Red Eft at Frozen Head



Little red efts were crawling the wet forest floor at Frozen Head State Park yesterday. They’re poisonous to eat but generally won’t bite. They live on the land but they’ve just left the water and will return again.
They’re really just another phase of newts, a flashy youthful stage in which they roam the land.

As I point out in my book they never know their parents, not even as babies.

This was in contrast to me, at age 31, living on my own but still enjoying some time with my parents on a hike at Frozen Head, joined admittedly by 21 people and two other naturalists. Dad, a plant ecologist by degree entertained the crowd by naming and providing facts about the natural world around us, such as the eft and the iris shown below. While at the time our book describes, I wanted to break free of Dad, I realize now, just how good I have it hiking with a Dad who knows so much.

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Trillium time in Tennessee!


IMG_20190413_111039427_BURST000_COVER_TOP.jpgFrozen Head State Park was alive yesterday with trilliums. They come in different colors:red, yellow, pink. Often, according to my Dad, Dr. Larry Pounds, a plant ecologist, they cross with each other. Ants pollinate them.
They’re easy to remember because tri means three as in tricycle. They have three big green brachts and three colorful sepals. Dad led a group of nine people that day while two other groups left with other plant experts led others a total with 21 people showing up.

My Dad and co-author of “Wildly Strolling Along” will lead many more hikes as the spring goes on letting you know more about all the colorful blooming things of East Tennessee. Stay tuned for a schedule.

BORCE, Oak Ridge TN


Black Oak Ridge Conservation Easement is my hometown’s worst-named collection of trails, but the area has its charms in spite of the bland name. It’s worth exploring if you’re in Oak Ridge. New Years Day brought many different people there: individual cyclists, a family with a dog, a group of college aged men. Some spoke in other languages.

Many of the trails are old gravel roads now bike, foot and sometimes hunting paths but still sporting road signs, that look just like the road signs in parts of town with houses. These seemingly post-apocalyptic country roads lead nowhere, in a good way. They take visitors through forests of red cedars and other, often young, trees, alongside and over gurgling streams with no houses or even structures at all in site for the most part.

On New Year’s Day Yvonne and I passed an old, remote graveyard, the kind that would have filled my young mind with gleeful Halloweenish thoughts of ghosts dancing about away from living human eyes. Nowadays the most striking thing about those old graveyards to me is the saddeningly short lifespans of the people, sometimes children, buried there. I can thank Yvonne for pointing that out to me on another occasion, but now I can’t unsee it. We walked on rather than bothering ourselves with that.

Cemeteries in Oak Ridge are usually a sign of what Oak Ridge replaced. The US government built Oak Ridge to enrich uranium for the bombs that dropped on Japan during World War II. It left the graves from old communities though, even if the old communities have become the city of Oak Ridge in some places and grown up into forests elsewhere, many accessible to the public through trail systems, like BORCE, Haw Ridge and others.

Decades later, the Department of Energy, the modern-day descendant of those World War II gave BORCE land it owned to the public as a way of compensating for water pollution and decreased fishing opportunities elsewhere.

You can visit BORCE’s charming, gravel woodland paths without ever once thinking about things like war, pollution, or death at all though. They offer a quick chance to escape and explore.

The BORCE route had other, subtle signs of a hidden probably pre-World War II past, like this very reflective greenish pool, possibly an old quarry site, probably the most beautiful feature we saw. I plan to return to these trails, hopefully some time soon and do more research.

Zoo Knoxville at 70ish


Zoo Knoxville through its promotions is considering this its 70th anniversary. That’s a little debatable, even by its own website. The News Sentinel, a local paper did, in 1948 launch an effort to start a zoo, which included various animals starting with an alligator, although the zoo’s own website dates the “modern zoo” to 1971.

That modern zoo, however was not the same as the present one. I know because I have been coming at different times throughout my life. The zoo has recently added playgrounds to make itself more exciting to children and sometimes even they’re related to exhibits, like monkey bars near gibbons.

The zoo is more or less divided by continent now as far as its major areas. Asia Trek is the zoo’s new showcase exhibit, showing off tigers …

gibbons …

langurs …

And red pandas who did not feel like posing for me, even though those racoon-like critters are a distinctive feature of the zoo. Don’t expect them to be bear sized.

Elsewhere the zoo boasts exotic beasts like giraffes and rhinos along with local favorites like otters.

Daddy’s Creek Tennessee with Daddy


As summer is refusing to surrender to autumn here in East Tennessee, the Cumberlands are exploding with flowers.

My Dad Larry Pounds and the co-author “Wildly Strolling Along” along with me recently led a group of wildflower lovers to two unique habitats near each other. Both were part of Catoosa Wildlife Management area.

First was a meadow area with a short access road on which we walked. We would stop every few minutes and Dad would get down, examine, give Latin names, sometimes certain, sometimes speculating, surrounded by others who seem drawn like bees to them.

Next we drove down to a “cobblebar,” along Daddy’s Creek, a which is not a place for booze and homemade desserts but rather a rocky area along the banks of a stream. It too had flowers, some growing out of big outcrops.

A pool not too far from the trail entrance is also good for swimming. I was the only one of our party who jumped in, possibly because everyone else was identifying more ferns and flowers. Which far too often, I can’t do.

But I am me. My Dad is himself. Not everyone can name every flower. But maybe you can at least enjoy them.