Smoky Mountain Trek

As Bob wrote in his travel journal regarding Days 27, 28, 29 and 30 (of our miles long adventure). “We left Nashville and headed towards Townsend where we had rented a small cabin in the woods – a final stop in a familiar and loved area.We had not been here in 3 years. The ride was easy and the start of the Appalachian Range was welcomed. Far different than the Rockies, but the lush forests and green valleys were delightful. The redbuds were beginning to bloom and the dogwoods were in full flower.”

Some ask us why we go back so often? For us, wildflower hunting is similar to seeking shells on an Atlantic Ocean beach. The trillium are fairly obvious. Southern Appalachian are very large. Wake Robin is similar to Sweet Betsy trillium to me. Yellow is know as Yellow Wake Robin! I just know it is erect and easy to see in a passing car! But the Jack in the Pulpit, not so much. I find myself as we hike looking for the leaves or the curve of the neck on the Jack. The violets in purple, white, lilac and yellow show themselves. The Dutchman’s Britches are not so obvious as they look like the Squirrel Corn. One has to look closely to see the ginger pots under the Ginger leaves. And the Little Brown Jugs must be discerned, too. Yellow Bellwort grows high on Rich Mountain Road. Spiderwort is the rock clinging one I believe.

Most elusive are the Lady’s Slipper. As I wrote earlier, we found pink that had not opened yet. One clump of lovely yellow were sweet. Sadly, people dig them up (stealing from the National Park) thinking they can take them home to grow the. These lovelies have very particular growing needs. So we tell almost NO ONE where we have seen them. A Ranger at Sugarlands Park Office told us that about 3 miles up Sugarland trail they burst out in abundance after the fires a few years ago. Sadly, that is too much hiking for me.

Fire pinks, crested dwarf iris, showy orchid, wild geranium, fringed phacelia, squaw root, and the list goes on! Such Fun.

Bob wrote about the Good Friday drive along Tremont Road following the Middle Prong of the Little River , “So much rain had fallen that it was more full and rapid than we had ever witnessed. It was violent, frenzied, untamed, wild, and raging. It reminded me of the Niagara rapids below the falls. Water careened along its banks and exploded over the rocks. Waterfalls disappeared except for the ones coming down the sides of the mountain that were barely contained. And it was LOUD! Everything in the area was a soft green and dripping. Giant Trillium sat and listened to Jack preach to them and the rocks above. It was glorious. Who said rainy days are not fun? And we only put 60 miles on the car.”

The next day was only 46 degrees but the rain had stopped so we were up for another hike. Bob’s journal continues “Easter Saturday – the day between the grief and the glory – we drove to Tremont and the Middle Prong Trail. We love this trail as it closely follows the Middle Prong of the river and builds to a crescendo with a cascading waterfall. The joy for me is walking a small path that leads to the crest of the falls. Water rushes towards it and explodes over the top of the boulders below.”

On Day 31 we drove home to Ohio. 7,000 miles, a month on the road sitting side by side in the Toyota Camry Hybrid. We were still friends and still smiling. I imagine you might be tired about reading reports of this adventure. We have not tired of telling it though. There are likely more details in my blog and his travel journal than we could recite to you today, in person, without notes!

Our next adventure was a seven day flight to and around New England to pick up some of the places we missed on a previous adventure there. It is nice to be approaching 49 years of marriage completed and still enjoy one another’s company. May all of your journeys be joyous!

Photo by Robert M Dutina

After Bluebonnets Onward Ho! to Tennessee

Have you driven across Texas? There was not time on our Spring 2019 adventure to explore the southern cities of Texas or Gulf Coast. Basically when we finished with the Bluebonnets we were ready to travel to our annual or semi-annual adventure of hunting wildflowers in the Smoky Mountains.

Did I mention DYC?

We saw these yellow flowers in the distance in Texas. Did I tell you this already? Well, it bears telling again for a chuckle. We asked a guy who looked like he might be a local farmer what that crop was we were seeing this distance in this photo. He said, “Oh that is DYC.” We asked what is DYC. He explained, “Damn yellow cross-pollinators.”

We found Texas basically a boring drive, though we did spot much more of the DYC on our journey. We hurried across the state traveling about as many miles as we could manage in a day, heading for Tennessee.

Saddened recently to hear about the shootings in Midland and Odessa where we had traveled. Five people were killed and 21 others injured, including three law enforcement officers. The violence in this country is sad and startling. I will never get accustomed to it.

We delighted to reach Smoky Mountain National Park. We had rented a cabin for several days to collect our wits after so many weeks on the road. Decided on the first day to attempt our longest hike, uncertain if we could make it to the Lady Slipper area after Bob’s illness and my continued deterioration from arthritis. We made it! We only saw one clump of Yellow Lady Slippers. Photo by Robert Dutina

Robert M Dutina

Did you notice the tendrils down the sides of the Lady’s Slipper?

Robert M Dutina

We also went to the area for pink Sippers. Unfortunately we were too early to see them open.

Photo by Molly
Photo by Molly

Since I could not enjoy full blooms on Lady Slippers, I did delight to say Hi there! to this little guy all covered in dew.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

John G. Whittier

Basically our visits to the Smoky mountains have this effect upon me!

My Blogger Friend Mike

Mike Powell publishes a wonderful journey of his photographic life at the address below. Check him out with the link below for one example.

American Lady

Recently I heard this music on our classical station and I immediately thought of his blog. He gets amazing photos of dragonflies, birds and other nature subjects that remind me to stop and look around me. Without knowing the title it reminded me of some of the chases Mike has likely had through the swampish park where he captures many of his photos. Turn up your volume as the first few moments begin very softly. Only 4 minutes but fun!

If you go to his WordPress blog you can scroll through his entries and I think you will see what I mean! I can no longer see a dragonfly and not think of Michael Q. Powell! Whether he is chasing another species of dragonfly, an Osprey, Great Blue Heron or an Eagle he depicts a world that few of us appreciate being as suburban bound as we usually are.

Start looking around you and enjoy!

NEWS FLASH!!

August 17, 2018 I wrote about treasures in Not Quite Plain Sight. I compared the Florida sea cow, the Manatee, and the microscopic Tardigrades, also known as water bears. To me they look alike and I find that amazing.

Manatee 882 pound – 1,210 pounds

Well, the news flash came up on Wired.com. Spivack was a scientist on the project. One reason he included tardigrades in this project: “Tardigrades are known to enter dormant states in which all metabolic processes stop and the water in their cells is replaced by a protein that effectively turns the cells into glass. Scientists have revived tardigrades that have spent up to 10 years in this dehydrated state, although in some cases they may be able to survive much longer without water.”

Here is the website in case you want the full scoop https://www.wired.com/story/a-crashed-israeli-lunar-lander-spilled-tardigrades-on-the-moon/amp

The Israeli Lunar lander that crashed was called the Beresheet. And when I listened to the Israeli broadcast on line the word sounds like Beara Sheet! I found that humorous: water bear and bear a sheet! “But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?”

Microscopic Water Bear

The short answer is yes. The big question is will they survive? Certainly these were dehydrated tardigrades, however, “Scientists are just beginning to understand how tardigrades manage to survive in so many unforgiving environments. It’s conceivable that as we learn more about tardigrades, we’ll discover ways to rehydrate them after much longer periods of dormancy.”

“Medically accurate image of a water bear”

And then perhaps the news gets better? “As for whether any of the …. tardigrades are still intact, that’s anyone’s guess, but Spivack says there’s no reason to worry about water bears taking over the moon. Any lunar tardigrades found by future humans will have to be brought back to Earth or somewhere with an atmosphere in order to rehydrate them. Whether this will be enough to bring them back to life, however, remains to be seen.”

Tardigrade probably stained for colors
Another Manatee

Evidently what they did is not illegal because it has been determined that the moon has “few of the necessary conditions for life and isn’t at risk of contamination.” But personally, I still find it weird.

Wood Thrush

One of my favorite birds is the Wood Thrush. Not much to look at and easily confused at a glance with other brown birds, but boy oh boy can this one sing!! Here is a tiny clip. There are times I think it sounds like corillion bells.

Recently after the torrential spring rains, we saw one rolling on the sidewalk a bit aways from our front porch. My husband asked, “What in the world is that bird doing?” I looked and said, “Likely he is rolling in dust to clean his feathers. With all the rain it is probably hard to find dust in the woods!” Thrush must have sensed us watching him because he soon took off for the woods. In fact, we rarely see this fellow. Secretive, but a lovely minstrel!

Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; wherever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country and the gates of Heaven are not shut against him.

American Naturalist Henry David Thoreau writing about the Wood Thrush

Often in the brutal heat of this summer weather on my way to the garbage can or getting out of the car I will hear this bird and then I SO agree with Thoreau. It has been way too hot and too many allergy triggers out there to have the windows open. Maybe it will cool off soon so I can hear it from inside, too!

Acceptance with Joy

Bob had a much, much better photo!

This is the flower we found in Death Valley. It is so much better than the first one I posted. Especially poignant this morning as my body spent most of the night in an arthritis fit that would not let me sleep until the wee hours of the morning. It rained almost four inches overnight. Likely the weather effected me as well.

But there you have it. Acceptance with joy even when it is impossible to sleep.

The Big Trip – Las Vegas Area

Las Vegas. Oy. I do not have much good to say about the downtown gambling areas. We went during the week for cheaper room rates. Used it as our base location to visit both the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest area and Death Valley.

We stayed at the Grand Hotel in “Old Vegas.” Bob took his quarters hoping to use them up with the slot machines. Disappointed that the machines all take paper money now and issue a paper voucher for your winnings. No rattling coins when there was a winner, but plenty of lights and noise! We were easy walking distance to the Fremont Avenue canopy that formed a pedestrian-only gambling mall. At night we saw zip line riders overhead, so many flashing neon lights coordinated with music for six minutes on the hour. Too many weird people. Women in scanty clothes and men too aroused for public display (in my opinion). We were amazed that tourists were there with their children. I never would have exposed my daugher to such behavior as a child or even as a teenager! Yes, I am old and fond of my values.

The “Strip” with the mega-hotels was also not to our liking. Bob was driving and the traffic was awful. Then a truck with a huge advertisement made with led lights pulled in front of us. It literally hurt our eyes. The sidewalks were crammed as bad or worse as the Avenues in New York. People shoulder to shoulder with shopping bags and jaws agape. We did not go into any of the huge hotels as parking was at a premium and we decided we were just not THAT interested.

The drive to the west of Las Vegas was so interesting. We were looking for Red Rock Canyon and did not manage to find it. But we found the scenic road into the National Forest and Charleston Peak Ski area. The cactus were blooming and very fragrant.

Notice one on the hilltop, too!

We noticed the cactus stopped growing at about 7000 feet in elevation, at least in this area. We drove to an elevation of 8,437 feet.

More new sights!