Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Happy Ending

This week, the bald eagle was taken off the endangered species list for the first time since 1963. This is a wonderful environmental success story. At one time, there were only 400 mating pairs compared with the over 10,000 in existence today.

This photograph was taken at the bald eagle habitat at Grandfather Mountain, NC in June of 2007. This rescued eagle is no longer able to fly due to a gunshot wound and will live out his remaining days in this habitat. Even with his injury, he is a very regal bird.

Did you know?

The bald eagle is not really bald; it actually has white feathers on its head, neck, and tail. Bald is a derivation of balde, an Old English word meaning white. The eagle was named for its white feathers instead for a lack of feathers.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Glen Burney Trail in Blowing Rock, NC

In October of '06 and June of '07 we visited Blowing Rock, NC for a few days. We made the town our base camp and struck out each day from there in search of adventure or at least diversion. Call us gluttons for punishment but on both visits to Blowing Rock, we hiked the Glen Burney trail.

The trail starts out in the Glen Burney Park lower parking lot and meanders down through a gorge past 3 water falls on the New Year Creek. It is 1.6 miles from the trail head to the last water fall and an elevation change of 600 feet. This might not sound like much on the way down, but it is on the return trip! Actually having done this twice now, I would have to say that the going down is slower than the going up if you are in decent shape.

Once you start out on the trail at the parking lot near the current sewage lift station/pump house, you encounter a gravel service road that narrows to more of a trail. Along this road there is a wooden fence that tries to obscure the view of or hide the hikers from an incredible house or lodge that is being built off of Globe Rd. which roughly follows the trail albeit at a much different elevation.

At 0.4 miles you come across the "ruins" of a sewer plant that served the town back in 1929. The Glen Burney area dates back to 1892. The gorge and park area was donated to the town of Blowing Rock in 1906 by Emily Pridden who founded a school and owned land in the area.

At 0.8 miles you can hear and see the Cascades "falls". At 1.2 miles you encounter the Glen Burney falls and at 1.6 miles you reach the Glen Marie falls. The trail is covered in Rhododendron. It is dark and quiet along the trail with only birds and the occasional car passing way up on Globe Rd. to disturb you. But, that is only if you are away from the falls or creek itself which are quite noisy in a pleasant way. The sound of rushing or falling water is one of nature's great tranquillizers.

When we were there last October, you could continue along the trail to reach Globe Rd. and walk back up that path. Now there are "no trespassing" signs and other signs requesting you to turn around. This is the end of the trail and the start of the moderate to strenuous walk back up the trail.

We, and the parks and rec folks, recommend hiking boots, water, a snack and a camera. We have met folks on the trail in street shoes, Crocs, flip flops and running shoes. There are lots of rocks and roots to traverse. Our June hike was just after an overnight rain and all surfaces including the dirt trail floor were slippery so the total time round trip was almost 3 hours.

This is a great little "off the beaten path" hike in the middle of a "tourist" mountain town, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC. Few people know about this trail and most of the ones who do, have not hiked it. There are lots of less worn paths taking off from the main trail but you are advised to stay on the main one. There are wooden stakes indicating the mile marks every so often now. Hopefully, folks will leave them where they are. The trail could uses some blazes as there are none at all and some junctions or forks in the road get a little confusing.

If you make it down and back up and are so inclined, stop in the Six Pence Pub on Main St. for a pint. The Glen Burney trail and park is just off Laurel Lane which is just of Main St. in Blowing Rock. We highly recommend both.

For more information about Blowing Rock, NC, please visit

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Chimney Rock Park, North Carolina

Recently, we traveled to Chimney Rock Park located 25 miles southeast of Asheville, NC, Chimney Rock Park is a "fee to enter" non-state park like Grandfather Mountain. This is a beautiful park and offers trails for the novice to the expert.

Privately owned, the state of NC has purchased Chimney Rock park and it is slated to close fall of 2007 for renovations and reopen in 2008 as an official North Carolina State Park.

Chimney Rock Park has one prominent feature and that is the "Chimney" rock formation. It is accessible via a trail or elevator and stairs. We drove up to the elevator access which is through a tunnel cut through solid rock, rode the elevator up to the gift shop and snack bar, walked out on the deck and over to the stairs up to the rock.

The views are spectacular of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure.

From here you can start hiking down the trail to the parking lots and hit all of the other points of interest along the way. Most of these points are rock formations and along the way is Hickory Nut Falls. The "falls" is a little stream of water shooting out and down about 400 feet. There are about 3.5 miles of trail up and down the mountain. Some of the stairs and other parts of the "trail" are a little dangerous and no doubt will be changed or closed when the state takes over the park.

The trail map provided at the park is cartoonish and we found it hard to follow.

It costs $14 per adult to enter the park. For the views and hiking, you can't beat the Blue Parkway which is close by and free. If you haven't been to Chimney Rock yet, we recommend you wait until it reopens as a state park.

How to get there from Asheville: Take Interstate 26 East toward Hendersonville. Get off at Exit #49A (Old Exit #18A - Bat Cave and Highway 64 East). Stay on 64 East for 15 miles and the Park entrance will be on the right.

For more info on Chimney Park, please visit

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Where the Wild Things Are

Do you see the amphibian in this poison ivy patch?

Do you think frogs are allergic to poison ivy? Probably not, I don't think I have ever seen one wearing calamine lotion...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Where's Waldo?

Find the wild animal in this picture:

Can't find it? Look a little closer:

This shy creature is a North Carolina fox squirrel,the largest and most colorful tree squirrel in the state. We came across this little guy quite by accident as we were driving from Southport, NC, to catch the ferry to Fort Fisher. It was a treat to watch him.

A few facts about Fox Squirrels:

1) They are twice the size of the more common gray squirrels,
2) They are diurnal - meaning they are only active in the day,
3) They are solitary, asocial creatures except during mating season, &
4) They have a life expectancy of six-seven years.

The next time you are in the coastal plains of North Carolina, slow down and take a closer look at those pine-oak forests, you might get lucky and see one!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Lord of the Flies

Hello, I am this week's guest editor. I am a Petite Basset Griffon Vandeen or "PBGV." My name is Petey, but I also go by Petey No!, or Petey I Said No!

I have a good life with my human family, they take me for walks and give me treats. I live in a nice house that is beautifully appointed with many things for me to explore. All in all, I have it pretty good.

My only complaint is about the flies. Yes, I said flies. Somehow, my human family's home is infested with flies. The funny thing is the flies only appear when I am completing my household chores. Do you know about household chores? I have 2 main chores: emptying the clothes dryer and turning over waste baskets.

I am an expert at emptying the dryer: I like to stick my head in the dryer, grab the laundry in my mouth, and run through the house. Sometimes, my human family runs along side of me, yelling my name "Petey No!," while we complete the transfer of clothes from dog to human. And then the flies appear, I know this because usually the older human family member grabs a fly swatter and shakes it at me! The humanity!

Haven't these people ever heard of bug spray? But like I said, it is a good life. I try my best to keep up with my chores regardless of those pesky flies.

This brings me to my next observation: bath time, a weekly ritual at our house. It is the most cruel of all human rituals - soak, lather, repeat. I try to be a good dog during bath time, assuming that the point of it is to remove the flies that my human family hates so much.

As soon as the bath is over, I escape to run through the house stopping only to wiggle my backside on the carpet. Ahh, the smell of wet carpet and dog ... smells like ... victory. My human family really likes this part of the process and they usually run with me through the house carrying a towel and yelling my name, "Petey I Said No!"

I love my human family and I will keep up with my household chores remembering that after all, they are human. Let's hope they can figure out how to get rid of the fly problem and then maybe, just maybe, we can cease with all this bath nonsense.