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Getting a little nature while in the city is important. Sometimes it is hard to get farther out, into the woods and surrounded by quiet. So, after work you head out to the closest green space possible. Right near where Chris’ mom and step-dad live is a bike path and Maxwell Creek Linear Park. If you go off trail and down to the creek you can find some beautiful little things. Oh, watch for the gigantic poison ivy!
The signs of Fall are slowly showing up.
If the light was better I would have tried to get a reverse macro on this Osage orange, Maclura pomifera.
Textures in the running water should entice you to slow down and poke around a bit.
If you can try to ignore the random water bottle or piece of trash brought downstream by a flooded creek or perhaps the uncouth neighborhood kids, you can find signs of old settlements and people who used to use the area as their own personal dumping ground. I found a rusted fridge but the photos were a bomb.
Perhaps you’ll find a wild mammal in the creek…
Or something from the Lepidoptera family. I’m thinking this is a black swallowtail.
And though a traditional sunset might be marred by the gigantic football field to the west of the park, thinking outside of the box might get a very enjoyable shot.
Take a walk along the beautiful bike trails or go off trail and walk along the creek. Bring some rugged shoes and ambition to explore and who knows what you will find!
*Stay tuned for more Nature in the City posts as I poke around local parks in the DFW area and in whatever city we settle in*
One thing on the trail that I really wish I could do was to crochet. Along the way I switched from listening to books on my mp3 to actually carrying books because it was so much nicer to have the pages in hand. I read a fiction book about a yarn store owner, actually this was part of a series, and it had me itching to have a hook and yarn in my hand. When we were in Salem I spotted a yarn store and had to go in and touch some yarn. I skipped buying yarn but ended up buying an Interweave Crochet from last fall because of the cool projects. One were some fingerless mitts. Oohhhh, I’ve been wanting some of those!
When I got home I forgot I had bought some cotton yarn to make Ashleigh back before we left, but I never got around to it. I was such a bad auntie. And since Ashleigh didn’t get to wear a hat I made her I decided to use the yarn and make a hat for myself and call it the Ashleigh hat. I wore it around town on Wednesday and didn’t feel the least weird wearing a heavier hat in the summer! I just made up the pattern with random stitches. I like doing that.
Here are both projects! The gloves, well, I intended to follow the pattern of using a spike stitch, but somehow the stitch ended up being more of ribbing and I liked it so I kept up with that instead of the spike. I looooove them, despite the odd looks Chris gives me for them!
Since I know the basic way to make these now I will be making my own patterns up. Ooh yeah! Next on my crochet agenda are to wrap up some nasty, tangled yarn and then start some crochet socks! I bought a fall colored pathway yarn at Hobby Lobby the other day and am excited to try them out. I’m still looking for knit Halloween colored socks, aka: candy corn colored. I’m looking at you Eliana.
In other news my Grandad fell two days ago and broke his hip pretty badly, enough for him to have hip replacement surgery this morning. He came out with flying colors despite some initial worries about his heart since his attack last May. Hopefully he can get the rehab done and get back into his assisted living that he was liking so much. Keep him in your thoughts!
Tonight we’re having a wine and cheese party and I am wishing I had some of my cyber friends and many of my real life friends coming, those that are near and those that are far, but it will be fun to see everyone who is getting to come.
I’ve decided to go back through and show photos that I never got around to posting, recap some of the sections and discuss in more detail various sections of the trail. Plus, I like reminiscing and I’m a little sad that we’re pushing on two weeks off the trail.
And off we went. I look back now and realize just how overweight we were. Looking at us now someone might not have guessed. We had a few people think that we’d started the trail this way, people imagining that to walk 2,000 miles you must be fit. Not really. Tons of people start off in varying weights and fitness levels. Some quit, some continue. All you need is ambition and the mental toughness to keep going when the going gets tough.
I remember climbing the stairs up Amicalola Falls and thinking to myself that I was insane. It was difficult, I was out of breath and I was hoping above all hopes that the whole 8 miles on the Approach Trail wasn’t going to be like that. It wasn’t, but it wasn’t easy either. We met two guys on the side of the Approach Trail who had ginormous packs. The kind of packs you imagine from A Walk in the Woods. We never saw them again after that day. After awhile the sun went away and it started trying to rain just after we’d finished our lunch. Eventually it started sleeting somewhere just a few miles from Springer. In my head I was just thinking that we were really in for it. I’d read so much about the Smokies and all the snow, I just *knew* that it was going to be horrible the whole way.
Of course it wasn’t horrible! Somehow we made it to the top of Springer. It isn’t as monumental as getting to the top of Katahdin, but it was still exciting since this was the official beginning of the trail.
I don’t even remember if we signed the register, it was too cold!
The ridge runner at the top of Springer near the Springer Mtn Shelter. We hung out at the shelter for a few minutes until we realized we’d be much warmer walking so we kept on going to Stover Creek shelter.
Oh the rhododendrons! How many there were and I didn’t even know what they were! The tunnels that we went through in Georgia and North Carolina were majestic.
Those first few days the trail is so crowded. You skip and jump in front of people all day long, they pass you and you pass them. For awhile it is a bit nerve wracking, this contest of sorts to keep up. Eventually it gets to the point along the trail where you just don’t care, though sometimes I did like to keep a mental “I’m ahead” list of people that we’d passed and were behind us. People who are typically faster hikers than us, but because they took time in town I just liked to know that we were ahead of them.
The further north we got the less we were in National Forests. I personally liked being in National Forests because they weren’t so picky about stealth camping. Some areas in the NE were very picky about where and where not you could camp.
Going up Blood Mountain. We were the only ones who stayed on top of the mountain that night. When we crossed Jarrard Gap there was a fierce wind blowing through, extremely chilly. Many folks went to the Woods Hole shelter just past that, but we kept on going, passed the Slaughter Creek campsite and then on up to Blood Mtn. It was such a surreal experience in all the snow and ice.
Of course then you get to Neel’s Gap and Mountain Crossings and you think you’ve come *so* far when you’ve only gone 30.7 miles. Most people we knew stayed at the hostel. Later on we heard not such great things about the hostel which made me thankful we kept on going and camped on Cowrock.
Still one of our best campsites, not only for the beautiful sunset but the quiet solitude.
Another good campsite was at Sassafras Gap, one of the bazillion SG’s there are. The people who named Gaps, Mtns, passes, and other things on the trail were not very imaginative. You’d mention Sassafras Gap on the trail and someone would say “Which one?”
On the day we hiked over Tray Mountain there was still snow on a lot of the mountain. I thought that was a pretty fun climb, whereas other didn’t enjoy it so much. We had a good bit of hiking after that, a nice ‘flat’ stretch where we could cruise, but my mental time still hadn’t gotten calibrated yet and I would always think we’d gone further or faster than we really had. I kept looking for the Swag of the Blue Ridge and when it finally came, miles after I’d expected it, I knew we were close to our campsite.
When it is a town day the trail seems to go incredibly slow. Our first stay in town was at Hiawassee and the Blueberry Patch hostel. We got to the road by lunch but we first had a thousand foot climb over Kelly Knob and like most of the trail once you go down you have to go back up to go down again. The book is famous for leaving out little ups, thinking that you will have a mostly flat section, but instead you go up and down and up and down until you finally reach that spot you thought was going to be flat.
And here we are at Dicks Creek Gap being dropped off by Gary the owner of the Blueberry Patch. I’m glad we left on that sunshine day because the next day brought rain and snow and leaving town would have been a mental impossibility for me! Starting to hike when you are already out in the elements is one thing, but going out when you can be cozy indoors is quite another thing!
Of course we then finally made it to the NC border!
Here are a few people we met in those first few days that we never saw again, but they are still out on the trail! RafiC: We always thought he’d pass us after we left him in Neel’s Gap because he was very fit and did marathons and such, but the only time he passed us was when we took our time off at home and then we passed him when he got off for treating his Lyme. Red Lobster: another girl that I thought would pass us but we never saw her after Neel’s Gap. Klarity: Ditto to above Gearbomb: we heard her for several hundred yards because she had a metal cup clanking on the outside of her pack. Llano: I actually started reading her journal before we left and was surprised to meet her at the Low Gap Shelter after Neel’s Gap.
Shelters we stayed at
Stover Creek Shelter: Good water source, but it was crowded with thru-hikers and a scout group. Camped.
Gooch Mtn Shelter: Again, super duper crowded! Camped.
Blood Mtn Shelter: Not a soul in sight and we camped. Very dirty shelter.
Cowrock Mtn: Take a shower at Neels Gap, eat something and keep hiking to this awesome spot.
Blue Mtn Shelter: Very chilly, not too crowded and we camped.
Sassafras Gap: Water was a bit far but it was well worth it to camp here.
Hiawassee, GA: Blueberry Patch hostel is still one of my favorites for the just plain down-homeness and sweet folks who run the place. Hiawassee is an excellent resupply point.
Stay tuned for the southern NC post! It’s going to take me decades to get this done!
On Monday we went to the Dallas Arboretum with Chris’ dad. I had never been so it was a nice experience. After being so used to Fairchild Gardens in Miami, it’s hard to get used to non-tropical plants. There are some nice tropicals such as this Pride of Barbados, but a lot of them are temperates. They also have a great test garden where they do try some of those tropicals like mandavilla and tropical hibiscus.
It was blazing hot and though we didn’t walk fast or far, we were sticking to our clothes pretty quickly. It was 107* for a high here on Monday. Yesterday it was about 12* cooler and though that was in the 90′s it was amazingly cooler. Today I think it is even cooler than that, but I haven’t set foot outside yet! I’ve been working on photos, playing with Zoe and I even took a phone call for a potential job interview! *insert nerves here*
I’ve been trying to read several trail journals of folks that we met along the way that are still out hiking. Sometimes I get a bit sad not being out there so it is fun to see where everyone else is and remember all of the places we were. I am still working on the first Trail Tales story…yes, I am slow. It’s amazing how much attention a 2 year old needs!
I did find a few things that were interesting on some trail journals. One is from a hiker we knew, Tin Tin. His post is here about life not being a white blazed trail. Good stuff. Also, Li’l Buddha’s post about the odd lifestyle of thru-hikers. He started in Key West back in January and he is walking the Eastern Continental Trail, a mish-mash of trails that sorta connect to each other and he is now in Canada on the International Appalachian Trail. He was already booking miles by the time we started so we were quite behind him. Reading his entries on the IAT has been very interesting!
Chris bought a lens mount for the reverse macro stuff I do so I will be able to do it a lot better. Right now I am just holding the lens to the camera and it can be very difficult. I have to hold my breath half the time in order to keep it in focus. I could use a tripod but I’m too lazy. I plan on taking a lot of these types of photos on our camping trip.
When we were on the trail we had tossed around the idea of going back to Florida to photograph ghost orchids and see friends or do a big Texas trip. We initially tried to get our friend Eliana to come with us on a road trip from Florida to Texas if we went to Florida, but due to some personal commitments it just wasn’t going to work out. Plus, we decided that a road trip to Texas would be a great portfolio building opportunity. We have plenty of Florida nature photos but we need some Texas stuff.
Texas is a gigantic state and we really hadn’t explored all that much of it. I went camping with my parents while growing up and we did some local state parks and a few further away. My brother and I would spend hours riding our bikes along the trails. There are a couple of places within short driving distance that we want to hit before we go, LBJ Grasslands and Lake Mineral Wells State Park. We will also hit up Caddo Lake when we visit Michelle & John Paul. Caddo Lake is the only natural lake in Texas!
We bought a big car camping tent, an air mattress and a fan today. This is going to be a far cry from carrying everything on our backs. It’s definitely not going to be ‘roughing it’, but I am looking forward to it anyway.
We aren’t leaving for a few more weeks, but we’ll blog from the road where we can find WiFi.
Breakfast with three of my favorite friends and one cool little kid.
Finding nice clothes for really cheap at Goodwill. It’s becoming my favorite store.
My new brown hair. Really loving it! The blonde will come back, but it’s nice to have a change.
My talkative little niece. She’s a ham!
103*. Blech. Texas in the summer bites. At least the humidity isn’t nearly as bad as it was in New England a month and a half ago.
Eliana pawning Millie off to someone else. Yeah, I am peeved at that. She’s Baloo’s buddy now, keep her that way!
Politics. I really just don’t care any more. Too many other important things than to listen to whiny political b.s. Though I don’t drink beer, I saw a fun billboard today for Racetrac (a gas station) that said something like “Beer. Because election season is coming up”. Substitute wine and we might have something.
Swimsuit shopping. Even though I lost about 35 lbs on the trail and can wear ‘skinny’ clothes again, bathing suit shopping still sucks.
Reality t.v. and fake celebrities. I don’t recognize half the people on the tabloid’s anymore.
5 Things I’m Looking Forward To
Our Texas road trip in a few weeks. We’re taking 8 days to drive around to various state parks and natural areas to hike, photograph and relax!
A trip to East Texas to visit my friends Michelle and JP
A job. Finding some interesting ones out there!
Labor Day weekend camping trip with my parents, brother, SIL and niece.
Baking lots more goodies!
And just because I miss the beach. A little photo from Sarasota in 2008.
Since we missed Zoe’s birthday by a week and her birthday party, too, Chris and I wanted to do something for her. Yesterday I made the cake. I ended up using a simple white cake recipe and made cream cheese frosting (8oz cream cheese, 1/2 stick butter, 4c powdered sugar for one batch, double for more) and made a two layer cake. This is my first time making a cake from scratch. I’m no cake decorator, but I had a lot of fun making it! It turned out very moist, too!
I went a little crazy with the dye!
The face on the left is what you get when you say “Smile for the camera!” That’s her Chandler face. She can laugh and smile just beautifully, but put a camera there and she becomes a goof.
Dad liked it, too, despite there not being chocolate in it!
My SIL said that the cake was better than the slice of red velvet cake/cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory we’d had earlier that day…which is b.s. if you ask me! hah! The two most competitive people I know, Chris and my SIL, are going to have a cake baking contest between themselves in a few weekends. That should be very interesting!
Some of the other photos I never processed last March were trout lilies that we took at the Heard Museum. On our hike we saw quite a bit of trout lilies in the south. I can’t remember where they stopped growing, maybe Pennsylvania? Anyway, enjoy the photos. I was happy with how some of them turned out, especially the reverse lens macro ones!
Yesterday I went for a run with my brother, the first workout post-hike. I kept up and my lungs felt good, but my knees did not enjoy it when I stopped. I was also disappointed to know we only went 2.1 miles. It went fast, but it felt longer. I keep wanting to do a ‘big’ run, a 10K or a Half Marathon, but I get so bored running. I think trail running would be nice, but I hate having to drive out somewhere to go run. Pavement pounding is just boring. I had fun running with Curt, but I’m going to probably enjoy rollerblading better when they come out of storage.
Working my way down a list of chores and items to do….blogging was one of ‘em. Gotta go make a cake soon. Been looking for jobs and found a few to apply for. A nap is really what I want to accomplish, though.
While waiting for our connecting flight in Baltimore yesterday I opened my laptop to find unprocessed photos from before we left for the AT. I found all sorts of Zoe photos and so I decided to process some of them and here they are! She is so much bigger now and you can see little parts of her now, but she’s more kid than baby now!
This one was kinda out of focus so I ‘rescued’ it by turning it b&w. It was too cute to let it fade away.
This smile is still there. Oh, you should have seen her this morning when she got to see Mimi after almost a week! Oh, the little grin that came out!
This was my tire swing when I was a kid. We hauled it out for a bit but decided against it. I think she could probably handle it now!
I smell trouble!
It’s hot here in Texas. Hoping to get outside later this evening. The cats are coming around. Samson still tries to ignore us but Leo has given us headbutts and has started trying to follow us around again.
Fairly sure I’ll be posting more soon. I have trout lily photos and I’m going to charge my camera up soon to take lots of new photos! Bought a crochet magazine in Salem and am itching to dig out my hooks. Ahhh…back to life.