to the marsh, up the lighthouse steps

2.19.24 ~ Jekyll Island
great blue heron

Some pictures from the rest of our one sunny day… After leaving Driftwood Beach we stopped at an observation deck looking over one of Jekyll Island’s marshes. Lucky for me, I found another life bird. 🙂

Little Blue Heron, #84

A small, dark heron arrayed in moody blues and purples, the Little Blue Heron is a common but inconspicuous resident of marshes and estuaries in the Southeast. They stalk shallow waters for small fish and amphibians, adopting a quiet, methodical approach that can make these gorgeous herons surprisingly easy to overlook at first glance. Little Blue Herons build stick nests in trees alongside other colonial waterbirds. In the U.S., their populations have been in a gradual decline since the mid-twentieth century.
~ All About Birds website

juvenile little blue heron

Eventually we wound up on St. Simons Island for a late lunch and a visit to St. Simons Light.

The Lighthouse and Keeper’s Dwelling were built in 1872 to replace the original lighthouse built in 1810 by James Gould of Massachusetts, the first lighthouse keeper. The original lighthouse was destroyed by Confederate forces in 1861 to prevent the beacon’s use by Federal troops during the Civil War. The Lighthouse is one of only five surviving light towers in Georgia. The Lighthouse still serves as an active aid to navigation for ships entering St. Simons Sound, casting its beam as far as 23 miles to sea. Visitors may climb the 129 steps to the top to experience spectacular, panoramic views of the coast including Jekyll Island, the mainland (Brunswick), and the south end of St. Simons Island. The Keeper’s Dwelling is a two-story Victorian structure that was the home of lighthouse keepers from 1872 until the 1950s. Today it houses the Lighthouse Museum, and includes interactive exhibits, rare artifacts, and period rooms that reveal the history of St. Simons Island and the life of a lighthouse keeper.
~ Golden Isles website

St. Simons Lighthouse Museum
Coastal Georgia Historical Society
image credit: Wikipedia

All four of us climbed up the 129 steps, stopping at each landing to catch our breath and take pictures out the windows. I think it worked out in such a way that there was one window facing in each of the four directions. There was a sign on the wall of each landing and window, indicating the number of step remaining to climb.

The view was amazing but Tim complained of vertigo so he didn’t get to walk around the balcony up top.

waxing gibbous moon

When we got back down we toured the keeper’s quarters…

kitchen
parents’ room
children’s room
parlor

And then it was back to the vacation cottage for one last evening of conversation before we were to leave the next morning. It was a very long, wonderful day!

when the sun comes out

2.6.24 ~ Parker Preserve, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

When the sun comes out the world brightens up, even the browns and grays in the winter woods. It was a very sunny morning the other day, but too cold for a walk. So we opted for an afternoon walk. Even then it was still cold, Tim wore a coat, and I was bundled up with hat and mittens, too.

We found a new place to walk, another property belonging to the North Carolina Botanical Garden, Parker Preserve. It connects to the Mason Farm Biological Reserve we had explored back in December. At the beginning of the trail is Parker Meadow, the site of the former home of Bill & Athena Parker.

American holly
coming soon!

The huge bench above is one of two sitting in the meadow, where a 19th century log cabin was destroyed by a fire in 1995. (I assume it was the home of Bill & Athena.) After noticing what we presume to be dozens of patches of daffodils about to bloom, we headed into the woods, following the Woodland Trail.

late winter shadows
marcescence highlighted
this leaf was probably stranded here all winter
moss with sporophytes

Off in the distance we saw a huge log, covered in moss with sporophytes sprouting out of it. I used maximum zoom but could only manage the fuzzy picture above. We have been warned repeatedly about copperhead snakes so I resisted every urge to go off the trail and wade though the leaves to get a closer look.

in the spotlight: a maple leaf surrounded by oak leaves
illuminated roots from a tree that fell long ago
I’m calling this a ghost stump
effulgence

The disadvantage to taking an afternoon walk is that the traffic on the way home is very congested and slow. We found ourselves sitting in the car for a very long time at a traffic light near the James Taylor Bridge. From the road this bridge is unremarkable, the only hint that a bridge is there is a small sign identifying it and a short cement wall with a low fence on either side of it. But it’s located a mile from JT’s childhood home and it goes over Morgan Creek, which he wrote about in one of his songs, Copperline. We’ve encountered Morgan Creek a couple of times on our walks. This is all of particular interest to me because James Taylor was my idol when I was a teen, and he was the first singer I ever went to see in concert. I had all his albums. It’s a small world.

Half a mile down to Morgan Creek
I’m leanin’ heavy on the end of the week
Hercules and a hognose snake
Down on Copperline
We were down on Copperline

~ James Taylor
♫ (Copperline) ♫

marbled orb-weaver

10.18.23 ~ Johnston Mill Nature Preserve
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

We enjoyed this woodsy walk along New Hope Creek very much! It reminded us of the land conservancy properties we were so fond of in Connecticut. This trail felt a little wilder and more remote than the other hikes we’ve been taking down here so far.

New Hope Creek

Still not encountering much wildlife, however, or birds. Sometimes I really miss my shore birds. I know there are birders down here who post many pictures online so I’m going to have to figure out where they go to take them.

squirrel having his breakfast

What is the universe trying to tell me? How is it that this arachnophobe winds up moving to a place with an endless supply of spiders? This marbled orb-weaver seemed to be very busy repairing some damage this leaf did to her web. We watched, spellbound, for a very long time.

After this we got a glimpse of an owl flying across our path and then up high, out of sight, into the trees… It always amazes me how soundless their flights are.

stairway down a steep decline
underneath the fall colors
lichen on a fallen and cut tree trunk

All in all, it was a very pleasant autumn morning ramble along the creek and in the woods. 🍂

through a spruce-fir forest

10.10.23 ~ start of Balsam Nature Trail
Mount Mitchell State Park

Another trail! After visiting Mount Mitchell’s peak we found the Balsam Nature Trail, a 3/4 mile loop off of the Summit Tower Trail. The terrain here was very uneven, much to Tim’s relief after the flat pavement going up to the summit. Lots of up and down, even steps in some places and narrow passages between outcrops.

We didn’t encounter any wildlife or hear any birds calling. I’m guessing because this is a well-traveled trail and the creatures are hiding from people, if they are there at all. Every few minutes a couple or a family or small group of friends would overtake us and pass us. And just as often we’d pass folks hiking in the opposite direction. It was the most traffic we’ve ever experienced on a trail.

huge outcrop
ferns everywhere
a hemlock sapling – good luck precious little being

The best part of this walk could not be photographed — it was the amazing scent of balsam and Fraser fir. What an unforgettable olfactory delight!

Sadly, though, there wasn’t much left of healthy evergreen foliage. Most of the green we saw was mosses and ferns.

I am very familiar with the hemlock woolly adelgid insect pest that destroyed the hemlock grove surrounding my childhood home. It originated in East Asia and arrived here in 1951. According to Wikipedia, by 2015 90% of the geographic range of eastern hemlock in North America had been affected.

But I had never heard of the balsam woolly adelgid until I saw it mentioned on a trailside sign, explaining why there were so many dead and dying trees in this forest. This insect pest arrived here from Europe in 1900 and was discovered in this forest in 1957. The devastation is obvious in many of these pictures.

Mosses and mushrooms seem to be thriving with such an abundance of dead wood. I tried to identify the moss in the above picture — it seems to be some kind of feather moss. It looked different than the mosses I usually see. According to Britannica there are approximately 12,000 species of moss distributed throughout the world.

The spruce-fir forest is a forest type dominated by needle-leaved, evergreen red spruce and Fraser fir trees. It exists only at elevations above 5,500 feet, and contains plants and animals that are adapted to cool, moist conditions. Some of the plants and animals living in Mt. Mitchell’s spruce fir forest are found over much of the state. Others, however, are the same as (or are close relatives of) those found in the spruce-fir forests of New England or southern Canada.
~ trailside sign

The climate of a spruce-fir forest can be harsh. Wind and ice storms are facts of life here: trees with their tops missing are common sights. And, as with any high-elevation ecosystem, rain, fog, sleet or snow can occur unpredictably — in any month, at any time of day.
~ trailside sign

uneven uphill terrain
halfway point

Though spruce-fir forests are found in a broad region of northern North America, they occur south of New England only in a thin zone along the Appalachian Mountain chain.
~ trailside sign

red spruce roots

All that being said, I was still enchanted with this forest and will cherish my memories of this little taste of New England here in North Carolina.

to the observation deck

10.10.23 ~ start of Summit Tower Trail
Mount Mitchell State Park, Burnsville, North Carolina

It was a steep quarter-mile trek from the parking lot to the summit and observation deck, but the view at the top of Mount Mitchell was well worth it!

Elisha Mitchell (August 19, 1793 – June 27, 1857) was an American educator, geologist and Presbyterian minister. His geological studies led to the identification of North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell as the highest peak in the United States east of the Mississippi River. … Elisha Mitchell fell to his death at nearby Mitchell Falls in 1857, having returned to verify his earlier measurements…
~ Wikipedia

looking up from along the trail
one of the rest stops Tim made good use of
a view from along the trail
I believe these are other mountains in the Black Mountains range

After reaching the summit we went up a ramp to the observation deck. From there we had an impressive 360-degree view of forests, mountains and clouds, as far as the eyes could see.

On the way back down I started noticing the many kinds of lichens growing on the trees and the wooden fences.

Sometime back in the 1980s we took our kids on the Cog Railway up Mount Washington in New Hampshire. All this time I thought it was the highest mountain on the east coast, until moving to North Carolina and reading about Mount Mitchell, which is 396 feet higher!

Mount Washington, in New Hampshire, is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288.2 ft (1,916.6 m) and the most topographically prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River.
~ Wikipedia

I can see what is meant by Mount Washington being the most topographically prominent mountain, though. Mount Mitchell is surrounded by other peaks in the Black Mountains range, which has 12 summits higher than Mount Washington’s.

I had another treat waiting for me as we headed back down the trail.

do not use trail when flooded

9.15.23 ~ Bolin Creek Trail
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

At last, walking weather arrived Friday morning! We decided to try Bolin Creek Trail. It was a pleasant enough walk, but it was paved, which is hard on Tim’s back and hip. He needs uneven terrain to walk at all comfortably. And there were many joggers out and lots of people. There were cars zooming by on the road on the other side of the creek. It didn’t feel at all like a walk in the woods!

a burl on a loblolly pine tree

Still, we were delighted to be out getting some fresh air and moving our bodies for an hour. I doubt this will become one of our favorite walks but it was nice to get more familiar with what we have for options in our vicinity.

Hurricane Florence must have been a doozy back in 2018. Apparently Bolin Creek floods quite frequently but I haven’t been able to find out how high it was during that storm. I was standing on stairs leading up to the road to get the next three pictures. The tunnel goes under another road.

Tim standing under the high water mark
(see sign below)

There were some interesting tree roots along the mostly shaded creek.

bits of sunshine poking through the leaves
playing hide and seek with this squirrel
can you find him?
very tiny hemlock sapling trying to grow in the dark understory

Like Gold Park in Hillsborough that we visited a month ago, this trail had an urban feel to it. I think we’re going to have to venture farther from home to find some more woodsy walks to explore. I’m getting excited and hopeful about the possibilities.

a welcome thing

A new beginning is a welcome thing. A new week, a new job, a new term at school. Each brings the thrill of a clean slate, a shining start. The heart leaps up at the chance to try again, to do our best, to sow the seed of something that will grow. Autumn is when we plant the promises of spring, unsullied, pure and perfect.
~ Sally Abbott
(Call the Midwife, season 12: episode 6)

welcome center rose

We have successfully made the move from Connecticut to North Carolina! What a wild, hectic, chaotic and exciting time these past few weeks have been. But somehow, with lots of help from family and friends, we managed to pull it off.

passion flower, a new flower

One kink in our planning was Tim developing bouts of shortness of breath and chest pressure on exertion. He spent a morning in the emergency room before we left where they determined he wasn’t having a heart attack and advised him to follow up with his cardiologist. So Larisa and I did our best to keep his activity level as low as possible while we scrambled to tie up all the loose ends.

Kat checking her VTech KidiZoom Smartwatch

After we got down here we repeated the process, spending a morning in the emergency room which thankfully resulted in an appointment with a cardiologist the next day. We really like him. Through the magic of “My Chart” medical records he had thoroughly acquainted himself with Tim’s cardiac history. He suspects that 15+ years after Tim’s by-pass surgery scar tissue may have built up and is starting to block the flow of blood. So he has ordered an echocardiogram to see what is going on in there before he decides what needs to be done.

insect hotel

In the meantime our plans to go out walking in our new adopted home have been put on hold. But I am comforted with the feeling that he is in good hands medically, UNC Hospitals being highly ranked among the best in the country.

an olive egger chicken
(a chicken that lays green colored eggs)

Dima & Larisa have made us feel so comfortable and welcome and it is a delight having our grandchildren here to talk to and play with every day. Our real estate agent already has us under contract with a buyer for a selling price higher than we ever dreamed possible. Soon we will be able to find our own place down here. We’ve already started looking online.

Finn, lost in thought

I’ve gone out on a few short walks around this cohousing community with the little ones. (Cohousing is an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space.) This is a magical, nature-loving neighborhood with birds singing all day long. There is a very loud frog outside who has croaked us to sleep for a few nights. Deer are allowed everywhere and help themselves to the abundant greenery.

A new beginning… I love it here!

on our way to the hidden pond…

4.5.23 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
mama goose sitting on her rock island nest

On the second day of the kids’ visit we decided to go to the nature center to see mama goose sitting on her nest. But we wound up doing so much more! Kat still loves her maps and she noticed a hidden pond on the outdoor map sign and decided we should find it. Tim & I had never explored that part of the property before.

a safe little piece of prime real estate
our son-in-law, the climber

Dima climbs everything in sight, walls, trees, outcrops and probably other things I can’t even begin to imagine. The first time I documented this passion was at Coumeenoole Beach on our trip to visit the Dima, Larisa and Kat in Ireland in 2018. (Scroll down to picture #26)

the first outcrop he climbed is on the left and the second is on top of the hill

I dug out my map pamphlet from last year’s visit and gave it to Kat. We started on the Forest Loop Trail, crossing the bridge over a brook leading to the stairs up to Council Rock, a glacial erratic sitting on top of an outcrop.

starting to climb the outcrop

But first Dima took a detour to climb the first outcrop, while the rest of us caught up.

Finn was having a “meh” day
it matched the sentiments on his mother’s coffee mug
Kat snuck up from behind the outcrop and joined her father on top

Then we climbed the stairs and approached the outcrop holding Council Rock. Before we knew it Dima was sitting on top of it! We were able to climb up the not-as-steep side of this outcrop. It was the only one we managed that day.

on top of Council Rock

Somehow Kat managed to get up there with her Papa.

consulting the map again, Kat was determined to find Hidden Pond

After resting a little we came down off the outcrop and followed the trail to an entrance to Ledge Trail. Dima and Kat got way out ahead while Tim, Larisa and Finn fell behind. I was enjoying my solitude in the middle of the procession when I glanced up to see Dima and Kat had climbed yet another outcrop! They tell me the view was great.

While up there, Dima spotted a wild turkey on the ridge below him, but above my vantage point. He was apparently displaying his feathers off and on. When the others caught up we finally spotted the turkey’s head peering over the ridge. Since the trail led in that direction we headed towards him. The turkey kept walking ahead of us but never ran or flew off.

There were so many twigs and short bushes in the way that it proved difficult getting the camera to focus. As we walked the trail along the ridge the wild turkey finally took a turn and went down into the swampy area at the bottom of the ravine. He joined a flock of about six other wild turkeys down there, and then they all started climbing up to the ridge on the other side.

Kat found a spot on the edge of the ridge to sit and watch the turkeys

At this point Finn decided to switch from riding in his mother’s arms and on her shoulders to riding on his father’s shoulders. Having a passenger did not deter Dima from climbing up on the next outcrop!

When the trail finally came down off the ridge we found a sign pointing to Hidden Pond! We were almost there!

Hidden Pond
skunk cabbage and moss

Kat was pleased to have found her destination and I was happy we had so much fun and fresh air along the way. Finn was happy he was going to stop for ice cream on his way home and Dima reported that he had never seen a wild turkey in the woods before. Larisa wanted to take a selfie with her parents and we obliged. We then found a shorter connector trail back to the nature center but I’m so glad we took the long way around to find that little pond!

books, books, books

3.20.23 ~ The Book Barn ~ Niantic, Connecticut

Busy, busy, busy… We took a first batch of books to sell to the Book Barn and came home with a check for $65! The other day, talking to Larisa on the phone about sorting through my books, I mentioned that I had no idea there were so many of them. “I did, Mom,” she said.

We stopped to admire a new sign at the back entrance. Tim simply couldn’t resist putting his hat on the Cheshire Cat for a picture. 🙂

I’m going to miss this amazing place!