Happy Tree Frog

Tree Frog #1

I found this little tree frog hiding underneath the umbrella of our patio table when I opened it up yesterday for a little shade. These are a common occurrence around our house, and I squeal in delight every time I see one. I’m not certain if this is a Gray Tree Frog or Cope’s Gray Tree Frog or even one of the other species here in Tennessee; but if I had to venture a guess, it would be Cope’s Gray Tree Frog due to its call. He was certainly a beautiful little creature and very friendly.

Tree Frog #2

Tree Frog #3

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Fly Away

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

Autumn at Burgess Falls State Park

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

Eastern Hercules Beetle (Dynastes tityus)

Eastern Hercules Beetle, Dynastes tityus #1

I’m backtracking a bit to July 22nd and one of my absolute, all-time favorite finds. This is a male Eastern Hercules Beetle, species Dynastes tityus, commonly known as a Rhinoceros Beetle or Unicorn Beetle. The most obvious difference between the male and the female is that males have the two pincer-like horns whereas females do not.

Eastern Hercules Beetle, Dynastes tityus #2

I had to laugh when this one made its way up to the nail because it seemed to get stuck there. Then again, I could have blinded the poor thing with the flash from my camera. I really hate using a flash to photograph wildlife for that reason; but the long exposure photos just weren’t turning out all that great, not to mention he was squirming around making it difficult to get a nice still shot. Case in point, this 2 second exposure (below) has a nice dramatic feel; but the detail leaves a lot to be desired.

Eastern Hercules Beetle, Dynastes tityus #3

Within the first few weeks of us moving here, I began seeing these regularly. Prior to seeing this live beetle climbing the light-pole on July 22nd, I found a dead one at the base of another light-pole that was perfectly intact, minus its right tarsus. I kept it because… well… they’re just cool and I totally geek out over bugs. Unfortunately, we didn’t have internet yet at that time; and I didn’t know how to properly preserve it for mounting.

Eastern Hercules Beetle, Dynastes tityus, Ventral View

I pulled it back out today to photograph a ventral view (above) and noticed that it’s not faring all that well. Next time I find one, I’ll know because today I’ve found a plethora of information online for mounting beetles and butterflies. I’m not going to kill them in order to do this, though. I simply don’t have the heart to do that.

Pickerel Frog, Rana palustris

And last but not least, I happened to notice this pickerel frog while photographing the Eastern Hercules Beetle. This photo was a happy accident, far better than I expected as I was shooting blind. It was the only one I took because I scooted the frog on its way so I wouldn’t accidentally step on it. It seemed thoroughly grateful to get away. They can jump quite high!

For more details and information about the Eastern Hercules Beetle visit:

Side note: by now I should seriously know better than to go outdoors and not take my camera because I had the funniest encounter with a small butterfly this afternoon. First, it enthusiastically climbed onto my finger and appeared to be licking it. After a few moments of this, it flew away. A couple of minutes later, it fluttered all around me and landed on my nose! I broke out into a fit of giggles thoroughly enjoying this rare opportunity to be so up close and personal with the friendliest of butterflies. Have I said lately how much I LOVE the new home? 😉

And Finally, Burgess Waterfalls

Burgess Falls - Main Waterfall #2

Burgess Falls – Main Waterfall #2, a photo by pixygiggles on Flickr.

These last 3 photos complete my visit to Burgess Falls on April 1st. I have more photos of this waterfall than any other in my area because I visit it so regularly. I’m obsessive about photographing it. I know this, but I’m also fascinated by the differences in each photo I have taken. These differences are subtle on some days, quite dramatic on others. No two visits have rendered the exact same photo, e.g. June 6, 2010, visit and October 5, 2012, visit. Going back through my photos, I found 9 different visits, most of which have no photos uploaded at this time. At the risk of being redundant, I’m not even sure if I should upload the remaining previous visits. At some point, I would like to have a photo representing each month of the year, perhaps, for a future calendar. It’s a little harder to get out there, though, during the winter months, especially if there’s snow and ice. However, my collection won’t be complete without one or two of those.

 Burgess Falls - Main Waterfall #1

Burgess Falls – Main Waterfall #1, a photo by pixygiggles on Flickr.

Obviously, the flow of water depends on the amount of rain we’ve had. I thought maybe there were some larger dams upstream from Burgess Lake that might contribute to the stronger flows; but after looking over Google maps, it appears that Falling Water River flows into Center Hill Lake, not the other way around, lol. Not only do I have no sense of direction, but I think my understanding of potamology is a little off, too.

 Burgess Falls - Middle Waterfall

Burgess Falls – Middle Waterfall, a photo by pixygiggles on Flickr.

I hope you guys enjoyed this series of photos over the last week and a half. Please, share your thoughts and suggestions. For me, taking the photos is the easy part, the fun part. Coming up with something to write about them, on the other hand, well, that’s a lot harder for me. Words just aren’t my “thing.” I suppose I could have just simply shared the images, but I think it’s important to constantly challenge myself in this way.

Spring Azure

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) #2

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) #2, a photo by pixygiggles on Flickr.

Blue-Butterfly Day
By Robert Lee Frost

It is blue-butterfly day here in spring,
And with these sky-flakes down in flurry on flurry
There is more unmixed color on the wing
Than flowers will show for days unless they hurry.

But these are flowers that fly and all but sing:
And now from having ridden out desire
They lie closed over in the wind and cling
Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire.

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) #1

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) #1, a photo by pixygiggles on Flickr.

More information about the Spring Azure, Celastrina ladon (Cramer, 1780), can be found at: Butterflies and Moths of North America.

Ladybug View of Burgess Falls

Ladybug View

Ladybug View , a photo by pixygiggles on Flickr.

I can’t get over how blue the sky is in these photos from Tuesday. It was such a beautiful day! I got as close to the waterfall as I could to take this one, at great risk to my camera, I might add. Even though I worried that the dampness might be too much for it to handle, I took the risk; and everything turned out okay. I noticed a couple of ladybugs on the rocks next to me right after snapping the first one. The photo below was the best one I got. It was a little hard to see what I was getting. I loved this one, though. The water droplets give you an idea of the level of mist we endured; but that mist was cool and refreshing after the climb down.

Mist Covered Ladybug

Mist Covered Ladybug, a photo by pixygiggles on Flickr.

Burgess Falls 4.1.14

Burgess Falls 4.1.14, a photo by pixygiggles on Flickr.

Stone Balancing

April 1, 2014 Stone Balancing

April 1, 2014 Stone Balancing, a photo by pixygiggles on Flickr.

When I saw Michael Grab‘s fantastic skill at stone balancing, my curiosity was piqued. How does he do that?! His work and the balancing skills of others like him inspired me to give it a try. The above photo is my latest attempt, taken yesterday at Burgess Falls. I’m no Michael Grab, but I can understand the allure of practicing such an art form. It’s like a form of meditation. I was surprised at how easily these 7 rocks fit together once I calmed my hands and took a few deep breaths.

In an article I read titled, The Secret Behind How This Guy Balances Rocks Is Very Unusual. Can You Guess It?, Grab explained:

“The most fundamental element of balancing in a physical sense is finding some kind of ‘tripod’ for the rock to stand on. Every rock is covered in a variety of tiny to large indentations that can act as a tripod for the rock to stand upright, or in most orientations you can think of with other rocks. By paying close attention to the feeling of the rocks, you will start to feel even the smallest clicks as the notches of the rocks in contact are moving over one another. In the finer point balances, these clicks can be felt on a scale smaller than millimeters. Some point balances will give the illusion of weightlessness as the rocks look to be barely touching. Parallel to the physical element of finding tripods, the most fundamental non-physical element is harder to explain through words. In a nutshell, I am referring to meditation, or finding a zero point or silence within yourself. Some balances can apply significant pressure on your mind and your patience. The challenge is overcoming any doubt that may arise.”

I had two other attempts at stone balancing that I never got around to sharing, so I thought I would include them here as well. The first is from October 1, 2013. I think that was 5 stones, not counting the one it’s sitting on.

 October 1, 2013 Stone Balancing

October 1, 2013 Stone Balancing, a photo by pixygiggles on Flickr.

And these next two are from February 24, 2014. The first was a measly 3 stones, but an attempt, nonetheless. The second try was a total of 5 small stones. I knew I wasn’t satisfied with the first attempt, so I decided to try again right before I left the park that day. This was closer to the trail’s beginning at the cascades. Both of these were poorly photographed. However, in my defense, it was really cold that day, lol.

February 24, 2014 Stone Balancing #1

February 24, 2014 Stone Balancing #1, a photo by pixygiggles on Flickr.

February 24, 2014 Stone Balancing #2

February 24, 2014 Stone Balancing #2, a photo by pixygiggles on Flickr.

I look forward to trying more of these in the future. I’ll agree that it is a meditative process; and it’s certainly soothing to my anxious mind, especially with the heavenly sounds of nature – birds singing, water flowing, grasses rustling – in the background. I’m left wondering, do you knock them down when you’re done? Hmm, I think that would somehow shatter the peacefulness. I chose to leave these as they were, allow nature to take her course. Hopefully, others might find it an inspiration to pause and give it a try, as Michael Grab inspired me to do.