Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Today's Photo - Just an Ant!

Not sure if I will have time later to post a photo for today,
so I took this Macro Shot of an Ant during my lunch hour.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I have to say, our lawn is looking pretty good this year!

However, like any lawn we have weeds!  For today's photos I went for a closer inspection of some of the weeds we have growing in our grass!

One of the most common and dreaded lawn weeds

One of my favorite flowers,
but when they choose my lawn as a place to grow,they become weeds!

Mystery Weed
Not sure what this is, but you really have to look close to see the little flowers
which are only about 1/8" wide

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Tulips are starting to bloom!

One suggestion I have read for improving your photo skills is to use your camera every day.  I decided to try that out for a while.  I figure this is the time of year to start something like this.

Today's Photo is the first Tulip Blooming in our yard.  Not quite opened up yet, but in a couple of days it should be in full bloom followed by many others! 

Macro Mania - Part II

Macro Mania - Part II

It rained most of the day yesterday, so I didn't get to do any of the yardwork that I had planned.  However, the rain did slow down enough at times to go outside and play with my new Macro Lens around the yard.

This will be a beautiful bloom in a few days

Ant on a Forsythia Bloom

Even a Dadelion can be beautiful.
Time to find some "Round-Up"

This guy was buzzing around the Periwinkle. 

Not sure what kind of flower this is.  Anyone know?

Same flower - Different Angle   Do you see the Spider?

The rain stated picking up and the sounds of thunder made me head inside.  We had one heck of a storm come through.  There were reports of baseball sized hail stones.  The biggest ones we saw were about the size of a large marble, about the diameter of a nickle. 

Hail Stone

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Playing with Macro

March 28th, 2010
Playing with Macro

My 40th birthday is coming up, and I decided to buy myself a new lens.  So I ordered a Sigma 50mm F/2.8 DG Macro Lens.  Basically, a Macro Lens gives you the ability to do extreme close-up photography.

My lens arrived yesterday while I was out hiking, so today I started playing around with it.

This first photo was taken with a F/2.8 aperture setting.  You can see how narrow the depth of field (ie range of focus) is.

For this next one, I minimized the aperture (high F/#) to F/36, which gives a much wider depth of field.  Yes, this calculator has been setting around gathering dust, but I didn't realize how dusty it was until I viewed it through a Macro Lens.  Its kind of discusting!

Just to give an idea of size, this is a small pocket calculator.  The buttons are about 1/4" wide.

This next shot is another example of a wide open aperture (low F/#) of 2.8 which again gives a very narrow depth of field.  I was focusing on the eyes and you can see the range of focus is only a few milimemetes. 

One of the Yahoo Photo groups I belong to has a monthy photo contest.  One of the themes this month is "Words of Wisdom".  So for this final shot, I was created my entry over Chinese Food Lunch.  This photo is dedicated to my wife Amy who I wouldn't let eat any of the fortune cookies until after I got the shot I wanted!

"Words of Wisdom"
ISO 100,  F/5.6,  1/8 second exposure

Daffodil Flats!

Linville Gorge Wilderness

Burke County, NC
Saturday March 27th, 2010

Daffodil Flats

Photos are posted here:

For today's adventure, Andy and I decided to check out the Daffodils at Daffodil Flats. I first visited this very unique sight a year ago with Andy, but Spring came early last year and the Daffodils were a bit past peak. Hopefully our timing would be better this year!

We set up a short shuttle by parking my truck at the Pinch-in Trailhead and taking Andy's vehicle back to our starting point at the Mountains-to-Sea Trailhead.

We started out hiking to the Pinnacle, and impressive rock tower offering up some awesome views of the Southern end of Linville Gorge. From here you can see the Linville River exiting the gorge and entering into Lake James.

View from "The Pinnacle"

The hike to "The Pinnacle" would actually be considered "Amy approved", in reference to my wife Amy who just doesn't appreciate the steepness and ruggedness of most of the Linville Gorge Trails. However, this is as far as I would take her as things get much tougher as the trail descends steeply below the Pinnacle.

We reached the junction where the MTS trail heads South and the Leadmine Trail heads North into the Linville Gorge Wilderness. For today's hike, we would take the Leadmine Trail, a first for both of us.

The Leadmine trail is one of many unofficial trails in the Linville Gorge Wilderness. You will not find it on any official Forest Service Maps, but surprisingly it seemed very well established and easy to follow. Even more surprising were several trail signs posted along the way.

Sign at the start of the Leadmine Trail

On the topo maps, the Leadmine route appears to maintain fairly consistent elevation, but this is very deceiving. The trail is constantly going very steeply up and down across a series of 4 or 5 very steep gullies.

We reached a spot where a small sign pointed down stating "Short Cut" to the river, but we wanted to take the longer, less erosive route. Unfortunately this upper route is not clearly definite and after a harsh winter any trace of this path seemed lost to all the deadfall. So we backtracked and took to the "Short Cut" down to the River.

Short Cut Trail

While very steep, it didn't seem nearly as bad as the description we had in our directions. It meets up with the LGT (Linville Gorge Trail) a short distance north of where the LGT fords the river.

The Linville River

We took a short break to explore some of the river before heading north on the LGT trail towards Daffodil Flats. We arrived at Daffodil Flats just in time to take a nice long lunch break.

Many years ago, before the establishment of the Linville Gorge Wilderness, the Daffodil Flats area was someone's home. There is no longer any evidence of a home site, but the garden of Daffodils that surrounded the home has multiplied over the years creating the spectacular site know as Daffodil Flats.

Me at Daffodil Flats

Our timing was much better this year as the Daffodil display was much more impressive than during our visit last year. However I still think we were a couple of days past peak as many of the blooms had started to fade and wilt. It was still a spectacular site and we spent a good hour enjoying lunch and photographing the amazing display of blooms.

Daffodil Flats

One of this things that makes this spot so special is that there is no easy way to get there and therefore not many people do. We had it to ourselves the entire time. But because of this, we still had one hell of a hike ahead of us!

While this section of LGT trail is relatively flat, it is a hard and long way away from any access points, making trail maintenance very difficult. As a result there was loads of deadfall to navigate through and around. The day had warmed up to the point that we unzipped our pant legs and the bloodshed began as a downed tree attacked my shin! I don't think I have ever had a hike in the Linville Gorge Wilderness that didn't involve a little bit of bleeding!

But the worst part was still ahead; the dreaded Pinch-in Trail. Actually, I was looking forward to a good workout and there is no better place for a workout than the Pinch-in Trail!

Boone on the Pinch-in Trail

Gaining 1700-feet of elevation in a little over a mile makes the Pinch-in one of the steepest trails anywhere. This trail is exactly the opposite of "Amy Approved", and despite how much Amy would enjoy Daffodil Flats, there is no way hell I would consider taking her up the Pinch-in Trail.

This area of the gorge was devastated by forest fires several years ago giving the area a very unique and eerie feel! The fires also significantly opened things up leaving spectacular views in all directions giving us plenty of excuses to stop and take photos along the way.

Andy on the Pinch-in Trail

Towards the end of the climb we ran into only the second group of hikers we would see on the day, giving us another excuse to stop and chat for a little while. They were some of the members of the Linville Gorge Yahoo hiking group that both Andy and I belong to.

Other than the awesome display of Daffodils, we didn't see much in the way of wildflowers. Just a couple of violets and one lone Bloodroot. It was a great day and perfect weather for a hike!

Photos from our adventure are posted here:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve

Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve
Greenville County, SC
Saturday March 20th, 2010

Spring is Here!

Photos are posted here:

Johnny, Waterfall Rich, and I decided to explore the Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve in hopes of finding some early season wildflowers and some new waterfalls. Here are a couple of links about the Preserve:

For the first official day of Spring we were treated to the warmest temperatures of the year so far. However, we knew the bright sunshine would not make it a good day for photography. That didn't matter, because I really just wanted to be outside to enjoy this beautiful weather. I wasn't planning on taking a whole lot of photos.

The Chestnut Ridge Trail is 2.75 miles one way to where it ends at the South Pacolet River. The first part of the trail was not very interesting but eventually we saw a few Toadshade Trillium and Bloodroot, so we stopped to take a few photos.
Toadshade Trillium

As we continued on, we saw more and more of these early spring wildflowers. In fact, I can honestly say I have never seen so many Bloodroot or Toadshade Trillium in one place! We ran into a couple of other groups of hikers and they were equally impressed with the wildflower display.


We also saw some Spring Beauties, Phlox, Violets, Chickweed, and several other varieties of wildflowers.

While the trail officially ends at the river after the 2.75 miles, there is a lot more to this 1,900 acre preserve. There is also a network of Forest Service Roads and old logging roads. Across the river, several streams cascade down Chestnut Ridge on Hogback Mountain.

Rich crossing the South Pacolet River

So we shed our shoes and crossed the South Pacolet River. A wide-track forest service road is on the other side which we took towards the west. Less than a quarter mile, it crosses a stream and we could see the first waterfall through the trees. This one was pretty easy to get to. I don't know if it has an official name, so for now I'll just call it Hogback Mountain Falls.

Hogback Mountain Falls

After a nice break photographing the falls and wildflowers we continued on down the road. About a half mile later, it crosses another stream, so we headed off trail bushwhacking up the stream to find another waterfall, with several impressive drops.

Rich going through the Cave to "Cave Falls"

To get to the main drop, we had to crawl through a cave, so we decided to call this one Cave Falls.

Cave Falls

We continued on very steeply uphill through the forest and eventually made our way back to the stream above the main waterfall. There is another small cascade up here, but it really is not worth the effort. Since the stream levels out we didn't think there would be any other significant drops upstream, so we headed back down the ridge.

We continued on the old logging road a short ways and thought about trying to make some sort of loop hike, but since we weren't sure exactly where the roads went and how they all connected, we ultimately decided to return the same way we came.

This is definitely a great wildflower hike and the new waterfalls were an added bonus. As expected, the bright sunshine did not make for a great day of photography, but it sure made for a great day for hiking!

Additional photos from our adventure are posted here:

Monday, March 15, 2010

DuPont State Forest Hike - Sunday, March 14th, 2010

DuPont State Forest
Transylvania County, NC
Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Trespassers Will Be Violated

Photos are posted here:

This Sunday I joined Andy, Christy, Dave, two visitors from Denmark, and two Dogs on a hike through DuPont State Forest.

Andy and I had done almost the exact same hike a few years ago, but we decided to do it again since it is a great hike which covers many of the DuPont State Forest highlights. However, we did have the misfortune of learning that the route is not 100% legal!

As usual, I was ahead of schedule, so I made a stop at Caesars Head to snap a few photos. A beautiful morning, but nothing that made these photos any more spectacular than any previous ones I have taken from the same area.

The Caesars Head Overlook

I met the group at the Corn Mills Shoals parking area at 10:30am. We left my truck there and all piled into one car for the short shuttle drive to the Hooker Falls parking area. We started our hike with the short warm-up to Hooker Falls.
Hooker Falls

Next up was Triple Falls. We hit the base, then headed to the main overlook area, and then took the newly constructed stairs to the area between the Middle and Lower drops.

Triple  Falls

After fully exploring Triple Falls it was on to High Falls. The water levels were up and the spray from this spectacular waterfall was more intense than I have ever seen it. I had a difficult time keeping the water droplets off my lens.

High Falls

We decided it was time for lunch and stopped for a nice break at the Covered Bridge.

The DuPont Covered Bridge

After lunch we took a little side trip to Lake Julia, where Boone and Sasha took a little swim and played fetch the stick.
Boone Fetching a Stick in Lake Julia

We headed on past the barn and onward to Bridal Veil Falls. Our plan was to cross the river by going underneath Upper Bridal Veil Falls. The problem was that the river was up, making the climb up the side of Bridal Veil Falls rather slick! Fortunately we all made it to Upper Bridal Veil without any casualties.

Crossing the River under Upper Bridal Veil Falls

While normally you can stay completey dry by crossing underneath the Upper Falls, the water was up so much that we would all end up getting a little wet; some of us more than others. Andy took a little spill and broke his tri-pod in the process. Cristy slipped, fell into the creek, hit her head on the rocks, and almost slid down Bridal Veil Falls. She was wet and cold and not a very happy camper! Fortunately we only had a few more miles to go.

That is until we ran into the “Rent-a-Cop“ who informed us that we were tresspassing. Andy and I always thought that this route skirted just outside the private property, but the private security guy informed us otherwise and told us we would have to turn back.

Christy was almost in tears, and after some begging by Andy, he eventually decide to allow us through to connect to the Cedar Rock Trail.

While it was a very uncomfortable situation, things could have been a lot worse. I don’t want to think about how Christy would have reacted if we were forced to backtrack to the other side of the river and add several miles onto the hike.

The Cedar Rock Summit

Fortunately that didn’t happen and we were safely on the Cedar Rock trail when it started to rain. It never rained very hard, but it was enough to make us really pick up the pace for the last few miles of our hike!

Additional Photos from our adventure are posted here: