Sunday, August 25, 2013

August 24 & 25 - Canoeing Grundy Lake and Badger, Badger, Badger, Badger, MUSHROOM, MUSHROOM

Some of us got up (EARLY. SO SORE.) for a canoe paddle around Grundy Lake with Park. Halfway through the circle around the water we combined our powers and formed CAPTAIN PLANET... Or maybe just three canoes held together with our hands. If you squint just right, it looks like Voltron, I swear.

Everybody took me over to where a couple of days before the kids had been let loose with implements of destruction to clear a trail. WOW. It was like a swarm of bramble-eating locust had been fired from a shotgun. The trail was wide and luxurious. I was truly impressed with the work the kids had done and the hours that they put into it. We found a plant that Park couldn't identify and that resulted in a "phone-a-friend" moment with fellow Ranger Katie Gray and the name of the moss.

Turkey foot moss

Dragonfly on the trail

After the canoeing and the short hike we said goodbye to the other three families that left for one reason or another. The five of us returned to Foster Falls, swam and explored the creek a little.

The next day we met up with Park one last time to go mushroom hunting at the trail right next to the visitor center. What follows are pictures of mushrooms and plants that I cannot identify. 

If these aren't poisonous, they should be

There are a few more pictures from both days RIGHT HERE and also OVER HERE.

Friday, August 23, 2013

August 23 - Rock Climbing at South Cumberland State Park, Foster Falls

I spent the whole week a bachelor. Poor me. 

On Thursday night two other dads and I met up and drove up the farmhouse (the "barnhouse" as I'm told it's been named) that we were at two weeks ago to reunite with our women-folk and tricycle motors. They had been having All the Fun with Ranger Park Greer at South Cumberland State Park taking hikes, canoeing, clearing trails and cuddling snakes the whole week. We, the trio of men, joined them all around the fire at the Indian Rock Campground just in time for ghost stories (real and fictional).

Stuff happened.

Somebody squealed like a girl and jumped into their wife's arms. I'll not say who out of respect for certain person's dignity. 

The next day we all headed over to Foster Falls for rock climbing with Park!

Most of our group of twenty dared the rock face, but only three monkeys made it to the top- one of which our Benny. Getting to the ledge was hard (for people that don't rock climb as a matter of course) but getting past the jut of rock above the ledge and to the top of the face was more than I could handle, but I was in good company. Park was on belay for about four hours, keeping us from splatting to the ground.

Ben at the start of his assent

Kurt negotiating the outcropping

Jake at the ledge

Brit swinging out from one side to the other

Alex, and yes, that is a cast on his left arm

Chan making it look easy

Dakota navigating the crack

KT trying to find the secret of the outcropping

Bobby, also tackling the outcropping

Gina: not a fan of heights. Climbing anyway.

Me vs outcropping

So about this "outcropping". It looks really easy from the ground. Just reach above it and pull yourself up. The handhold is huge and it's right above your head... and the point of it leans out away from the face of the cliff and there's not a super good spot to plant your feet and the handholds under it are slim and shallow. Of the three manly men, we all fell off (and lifted Park off the ground) at least once.

Yeah, so here is Park making short work of that problem spot:

That foothold to the left? Where did that come from?

And then he's up and over.

As if that wasn't cool enough.
After a quick bite and some cleaning up some of us headed out to Raven Point to watch the sun go down and fog creep through the valley. Mushrooms were crazy along the trail.

This is a Milky Indigo - edible

Milky Indigo prior to being fried up and eaten

The one mushroom that we brought back to sample was apparently at less-than-perfect ripeness and didn't lend itself to being eaten raw so KT chopped it up and put that sucker in a frying pan with some garlic and butter- with much improvement.

There are plenty more pictures of the climbing and few of random flowers and other mushrooms if you CLICK THIS THING HERE.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

August 11, Chattanooga Zoo

First, before I begin, let me show you this:

That's my girl
With that out of the way...

On our return home from "scouting trip" we stopped at the Chattanooga Zoo. Thanks to our membership at the North Carolina Aquarium that bought last October, it was a totally free visit! 

(I'm not going to lie, this is mostly going to be captions and links. Going to the zoo is much like... going to the zoo nearly every single time. Not that I don't enjoy the zoo, but honestly there are few surprises.) 

One of several bronze statues of chimpanzee

Actual, non-bronze, chimpanzee

Fennec fox

Watchful meerkat is watchful
Okay, on this reptile I failed at the "take a picture of the name plaque" trick I usually use to remember what the animals are at the zoo or the aquarium. He looks like an iguana, lives in the desert, and often comes up from the depths, 30 stories high, breathing fire, his head in the sky.*

Godzilla? Looks like an iguana, but lives in the desert; not a desert iguana.

Our orthodontist's dream
As I'm taking this picture my "auto zoom assist light" comes on and shines into the eyes of this Gaboon viper. None of the other snakes seemed to notice or be bothered by my camera, but this one guy tensed and then immediately relaxed every muscle along its coiled-up length. My brain monkey shrieked, then passed out and fell off the tree. 

"Pet me, I'm snuggly"

Two-toed sloth. Has three toes on feet. Mind blown.

Red panda endorses Chrome, contrary to popular belief

Esther tried to steal this pony

Just like that scene in "Hannibal"

Coyote. Never has one animal caused so many conflicting emotions.

Hissing cockroaches

Last, but not least, the noble Capybara, Lord of the rodents. When our big dogs have gone on the clearing at the end of the path, we will fill the back pasture with goats and capybara. This is the animal at the top of my bucket list of "Creatures I'd Like to Pet".**

We wrapped up the trip with a spin around the Merry-Go-Round. Minor point I'd like to make with the Chattanooga Zoo: without the looped circus calyope it's just sitting on a fiberglass horse going in circles. But hey, the kids were having fun with it.

All the other pictures are here.

*Godzooky? Are you kidding me? That theme song is alike all RAWWWRRR! and fist-pumping and chest slamming and then... what the frack? Godilla Jr. was more plausible and entertaining than Godzooky. GET OFF MAH CHILDHOOD, GODZOOKY. Godzooky was the 30 minutes of Smurfs that sat between The Super Friends and Thundar the Barbarian. Godzooky was the freaking Snorks

**#2 is Kat Dennings.