Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

During the first week of August I finally had a week off so I visited Lake Santeetlah near Robbinsville, NC with Jane and her family! Here are some of my favorite pictures from the vacation.

The Moon over Lake Santeetlah by you.

Moon setting over the lake

View from Santeetlah by you.

The view during the morning

Garic on the Board by you.

Garic tears up the water

Needing a Tow by you.

Jane rolled the jetski and broke it… so when Rick took it out to test it we had to tow him

Garic and Me on the Tube by you.

Me on the tube

Thumbs Up From Jane by you.

Jane says two thumbs up!
Sunset over the Lake by you.

Sunset over the lake
Jumping from the Rock by you.

Diving from the rock!

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After a trip back to my house in Charlotte to move all my stuff out of my summer residence at PARI, I headed to Kernersville to hitch a ride with Jane’s family out to Lake Santeetlah where I would spend the next week. Jane was still obligated to be at her summer camp (where she was a cook) for 3 more days so I set off on one of the most scenic and strenuous portions of the Appalachian Trail with Rick (Jane’s Dad) and uncle Rich.

We started at Wayah Bald and met some outstanding old WW2 veterans before we set off on the trail at a rate of about 3 miles per hour. We slowed down a little as we went but maintained a quick pace even as we climbed 1000 ft in a little over a mile.

Overlooking the Mountain Range by you.

At the top of the Wayah Bald tower before we set off

The Backpacking Team by you.
Setting off on the Appalachian Trail
Pee in the Woods by you.
Be sure to pee in the woods to help keep the toilets along the way clean!
A View of the Mountains by you.
The view from one of the overlooks
After passing Burningtown Gap and other landmarks on the trail map, we stopped at Cold Creek shelter where we waited for a while and contemplated our campsite for the evening. After hiking another mile or two (and Rick getting a nap in) we found a campsite at Rocky Bald… which was one of the best campsites I’ve ever seen. With amazing views at over 5000 ft, we could see the entire valley while also sleeping amongst a beautiful grove of trees.

Butterflies on Bee Balm by you.

Butterflies on the Bee Balm at the Cold Creek Shelter

What Would We Do Withour Ice for Our Bourbon? by you.

When the bourbon was brought out we said, “if only we had ice…” and the Rick said, “I brought ice!”

Racoon Proof Gear by you.

We protected our gear from raccoons by hanging it in the trees

Rick's Tent by you.

We slept in hammocks and tents (I slept in a hammock)

Sunrise at Rocky Bald by you.

The sunrise from our campsite

Smoky Mountain Sunrise by you.

Just before the sunrise at our campsite

Hanging Moss in NC? by you.

I didn’t think there was hanging moss in NC, but apparently it exists at high elevations

Plants Growing out of the Rocks by you.

These cool looking plants grew on the rocks

Pumping that Clean Water by you.

Rich filtering water for us to drink

Rick's Pack Blessed by the Gods by you.

Rick’s pack was blessed by the gods… thats how we knew we’d survive

On our second day of the journey, we descended 1000 ft… climbed 1000 ft and then took a break for lunch on the top of Wesser Bald, a huge tower with a gorgeous 360 view above the treeline.

Rich on Wesser Bald by you.

Rich on the top of Wesser Bald Tower

Stopping at our final opportunity for water before we reached our destination 6 miles away, we pushed through the terrain. Finally after reaching the peak of the trail at Jumpup Point. We descended 3000 ft over the next 4 miles!

Along the way we met a guy that had zero equipment, claimed to be blind while also spotting a vulture circling over us, and camped in the middle of the trail. He said the vulture was coming to get his cousin as he stroked a feather on his staff. As we walked down the trail a ways further, we found a decapitated woodpecker with the exact same feathers strewn about the path! This guy had eaten a woodpecker!!!!

We saw few others during the hike as we reached our destination at the Nantahala Outoors Center and emerged back into civilization triumphant! A total of 17.8 miles and a fun time had by all.

Dead Woodpecker by you.

The remains of the crazy man’s dinner

Lizard Log by you.

This rock looks exactly like a lizard

Emergining Into Civilization by you.

We emerged into civilization

After the Hike by you.

After the hike…

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As I finished out my 2 summer term at PARI, I had to test the HDR techniques I had refined during my time there. Here are the results,

Radio Telescope from the Side by you.

The Smiley radio telescope from the side

PARI's Tunnel by you.

The 1000 Ft. Tunnel

Clouds at Sunrise by you.

Clouds at Sunrise

Mountains in the Morning by you.

Mountains in the Morning

Sunrise over PARI by you.


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Andy, Nathan, Rachel and I never get a chance to hang out since we were distributed throughout the state to attend out various institutions of higher education after high school. Fortunately we have able to plan occasional trips throughout the great state of NC over the last four years and hopefully we’ll be planning many more trips to come.

A few weekends ago, we planned one of those aforementioned trips on the New River (just south of Virginia) between Jefferson, NC and the Virginia border. We gave this exact route a shot a few years ago but we wanted to go at it again because it was so much fun. To furnish us with canoes and to pick us up once we reached our destination, we chose Zaloo’s Canoe’s which is the best in the region… even though sparse on directions. They didn’t even give us a map when we left… however it was alright because it is a river and there is only one route. If we had not been on that route before though, we would have been lost.

As we hit the river for the first sixteen miles of the journey a little before lunch, we immediately began to enjoy the scenery and the animals,

Andy and Rachel Row on the River

Andy and Rachel Row on the River

Matey Bonesy

Nathan was soon dubbed the pirate name: Matey Bonesy

Geese on the river

Geese on the river

Soon to be my facebook photo... or so Marcus says it should be

Soon to be my facebook photo... or so Marcus says it should be

Geese and their scenery together

Geese and their scenery together

After 16 miles of rowing, it was about 7:30pm when we reached the New River State Park HWY 221 Access Campground… less than 2 hours until the total darkness of night set in. We hoped to procure a site because when Andy had followed this exact route in the past he never needed to make reservations. Nathan and I guarded our canoes while Andy and Rachel searched the campground for an empty site. At this point Nathan simply looked down and saw a four leaf clover. Clearly an omen that a campsite would be open. Or at least an omen that would taunt us.

Andy and Rachel returned explaining that all the campsites were full. And at this point it was 7:45pm. We made the decision, the only decision we could make, to set out on the river to find whatever we could find as a location to sleep.

At about 8:15 it was really getting dark and we were starting to panic a little. I started thinking about how difficult it would be to simply cover ourselves in tarps and sleep in the canoes… or maybe we could sleep under the HWY 221 bridge? Like trolls?

Fortunately, Nathan and I spotted this from the river,

What our campsite looked from the river... the next morning

What our campsite looked from the river... the next morning

I was glad that I got my mom and dad’s hatchet and tarp because they allowed us to clear out a space just as the sun was going down. We cooked our beer soaked brats and hamburgers on my parents camp stove (once again thanks to them for the equipment) and our soaked firewood that came with us on the canoes was lit in blazing glory thanks to the Fire Paste (modified commercial grade napalm) I purchased, thanks to Jane’s recommendation.

The campfire protected us from animals, or so we thought it might

The campfire protected us from animals, or so we thought it might

As soon as we started cooking our food we heard a high pitched cry which we all agreed was a bobcat. Yikes! This was the true wilderness! Untapped nature, perhaps human feet had never set foot on this land. (Probably due to environmental degradation protection laws which likely threatened stiff fines to anyone that damaged the state property… oops)

After admiring the beauty of the moon over the river we turned into our tents once we moved all out meat scraps to a plastic bag we hung away from the site and talked about the possibility of creatures. I said, “I think we’ll probably hear a few creatures tonight and if we do, lets stay completely still. I’m placing this hatchet in-between our tents and we’ll only use it if we are attacked.” I didn’t know that we would hear creatures the entire night!

The moon over the new river

The moon over the new river

That night I hardly slept. I heard animals the entire evening. Something walked next to my head. I heard grunting that sounded like a bear. Racoons fought, bobcats growled, creatures moved and sleep finally set in due to exhaustion. The noises blended with my dreams to produce truly horrifying possibility. One set of footsteps led to a dream about a ranger with a shotgun telling us to get off state property. Other dreams included walking and burrowing rattlesnakes. Finally I awoke due to my phone’s alarm. Andy said he heard animals the whole night too… so it wasn’t just me going crazy. Nathan revealed the next morning that he saw a bear print when we were setting up but didn’t say anything. (Fortunately he chose to do this because we might have panicked)

We set off to cook our bacon and were attacked by one of the largest spiders I’ve ever seen. It was in our food bag,

Big Spider!

Big Spider!

The spider was quickly smeared with napalm and exploded due to the fire’s heat causing its fluid to expand was encouraged to leave us alone as we relocated it.

Yum, camp bacon

Yum, camp bacon

Our beautiful campsite the next morning

Our beautiful campsite the next morning

After we ate, we packed and filmed a retrospective look at our campsite. I also posted this video seperately yesterday.

Setting off after our creature filled night

Setting off after our creature filled night

Then we set off on the river for another 8-10 miles to arrive at the pickup point exactly as our taxi van arrived to load our canoes on for the drive back to the Zaloo’s Canoe’s parking. Once we arrived at the parking a downpour of rain began… thusly soaking all our equipment and ourselves. We franticly removed our packs and gear from the canoes, loaded them into the car and set off dripping wet. I immedately passed out from exhaustion and awoke about an hour later. I’m not sure how Andy was able to stay awake at the wheel but he surely did 🙂

I’m excited about a river trip next year… maybe the Nantahala river in Western NC?

Thanks to Sean McGinnis for the image

Thanks to Sean McGinnis for the image

All these pictures and more can be found in my Flickr photoset of the trip.

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Updated my banner from the picture taken by Gill and Tim of me conquering King’s Pinnacle in Charlotte to an more retrospective shot taken by my gorillapod in HDR and compiled in Photomatix Pro of me looking over North Harper Creek near the Kawana Community in the backwoods of the Grandfather Mountain District of Pisgah National Forest. I took this photo during the backpacking trip to the Bard Falls area last weekend.

My New Blog Banner

My New Blog Banner

Based on the original,

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In probably my last trip to the Brevard region’s waterfalls this summer, I found a few good ones. I’ll be posting these with directions on http://jritchphotography.wordpress.com after I return from my backpacking trip to Bard Falls on Monday.

Bird Rock Falls from the side of the big rock

Bird Rock Falls from the side of the big rock

Another view of Bird Rock Falls, but from head on

Another view of Bird Rock Falls, but from head on

Whitewater Falls

Whitewater Falls

White Owl Falls

White Owl Falls

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One of last summers biggest surprises was discovering the amazing backpacking areas near Mortimer, NC past the Wilson’s Creek Recreation Area.

When Seth, Emily, Marcus, Erby and I headed out on a random search for a camping spot and a random hike the next day, we were all surprised at the beauty and accessibility of the sites. However, the best site in the whole area was located on the rocks near Bard Falls.

Supposedly the falls are named after a medieval Bard because the way the water flows looks as if it is spewing out of a mouth, much like how a story would flow out of a bard’s mouth. There are many beautiful falls in NC and many that are more beautiful than Bard Falls but this is the best waterfall for camping!

Now we are planning an expedition to the site this weekend and so I thought that this post could provide a central location for directions, now and in the future should I wish to return.

Coming from Charlotte, NC:

Start by following the directions to Mortimer, NC through the Wilson’s Creek recreation area via Google maps.

It won’t hurt to stop in at Mortimer to pick up a map of the area.

Follow the gravel road through Mortimer until it dead ends into NC-90, take a left and about a mile up you’ll see FR464, turn left on it. Drive a little over 3 miles on FR464 and the parking for the Bard Falls trailhead is on the left. Look for the Hunt Fish Falls parking area because the Bard Falls parking is about a ½ mile past that.

The trailhead starts on the right side of the parking area downhill and goes for about a mile before you’ll need to turn left. At just over 1/4 mile from this turn, the trail crosses the creek. From here, it’s less than 1/2 a mile to the campsite! The total hike from the parking area is just under 2 miles.

Erby looks onto Bard Falls from the side of the awesome rock

Erby looks onto Bard Falls from the side of the awesome rock during our trip last year

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