Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tallassee Visit With Grandkids--Playing in the Creek

Wild Bergamot  blooms at Tallassee 

Tallassee Visit With Grandkids--Playing in the Creek 

Tuesday June 27, 2017 

Dana Koogler

Michael and Tessa Lindsey

Photos are here starting with frame 210

   I had been promising the kids I'd take them to Tallassee to play in the creek.  One thing and another kept interfering.  I finally got the time to spend the day with them. It freed Crystal up to study and 
at last I kept my word.  Tessa had never been there so I knew she'd like it.   We packed a big picnic 
lunch and down the road we went.   It is about 25 miles from home but takes 45 minutes to get there.
The Foothills Parkway has a slow speed limit, but at least it is a good road and a pretty drive.
The day promised to be nice weather.  It was cooler. slightly overcast with little spots of sun now and then.  One step out of the jeep down there and the fresh smell of Summertime was upon you.
It smells like nothing else. It is so good.  

        We had to ford the creek immediately. It is a wade up above your ankles.
Once across we walked the red dirt road for 0.6 miles to a path on the right. The road was in good condition and the path to the creek had been mowed.   We saw snake doctors dart about.  Butterflies 
flitted around and lit in the mud.  Wild bergamot, wild basil, and all sorts of sunflowers dotted the 
sides of the road.  The most prevalent color today though was green. Deep green.

   We walked down the path and there was Cochrans Creek. It is shallow here.  The  deepest spot is probably 2 1/2 feet in one hole.  The rest is ankle deep.  It is a good stretch of stream for kids to wade in and splash around. Lots of crayfish, salamanders, minnows and sucker fish here.   We spent what felt like 45 minutes playing in the stream.  I was later to realize we had been in the water for 2 hours!
Time really does fly when you're having fun.  We caught a few tiny minnows. Saw and did not catch a Mad Tom.  We did catch several crawdads and lots of salamanders. All catch and release! 
Salamander #1 

We found that our nets worked better for catching minnows.  The good ole solo cup worked best for 
crawdads and salamanders.  I have gotten a bit rusty, but my skills catching critters came back quick.
There is a better stream for this way up toward Tapoco's property, but that was too far for Tessa to walk.   It is pretty back there. I can't wait to go back myself. I'll probably go next week.

The photos below will show you why I want to go:

Shingle creek rushing past below me.
Such a pretty stream. 

Salamander in the stream bed. He matches the gravel perfectly!
Now this is an easy creek for catching salamanders!  The creek bed is so pretty.  
I dream of places like this at night.   Getting to spend time some place like this is like finding treasure.  I feel like I'm a child again and lose all track of time.  
 Tessa and Michael playing in the stream. Nets. Watering cans. Cups.  I never dreamed I'd be a grandma taking my grandchildren to do the same sorts of things I did when I was their age.
I'm sure glad I get to do these things.  


Looking intently for critters.  We did see one black snake today but only got to say farewell. It had been run over by a vehicle crossing the road and was dead.  Sad.  

Michael says Look! 

Medium sized crawdad and little crawdad.  One claw extra. Michael got to keep the claw. 
Tootsa Rootsa pouring water.  This creek is just right.  It has enough water but it won't let your stuff get washed away. 

       One big triumph of the day was getting Tessa to pee outdoors.  She is not as rough a character 
as her grandmother.  We enjoyed the creek until little tummies started to rumble wanting lunch. 
I could tell they were getting tired too.  We had Bible School this evening so I wanted to get them home to lay down to rest. I did not want to take two angry tigers to church!  We picked up our stuff
and began to head back toward the church.  We would have lunch under their pavilion.  

     The hike back was a little easier.  It is downhill or level.  I told them if we felt like it after lunch we'd walk back to the first creek ford and play there some more.  They were glad to know that was an option.   The took a look at their dry clothes in the jeep and said they wanted to go ahead and change into dry things. They were done with water play today.  Tired kids.  That is a triumph for Nanny!
They helped me put our toys away and set up the picnic.  It was very informal.   
I let Tessa and Michael sit on the table.   They thought that was funny.


Yum yum yum!  I have two grands who love cantaloupe.  
We had sweet tea, ham and cheese sandwiches. red pepper slices. carrot sticks, chips and onion dip. 
Watermelon, blueberries, strawberries, and cantaloupe.   We ate plenty and were ready to head home.
It was a fun day and a nice relaxing day.

  On the hike back to the jeep I had mentioned to Michael that I was very glad I grew up during a time when we had no computers, video games, and not so many toys.  He asked me why? I asked him to think about what kind of Nanny I'd have ended up like if I had been an indoor kid? A couch potato who did not like to get dirty or wet.?  I said you have essentially a 52 year old little girl for a grandmother.  I still like to wade the creek. Long live the spirit of play.

Short video of the kids playing in the creek

Monday, June 26, 2017

Cumberland County Exploring

Looking straight on at a Canada lily 

Cumberland County Exploring 

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Sat. June 24, 2017

  We went out Saturday and had the most weird, messed up day.   I started trying to write this blog
entry about the experience.  I just don't have it in me.    I was going to warn others of the area etc.
I am not going to bother.  I'm going to learn from it myself and let the chips fall where they may.
I found out the area we visited has never been the greatest but the crime there is escalating.
I don't want to dwell on it so I'm just going to post some photos and let it go at that.
I found Canada lilies and some other pretty Summer wildflowers.   I am glad about that.
I learned that access to some areas we liked to go has been lost.  I learned that  the area we visited is not a place we need ever return to.  The crime there is bad and getting worse.  
Take away? Scratch this off the list for good.

 Above and Below.. Canada lilies

 Wild Bergamot
 Wild hydrangea
 Early St. Johns wort
 Pretty stream above and below

 Leather vase vine
 American Columbo.. just beginning to bloom
 Sunshine on the trail in a hemlock woods
 The only view we had today.
Lone canada lily in the forest

Monday, June 19, 2017

Hooper Bald Azalea Hike with the Family

Bright orange flame azalea bloom on Hooper Bald 

Hooper Bald Azalea Hike with the Family 

Thursday June 15, 2017

Hike distance 1.25 miles RT --easy

Dana Koogler
Crystal, Michael and Tessa Lindsey

Pictures are here starting with frame 643

Hooper Bald Azalea Hike 2017

   I have talked with my daughter Crystal numerous times about making a short hike up to Hooper Bald with the kids to see the native azaleas in June.  We finally jumped on the chance and went down to the Cherohala Skyway to do just that.  We packed a picnic and brought along
extra clothes towels and water toys to make a day of it.  We'd hike up and see the azaleas. We'd have a picnic. We'd stop by Tellico Grains Bakery on the way back. We'd go let the kids play in the creek down toward Conasauga Falls. We'd hike to the falls and wrap up our day if time permitted.   I felt we had a pretty good plan and probably plenty of time for it all.

    We stopped on the way down at Ingles in Madisonville. We lacked a few things for our picnic, but the drive was a long one. It would do us all good especially the kids to get out and stretch our legs.   We had promised them a treat if they behaved.  They were really good all day.
We did not tarry at the store.  Everyone used the bathroom at Ingles for the rest of the drive.
The day was a pretty one. It was sunny and warming up.  It was actually a little on the cool side once we arrived at the parking area for Hooper Bald.    It is worth mentioning that the vault toilets at Hooper are out of order. They have a ruptured vault that will need replacing. 
They have placed porta potties at Stratton Ridge picnic area about two miles back toward Beech Gap.    
My granddaughter Tessa age 3. Grandson and big brother Michael age 8.  
Michael has brought his binoculars! 
  We gathered our gear up and hit the trail.  Everything went well to start off.  The trail is a maintained path and a very easy one.  It has little or no elevation change unless you count the few steps up to the bald.   I knew Michael would not find this the least bit challenging. I also knew that even little Tessa would not be bothered by the trail.  She did fine on the trail too.
We got up to the grassy open bald and began seeing native azaleas.  It was beautiful. The trouble began with Tessa deciding she didn't care for the unmanicured tall grass at the summit touching her legs.  It made her uneasy.   She wanted to be carried not because she was tired, but because she was leery of the weeds.    We got through the experience ok, but not without some encouraging and cajoling by Nanny.   I kept pretending to be scared or need saving. I kept trying to get her to enjoy the mystery and intrigue of wandering around the various "rooms" up on the end of the bald formed by trees and shrubs.   It helped a little, but this part of the trip ended with her stating " I hate this place and I'm never coming back here."   She asked me "Nanny, do you like this place?" I told her I did and that I had always liked this sort of thing.
She was in disbelief that I could have liked this stuff as a child.  Life certainly is different for different people.  
 Hiking out the trail. Easy so far.
 Arriving atop the bald.
No more view at the pulpit now.  
    The view at the rock pulpit on Hooper Bald is obliterated by growth of briers and shrubs.
It needs clipping out again.  I hope that can happen.   We enjoyed all the beautiful colors of the azaleas.  Reds. Oranges, golds, copper and peach.    Not as many colors as up on Gregory Bald, but certainly plenty to see and much easier.   I was thrilled to find that the balloon flies were mating up here today.  I have seen them up there once before and figured it was a once in a lifetime thing. Nope! They were up there today!  We all got to see them toting their little silk bundles around.  The males carry silk presents for their potential mates.   Below is a short video I made in 2014 of the balloon flies.  It shows them better than any photos I took of them today.

   Balloon fly video above.

        The near end of the bald is the best for azaleas so once we'd checked out the far end we went back in the direction of all the good stuff.  I always like the contrast of the dark fir trees against the bold colors of the azaleas.  It is just richer and more appealing to me. I like this spot and Andrews Bald for this reason.  Gregory Bald has its charms, but no fir trees.

 red azalea bloom
 Michael and Crystal amidst the red azalea blooms.
 my favorite spot on the bald.  what a sight to see. We all loved this!  Michael said everything up there reminded him of a life sized Fairy Garden!
 Tessa looks cute next to the pink mountain laurel.
 Michael in a clearing under the trees.  The photo doesn't show how dark it was!
 Closer view of azaleas.  You can see some blooms turning loose.

 A little bit of blue sky visible behind those peachy colored blooms.

A cloud has dropped down to cover the bald.  It was kinda neat to see the conditions change from one minute to the next!

I stopped to photograph this grave marker on the hike out.  I'd love to know the history of this fellow and how this came to be here.

  Next time I want to walk down the King Meadows Trail and see the cabin ruins.

          Back at the parking area we stowed our gear and set up our picnic lunch. We had croissants with turkey or ham and cheese and sub dressing.   We had blue berries and water melon.  We had sweet tea, lemonade, water and sodas to pick from to drink.  I foolishly left the chips and cookies at home, but we did not miss them.   We stopped to let Tessa have a mercy call at Stratton Ridge. She was not having the peeing in the bushes thing either.   We drove back toward Tellico Plains. On the way I spotted a mountain camellia blooming. Crystal kindly turned round for me to go back and photograph them.   I had never seen camellias in this area before!  So pretty and perfect.
The ones here were pure white with gold centers. The ones in the Smokies I have seen are white with gold and purple centers.

Mountain camellia. Its fancy binomial is Stewartia ovata

    We finally made it back to Tellico Plains and figured out where the Tellico Grains Bakery was.
We went in to see it for ourselves.   It smelled so good. It looks really quaint too. I had heard only great reviews of it.   I was having my mid afternoon schlump.  I was thrilled to get a cup of strong vienna coffee.   Michael and I split a piece of what we called Death By Chocolate cake.  Yum!
It is the best chocolate cake EVER! I am going to ask for that for my birthday this year.  You better believe it.    Even with all four of us working on it...... we could not quite finish it.  It was too rich and sweet.    But what a way to go!  :-)   Tessa got some kind of pastry, but I don't remember exactly what it was.  The kids got white milk.   Crystal had some water and dessert.   While we were in there the rain cut loose and began to pour down in buckets. Thunder and lightning were booming and cracking round.  We tried checking the weather radar to see if it would soon clear out or if it was a settled in rain.    No luck.  We got a poor phone signal down here.   We decided we'd best head home and try the creek thing another day.   It was already 3 pm.    We were tired and had a good bit of a drive home.  It was all in all a good day.  I had fun! I can't wait to go with them again.

 I appreciated spending time with my daughter and my grandkids.   They are very sweet and fun and I am proud of them all.

 Tellico Grains Bakery is very quaint in the historic downtown of Tellico Plains.
 Tessa with her serious face.
I was baiting Michael to do a chocolate cake mouth picture for me.  He was happy to help me out!  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Cades Cove Summer Wildflowers

Bumblebee on Clover 

Cades Cove Summer Wildflowers 

Dana Koogler

Wednesday June 14, 2017

Hike distance 2 miles

Pictures here starting with frame 44 CADES COVE PIX

   I had wanted to go to Cades Cove to do some exploring. I wanted to see Ragged Fringed Orchids since it was time for them to bloom. I also wanted to see the heirloom gladiolas that bloom in the fields.  I had been wanting to visit the various ponds in Cades Cove. I finally had a day when I could go and I packed my car with all my stuff and left.  It was a Wednesday morning so I had to wait until
the loop road opened at 10 a.m.. It gave me time to get organized so I did not forget anything.  

      I arrived at the gate a few minutes after it opened.  I was so eager to see the flowers more toward the back of the loop I decided to do that first.  I figured if I wanted to do the other stuff on my list it would wait until I made the loop or half of it again. Traffic was not very bad today.  Weekdays in Summer can be crowded, but I was fortunate it wasn't.   I started seeing beautiful views of the mountains. I also started seeing lots of daylilies and bright orange butterfly weed.  I saw a second shade of orange butterfly weed and even some yellow.   I was warned by a buddy that some of the orchids at a previous site were not that good this year.  They were able to tip me off to a better spot or two.  I was thrilled to go find out for myself.  

        Today was sunny and hot.  I really did not expect to see any animals during this time of day.
I got to the first place and pulled over. I got to take some photos of daylilies against the blue mountains.  It was really a sight to see. 

I squatted down to get this view.  I took my time and got a good composition. I used a manual setting.
I was so tickled with how it turned out. I had a feeling it would be good.  About the time I started back toward the jeep a park volunteer waved me down. I first thought he was going to scold me for "going off trail".  All I did was pull over and step into the field.  He greeted me not to fuss at me but to offer advice on things to see. He was really nice and just did not want me to miss things. I thanked him for the information and for volunteering.  He informed me they had a problem bear and were keeping an eye on things to help the rangers be certain no visitors got injured and the bear did not get chased.  I asked if wildlife chasing had let up any? He said yes it was a little better, but apparently it comes in spurts.   He related to me some of the uninformed ideas visitors have. It left me incredulous.
He said the volunteers try to educate visitors about such things so they hopefully leave less ignorant than they were when they came in.  If you see yourself among this kind of person please take time to read about wildlife in the areas you plan to visit so you know the basics.  You'll get more enjoyment out of it. You'll be safer. The animals will be safer from your kind.  
  • What time do you all feed the bears?
  • What age do deer have to be to turn into elk?
  • What elevation do the bears live at?

    I continued round the loop road.  I spotted one lone gladiola out in the weeds. I pulled over and parked. I got out and walked over there and waded out into the thicket.   I got my legs all scratched up by briars for my efforts. I only saw two of the heirloom gladiolas which was very disappointing.
I saw lots of leaves of them though. They were still around.  I found I was there too early. I shall have to make time to return. Maybe Ma and Pa will feel like going? I hope so.  Maybe brother Doug will feel up to a good sibling fight in the back of the car? 😄😄😄

 One especially beautiful heirloom glad above.. and one really pitiful one below!

       I pushed onward to my next stop.  I had only seen one turkey up to this point. Today I was blessed to be surrounded by courteous fellow visitors who used the pull offs!  It was very nice.
I parked and got out to hike. I hiked in one direction into the field.  I got photos of the various shades of butterfly weed.  I then continued my search for orchids and gladiolas.

 Above-- bright orange butterfly weed
Below.. yellow butterfly weed with a honeybee.

    I was enjoying the sun and the blue skies.  I hiked into the woods leaving the fields behind me.
I saw the forest floor laden with ferns. They are thick and soft and cover the ground in places.

Example of a fern patch in the forest at Cades Cove.

     On one of my winding treks in and out of the woods I spotted a flash of bright pink down low to the ground.  I looked closer and it was a pair of heirloom gladiolas that were drooped all the way over.  I gently stood them back up. They were too flimsy to stay on their own so I leaned them back against the other weeds. I was able to enjoy seeing the shades of pink. My great grandmother grew these in about every color in her garden each Summer.   I think that is why I favor them.
They have such a sense of history. They are "antiques" that come back each year!

Heirloom gladiolus in pink with a yellow center. I have searched and searched without finding any information as to the variety. It is probably very old.   It is an abyssinian type for sure.  The nearest thing I've found is a mention of the extremely old Maid of the Mist variety. I can find no photos I am 100% sure are of that so I can't compare them. I'm betting these date to the 1920s.

Great Spangled frittilary I saw today.  I only saw one of these.
I also saw a little terrapin that had crawled up beside me.

 I was not disappointed. I found Ragged Fringed Orchids a plenty today.  I found three where I expected to find them.  I also realized I had a macro lens I was not aware I owned! I had never used it before.  I used it today for detail shots on these little beauties. Turned out best macros I've ever done.
Detail of the bloom of 'Ragged Fringed Orchids. You can see the dew drops on them.

  I hiked back the way I came. I kept looking.  I decided I'd hike in the opposite direction. I went
way out through the fields of Cades Cove.  I saw lots more butterfly weed and some sundrops.
I also saw common milkweed.  I thought again of my great grandmother.  I don't know what she was as far as ethnicity. She was a dark skinned, dark eyed woman with long snow white hair she kept plaited and put up with combs. She wore a poke bonnet much of the time.  She was Brethren in her
faith. The women keep their heads covered when they pray.   She had lots of costume jewelry. The prettiest she had was some that looked like milkweed blooms!  It was made of porcelain.

 Common Milkweed is a pretty flower that looks like it is made up of tiny pink jewels!

More pretty orange butterfly weed against green fields, red brush, and blue skies.

     I had grown hot by the time I hiked back to the car. I did not see anymore orchids in this direction.   I got in the jeep. Cranked up the AC and cooled off. I sat in the back seat and ate lunch in the cool.
I was too hot to eat much.  I drank plenty to stay hydrated. Once I cooled down and felt refreshed I began to look around me.  I had been studying my surroundings, but had failed to spot the landmarks  I needed.  I was about to give up and move on when the light came on over my noggin. I looked out across the fields and there before me was what I had needed to see.  Had I not gotten in the back seat to eat and rest I probably wouldn't have noticed my sought for markings.  I was very excited and got out with my backpack and once again waded out through the fields.   I stopped as I drew nearer my destination and carefully scanned for orchids.  I saw one. Then another and another.  I counted nine at this spot. I cannot believe I even saw the one as it had not yet bloomed.  All the rest were perfect.

 Looking out at the light and shadows on the mountains in Cades Cove
 Ragged Fringed Orchid Platanthera lacera is its fancy botanical name. :-)
A macro shot of the same orchid.  You can see clear into the nectary of each bloom.

  I was so tickled to have found no less than a dozen orchids today!  Thanks to my buddies for the tips. I ain't using your names on here because I don't want anyone hassling you.  Don't think for a minute I'm not grateful.

          I heard a lady going by in a car around the loop saying something about "Look at that woman out there in the field going around. ...." I couldn't hear the rest.   I guess I was doing it wrong since I was not chasing bears or deer.    I also heard some gnu gnu holler out their car window "Get out of my picture!"  People can be all sorts of different assholes.

   Once I got done with orchid hunting I headed out to see if I could find Stupka Sink. I had recently gotten all the GPS coordinates for all the sinkhole ponds and ephemeral ponds around Cades Cove.
I had imagined I'd try to see at least a few of them today.  I pulled up within what the GPS unit said was 226 feet away from Stupka Sink. About the time I pulled over and parked a very big bear stood up on its hind legs in the weeds where it was eating blackberrries.  I was glad I saw it now instead of encountering it while I was out in the field with it.  I decided quickly I'd best wait til Winter when the bears are asleep. More likely for these ponds to have water then anyway. Also less snakey and weedy. I next went round to Forge Creek Road to see if I could relocate other heirloom glads I had seen.
None were blooming. I did get some pretty scenery along Forge Creek though.
   Advection fog has formed over the  cold waters of the creek.
Here is a video of the tranquility along this stream.

Forge Creek in Summer.

   Next I stopped off at the Gum Swamp. I got eaten up with mosquito bites. It still looked pretty and I was glad to see it still had some water in it.  You can see the trees reflected in the dark water.
I did not do much else today. I stopped to see some flame azaleas I spotted and some rosebay rhododendron.  I saw three deer... all does.   I was satisfied with my finds so I wrapped up my day and headed home.
Flame azaleas
Rosebay rhododendron glowing in the sunshine.