Ozone Falls


Looking at Ozone Falls I followed a single drop of water or rather set of suds as it fell. Looking at it that way you see the sheer scope of the fall and the resistance from the air slowing its fall.

Doing that messes with how your mind interprets what you’re seeing so when you look out at the rocks you see them moving upward even though the cliff is solid.

Of course, the ice comes crashing down now at this time of the year, with big icicles cracking loudly as they hit the ground. That’s what’s in motion. And so are we. The humans. Depending on which side of the falls I’m on, I see their tiny figures, couples, families at the top or walking the curvy ledge behind the falls. But the solid cliffs and rock overhangs are solid, for now anyway.

It’s got no gift shop and no restroom even, especially striking given that I’m not the only one who felt like he had to pee after looking at that falls for long enough.

The area’s main claim to fame? A 1994 film that most people have forgotten by now called Jungle Book, no, not the Disney film with the jazz music nor the other later remake. This was an earlier remake that used the spot to film a man getting kicked in the groin.

The route down to the falls’ base while very short involves scrambling over rocks and may not feel like it e

But it seems to draw in decent crowds on a Saturday. It’s not hard to see why.

Eastern bluebird


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Here in East Tennessee, winter means bluebirds (Sialia sialis). Just steps below Alex Haley’s statue at Morningside Park, I saw their bright blue feathers and orangish chests in the bare treetops.

Cornell Ornithology Lab reports they live in Tennessee all year round. But winter is when I usually see them.

Males attract their mates by choosing a hole often an old woodpecker hole, or, sometimes nowadays a bird box someone’s built. But then they show off by showing their mate all the nest materials.

According to Cornell, which remains my one-stop shop for bird trivia, the female birds do all the actual nest making though. Apparently the males’ contribution is just showing off what they can find to make the nest out of. And that “meet cute while holding grass and pine needles” is enough to keep a pair together for at least a few seasons.

 

 

 

 

Conopholis americana


Conopholis americana

Conopholis america is, a parasitic plant, used in herbal medicine for menstrual cramps and other issues. I am using the Latin name here because the most common name here in the South, (“squaw root”) is widely regarded as an offensive word in spite of debate about its origins).

The forest service has taken to calling it “cancer root” in spite of that name being just confusing, for reasons even they point out, due to it not curing cancer. You can read more about it at https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/.

I saw them frequently at Mount Pisgah Campground near the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, which is where I took this picture in June.

You can swim at Fort Dickerson Quarry!


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I remember back when the quarry was illegal for swimming. Nobody cared though. The area down below was full of college kids hanging out, dipping in the water and drinking beers and the cliffs drew in the odd cliff jumper ignoring every sign and grim reports of death from local media.

But now it’s different, kinda. I arrived at Fort Dickerson Park, famous for being the site of earthen Civil War earthworks. But the real attraction, beneath the shrubs that appeared golden in sunset light was the Augusta Quarry, known as Fort Dickerson Quarry by most people I know.

More and better established trails greet visitors to the park nowadays allowing visitors to climb down from this overlook to the pool itself. Fences with warning guard the cliffs from jumpers nowadays, but the deep quarry pool itself now has an official swimming area that visitors can enjoy, legally, though at their own risk. Before the city had discouraged swimming altogether. But now they’ve resigned to it being something people will do. And regardless, I will continue to do it.

I hope at some point to explore the other trails, but just wanted to let visitors know a bit more about all that’s happened at what they’re now calling Battlefield Loop.

Here are a few more related links:

A biological inventory of plants and animals.

The urban wilderness as a whole

The city’s official link.

Coverage by Knoxville Mercury

A runthrough of future plans

 

 

Looking down at Gatlinburg


The last detail, I wish to share of my Blue Ridge Parkway travels in early June (which I’ve told out of order and interrupted by other posts) didn’t take place on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It took place on the Gatlinburg bypass.

The Gatlinburg bypass is a way to avoid having to pass through Gatlinburg for people going through the Great Smoky Mountains. As such, it appeals to people who probably find all the candy stores, corn liquor and goofy Ripley’s attractions too commercialized.

But of course, you do wind up seeing Gatlinburg from above on it. And from above it looks quite different. The resorts, hardly the most eye catching part of town from the ground become what you spot first. And you really see how what from below is an oddly magical to people who know it collection of log cabin kitch, from above is far overshadowed by the folds of mountains that give it its reason for existing.

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Mount Pisgah Trail


It’s taken me a long time to post about Mount Pisgah Trail. Too long. So the explosions of azaleas, rhododendrons and mountain laurel I remember, along with all the other flowers we saw there and elsewhere will be long gone and you might even be seeing the leaves turning other colors by the time you read this.

I recommend this route. It’s a way to take a forested walk to the top of a mountain and view the surrounding hills, while still not walking for too long and leaving time for even more walks, Which is what I did, enjoying quality time with my Dad as we hiked on other surrounding trails along the area. Dad had many different plants to point out in all of the different habitats we passed, which ranged from lichen covered trees, to thick mountain laurel “hells” to roadside meadows. These images are just a sample. Go and experience it for yourself.

Blue Ridge Parkway, NC into TN


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In all my time in the woods with Dad, all my time on waterfalls, at mountaintops all the flowers examined and tiny details on leaves examined. All of it.

During all that time, I never realized the woods could be romantic, even a turn-on.

But that’s what it felt like in June on the Blue Ridge Parkway with my lover, driving past purple rhododendron flowers, white mountain laurels and various yellow blossoms too small to name from a car. That’s what if felt like going through so much grandeur of arching, pointing and curving blue ridge hills at so many overlooks. You just want to pull over and grab your lover and kiss. Some overlooks may be a bit crowded but not all.

Our route was not the whole parkway, but just a North Carolina section which we traveled before returning to our own Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains.

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The Blue Ridge Parkway is a road across the Blue Ridge Mountains, joined by many trails to its sides. The active may get a chance to get out and walk at places like The Fryingpan. The inactive can ride in the car and not leave, still seeing the beauty of the natural world.

From a display on one overlook, you can learn that much of the land below was at one time private land of George Vanderbilt who helped develop scientific forestry, but also about the Cherokee who once lived here.

The Blue Ridge Parkway can be a place to enjoy views, a place to enjoy time with a lover or a place to learn. Enjoy it as you wish.