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Posts from the ‘animals’ Category

#30daysofbiking Day 9: turtles and tulips

share the road

The sun is back, the pavement is warm, and there was a turtle on the road.  No, not me.  Well, kind of ….

About 10 minutes out I spotted this guy sitting perfectly still in the middle of the road.  Perfect basking weather, I know, but not the safest place to be sun-bathing.  So what do I do?  Yep – set my bike down, pull my camera out, and lay flat on my stomach (also in the middle of the road) to take his photo.   Fortunately, neither of us was run over. (There’s really not much traffic on my local bike route in the middle of the day). Pickup truck driver who cautiously passed by at one point looked at me kind of strangely…

Decided to move him off to the side, still in the sun, but hopefully in a less vulnerable spot.  He was little, but a snapper.

Shortly after the turtle stop, I came across (and surprised) two wild turkeys that were also in the middle of the road.  It was a regular zoo out there today! (bad….) Before I could pull out the camera, they ran off – so you are spared at least one wild (redneck) kingdom pic.

I did make one more stop for the tulip.  It was safely off the side of the road, but I thought it was so beautiful I couldn’t resist.  I should probably take fewer pictures and do more serious pedaling … but one of the things I love best about biking is getting to see so many amazing things – things I would never notice if I was driving a car.  It’s great to be out in the world – rather than just driving through it.

I want a bike jersey with these colors ...

the stuff we see

A beautiful day for the road ... Mark on Meadowview Rd, Hamilton Co.

It was a lovely January day this past Saturday – temps near 60’F, and the sun poked its head out for a while.  Mark and I took a nice road ride for the first time in too many weeks, over into Hamilton County and one of our favorite loops off of Ooltewah-Georgetown Road.

I guess it’s that time of year, because we saw and heard lots of Sandhill Cranes.  This area lies along one of their popular migration paths, and every winter we are lucky to have them stop and visit.  Up until 2008 (?) the TWRA with the help of several local organizations had held an annual Crane Festival at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Birchwood.  From what I could find, the event no longer takes place … but the cranes still come to the area in the tens of thousands.

They have a very distinctive and unusual call, and one day last winter I remember hearing them flying overhead – for nearly 3 straight hours.  An endless parade of cranes kept coming and coming; I had never seen so many.  It was truly awe-inspiring.

There is one corn field along our bike route where I have often seen the cranes stop and congregate.  As we were riding by on Saturday, sure enough, they were there.  While I was attempting to take a few pictures of them on the ground, several of them took to the air above my head.

Sandhill Cranes overhead

I’m hoping that one day this week if we have some nice weather, I will ride out along the Hiwassee and out to the Refuge area (if it is open?) and take the good camera and try to get some more photos.

One the way home we had another “bird-related” road obstacle.  Definitely one of the more unusual roadblocks we’ve encountered, even here in rural TN.  These two guys were quite, well, let’s just say not timid.  They came right up to us when we stopped for them, and when we got going, they seemed to want to run along with us for a few meters.  Oh brother.

It’s always interesting and amazing … the stuff we see while riding. 🙂

Mark and the turkey roadblock 😉

Santa’s “other” sled

We had a wonderful surprise this morning – woke up to find everything covered in the fluffy white stuff, an unexpected gift.

Couldn’t resist getting the Xtracycle out and having a little photo fun.  I am not certain this is an approved bicycle helmet, but hey – it’s Santa.

Spent some time taking pictures of the wonderful (and rare) sight.  Entire set is on Flickr.  It was a wonderful morning, and by noon it had virtually all disappeared.  But so much fun while it lasted!

Xtracycle - great for giving your winter friends a ride!

Xtracycle - a great way to give your friends a ride

Elmer has his winter coat on

... it didn't last long (sigh)

rainy riding & wild ponies

Grant covered in Virginia Creeper trail grit.

Grant covered in Virginia Creeper trail grit.

A few days late in posting this.  Took a trip last weekend to the western mountains of Virginia, to bike the Virginia Creeper Trail and to do a little hiking/camping in Grayson Highlands State Park.  Unfortunately the weather didn’t seem to want to cooperate.  Wonderful low pressure system with plenty of rain was on the menu.

Soaked and trail-grit encrusted feet.

Soaked and trail-grit encrusted feet.

Arrived at Grayson on Thursday evening. Rain.  On Friday the plan was to ride the Creeper Trail – which is an absolutely lovely ride, part of the Rails-to-Trails system.  The trail runs thirty-five miles from Whitetop, VA (on the NC border) through Damascus, to Abingdon.  A nice gradual downhill grade from top to bottom, with numerous trestle bridges crossing a beautiful mountain whitewater river.  Many shuttle services are available to drop you off at the top, allowing easy downhill riding for the youngest to oldest of cyclists.  Over the years, it’s become one of our favorite places to ride – a 3+ hour drive from home.

We intially wanted to ride from bottom (Abingdon) to top (Whitetop) and back down again, forgoing a shuttle.  But given the weather conditions,  we decided to ride up from Damascus (not quite mid-point), back down, and see if things would clear up and we could ride the lower portion to Abingdon – and back up to Damascus.  In Damascus we stopped at one of the local outfitters where they had weather radar pulled up on a laptop, and it looked like the worst of the system was moving out of the area.  Apparently, the radar lied.

We spent over 2 hours slogging 18 miles up to the top through non-stop rain,  Even with rain-gear (but no shoe covers), we were soaked and covered in trail grit – a nice crushed stone/cinder(?) black mess.  By the time we got back down to Damascus, we’d had enough.  Just wanted to rinse off, dry off, and get clean dry clothes and shoes on.  So much for our Creeper Trail plans.

It was so wet (and I was so filthy), I didn’t even try to mess with my camera – which is sad, because it’s such a beautiful trail.  This site has some nice photos – from days when the weather is more agreeable.

One of the beautiful views from the Appalachian Trail, heading to Mt. Rogers

One of the beautiful views from the Appalachian Trail, heading to Mt. Rogers

On Saturday, the weather seemed to be improving, so we headed out for a hike to Mt. Rogers – the highest point in VA.  The Appalachian Trail connects with several of the Grayson/Mt. Rogers rec area trails, and offers gorgeous open views of the mountains.  Saw lots of backpackers and dayhikers.  Grayson Highlands S.P. is also home to herds of wild ponies, which roam the mountains throughout the year, and each autumn they hold a round-up to auction off a few ponies to keep the population in check.  It’s always incredibly fun to hike along and be greeted by the ponies – who are very tame, curious, and people-friendly.

We had initially planned to backpack/overnight for one night up on Mt. Rogers, eventually scrapped the idea for various reasons.  It was nice to day hike, packing up only our lunch and the camera.  Fortunately, the weather cooperated.  More pictures are up on my Flickr site. (Yes, I was told I took too many pony pictures … I just couldn’t help myself).

It may not have turned out the way we had planned – from bike weather to backpacking plans – but we still really enjoyed the weekend, and highly recommend a trip to this lovely area.

Mason takes in the view

Mason takes in the view

my favorite wild thing

my favorite wild thing


kayak by Xtracycle ... rides better than it looks, truly

kayak by Xtracycle ... rides better than it looks, truly

A couple of miles up the road from our house we have a nice put-in to one of the Hiwassee River’s inlets.  Although there is water year-round, it’s most conducive for paddling/boating in the summers when TVA is releasing water to the Hiwassee.  In winter, water levels can get pretty low.

Despite the doubters in the house, I managed to get our old beater kayak loaded onto the Xtracycle and went for a paddle today.  OK, I’ll admit, when I first felt the (off-)balance of the load I wasn’t sure it was going to work.  But surprisingly, upon taking a test ride, I discovered that it was totally do-able – at least for the few miles I had to go.  You kind of naturally make a center-of-gravity shift, but nothing that changes your cycling position dramatically.  There was occasionally a funny little shimmy-shake in the front, especially when on a downhill coast, but pedaling seemed to eliminate it.  Optimum no-shimmy speed seemed to be about 13mph.  Not sure of the physics behind what was going on, but I’d be curious if someone could explain…

ready to go exploring

ready to go exploring

The great thing about this little inlet are all of the little islands and shallow channels – perfect quiet water for meandering about and bird-watching without a beastly motor.  I had barely paddled off when I spotted a Little Green Heron perched overhead (picture of him on the Pix page).  Also saw several Great Blue Herons, and another black and white water bird I have not yet identified.

Strangest event of the trip was spotting a very large creature swimming across one of the channels.  It was huge – bigger than a muskrat or anything I might have expected to see.  As I sat watching, I discovered it was a deer!  She was swimming across the water, only her head sticking out – and had two lovely little fawns trailing behind her!  I had never seen a deer swim before, so this was something pretty amazing for me.

Of course I didn’t have the telephoto lens on the camera, so I did the best I could.  You can just make her out in the distance, doe on either side of her.

doe and fawns, heading for an island

doe and fawns, heading for an island

closer ... but missed the shot; doe & fawns climb ashore

closer ... but missed the shot; doe & fawns climb ashore

Had a great day exploring, bird-watching … and deer-watching.  When I got back to the put-in, I was greeted by a rather mystified fisherman – a very nice older gentleman who introduced himself as Bill.  Think he was pretty baffled with my boat-on-bike set-up, but offered some help while I was strapping things up, and I enjoyed chatting with him.

We had a brief discussion over the safety of fish consumption from this part of the river.  Thanks to the wonderful folks at Olin Chemical, high levels of mercury in the river sediment and in fish have made it unsafe to consume the catch.  Tennessee Fish & Game and the EPA have posted warning signs, but it doesn’t stop people from fishing.  I was happy to hear that Bill knew about the situation and was strictly a catch-and-release fisherman.  Still, it makes me very sad – especially watching the herons and the other fish-feeding birds and thinking about how it may be harming them and the rest of the ecosystem.

Great day, great ride, great paddle, great sights.  Can’t wait to do it again.

de-coat the goat

One more before-and-after – this one from the Funny Farm and shearing The Hairy One.

Before: badly in need of a haircut

Before: Remember these guys? Badly in need of a haircut!

After: (Elmer) shedding the 12 lb. mohair coat ... aaaahhh; that feels good!

After: (Elmer) shedding the 12 lb. mohair coat ... aaaahhh; that feels good!

OK, I am no pro at shearing – in fact, I’m pretty bad at it – but I can basically get the job done.  With some help holding the “handles” (i.e., horns) during the process.

Since a few have asked – Elmer (and the former Ruby Pearl) are Angora goats.  The fiber they produce, however, is not angora – it’s mohair.  In the past I have had some of the fleeces spun into some very lovely yarn.  But the truth is – it’s not worth the expense and hassle (the fleece is a nasty pain to wash/clean, and the spinery I used had a very lengthy turn around time and was awfully expensive).  In the end, unless I decided to buy a spinning wheel and do it myself (nope), I can typically buy finished mohair yarn cheaper than what I can have made from our own fleece.

I had also sent some of the longest and curliest cleaned locks to a friend in MO who did some brilliant Santa Claus sculptures.  I got a couple of really neat Santas out of the deal.

Cleaned fleece and the mohair yarn (un-dyed and dyed)

Cleaned fleece and the mohair yarn (un-dyed and dyed)

A final fiber fact … Angora goats produce mohair.  And Angora rabbits produce – yep, you guessed it – angora.  (We have one of those too.  But sorry, no Angora yarn).

(And I promise – no more goofy non-bicycle stuff next post!)

Snoopy the Wonder Bunny (Angora), and Molly the Wonder Mutt (Westie)

Snoopy the Wonder-Bunny (Angora), and Molly the Wonder-Mutt (Westie); they're friends

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just a bluebird picture tale

There is an old, lichen-covered bluebird house on our fencepost.  It is well-loved and has been home to many bluebird families over the years

There is an old, lichen-covered bluebird house on our fencepost. It is well-loved and has been home to many bluebird families over the years.

The nest was built and four small bluebird eggs were carefully laid.

The nest was built and four small bluebird eggs were carefully laid.

Today a small and powerful voice calls out: "I'm here, I'm hungry!"

Today a small and powerful voice calls out: "I'm here, I'm hungry!"

To be continued …