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.

Fryingpan Trail, NC


Who am I, some kind of wimp? I have scaled other mountains, scrambled up other rocks, even climbed other metal towers. But this? Rickety-seeming, a little rusty a narrow path that any child crossing by causes a panicky heart attack from me. I’m terrified. Terrified of the view below me. Terrified of losing myself or worse, my phone, if I dare to take a photo.

The Fryingpan Trail's tower

I move slowly, letting others squeeze past me, feeling the breeze and what I perceive as the metal stairs giving a little bit with my steps. I’ve stood on mountain crags before and never felt like this. In fact, I laughed at my Dad for feeling this way. But somehow this old tower is different.

Who am I kidding? I sound like a wuss. And yet that’s just it. The fear keeps me in the moment. And when I quite being scared when the clouds of fear clear, when I’m standing out at the top, just below the structure of the fire tower itself, I see the place below me, completely focused due to the lingering adrenaline.

And what a view! Hazy mountains beyond, trees, with all their tiny needles and leaves, covering the mountains like wool. Hawks circling, cars driving down the tiny belt like road and parking lot buckles. The who thing a moment I am in, mindful, joyful even.

Blue Ridge Mountains as seen from The Fryingpan lookout tower

My mind tends to fly: movies, politics, social media. Yet somehow fear keeps me in place. So by the time I do feel safe to bring out my phone it feels like I know exactly what panoramas to take.

Climbing down, I feel like moving slowly, not out of fear, but out of not wanting that moment of revelation to leave me.

Perhaps this is just the way this planet, this life is for me. Appreciation coming only in the moments of terror and other arousal and even those I have to work for. Others are like this too. This is why roller coasters exist. This is one of the reasons why people pursue orgasms. This is why people watch horror films. This is why I express feeling in awe as feeling “small.”

Of course, letting the mind wander has its value too, however much Zen masters may deny it. Some people travel precisely for that reason: to allow their minds to wander and not have to be tied down to the obligations at home.

So yes, all that’s my emotional state and thoughts on my emotional state. But you might have come here, expecting a review of The Fryingpan Trail, near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It’s not a walk through the forest as much as a walk on a wide non-drivable access road. For botanical experts like my dad this is a treasure trove of plants to look at, but it might not be for everyone.

Fryingpan Trail
These flowers are visible on the trail in June.

But the tower is worth the walk. In spite of being a bit scary for some people, it is still one of the best places to see the world below and completely safe.

Dayton Art Institute, Dayton OH


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By Rdikeman at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2748112. I apologize that my phone’s camera was out of space to take pictures, but it let me just go and enjoy the artwork, while my frequent traveling companion and more Yvonne Rogers who took all the other pictures on this post. My links in this story will let you see the Dayton Art Institute’s own photos.

What comes to mind for me when I think of Dayton, Ohio?

To me it’s still good memories from late June when I had a good time there, looking at art from around the world at the museum, browsing furniture at an Ikea outlet on the outskirts, dancing at a friend’s wedding.

But I can’t ignore what’s happened. I procrastinated posting about that Ohio city until now. And now the first stories anyone sees about the city involve nine dead and 27 people injured.

Downtown Dayton

I will always see the city as more than just the disaster associated with it. Just like Gatlinburg is more than just the fires. Indeed, Yvonne can recall visiting France just before the death of Princess Diana and then seeing the places she’d seen as a tourist on TV.

What follows are my very few impressions of Dayton Ohio from a very short visit. I hope that it can remain a place synonymous with great art and great times, even now.

***

I’ve barely set foot in Dayton. I came up there earlier this summer for a very old friend’s wedding, which took place out in a Dayton suburb. And it was just a good time: conversation with people from across the country I didn’t know, catching up with said old friend, however briefly, dancing to silly pop songs like the “Cha Cha Slide,” “Old Town Road” and even, for the kids, “Mama Shark.” But all that’s too personal for what this blog usually covers.

Sculpture outside of Dayton Art Institute.

Yvonne and I had very little time to enjoy the city and settled, because we knew it was something we’d both like but wouldn’t take too long to explore, on the Dayton Art Institute. I had to stop for lunch and struggled to eat my leftover Cincinnati Chili without a fork on the Museum lawn, shoveling food into my mouth with the lid and still getting covered in cold cinnamon beef sauce.

Russell Means's portrait by Warhol

Then, we entered. And what a museum! The entrance lobby, above a formal European-looking staircase features Andy Warhol’s portrait of Russell Means along with other American portraits, by lesser known but still impressive artists.

Hearing that we could see Claude Monet and other impressionist works, we headed downstairs to the special exhibit area.

Yvonne is never one to rush past things though. And so we found ourselves in a different kind of exhibit first: Civil Rights leader Dorothy Height’s hats. It’s no longer on display, but it was one of the more unusual parts of our visit.

Dorothy Height’s hats

Civil Rights leader Dorothy Height's headgear

Height (1912-2010) was one of the organizers for the famous March on Washington and an adviser on Civil Rights to presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson. An exhibit about her might seem like more of something for a history exhibit than an art one, but Height, like many of the women of her time loved headgear, which is a form of great visual art in and of itself. The colorful and varied fashions on display were as much a triumph of design as the paintings we headed to visit next.

Impressionists

Waterloo Bridge by Monet

Monet’s Waterloo Bridge is a case of profane made sacred. The first time I looked at it, it made me think of a Turkish city of misty minarets, even if it is just an industrial city. The special exhibit featured Monet’s water lilies, where he applied the same technique more famously to a quieter scene. Works from other impressionists, like Degas, Pissaro and Renoir adorned the room’s other walls. Yvonne wanted to just stay here for hours and I could understand why.

Asian Art

Samurai armor

I, however, had an itch to keep exploring and headed through a series of Asian art exhibits, which varied in style, subject, country and century. Yvonne eventually joined me. I walked past allegorical Buddhist figures in amorous embrace, ornate snuff bottles owned by Chinese royalty, and my favorite: a large carving of two dragons looking at a pearl. An ornate suit of Japanese samurai armor that seemed too beautiful for battle greeted us later.

Ancient Americas

We then entered another room dedicated to art of long-ago South and Mesoamerican civilizations. While it was getting late, we could admire the artistry of people centuries ago, crafting small but detailed figures.

We ran out of time before we could see all of the collection. But I look forward to coming back.