Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Bob Stratton Bald Hike--Turks Cap Lily Pilgrimage

Turks cap lily --Lilium superbum 

Bob Stratton Bald Hike--Turks Cap Lily Pilgrimage  

Sunday July 17, 2017 

Dana & Kenny Koogler

(gallery compiled from multiple trips) 

    I first visited Bob Stratton Bald in July 2012.  It was a perfect day.  I had such a good time.
I had happened upon a trip photo by the Chattanooga Hiking Club. They had visited Stratton Bald in July another year.  It  was so pretty.  I had never been at all so I figured I'd fix that problem and perhaps get lucky and find the flowers just as pretty when I went.   I did.  The mountain trail was misty with fog on my way.  I felt the entire time like I was in living dream.
It is wonderful to have such a sublime experience. The draw back to it is that every subsequent trip you want to be just that way again.  It seldom is.   I have had enjoyable trips since, but nothing to top it.  I think that is as it should be. One trip I had arrived to find the lilies past peak. I did not want to miss the peak bloom this year so I tried to time it out just right. Mid July weekend should do it.   I had seen a fellow's pictures of a week earlier and was surprised
he did not run onto any lilies yet!   I figured it had to do with his route selection and possibly
that he did not venture around on the bald much.   

    My favorite way is via the Stratton Bald alternate .. at Wolf Laurel. It is hard to beat for scenery and solitude.   It is one of those places of finding treasure.  Just when I think I've worn it out and seen all there is to see........ more things turn up.  My imagination is captured again.
I take off into new flights of fancy.  I am captured by the intrigue and want to learn more. Go further. Spend more time there wallowing in the tranquility and natural beauty.  It is one of the places I hold dear enough to be conflicted writing about it or sharing it.    

       We had planned on going Saturday.  Kenny had a VERY rough week. I had a weird, rough week as well.   The weather called for overcast and drizzly on Saturday.   Sunday promised to be a prettier day.  We decided instead to prepare and rest on Saturday and go Sunday.   
It was a good decision.   We got an early start and it seemed like no time we were turning off the Sky Way onto the side road that takes us toward the trail head.     It is worth mentioning that on the way down route 411 I saw quite a few pretty wildflowers in bloom.   Native sunflowers, loads of rose pinks mixed in with them at the light near the new Food City between Vonore and Madisonville.    I also saw a fair amount of bright orange butterfly weed.   
Lots of Sabatia Angularis<br />
Old Mecca Pike at Jalapa, TN
Sabatia angularis.. Rose Pinks in bloom now.  

          Once we turn off the Sky Way and onto FR 81 the wildflower photos ramp up!
I start pulling over every little whip stitch to take pictures.   The entire drive is pretty.  
We saw a few other vehicles on the road today, but not many. We saw no other hikers. 
We had the place to ourselves.    Great clumps of crimson bee balm line the roadside.
False asters, green headed coneflowers, and monarda in other shades begin to appear.
All told I saw five shades of bee balm today.  Red, white, lavender, deep purple, and fuschia.
I could hear Santeetlah Creek running down below the road today stronger than usual.   
One nice thing is to note is that a falls I had long sought ... which I believed need be approached from this direction has been found and visited since last time. I now know you do not reach it form here and when I survey the terrain it is a great relief!   

 Above --closeup of Crimson Bee Balm 
Below --photo of a great cluster of it.  

A type of monarda... think this is Horse mint.  Monarda punctata

   We enjoyed the sounds of streams flowing and birds singing. The sun was out and then clouds would roll past.   The air smelled sweet. Now and then we'd get a whiff of some new floral fragrance mingled with the green smell of Summer.   It was cooler here. Temperatures in this area tend to be a good twenty degrees cooler than down in the low lands.    It is a welcome thing on a July hike.      We continued following the dirt roads winding further into the remote mountains.    We saw purple phlox along the drive and began seeing turks cap lilies. 
We stopped and pulled off at one side road we did not recall.  It was a pretty spot and we thought since it had picnic tables it was new. It is the old hunters camp.  The picnic tables are a recent addition.   

picnic spot in the middle of nowhere!  

      We continued until we finally arrived at the dead end and parked.  One other vehicle was there and we never did see another hiker today.  Truck was still there when we returned.  
We gathered up our gear and set off up the trail.  We faced a climb here, but the good news is that once you arrive at the intersection with the Naked Ground Trail your climb is all done.
The remaining hike is more or less level out the ridge with a few gentle ups and downs.  The scenery the entire way is pretty. We saw lots of different colored mushrooms including the pure white Indian pipes that are parasitic. They lack chlorophyll and take all their nutrients from other plants.    Rosebay rhododendron was still in bloom in the forest.  We passed one spot that always smells sweet and spicy like curry!   The air was humid and we stayed clammy on our climb up the mountain.    I was very happy to see that Naked Ground sign.  Whew!  
About the time we leveled off .. we heard a rustle to our left. It grew louder like a gathering wind.   It was raining six feet to the left of us!  How odd to hike along side the rain but not get rained on!  We were already wet from sweating.   

      The trail has great fins of rock thrust up along it.  In places you are on a narrow knife edge.
Other spots are like hiking on a split level trail!  There are ledges below you of flat ground.
Grassy spots appear along Stratton Bald.  We passed several appealing camp sites.  
Chinquapins, American chestnut, stunted oak trees, paper birch trees, and fir trees line this forest trail.     Ferns of many sorts grow along it.  We began seeing turks cap lilies along the trail. Some are sickly and the tops are gone.  Some are the picture of vibrant health and life.
Not sure what is making some of them sick, but it is not new. 

 Deep forest gloom 
 Bright lights of orange Turks cap lilies 
 These lilies were the tallest of the day. They are nearly eight feet tall.  
One of many upthrust rock fins along the trail.

        I was more careful today and did not fall any! Last time here I fell and hit my back on a rock.    Slippery!  I learned my lesson.     We passed through the forest zone where it is like a deep brown and green tunnel. Tall fir trees here.  Next is another grassy knoll surrounded by chinquapin shrubs and mayhaw bushes for cover.     The trail is not as bad as it once was, but the briars are starting to overtake the trail again.  Someone had hiked ahead of us swinging a brush cutter, but only knicking some of it.    I am not complaining!   Kenny will never know the initial shock of hiking this trail when you cannot see past your chest if looking down. 
Wear long pants and gaiters and pray you don't encounter any snakes here.  It is far more open now than in the past.  
View to one side of our lunch spot.  Tall grass. 
Lots of the usual purple phlox. It smells wonderful.  Where are my lilies? 
   We broke out onto the bald and looked about.  It was pretty, but I couldn't see any turks cap lilies at first.  I don't mean just not in bloom either. In spots where they once were thick.... I did not see any period.   None.   I am either very early this year, or something is wrong.  Perhaps I'm just too early. I hope that is all.  Perhaps it is not a good year for lilies on Bob's Bald? 
Perhaps something is killing them?  I did not find any coming up in spots where they once were.  The purple phlox and tassel rue was up thick though.   The other flower I did not see today was the great patch of club spur orchids I had seen there in a wet part of the meadow.   This makes me hopeful I was just early.     We sat down under a tree to eat lunch. We were very hungry.
We had packed some good sandwiches and snacks.   The rain came down briefly, but then quit as suddenly as it started.  Under our oak tree we remained dry while we ate.  

    Kenny went one way to hunt lilies and I went another way.   We'd split up and maximize our chances of spotting any.    We'd meet back at the lunch tree.    We just left our packs there and wandered around the bald.   I finally did see a few lilies, but I'd say the number is roughly 1/4 what was once there.   I debated a return trip in about ten days. Perhaps come up via Fodderstack trail for variety?   I'm not saying I absolutely won't do that, but after today and talking to Kenny... probably not.     I saw the usual beautiful fern clusters, whorled loosestrife, and clumps of crimson bee balm.   We saw a peregrine falcon and two hummingbirds dueling!

 Approaching the bald from the bottom. I crossed all the way over and back. 
 The most perfect specimen of turks cap lily.. all by its lonesome. 
Biggest cluster of lilies out on the bald today.   

     We met back at the oak tree.  We reported our findings to one another. Kenny says the Fodderstack Trail approach to this bald is seeing far greater use than the Stratton Bald Trail.
He went all the way up and out across the top.   No wonder the fellow who beat me here by a week did not see any lilies. Cause there weren't any to see.      Kenny said if it were him he'd quit worrying about it and take his chances with lilies at Alarka in a week or so.   
He is probably right. That is what I should do.   I am spending all this time trying to recapture an experience that was magical from the past.  It is time to have some new experiences that are magical.    

     I lay down beneath the oak tree and stretched out.   I lay looking up at the leaves and sky.
Today was a good day. We had seen lots of lilies, but not where I expected them to be.    It was not a total bust.  Just an experiment with unintended consequences.   It proves that no matter how much I try to anticipate and predict peak bloom.. these mountains have their own ideas. 
Just as they make their own weather...... they will pick their own bloom time. 

 Closeup of Whorled loosestrife.  
 Prettiest phlox I saw today. Deepest pink. 
 Looking across Bob's Bald

   We finally took a last look around and began our return hike.  
It was certainly faster than our hike up.   Mostly level or downhill.   We were glad to see the jeep again.   We got something fresh and cold to drink and headed back down the mountain.
We stopped to see lots of lilies in the forest on the way.  Great patches of them on both sides of the road.   
 Tall perfect turks cap lilies

   We stopped to see the Swan Cabin. Someone was staying there, but in the process we discovered there is Swan Cabin II.  Not sure what the deal is with this one.  
This one is barely visible from the road.

      We kept going down the mountain and stopped to check out some falls on the stream.
Kenny was very tired and more or less over it for the day.  He went along to humor me.   We got up the creek and began to realize neither of us was up for anymore hiking. We were tired and ready to go home.   I did get some pretty photos and a short video of some lovely cascades we had never visited before along the stream.   The creek was running with a nice volume and rosebay rhododendron in pink and white blossoms framed the cascades.    The water was clear, cold and deep.  You could see each twig and rock in the bottom of the creek.   

         I  soaked up the sight of velvety green moss and pink blooms. White silky water. 
Satiny green leaves.   Golden river stones.  It was marvelous to hear the creek murmuring and the birds singing.   The leaves rustled in the trees.   We left tired, but happy.  I had images swirling round my mind of future trips here. Places to explore and treasures to find.  Questions to seek the answers to.   I think truthfully that is part of what drives me.   Much more to come back for.    I got in the jeep and used my rain coat as a pillow for the ride home.  The ride home was made shorter by sweet dreams of forest scenery.     

  That crystal ball may not always be accurate, but it works pretty darn well for me.
I think I'll keep it.   

Image result for crystal ball

Below is a short pretty video of the cascades we visited.  So much more to come. 

Canoe Trip on Chilhowee Lake

Mushrooms were abundant today of varying kinds.

Canoe Trip on Chilhowee Lake 

First edition of Travels With a Gypsy Blog series

Dana& Kenny Koogler

Monday July 10, 2017

Scona Pictures starting with frame 98
(gallery is a compilation of two trips) 

  Last Summer we bought a canoe from our friend Mike Gourley.  We had it out once on
Calderwood Lake to do a float/hike trip.  It went well. We were pleased with our purchase.
I had always wanted a red canoe so Kenny agreed to paint it.   He got it painted this season.
He also had made some modifications and additions to the seating.   He did a beautiful job on
both the painting and the seats.  We finally got it all ready to go out on our first trip this season.
All the way into July and we had not used it once this Summer!   We had several places we wanted to try, but the best one we wanted most was to re visit the Scona Lodge and Resort site.
It had been years between visits.  We had put it off because of the water levels being down
in Chilhowee Lake.   They reopened the lake to use around July 4th.    Kenny had a screwed up week at work. He got stuck on night shift for a week.   The only good part of it was that he was just going in and sleeping.  Not working the way I worked on nights.  He'd come home wide awake and ready to go.   We decided to take advantage of it and get the canoe in the lake.

     We loaded up and went to Chilhowee.   Our daughter, son-in-law and other family members
had been to the lake July 4th and bragged how good it looked. Water was comfortable.  It was very clear and clean.  We could hardly wait.    We went to the Scona Lodge site before by driving down Growden Boulevard and out to the old ferry launch.  It is only 0.2 miles one way across there. The problem is that they close the gate and lock it at 3 pm.  I did not want to have
the pressure during the entire trip of making it out of there on time.  We went instead to access the site from Tabcat Creek boat launch.   It is 1.35 miles one way to the site, but you come and go when you please.  We would also have to pass two coves on the way which have waterfalls in them that enter the lake.   

  Tabcat Creek 

The newly painted canoe and Kenny.  Setting everything up.  

Boat launch and a look at the lake.
Clear water and lots of minnows

       We got launched without any trouble.  We set out across the lake.  It was a  hot, sunny July day.    We planned on having lots of fun exploring.   The lake was so clear it reflected back the sky, the mountains and the trees like a perfect mirror. It was beautiful.   I looked down as we went along and could see tall weeds and trees beneath the water. It was an odd thing to see, but not completely new.  I'd seen things like that before in this lake and lakes in Virginia.

Above is the mirror of Chilhowee Lake.  Exquisitely beautiful. 

           Now is a good time to mention I finally named the canoe.  I felt it should have a name.
I am always joking about Magicmomma's Crytal Ball of the Future. I also say Kenny and I are like two gypsies the way we ramble around.   I am really like a gypsy the way I dress sometimes. I like lots of colors.   I figured what better name for the canoe than Gypsy.  So Gypsy it shall be.
I have ordered the decal with the name, but it had not arrived yet.   I will be sure to put a special tag on the canoe trip blog entries Travels with a Gypsy.   It can be a source for folks who paddle to pick places they might want to visit.   I know I always love reading other people's travel blogs.  It is one way I decide where to go.    

        We drew closer to the first cove where Miry Branch Cascade lay.  What had been a wide open cove to paddle into and take out was now a tight squeeze.  You could barely make out where  you'd need to go.  The opening was perhaps five feet across if that.    The lake levels being down had allowed more than a years worth of Southern vegetation to encroach the lake. 
It had grown ten to fifteen feet in toward the lake center from shore.   It would die back in time, and return to normal.  The lake had only been reopened a week or so.   The second cove we passed where Nighway Branch cascade lay... was completely closed. You could barely tell it was ever there.   It appeared the further we went along this shore the worse it was getting.   

Finally we could make out the flat of the golf course along the shore, but it was barely detectable.    We approached the ferry landing. It was pretty, but I had not remembered accurately how it was before.   It is a long jetty extending into the water.  Behind one part of it is a closed off section of Chilhowee Lake.  I also did not recall the outbuilding being there before, but it probably was.     We paddled over to it.  This was where we launched our kayaks from the previous trip. We paddled straight across.  I was now flabbergasted to see the far shore.   You could no longer make out the landing on the other side.  You used to be able to easily see and take out on the tarmac.  It was completely hidden in vegetation.   The only way we were sure we were in the right spot was the trout pond barrier below it.  We paddled over to have a closer look.   The weeds and brush beyond the trout pond barrier were horrible looking. 
We did not plan this outing very thoughtfully.   We were here in August before and had no troubles. I joked about it being like the jungles near Saigon, but I had no idea how bad it could get.   I was seeing that now.    

      We never saw the first snake that August trip.   I knew better though.  They are here regardless if you see them or not.   We talked it over and decided that we'd best forget it and come back in cold weather when the lake had been filled long enough to kill the weeds and brush.   It was a huge disappointment, but we both felt it was the smart thing to do.   Neither of us felt safe climbing out into that mess.   I was kinda sad, but it was not the end of the world.
I'm sure I'd have been far sadder had one of us gotten snake bit.    We decided to go back.
We would put the canoe away and drive round to the road and explore a little bit on land.

         We put the canoe away and ate some lunch.   We then drove the short distance up to the road entrance to the former town of Calderwood.  It is now a TVA property and the company town is a ghost town.   It is abandoned and most of the buildings torn down.   It is odd to see the sidewalks, house foundations, fire hydrants, flower beds all still there.  It sent a pang of sadness through me.   Did these people want to move? Were they forced to move? Did they have a choice at all?  What would it have hurt to let them continue to live there if they wanted to? 
All these were questions spinning round my mind.   I am a sentimental fool over history.

       We stopped to see the Calderwood Methodist Church and cemetery.  It was neat as a pin and well tended and kept.   Many of the birth dates in the cemetery were 1790s.   No doubt folks from Blount County who were born and raised and died right around here.    I recognized lots of local names. Burchfield, Garland, Hardin were some.    

Cemetery viewed past the huge old oak tree
Calderwood Methodist Church

      We went on over toward the Calderwood  Baptist church.  It was quite a contrast to the Methodist church.  It is in far worse shape and decaying. It is being reclaimed by the forest.  Vines and brush are covering much of it.  It is sad to see, but not unexpected.  Mother Nature will reclaim whatever we leave unattended.   

Above and below .. two shots of the baptist church falling into ruin.
I plan to return during cold weather to get better shots of this structure and some of the other structures around Calderwood.   Once again..... very hot and snakey today.   

The boat launch at the old ferry landing site.
View across the lake at the mountains.  It is beautiful.   

     We wrapped up our day and headed back in the direction of home.  We stopped on Foothills Parkway to enjoy the view.   I think the crystal ball of the future needs to go into the shop for a tune up!  It is not hitting on all cylinders. Clearly not showing all the ins and outs of things.  
I suggest to anyone wanting to access the shores of Chilhowee Lake .. take along a brush cutter or machete for awhile.   You're going to need it.    

       We will return in Winter or Spring 2018 to explore Scona.   We will explore Panther Creek this Fall.   Still glad Chilhowee Lake has water again.  I didn't think I'd be glad, but I am.   It was nice for awhile to see the Little T back in its banks.   It is proof to me though that time marches on and doesn't care or wait for any man or woman.  No matter how sentimental they are.   

Glorious view from Foothills Parkway toward West Millers Cove
Abandoned fire hydrant in the former town of Calderwood...........open and spewing water ever so slowly down the bank.   No one there to care or to stop it.   It sums up the tone of what is left of the town and the way it makes me feel inside.   

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Fourth of July Weekend Camping Trip 2017

Tennessee Cone Flower growing in Scott Co, TN 

Fourth of July Weekend Camping Trip 2017

Sat. July 1 through Tues. July 4th, 2017

Dana & Kenny Koogler
John Ungerer
Sharon McGee
Adam, Crystal, Michael and Tessa Lindsey

Pictures are here starting at frame 349

Happy Independence Day from Woo Hoo Holler!

   Our daughter Crystal has gone back to college for awhile. She is doing undergrad work
to get a teaching certificate for high school educators.  She has been working hard to complete
assignments and had little time for herself.  We decided one of the best ways we could help would be to kill two birds with one stone.  We would take the grandchildren camping which would fulfill a promise to them as well as give Crystal and Adam a much needed break.
Date night and some time to get school work done would take the pressure off.   We had also
wanted to get up with our friends John and Sharon.  Wanted to see John's mom, Pat again while she was up.   We got everything planned out and set in motion to go.  We left on Saturday 
morning as opposed to Friday evening.  Kenny had to work Friday and would get home 
late and tired.    

     We had all sorts of delays on the way to the campground.   The biggest delay was a leaking
trailer tire.    Kenny finally found the nail in it and was able to patch it and refill it.   We made 
it to Maple Hill and got set up.  We had a long day since the biggest part of it was travel, setup, grocery shopping, lunch, and dealing with lots and lots of rain.   It seemed like we'd no sooner get done with one meal until we had to start thinking of another one.  The first day of the trip
was a wash.  The kids were pretty good about it. We made the best of the situation by renting movies at Red Box.  We watched a couple kid friendly flicks.   Beauty and the Beast was adorable.    
 Looking downstream below Swift Ford on the East Fork River

Below: Looking at the swimming hole at Swift Ford.  It is very blue and clear. 

   The next day promised to be better.  We went over to John and Sharon's home. We visited.
I was so very glad to see them.   It was good to see Pat again.   She is a good lady.   I had planned a cookout for us.  I put chicken leg quarters in Sharon's oven to barbecue low and slow while we got outside for awhile.   We went up the river and went swimming at Swift Ford.
The river down at Woo Hoo was muddy and flowing fast.  The swimming hole up river was clear and blue.  The water comes out of a spring and is a bracing 68°  I was the only one who
went off the rope swing.   Me and Tessa were the only ones who got fully submerged.  
It was cold at first, but it didn't take long to adjust.  I love swimming in the river.  You get out and your hair smells good. Your skin feels soft and smells good.  You feel refreshed. 
 Above Michael in the inner tube. Tessa pulling him around.
Below: Tessa loves the water and swimming. She did not let the cold water keep her out.

      We went back to the house and had an early Supper.   Barbecued chicken.Corn on the cob.
Baked potatoes, rolls, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, asian slaw.  It was delicious!
We ate outside and enjoyed the clear weather and the soft evening air on the deck.  We had a wonderful time of fellowship.   It was very relaxing.  I needed this.  The children were taken with John and Sharon.  They liked Nana Pat too.   Finally we went back to the camper we were ready for bed at 9:30 pm.  The kids were sleeping in the next room so we let them stay up and watch a movie and turn it off when they were ready to sleep.  It was the Power Rangers movie.
I did not watch much of it.

     Monday we got up and had breakfast.  We went over toward Big South Fork to do a little hiking.
Crystal and Adam were to come over for a cookout, riding and swimming today.  They were going to take the kids home with them so we could have one day to do what we wanted with our friends.
We went to Devils Cave.  The hike to it is short, but you have to climb down over a rock face with
a rope and a small ladder.   We set our own rope and each of us helped one child.  The kids loved the adventure and found it all fun.  They handled it like two champs!  Going up was even easier on the return trip.  The forest was green and lush today.  It drizzled a little rain on us to begin with but quickly stopped.  The mountain camellia trees were blooming.  Both high bush and low bush blueberries were abundant along the path.  I saw a tiny bit of mountain laurel still in bloom.
Beautiful blooms of mountain camellia.  This is the third location I have found these this Summer.
   Once down over the rock we continued our downhill hike and then wound up at a rock over hang.  We worked our way through that and soon were in front of the Devils Cave entrance.  Beautif
Mist hung in the air at the mouth of the cave.   We all put on lights and got ready to enter.
The kids were very excited about it.  It was mysterious and dark and very humid inside.  Cold and
clammy are the best two descriptors I can give.

 Above: Michael posing beneath the rock house
This photo is a bit overexposed but it is the one that best shows the mist hanging in the air outside the cave entrance.

 Papaw, Tessa and Michael
 Michael spotted a red eft in the cave.

   The silvery stuff on the walls is moisture.  I am looking back at the opening. You can see one tiny spot of light.

 The cave has levels to it.  We climbed up to the second level but not all the way to the 3rd at the far back.  The mist hung so thick in the top part you could hardly see your hand in front of your face.  Kids did not want to go up that far.

Hiking back out of Devils Cave.   What fun!  

We got through our little adventure and headed back to the camper.  Crystal and Adam would soon arrive.   We wanted to be there to let them in.  It was very hot and humid, then the rain began again.  We thought of stopping at Leatherwood Ford picnic area, but the river was running high and muddy.  No fun.  Not safe.  I did stop to take pictures of the Tennessee
coneflowers in bloom along the road. 

Tennessee coneflower.. a native species.  

       Once we got back to the camper Crystal and Adam showed up shortly after. We ate lunch and got ready to go back over to Woo Hoo to swim and go four wheeling.  John and Sharon were not home they had taken Pat to the airport for her return trip.  They graciously lent us their four wheelers and access to Woo Hoo so we could enjoy a cookout with our kids.  They did not get back until around 10 p.m.  We missed them.  The river down here at this end was slightly less muddy, but we still had to drive up to Swift Ford to swim.  I went in off the rope swing and so did Adam. Everyone got in except Papaw.  Kenny doesn't like cold water and wussed out.  He is not much on swimming.
We had our fill of swimming here and loaded up to go ride the river trail.  Crystal drove our RZR and she handled it like a pro. I let her drive since she seldom get to. She loves four wheeling. It is her favorite thing.  :-)   She is good at it too.  We went up as far as the Blue Hole.  I did not get in the other swimming holes today.  I usually love swimming there, but today you could not see the bottom of the Blue Hole.  It was blue, but milky.  There is no easy way out of it either. You have to jump in or use the rope swing.  When you are ready to climb out it is an ordeal.  I felt uneasy about not being able to see bottom.    The little ones were getting tired so we headed back. We got back to the shabin and set up to cook.  Kenny and Adam grilled.  Crystal set the table. I sliced and fried potatoes on the coleman stove.  Michael lay down to rest. He was sleepy.  We had a great meal.  Barbecue chicken put back on the grill from yesterday. Corn on the cob. Fried potatoes. burgers and hotdogs.
We feasted.  Once we were full we picked up our mess and headed back to the campground.
 They kids and grandkids headed home.
 Beautiful and big moth on the steps of the shabin.
 the dining room table :-)
four wheelin fun
    Tuesday morning the 4th we had asked the campground manager if we could pack everything up, unhook it, and just let the camper sit where it was?  A later check out time so we did not have to be in such a hurry to go home? He agreed since he did not have anyone coming in that day and did not need the spot.  We quickly put the camper in readiness to depart when we got back.  We went over to meet John and Sharon to go riding for the day.   We took them on a loop ride through Big Piney Creek Gorge.  We went in reverse of how we usually go.  I had never been in that gorge during Summer.  I wanted to see what the creek levels were like. I wanted to just see the whole place. I also wanted to see what that lily was that I spotted in Spring.   I had a strong feeling Big Piney was special botanically.   So far it has proven to be in Spring.    The ride was pretty and the forest deep green.
Down in that hemlock gorge the air was misty and fresh.  Mountain camellias must all come from here. This is the birth place of them all.  I have never seen anything like it.  They were everywhere in the forest!  We saw them down in the gorge and all the way up on the return trip.
 Big Piney Creek is equally charming in Summer. It reflects back the green of the forest.
 Sharon, John and Kenny having a powwow.

Mountain camellia. The forest looked like someone was getting ready for a wedding and had chosen green and white as their colors!  It was beautiful. It smelled sweet and fresh down here.
  The creek was beautiful and had just enough water to still be flowing.  It is quiet and hushed down in that place of deep isolation.  I was thrilled to get to be here.  I know that this place has only just begun yielding up secrets and pretty treasures.   We got along fine on our ride until we tried to proceed to the next crossing.  We encountered a horrible mess of blown down trees. This trail gets very little use and we knew we'd have to find a work around or cut it out ourselves.
John and Sharon did not like the looks of the work around since it was steep.  The men set about cutting timber to clear it. It was a huge mess.  Sharon and I took off exploring.  Let them deal with it!

 Deep green gloom of a hemlock forest.   I pray they survive.
  A dark place along the stream. I love the contrast between Summer and Spring here.
 A lighter place where the forest is alive with green fire.
Above you can see the trail where you ford the creek and proceed.  Sycamore trees hung over the creek.
    We soaked up the views of the different pretty pools along the stream.  The water is so incredibly clear.  I could hear birds singing. The prettiest and loudest song was that of a wood thrush.  It is my favorite.  It is absolutely spell binding.   I had been concerned I missed the lily.  I decided to just walk along the trail and hunt.  Going along walking and talking to Sharon I looked ahead and there it was. A flash of bright red in the deep green forest.  A red bell like a fairy hat.  My lily! It was special. It was a Canada lily!  They are not rare but the further south you go the more rare they become. They are a northern species. Up Nort' they grow thick and they occur in two colors.. red and yellow.  Down here I have only seen the red ones.     I hunted for the other plants but failed to find them.

 First glimpse of the pretty Canada lily along the trail.
a look into its face

Here is a shot that illustrates the shape of the flower better.  a fairy hat!

      We went back and the men had decided that the wall of fallen trees was going to take too long to cut.  We'd have to work around the mess.   Kenny brought the RZR down past it.  He brought Sharon's machine on down.  John had a little trepidation at the steep drop off, but got on his machine and came down it like a boss!  I couldn't help myself. I was cheering!  It looks way worse when you are sitting there anticipating going down it.    We went on ahead and did not encounter any more downed trees that had to be cut.   The trail out had one bad spot where we had to figure what to do.
It was washed out from rains but it was a minor delay.   We knew the ride out would be brushy.
It was too.  It was thick with growth.  Hemlock limbs brushed my hair. I had sap and needles in my wig.   I had a worm on me at one point!   The ride out was interesting.  We saw stuff we'd not noticed before.  Extra roads leading down into the bottom of the gorge!  Two of 'em we'd not seen for a total of three.   We also spotted a large coal seam.  We want to come back with ropes and explore this part of Big Piney more fully in cold weather or next Spring.  or both!  :-)  There are two massive rock houses down in there.    It was starting to drizzle rain.
 A creek on the way out.. and possum paw fern everywhere!
 close up shot of possum paw fern one of my favorite ferns.
 Deep dark little side stream we crossed.  It is shallow and has tannins in it.
Working through the washed out part

         We finally popped out on the dirt road.  We were glad to see it, but we had a long ride back.
We could go a couple ways. We opted to risk riding Hwy 52 which is illegal for four wheelers but faster.  A straighter shot home.  We finally made it back to Boatland and turned in.    We were wet, but John and Sharon were soaked.  They put the machines away. They changed clothes and we stayed awhile longer to eat warm ups with them. It was better today than ever.  Yummy!  We were tired, but happy.  We did not want to leave.  While the meal was heating up Kenny and I took a shovel and some Wal Mart bags and dug up some ditch lilies near the house.  They are where the road crew is going to cut them down.   We got two for Sharon and two for me!   They are heirloom lilies!
Kwanso Double Ruffle Orange! I have always wanted some and now I have some!
I already planted them and they are thriving.  If they don't make it for some reason I will dig up a few more.   I think they'll be ok.  

    We hated to do it but at last we had to head back to the camper and on home.  It was such a fun visit.  I plan to get back to see my sweet friends sooner rather than later.  They'll either come here or I'll go there.   I love them and I'm thankful to have them. <3 It was a great weekend.
Kwanso Double Ruffle Orange lily!  so pretty and so old!

Below is a short video of Big Piney Creek and the song of a thrush     

**Notes to self** Go back down in Big Piney next Spring and walk it from the last ford all the way down to the Obey.  
Also go down in the side gorge on the upper end.. and check out the waterfalls. Take ropes a plenty.
Explore the rock houses this Winter. or early spring before snakes are out.