaf Painting

Sacred to Hindus and Buddhists, the leaves of the pipal or bho tree, are often used in India by folk artists as canvasses to paint miniature accounts of historical or religious scenes, Believe It or Not!

Upon research, I found this practice continues today. Though…the technique, not to mention the content, appears to be a little more modern. : )

Michael Jackson Pipal Leaf from InALeaf.Com
Michael Jackson Pipal Leaf, one of many designs from

August 24, 2009 at 8:38 am 12 comments

Fancy Bear Bag

Here’s another find from the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.

Bethany Beach 2009 - Ripley's Believe It Or Not Musuem - Fancy Bear Bag
Tribal Suspension Hook

Here’s how it’s described:

Tribal Suspension Hook
Believe It or Not!, this well-carved hook figure served as a cupboard, or warddrobe, in an aboriginal village in New Guinea! Called a suspension hook, it held food baskets or clothing safely under the rafters of a village home. The carved face of a revered ancestor protected both the good and the house itself from evil spirits.

Man. Forget carabiners and rope. Now THIS is a bear bag!

August 20, 2009 at 9:00 pm 2 comments

Open Source: 95th Birthday Present

Every year, my extended family picks one night to convene at Magnolia’s Restaurant in Bethany Beach for a reunion dinner. With aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, and cousins-to-be from all around the country, it’s definitely a celebration.

And a loud one at that.

This year, we had something extra to celebrate. Next month my grandmother turns 95 years old! When someone has been on this planet for 95 orbits around the sun, they’ve pretty much seen it all as far as birthday gifts go. But my Aunt Julie came up with a great idea to make this birthday memorable.

Each member of the family was tasked with filling an 8 1/2 by 11″ sheet of paper. It could include anything– pictures, drawings, a printout of memories or well wishes. Some people mailed their pages in advance. Meanwhile, some of us worked on ours together at the beach house.

Bethany Beach 2009 - Mom, Melanie, Frank Scrapbooking
Mom, my cousin Melanie and my cousin Frank work on their scrapbook pages

Bethany Beach 2009 - Melanie Works on Scrapbook Page
My cousin Allison’s page is on the left. My cousin Melanie works on her page on the right

Before the big event, my Aunt Julie compiled all the contributions into a big 12″ by 12″ scrapbook. The end result was beautiful and eclectic and full of memories and affection. The birthday girl seemed to appreciate it!

Bethany Beach 2009 - Family Dinner - Grandma Smiles with Cake
Birthday Girl is all smiles!

Next time you are tasked with finding a birthday present for a ninety-five year old, keep the scrapbook idea in mind.

Note: I suspect this notion just may work for other birthdays as well. 🙂

August 17, 2009 at 9:31 pm 1 comment

Tiger Fail

Saw this at the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Musuem on Wednesday:

Bethany Beach 2009 - Ripley's Believe It Or Not Musuem - Hahaha Fail
Tiger Fail

The caption reads:

Biting Off More Than You Can Chew
Believe It Or Not! Tigers are the only big cat that like to play in the water. Ferocious carnivores, tigers will eat just about anything, even turtles!

Shown here is the skull of a tiger that drowned trying to swallow a turtle whose shell got lodged in the tiger’s teeth.


August 10, 2009 at 3:00 pm 4 comments

Piranhas of Popcorn

Last week I was on vacation– which turned out meaning we were busier than ever. Saturday, August 1st, Ryan Somma and I met his family in Virginia Beach for supper. Then we continued north to Bethany Beach, Delaware to spend a week with my extended family. Friday, August 7th, we headed down to beautiful Assateague Island for our annual camping trip. Then Saturday morning, August 8th (August 8th is a NOFX Song Title!) we left the island and drove to Williamsburg, Virginia. We washed off all the sand, got dressed up and went to my friend Meredith’s wedding. This afternoon I leave for another trip — Blacksburg, Virginia. Easing back into blogging, I’m going to share something quick this morning.

Wednesday, a group of us went to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum in Ocean City, Maryland. As we strolled across the boardwalk, we saw some seagulls feasting on popcorn. When we returned the same path, we got to see the aftermath. In our absence, they picked the street clean (except for the kernels).

Bethany Beach 2009 - Ocean City - Seagulls Before
Seagulls with Popcorn

Bethany Beach 2009 - Ocean City - Seagulls After
Seagulls with Kernels

August 10, 2009 at 10:06 am 2 comments

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