|Hot Chick with a Snake.|
At first I was alarmed that we had perhaps moved the nest away from the parents, thus dooming the eggs. But when I looked in the nest I saw that the eggs had been cracked open….I suspect by some sort of small predator. It doesn’t appear as if anything had hatched out of them–but I suppose it’s possible.
Carole decided to keep the nest so that she can use it for an art project. And I took a closeup photo of the egg so that I could find someone who might be able to identify the species. (If you know–I’d be happy to hear it.)
|The nest was under the white vinyl cover on the front of the Casita where the propane tanks are stationed.|
|Here’s the nest with the two broken eggs.|
|Closeup detail of the egg coloring and patterns.|
He’s been gone a long time, now. Taken from his family by cancer. But I see echoes of him every time Carole and I visit her mom. He built the house her mom lives in. Back in the 1960s. And when I say “he built it”, I mean that. He even dug the foundation himself. Yeah.With a pick and shovel.
But what makes me think of Frank every time I go over there is the yard and the landscaping. He did all that himself, too. He had the forethought to purchase two lots so that he’d have much room and a place for his kickass garden. No matter how tired Frank would be when he got home from his job as an electrical engineer for Duke Power, he would work in his garden. And when that was done, he’d tinker with the trees and flower beds that make that yard a very special place in the Spring.
So, here’s to Frank Henderson. I think of him whenever I see the house he built and the yard he landscaped and planted.
|Every Spring is a treasure for the eyes.|
|The front of the house. I rarely take any photos of the front yard. But there it is.|
|The grassy area in front of the dogwoods and azalea bed was where Frank had his garden. He could have fed an army with the fruits and vegetables he grew there.|
We got our vehicles parked and then Carole, Andy, and Angel did some shopping while I just sat on the street and watched the crowds. Asheville is a very cool city and is packed with hippies and New Age types, so it’s never boring to just watch the people go by. There’s also lots of street performers working–actors, musicians, artists. We saw a guy doing wood-burning with a magnifying glass!
Our first order of the day was to head straight to our favorite pizza parlor in Asheville: The Mellow Mushroom. We really like their pies. Carole and I ordered one to share and Angel and Andy ordered one. We did not leave with a doggy bag, consuming every slice. We all highly recommend the Mellow Mushroom.
After that we walked around downtown a little more and hit up another favorite shop of ours, The Mast General Store. Then we headed back to the parking lot and retrieved our vehicles. We stashed Angel’s car near the campground and then we drove over to see Looking Glass Falls on Highway 276. Angel had never seen it, and it’s a great waterfall that is one of the most accessible large waterfalls in North Carolina.
We then drove up a couple of miles to Sliding Rock and took a look at that. We tried to go to the Fish Hatchery around the bend, but it was closed for the day and that meant that we were left with no other choice but to drive up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I figured that since Angel had stood at the base of Looking Glass Rock looking up at the summit towering a thousand feet above, it would be cool to take her to an overlook one thousand feet over the summit and looking down at Looking Glass Rock. She got a kick out of that.
With that, the daylight was beginning to fade so it was time to head back to the campground. At the parking area Angel got back into her car and went back to her hotel in Asheville and we returned to our campsite.
|Our favorite pizza joint, The Mellow Mushroom!|
|Carole and Angel.|
|Friendly downtown Asheville.|
|This guy serenaded us when we dropped some money to show our appreciation for his talent.|
|The easily accessible Looking Glass Falls.|
|Angel and Carole wade in the cold water.|
|My son, Andy, at Looking Glass Falls.|
|Looking down on Looking Glass Rock!|
|With daylight fading, it was time to rest.|
This is exactly what I ended up doing. The hike started out very cool and I had on my hoodie to keep me warm, but in quick order the air began to warm up and so did I. Stubbornly, I waited until I’d gained the first ridge before I stopped to shed the sweater and zip off the legs of my convertible pants. I even took some time to lie down and rest before walking out on the exposed rock to take some photos and shoot some video.
After that, I packed up my camera stuff and went back down the trail to my truck. One thing that got to me–and I realize it more and more as the years go by–is that I saw almost no wildlife. That is one thing about the southern Appalachians: they are beautiful landscape, and there are a lot of wild animals in the forests, but those creatures are generally very shy and rarely seen. This is in contrast to the time I have spent in the low country where animals are seen everywhere, and also out west where the critters don’t seem to even make an effort to hide. This hike was not much different from many others I have made here in my native mountains. I saw no wildlife and on this trip I didn’t even hear very many bird calls.
|A footbridge across a creek.|
|I love hiking through heath tunnels.|
|These forests are certainly not impressive. Logged time and again, made up of young trees.|
|It’s always fun to come to the first view along a trail.|
|Spring has certainly arrived, even at 4,000 feet above sea level.|
|I was tired after the hike up and took a few minutes to rest.|
|The view from one of the small cliffs near the top of the ridge.|
|Looking across the wide valley at the opposing mountains.|
|This gnarly tree must certainly be very old.|
|The big mountains in the center on the horizon are the high country in the Shining Rock Wilderness.|
|On the way down I paused to take a photo of the twisted trunks and branches of the mountain laurel that dominated the area along the trail.|
So it’s a good opportunity to remind readers of my first novel, THE FLOCK.
You can buy it from your favorite bookseller, online from Barnes & Noble or Amazon or any of a host of other such enterprises. You can also purchase it in ebook format!
THE FLOCK…quite that adventure yarn, I have to say!
|Relative size of human, ostrich, Kelenken guillermoi, the largest known terror bird (also owner of the largest known bird skull).|
|THE FLOCK by James Robert Smith.|
North Mills River campground is a beautiful place. The campground is situated five miles down North Mills River Road from NC 280. There’s a nice Ingles Grocery if you need supplies (located at the intersection). Half of the campground is on one side of North Mills River and half is on the other side. I would recommend the half accessible by bridge as that is where the showers and nicer bathrooms are located. On the side we used there are only smelly pit toilets and a bathroom that has only urinals and no toilet! So we had to trek across the bridge and uphill to use the showers and better bathrooms.
There are no hookups so you need to fill your onboard water tanks and bring your generator. We like to boondock, so this was fine for us. We filled our 24-gallon tank and took our Honda 2000 generator. There are water spigots located throughout the campground if you need extra water.
If you like to fly-fish, this is the place for you. We saw many people who had arrived just for that. Apparently North Mills River is known for excellent trout fishing. Lots of opportunities for horeseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking. We saw many doing all of these, and I took the opportunity to hit the trails, of which there are many, many miles convenient to the campground.
Also, Asheville is less than 20 miles away, and the Blue Ridge Parkway is just up the nearest Forest Service Road (albeit via a 30-minute rocky ride).
Despite a lukewarm judgment on the campground host, we can recommend North Mills River Campground. There’s plenty to offer for any camper and just about any kind of outdoorsman.
|Our campsite (#4) at North Mills River.|
|Who doesn’t like a roaring campfire?!|
|The view from an overlook on one of my hikes.|
|My son at Looking Glass Falls, a short drive from the campground.|
|Looking Glass Rock, from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Also not too far to drive as part of a day-time jaunt from the campground!|
|The bathhouse/showerhouse at the campground. Two bathrooms and two showers on either side of the building for a total of four of each.|
I think it’s back with the owners. But Carole and I were both surprised that it’s legal to own a monkey of any species.
Here’s a link to the news item from the local paper.
|The actual dangerous monkey who bit the security guard.|
I am aware of the things that can happen when you’re pushing yourself physically off in the wilderness. But I’m generally extremely careful. Scratch that–I’m always careful. But no matter how careful you are, accidents happen. I’ve never really gotten hurt in the wild. In fact, I tend to get hurt here in the big city and never out in the woods.
But one time I was at a secluded waterfall all alone, taking photos of myself with my camera set on automatic timer. The rocks were slick, it being a waterfall and all that. And even though I had on good boots and was on relatively level ground…I fell. It was a brief fall, but illustrates how easy it is to get into trouble. The best thing is…I was able to record it all.
|The beautiful Upper Rock Creek Falls.|
|“I’m not going to fall…”|
|“I meant to do this.”|