When the dogwoods are in bloom, I try to drive down Old 86 as often as possible. I love this dogwood (Btw, dear husband was driving, and these were taken through the van window so they're not as clear as I'd like):
Sunset from the back deck of the house we were renting.
Parts of The Hunger Games were filmed in DuPont State Forest, southwest of Asheville, NC. Daughter said that the State Forest is very busy on weekends now because of the movie. We went there on a chilly, drizzly Monday so it wasn't very crowded.
The covered bridge
View from the covered bridge of the top of High Falls
The ceiling of the covered bridge
High Falls from up on the trail
View from the rocks at the bottom - you can see the covered bridge.
The rather optimistically named Lake Imaging. We had our picnic lunch in the shelter on the left.
Dear husband at the bottom of the second waterfall
We had a different sort of vacation this year. It was shorter because dear husband started a new job in July and he hasn't built up much vacation yet. For the first time since before daughter was born, we didn't spend our vacation in Blowing Rock, NC. Since we were trying to make sure that both daughter and older son could join us, we spent our vacation in Black Mountain, NC, near Asheville. That way, we could easily pick up daughter in Asheville, and older son could take the bus back to the Triangle when his break was done. Many thanks to my mother who picked him up at the bus station!
Older son hasn't been able to spend the time in the mountains that the rest of us have been able to spend the last few years. We went to two of the most beautiful places while he was here.
The first day, we went to Graveyard Fields - a somber name for a beautiful valley southwest of Asheville.
Older son wanted to save Mt. Mitchell (one of his favorite places, which he hasn't been to for three years) for the second day, when daughter could join us.
Older son found a red-spotted purple.
The fog moved in on the drive up to Mt. Mitchell, and it was a lot colder than the previous day.
Older son, younger son, and I waded in the stream like usual.
I should post the rest of these pictures before we get to this weekend.*
Sunday morning, a week and a half ago, it clouded over and fogged up. It was still a beautiful time to hike. Since the views in higher places would be fogged in, we decided to hike the part of the Tanawha Trail (which parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway) off of Holloway Mountain Road (if you look at this map, we hiked the section where the "3.8" is on the eastern end of the trail).
Even in (or maybe because of) the fog, the wildflowers were beautiful.
I think the goldenrod flowers were at their peak.
The gate to an old cemetary. We were talking to a ranger later in the morning, and she said that there used to be a cabin in this area.
An early taste of fall
Later, we asked the ranger if this field has a name. It doesn't.
View from the bottom. The field is so beautiful that it really should have a name.
Assassin bug nymphs on a milkweed pod
Before we got back to the van, it started to rain in earnest. We drove out to the viaduct, but it was totally fogged in. We stopped at the Viaduct Visitors Center, talked with the ranger, and watched a drenched cyclist drying out in front of the fire in the fireplace. It turns out that there was a Bridge to Bridge cycling event that day. The ride went for 25 miles from Lenoir to the Grandfather Mountain swinging bridge. As the Bridge link says: "100 miles of pure hill." It wasn't a good weather day for it!
We went back to Blowing Rock and had lunch at Mellow Mushroom Pizza. Sadly, they had taken doughnads off the appetizer menu since the last time we were there. They were small spheres of baked dough with garlic butter and parmesan. There are no photos of them on the internet. I should have taken a picture of the ones we had last fall.
We wandered around Blowing Rock for a bit before heading home.
Gardens in front of the playground
High Country Candles is one of my favorite stores in Blowing Rock. They've got wonderful candles, and the conversations we have with the people there are always interesting. We bought some tapers last fall and liked how dripless they really were. I wanted to make sure we brought home some more.
We bought locally grown apples at Sunset Tees and Hattery. We get them every fall because they've got much more flavor than apples from the grocery store. You can choose your own, but we always forget what kinds they are so this time, I took photos.
That was the end of the trip. However, I didn't post some photos that came before the kayaking photos. They're kind of strange to put at the end of these foggy day photos.
The first morning, we had breakfast next to Price Lake...
...and watched the mist rising off the water.
It turns out that they rent kayaks there. How nice!
* Which includes the Duke Gardens fall plant sale, the NC Pride Parade in Durham, and the Carrboro Music Festival (which all mean lots more photos).
Dear husband and I had a wonderful weekend. Of course, there are lots of photos!
For the first time since... I can't even remember, dear husband and I went camping - just the two of us. Older son was too busy with schoolwork to be able to go, and younger son decided to stay home too (he's been too tired lately to deal with trying to sleep in a tent).
We camped at Price Campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC. It was a bit noisy - there were drunken (we assume from the sounds) campers late both nights. We were so tired that we only briefly woke up.
Saturday morning, we headed over to Rivergirl Fishing Co. in Todd, NC to rent kayaks. We've been kayaking twice on the Eno River in Durham and once on the French Broad River in Asheville, but this was our first time kayaking in the area where we usually spend our fall vacation.
Rivergirl is in an old train depot:
They have already decorated for Halloween, and Petunia was out front:
The temperature was in the lower 70's, and the day was beautiful:
There were wildflowers all over the banks:
The water was very clear, and it was very shallow in parts. We got stuck on rocks fairly often (not here, of course) because the water is low this time of year.
More beautiful scenery:
Steve took some pictures of me. Here's my favorite:
We tried to get rid of anything red in the front of the garage years ago. Hummingbirds would be drawn in by the color, then they would fly around the ceiling until they were exhausted, and they would rest on the wire to the garage door opener. Dear husband would climb up on the roof of the van, get the hummingbird off of the wire, and climb down (that's the hard part while he's carrying the hummingbird). He'd take the hummingbird outside and feed it sugar water from a potato peeler. That sounds strange, but the curve of the potato peeler keeps a small line of sugar water which the hummingbird licks off. It works better than an eye dropper. Once the hummingbird felt better, it would fly off, and sometimes come back and dive bomb him (after all, he was a large predator holding it).
We weren't able to find one hummingbird, though. Months later, we just found a pile of feathers behind a box.
As I said, we tucked the red cooler away in the shadows of the garage, took off the red ring that was hanging from the garage door opener string and replaced it with a washer, and moved every other red thing we could... except for the big red van, which really can't go anywhere. What would be going through a hummingbird's tiny mind: "Look at that humongous flower!"?
After we cleaned up the garage of all but one of the red items visible from the door, we've gotten far fewer hummingbirds. We had one this morning, however. She was flying around frantically, and there wasn't anything we could do for her. An hour later, we went out again, and she finally had come to rest on a long pole with a blade for cutting branches. The top of the branch-cutting tool is up near the ceiling, and it has a small ring for a rope near the top. The hummingbird was clinging firmly to that ring. It took a while to find her because she was facing the wall, and her dark back looked like part of the tool, but we were determined to find her so that she wouldn't become another pile of feathers! We could tell she was still in there because of her peeps, which were getting fainter and father apart.
Older son doesn't have any classes on Thursdays so, the last few weeks, he's stayed home and worked those days. We were so lucky he was home today! After younger son got that corner of the garage cleared out, older son got the pole off the wall. The hummingbird was actually so tired that she stayed on there while he carried it outside! I was very worried that she'd just start flying around frantically again.
It took three of us to take care of her: I had the hummingbird food (sugar water), older son fed her, and younger son held the pole steady. I don't have photos, of course, because we were too busy for that, but I think I will always have the memory etched on my brain. At first, she barely noticed the food, but she slowly started eating. They're so small when you see them still and up close. Her eyes stayed shut for a long time. She gradually started eating faster and faster, and we happily watched the bumps going down her little white throat. At first, it was swallow, swallow, swallow, peep, but, as she grew stronger, she stopped talking while she ate. She also fluffed out more as she felt better. Eventually, just a bit before she took off, she opened her eyes. It was wonderful to see her looking alert.
When she felt better, she flew off into the Japanese Maple in the front yard. It's a fairly dense tree so we couldn't see her. A few minutes later, we saw her flying around the front flowerbed happily eating and peeping.
Here's how I've been spending lots of my time lately...
A morning at Duke Gardens with my mother and younger son:
A few purple/white irises in the White Garden at Duke Gardens
Walking through the Terrace Gardens felt like swimming in color.
Redbud in front of The Bridge
Usually, when a bird flies by, I just stand and admire it - and totally forget to try to take a picture. He flew back again, however, so I barely got this shot. I'm amazed the camera focused on him rather than the trees.
An early rhododendron in front of The Bridge
I didn't take many pictures that day so as not to slow everyone down, but I went back the next day. Interestingly, at 9 am, the only people there were either Garden employees/volunteers or people with DSLR cameras:
This is one of my favorite places to sit in the whole Gardens. It's an un-obvious bench across the koi pond from the Terrace Garden. It's in the shade, and it's got this lovely view framed by the trees. I've rarely seen anyone else sitting there!
Usually, I think of flowers as being some of the most ephemeral aspects of nature.
The dogwood buds have started to loosen up. Usually, there are about two weeks between the flowers starting to look really flowerish and most of the "petals"* falling to the ground. I realized, recently, when older son and I were taking photographs at Duke Gardens, that, for me, tree skeletons are also ephemeral. This sounds strange since, here in NC, we have tree skeletons from mid-November until mid-March. Four months is not ephemeral.
I used to think that I only enjoyed tree skeletons in late February and early March because of seasonal depression. This year, however, because of the warm winter, I've been able to be outside a lot more. There have been days when I've talked on the phone, read books,and eaten lunch outside. My seasonal depression has been far less for most of this winter (except for a few rainy weeks). Still, that day at Duke Gardens, I realized that I was enjoying the tree skeletons more than I have in the rest of the winter. It's not because my mood has been better lately. My mood has been worse in the last few weeks because of medicines.
I'm enjoying the tree skeletons more because of the brighter sunlight. We're far enough away from the winter solstice that the sun is as strong as it is in early October. The tree skeletons seem to glow by this time in the late winter/early spring. I find myself telling the leaves that they can wait a while longer. They'll be here all summer, and I'm not in a rush because I'm enjoying the tree skeletons.
* Really, they're bracts, but that's not what this post is about.