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) ♫

long winter shadows

12.23.23 ~ Carolina North Forest

Our first winter holidays in North Carolina were amazing! Our walks were few and far between, though, due to all the other activities. Time to get back on track and back to the blogosphere.

Look back on Time, with kindly Eyes —
He doubtless did his best —
How softly sinks the trembling Sun
In Human Nature’s West —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1251)

eastern bluebird

I think if I’m going to photograph more birds we will have to visit more gardens than forests. The trees seem to be so much taller down here and my zoom lens just doesn’t reach those high perches to capture the winged creatures that well. But I’m including this bluebird picture anyway to remind me how nice it was to see and hear a few of them, way overhead, that day. 🙂

autumn amble

10.30.23 ~ Piedmont Nature Trails
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Another gorgeous walk! The Piedmont Nature Trails meander through an 88-acre forest behind the North Carolina Botanical Garden. On this day we started with the Streamside Trail, which follows Meeting-of-the-Waters Creek and crosses it twice. We are currently in an abnormally dry spell so there wasn’t much water flowing.

Meeting-of-the-Waters Creek
sunlit fallen leaves found everywhere
one of the bridges over the creek
looking back at the steps leading to the bridge
stump puffballs
little brown jug

In a moment of weakened ch’i
even a small patch of blue sky
a glint of a sunbeam
autumn light on the forest floor
can grant you strength and resolve.

~ Frank LaRue Owen
(Blister & Resolve, The Temple of Warm Harmony)

a lot of the forest is still green
looking straight up

The above picture was a happy accident. These two squirrels were chasing each other up and down the trees, tackling each other and taking off again. Were they playing or courting? This is the only picture of the dozens taken that came out! Since the internet says they breed in mid-December or early January, and that a few breed again in June, these two were probably playing.

One online source says the fall colors peak in this part of the state in early to mid-November so we are starting to notice some larger patches of them as we drive around town. On the bright side, we will get to enjoy colors for a longer period of time since the trees seem to be taking turns being spectacular.

sunlight in the forest

If you had told me a year ago when I was writing my last Walktober post in Connecticut that a year later I would be writing my next one from a new home far away in North Carolina….. I would not have thought it even remotely possible. But here I am!

This is my contribution to Walktober, this year being hosted by Dawn over at her Change Is Hard blog. See Dawn’s warm invitation to participate here: Walktober 2023.

10.25.23 ~ Carolina North Forest
Chapel Hill & Carrboro, North Carolina

It turns out that 750 acres of woodlands, with numerous trails, belonging to the University of North Carolina, is only about a mile away from our home, as the crow flies. For this, our first visit, we wound up on the deeply shaded Occoneechee Loop. It had plenty of uneven terrain for Tim so it wound up being our longest walk so far this fall.

My camera kept telling me that I needed a flash so I decided to focus on finding pockets of sunlight for my pictures. It wasn’t long before I was feeling more relaxed and mindful, noticing the individual trees and the little things. This forest bath was having a delightfully positive effect on me.

shagbark hickory
can grow over 100 ft tall and live for 350 years
sometimes we could see the sky
leaf trap
hickory leaves?
suspended pine needles and leaves
leaves on a sassafras sapling

On such October days as this, we look about us as though in some new and magic land. The mystical draws close behind the luminous veil. We see the things about us and sense larger meanings just beyond our grasp.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

burl on a loblolly pine
squirrel making a quick exit
another squirrel checking me out
same squirrel taking his nut up, up, up
new growth
sunlight penetrating the deep green forest
another squirrel giving me the tail

We’re looking forward to our next walk in this wonderful forest. It will be nice to see how it changes with at least three of the seasons, as I know hot and humid summertime walks here will be few and far between.

overlook at milepost 361.2

10.10.23 ~ view of Glassmine Falls
Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah Region, North Carolina

On our way back to our hotel in the charming little town of Black Mountain we retraced our drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This overlook was especially beautiful. We saw some fall colors but they hadn’t come to a peak yet.

The waterfall (below) was dry on this day but apparently after a good rain a narrow stream of water falls 200 feet over the cliff. That dark hole at the base is an old mica mine. Mica is sometimes called isinglass and miners called it glass for short, which is why it was called a glassmine.

Glassmine Falls
valley on the other side of the overlook
path back to parking lot, elevation 5,200 feet

The clouds were always on the move, casting dramatic shadows over the peaks and valleys and changing the lighting moment to moment. It was a nice way to end a most wonderful day.

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.

any day now

4.26.23 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
mama goose still sitting on her rock island nest
hairy woodpecker
skunk cabbages are getting huge
swamp near the pond
more skunk cabbage

Many young leaves are dotting the trees now, spray and foliage both showing. The woods are quite green; the rapidity with which the leaves unfold between sunrise and sunset, or during the night, is truly wonderful!
~ Susan Fenimore Cooper
(Rural Hours)

it’s feeling much more like spring, even it it is still chilly
red maple seeds
the essence of springtime
crabapple tree

We got our second covid bivalent booster on the 25th, recommended to those of us over 65. This will make me feel a little safer traveling to North Carolina and being around more people in the coming months. We had our first bivalent booster back in September. I wonder if we’ll be getting one every six months from now on…

a day to remember

3.27.23 ~ Harkness Memorial State Park

Please bear with me as I post more photo memories to take with me when we move! Harkness Memorial State Park is one of my favorite places, year-round for the waterbirds and in the summer for the flower gardens. On this walk we were immediately greeted by a sweetly singing song sparrow, who flew from branch to branch, teasing me. But I did get a few pictures of him!

song sparrow singing his heart out ~ it’s spring!
song sparrow
wading herring gull
American Black Duck, #76
(thanks to Donna for the identification)

American Black Duck Anas rubripes: Common coastal migrant and wintering species. In summer, an uncommon breeding species in freshwater and brackish habitats, especially coastal marshes; inland nesting occurs in freshwater marshes, densely forested swamps, and beaver ponds, mainly in central and western Connecticut.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

The American Black Duck hides in plain sight in shallow wetlands of eastern North America. They often flock with the ubiquitous Mallard, where they look quite similar to female Mallards. But take a second look through a group of brown ducks to notice the dark chocolate-brown flanks, pale grayish face, and olive-yellow bill of an American Black Duck. Numbers of this shy but common duck declined sharply in the mid-twentieth century. Hunting restrictions have helped to stabilize their numbers, although habitat loss remains a problem.
~ All About Birds webpage

dabbling and dripping
mute swan
no mate in sight
out of the water
osprey, waiting for a mate to return?
I heard this Carolina wren singing very loudly,
but it took me a long time to locate it!
lovely snowdrops
Race Rock Lighthouse, 12 miles away on the horizon
Connecticut’s beautiful rocky coastline
very blue sky to the north
flock of brants swimming in the sound
brant
wrack line art
sand art

Today was a beautiful, calm, spring day. No wind! A woman was there trying to fly a kite, which is possible there more often than not, but she had to give up. The temperature was 52°F (11°C) so I had my first walk of the year with no thermal leggings, wearing my spring hoodie. 🙂 I am going to miss living by the sea very much.

spring is surely coming

“Springtime” by Claude Monet

Oh, spring is surely coming,
Her couriers fill the air;
Each morn are new arrivals,
Each night her ways prepare;
I scent her fragrant garments,
Her foot is on the stair.

~ John Burroughs
(Bird & Bough)

~ spring equinox ~
(5:24 pm eastern time zone)