Have you ever felt like you could crawl out of your skin, so antsy that sitting still simply is not an option? I woke up that way yesterday, but it was more than that. It was like an internal desperation to “get away,” to distract myself from whatever it was I was feeling. I have no label for this feeling except uncomfortable. The song “Fly Away” by Lenny Kravitz kept running through my mind.

Rather impulsively, I decided to go for a drive, a long drive. I ended up at a park I’ve never explored, Savage Gulf State Natural Area, in Monteagle, Tennessee. It’s huge, 15,590 acres, with 50 miles of hiking trails according to tn.gov. Apparently, there are several entrances to different areas of the park. The first stop, off of TN-399 W, felt a little creepy. I was the only one there, kind of creepy, not to mention the restroom had a definite “Twin Peaks” feel. That thought made me laugh. I’m wishing, now, I had taken a photo of that restroom. Next time.

The trailhead at this abandoned ranger station (I say abandoned, but I’m sure it was simply closed for the day) warned of high bluffs and required signing-in before hiking. When it comes to hiking, I have absolutely no problem hiking by myself. Maybe that’s not always wise, especially on the more treacherous trails I’ve hiked alone; but I refuse to give in to any fear that restricts my love for nature or need for sunshine, fresh air, and exercise. Often, I hike for the spiritual or emotional release that only time alone can offer. However, something felt “off” about this spot; so I trusted my intuition and chose not to hike there. I didn’t feel safe. Also, it was already kind of late in the afternoon; and I wanted to check out a couple of other areas on the other side of the gorge.

Like so many parks in this area, there were a number of waterfalls, according to the trail map. On the other side of the park, off of Highway 56 (a very curvy, yet FUN road to drive!), I noticed a much shorter trail on the map to Greeter Falls. After arriving at the parking area, again — I was the only one there, I gave myself a few moments to get a feel for this spot.

Greeter Falls Parking Area Sign

I felt comfortable enough to hike the entire 1 mile loop. Oh, my goodness, I am so glad I did! It was positively gorgeous!

Greeter Falls #2Greeter Falls, Savage Gulf State Natural Area

 Boardtree FallsBoardtree Falls, Savage Gulf State Natural Area

According to the pamphlet,

Greeter Falls Loop Trail: This loop leads to three waterfalls, numerous bluffs, and two historic sites. Terrain is very rocky under the bluffs and easy above. (0.8 miles)

Falls Loop

I didn’t hike the .5 miles out to Blue Hole which was off the main path. I’m wondering if Blue Hole was the 3rd waterfall because I only saw Greeter Falls and Boardtree Falls. I also only saw one of the two historic sites, what looked like ruins of an old structure, possibly a house. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of it, now; and I failed to get a decent photo.

Spiral Staircase #1

The only part of this particular trail that gave me pause for concern was the spiral staircase leading down to the base of the waterfall. Don’t get me wrong, it was good and sturdy, but nerve wrecking for someone with a fear of heights. I hugged that center pole the entire way up and down!

Spiral Staircase #2

I would describe much of the Greeter Falls Loop Trail as a moderate hike as a bit of maneuvering over rocks is necessary between Greeter Falls and Boardtree Falls.

Rock Wall

There were also some slick spots due to mud (wear old shoes). We’ve had a lot of rain lately, so it was super muddy.

Greeter Falls #1

I regret not having more time to spend out there. I wanted to be sure I returned to the parking lot long before sunset, though. I made the hike pretty quick, in about 45 minutes, stopping only to admire each waterfall for about 5 minutes or so each. The path is marked with white reflectors (some may have been blue) which turned into a game of “Where’s Waldo?” Had it not been for those markers I probably would have turned back a couple of times because it’s easy to lose sight of the trail given the rugged terrain.

I also kind of regret not taking the time to stop by Stone Door, “a 10 ft. wide by 100 ft. deep crack, forming from the top of the escarpment into the gorge below.” [Source: Savage Gulf] There just wasn’t enough time yesterday. It’ll be nice to have that as a surprise for next time, though. I really want David to see this park; so hopefully, we can plan a day trip together soon to explore Savage Gulf a bit more.

Special note should you decide to visit this park: wear bug repellant. David pulled a tick out of my hair early this morning before bed. I hate it when I bring home hitchhikers! ;) Next time, I’ll wear my hair up with a baseball cap.

Another Hitchhiker

Tiny Tree FrogGray treefrog, sp. Hyla versicolor

Daffodil #1 Daffodil #2

Daffodil, sp. Narcissus


Dogwood Blossoms #1

Dogwood, sp. Cornus florida

Dogwood #2

Dogwood #3


 

Confederate Violet

Confederate Violet, sp. Viola sororia priceana


Songbird Cardinal Columbine #1 Songbird Cardinal Columbine #2

Songbird Cardinal Columbine, sp. Aquilegia x hybrida ‘Songbird Cardinal’

Full Pink Moon Eclipse #1

Full Pink Moon Eclipse #2

Or “Blood Moon,” if you prefer. David and I watched a bit of the lunar eclipse early this morning. We didn’t think we would see much of it due to the cloud cover from yesterday’s storms, but we were pleasantly surprised. I also didn’t expect to get a couple of half-way decent photos — at least, for little point and shoot. An added bonus, we heard wild turkeys in the woods; and the White-throated Sparrows are still visiting. They have such a distinctive, beautiful song!

Sorting through videos today, I ran across this video of me practicing Come Sail Away (Styx) from last March that was one of my better sessions. It’s still not perfect (I aim for perfection when I play), but I thought I would share so that I would have a comparison video if I ever manage to master this song.

I know; I haven’t posted here in ages. I haven’t had much to share lately; and what I do have, well… this bout of depression has stolen my voice and my motivation to be social. I’m sorting through photos and videos to try to get my creativity up and running again; so hopefully, I’ll get back to posting more often. It’s been a long winter!

Moon HaloMoon Halo

Have you seen the halo around the moon tonight? It’s something else! Absolutely gorgeous and huge. If you have a moment, go outside and take a look. ;)

Dawn 11.22.14Dawn 11.22.14

It’s that time of year that my sleep schedule gets all kinds of messed up. Of course, it didn’t help that last night David and I were playing video games into the wee hours of the morning, lol. We stayed up until sunrise this morning. It’s not often that I get to watch the sun rising because I’m simply not a morning person; but since we hadn’t been to bed yet, it made for a nice meditation moment before finally heading to bed. And the coyotes were howling like nothing I’ve ever heard before! I have yet to actually see one, but we hear them often here.

After we woke up this afternoon, I was pleased to find the day so warm and inviting. We’ve had some bitter cold days here already, even a couple of snow showers, which is not typical for this time of year. I spent most of the afternoon outdoors. We decided to turn off the heat and open the doors up to change out the air in the house a little and give the cats some freedom to go in and out as they please. Today, to my delight, I saw a red-tailed hawk flying overhead. A little while later, I heard the familiar call of Sandhill Cranes and looked to the sky to see a huge flock of them flying overhead.

Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar #1Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar #1

I happened to glance down at the ground and notice this Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar. The neighbor’s 5-year-old was outside with me at this point and asked if he could hold it. I told him that this one was fine to hold, showing him the red bands to identify it, but also told him to never handle fuzzy caterpillars without asking someone first because some of them do sting. The caterpillar remained in its defensive ball as he cautiously held it. I love to see kids this curious about nature. He asked if he could take a photo, too; and I have to say, that his photo below of me holding the caterpillar turned out very nice!

Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar #2Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar #2

After a quick hike down to the creek and back, it seemed only fitting to finish the day off with a photo of the sunset. :)

Dusk 11.22.14Dusk 11.22.14

The Middle Falls

I thought I would share a few photos from this past Monday’s hike at Burgess Falls State Park. The autumn colors are beautiful there this time of year. My guess is that this cold snap we’re entering into today will have the remaining leaves changing rather quickly. It was most certainly a cold, wet, nasty day outside today, but Monday’s hike couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather. I hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween!

Burgess Falls in Autumn #1 Burgess Falls in Autumn #2Cliff Wall Cascades

Ridge Top Trail Sign

Ridge Top #1 Ridge Top #2

Burgess Falls Dam

Downstream

Above the Dam

Autumn Flagpole Setting Sun

Species Stagmomantis carolina - Carolina Mantis #1

Over the weekend, my neighbor happened to spot this female Carolina Mantis on the tire of his vehicle and called me over to photograph/relocate her. I moved her to the wheelbarrow first to get a few decent photos and curiously watched her behavior. Something in the yard or on the wheel barrow must have caught her eye as she swayed back and forth in a bobbing motion that made me think of a hypnotist persuading an unsuspecting subject into deep slumber.

Species Stagmomantis carolina - Carolina Mantis #2 Species Stagmomantis carolina - Carolina Mantis #3

Around and around the wheelbarrow support this mantis played hide and seek with me as I tried getting as close as I could without frightening her away. She seemed more cautious of me than others I have encountered.

Species Stagmomantis carolina - Carolina Mantis #4

Sensing her leeriness of me, I moved her to a nearby tree where I figured she would feel safer. Her camouflage was absolute perfection. The “Where’s Waldo” shot below was a little disappointing since none of three photos that I took with her on the tree focused on her head. Before I had the chance to capture anything better, she quickly climbed up the tree’s height away from my prying eyes. Our encounter only lasted a few minutes, but I thanked her for her time, as I always do with my subjects, and wished her well.

Species Stagmomantis carolina - Carolina Mantis #5

I was looking forward to seeing the total lunar eclipse early this morning. I haven’t seen one for many, many years. I even stayed awake two hours later than normal to catch it, but I didn’t get to see much of the eclipse due to cloud cover. The thunderstorm prior to the eclipse beginning was pretty spectacular, though! The video is grainy and edited for the best lightning strikes that I captured. You’ll hear me say, “I smell a skunk.” When David said, “You’re shorter,” he was handing me the umbrella to protect the camera from the rain. One of these days, we’ll learn to keep quiet while taking video, haha!

I really didn’t get any noteworthy photos of the eclipse. My camera simply does not have the capabilities to photograph the moon well. Last night, it was more about the experience of witnessing the eclipse. The clouds broke briefly enough around stage 3 to 4 of the eclipse for the following two images, but they’re the best I got before the clouds overtook the moon again. And by that point, I was ready to go to sleep!

 Full Hunter's Moon Eclipse (around stage 3 - 4)Full Hunter’s Moon Eclipse (around stage 3 – 4)

Full Hunter's Moon EclipseFull Hunter’s Moon Eclipse

No, this next photo is not the sunrise. Before I headed in to go to bed, I snapped one last photo of the light pollution in the distance. The light had a much more eerie feel than the photo captured.

Light PollutionLight Pollution

Much earlier in the evening (last night), I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos of the moon as it rose high in the sky. I shared these last night on Flickr and Twitter. I meant to add them here, too, but got sidetracked. I’ll include them now since the theme of this post centers around the moon and the night sky.

99% Full Hunter's Moon99% Full Hunter’s Moon

99% Full Hunter's Moon (8 second Long Exposure)99% Full Hunter’s Moon (8 second Long Exposure)

Both are similar, yet I thought the second photo was interesting due to the blur created by the movement of the clouds. Sitting staring up at the sky with the clouds moving as quickly as they were, created an optical illusion, making the moon and stars appear to be moving at twice their normal speed. It was kind of dizzying to watch.

I’m not sure when the next lunar eclipse will be. I’m just glad that I took the time to enjoy the night sky even if I didn’t get to watch the entire eclipse. Our universe is truly an awesome wonder.