Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31, 2014 - April Fool's Eve Emergency Camping Trip

I was able to weasel my way out of a day and a half of work this week to take off and join our and two other families for a night at Cane Creek Canyon; the place that started this blog that we've been to many times before. We've been trying to get more of our friends to join us in the canyon and this was by far the most successful effort in that regard. 

I cut my workday in half on Monday and drove back to the house to pick up Nia and pack my stuff. Little Bitches did really well on the trip considering the hour and a half non-stop nature and not having any idle hands onboard to pet her and hold her. She mostly kept herself entertained.

By the time I got there Esther and a company of kids were in the canyon already so I released the hound and joined three others in the party to find everybody and show them the canyon. The Spring flowers were really showing off. According to the landowner, they are about three full weeks behind normal bloom due to the cold weather we've had this year.



Trout Lilly

The older kids had set up a series of hammocks off to the side of the main camp of tents and picnic tables. The plan was for most of them to sleep in the trees but the chill of the night air brought a few of them to huddle in the tent.

Fire was made and marshmallows were sacrificed to the flames.

Many stringed instruments were brought for evening. I had planned to being my bongos or my djembe, but managed to forget them in my haste to pack.

The next morning I did first a quick jog on the trails with the two dogs that came along and then later a run with our team captain for the Panther Run coming up next month. I did better than I expected but I still have a ways to go before I'm ready to run what will amount to a 5K with obstacles.

After breakfast the whole group took a longer hike down to the spot that we camped at nearly four years ago (and nearly froze our butts off) to hang out in hammocks and have lunch. The kids stopped to swim at Blue Hole and all three dads (me included) jumped off a rock to cannonball into the water. 

Here are the pictures from the 31st and here are the two that I managed to take on the 1st.

No tracklogs this trip; I was busy enjoying being outside and hanging out with our friends.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

March 15, 2014 - Tom Bevill Trail, Guntersville

Today Esther and I finally got around to hiking the Tom Bevill Trail, in its entirety for the first time. We tacked on some "bonus" mileage by pure accident and I am not to blame at all. AT ALL.*

We encountered many small animals that attempted to steal my woman from me. The first of which was this Eastern Fence Lizard that puffed up its sexy blue throat bladder and did push-ups. All very impressive, Eastern Fence Lizard. Show off.

Here Esther takes a picture of one of the many hikers that passed away while hiking the trail. She made me take this picture. I'm just kidding of course, this is one of the many markers at the King's Chapel Cemetery. I've just learned that this cemetery has it's own Facebook page. Sure, of course it does. And they wonder why more young persons are leaving the Facebook... Nothing makes the young folk leave in droves like some pictures of (non-goth) headstones.

Run in fear and boredom, young peoples

The western part of the trail, the side that directly faces the lake, is still recovering from the tornadoes of April 2011. Thankfully the trail is now completely clear for hiking, but the views toward the lake are a reminder of the power and lasting effects of our Spring storms. 

While Esther flirted with an obviously married man** (he did not even have to do push-ups), she spotted an eagle! Sadly neither of us got our cameras up fast enough, but this much slower moving eagles nest was not so lucky.

We managed to find six geocaches along the trail, which might sound kind of impressive if I don't tell you that there are no less than thirty placed all along the trail from start to finish. Three of the six we found I wasn't even looking for. There's one in the picture below. Can you see it? Hint: it's green. Another hint: it's hidden. Still yet another hint: it's under a rock.

Pics from the day: here
Tracklog of the hike: here

*There is a slight chance that I am totally to blame.
**Of course she didn't.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

March 9, 2014 - Caspey Falls, Bankhead Forest

Almost four years ago Esther and I set out on our own to find a place that we had not seen before. There was a geocache that I had been eyeballing the description of near a waterfall that neither of us had heard of before. A waterfall in Bankhead unknown to Esther? Exactly. 

The pictures from that trek can be found right here, but you don't have to run off and look at them right now.

Today we revisited Caspey Creek and the falls with our younger two along for the hike. The trail starts as an old logging trail that really isn't much to look at, but it's easy to follow. 

The old logging road

Pennsylvania Sedge

The logging road quickly gave way to a bramble of blackberry stickers so we dropped off the hillside and headed directly for the creek below. Two smaller creeks merge at the upper falls into a large pool then continue on down towards first the lower falls then Caspey Creek itself.

East upper falls

Looking across the pool to the west upper falls

Lower falls from above

Us below the lower falls

This is Ben in Caspey Creek up to his ankles in the water. This is probably the last time he will ever do this in his life. Why? Keep reading...


Chan scanning the woods with a fairy stone
This is actually kind of a big deal, this next picture. Esther is not what most would call an expert log crosser. Would you call somebody that? Is that a thing? Anyway, she ain't it. This log, however is Esther Approved™.

Although we didn't see a plethora of wildlife, we did see plenty of tracks.


90% sure these are raccoon (or opossum)

Feral hog (YES, we have those!)

Spring flowers are starting to pop up here and there. Nowhere near peak viewing, but extremely encouraging.



Okay, now for the thing in the water. Esther was watching leeches swim around in the leafy-bottomed pools at the creek and Ben and I were looking at a crawdad when we spotted this thing in the water that we first thought was a pine needle caught in the current. But pine needles don't really move like that...
Still image does it no justice

It was about 15" long but no ticker than angel hair pasta (Esther is firmly against the use of wholesome pasta in the description of the beast. I was told to tell you that.) The preview image below gives you some idea as to how it moved, but click on the link for the video and watch it.

Click HERE for the full video (30 seconds)

Now, what was it? 

A few well-worded Google searches lead me to this site: the "Hairworm Biodiversity Survey" where I learned about nematomporhs and gordiids. They are basicly cricket parasites. I tried to submit my hairworm sighting but their form email service thingy looks to be broken. :(

They pose no harm to humans or pets, but watching this video may cause you severe psychological damage. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. Imagine if in the movie "Alien" the part of Kane had been played by a cricket. Sort of. *See bottom of page for a more in-depth (and graphic) description if you think that might be better than watching the actual video. 

Now, more pictures can be found here and the tracklog of our hike can be seen here.

*Except replace "chest" in "chest-burster" with "rectum" and multiply the creature count by about seven. Also, the hand that places the cricket in the jar? Yeah in this analogy that would be the android, Ash. The jar would be the sick bay. Think about it. Also, WORMS SHOOTING OUT OF CRICKET BUTT AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!