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books nature North Carolina Dreams photography

June in the mountains – Twenty O’Four


It’s been three years now since this picture was taken up on the top of Roan Mountain. We were a bit early for the full bloom but even what we were in time for was impressive. Every time we go back to North Carolina I try to take the time to run up to the AT and the Garden’s. Even an old fart like me can walk a bit of the AT on the Roan. And the views go on and on and on, even when the ceiling is hanging low and the mists are brushing your hair as you walk.

Roan Mountain is actually a massif, or mountain mass, with two summits. It is part of a ridge known as the Roan Highlands, and is the highest peak in the Unaka Mountain Range. At its lower elevations, vegetation as southern as subtropical orchids can be found. But at the mountain’s height, vestiges from the ice age remain, including wood sorrel (Oxalis montana), witch hobble (Viburnum alnifolium), and green alder (Alnus crispa), a species usually found in New England.

In June, Roan’s open balds burst with the magenta-colored blooms of Catawba rhododendron, which John Fraser designated Rhododendron catawbiense on this mountain during his 1799 expedition. Each plant in the 600-acre spread of natural rhododendron “gardens” might produce as many as 100 flowers.

The combination of heath balds, Canadian-zone spruce-fir forests, and, at lower elevations, hardwood coves, supports more than 1,500 species of native plants, flowers, herbs, trees, shrubs, ferns, club mosses, lichens, and mushrooms. Bird scholar Fred W. Behrend named the snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) when he discovered it wintering on the balds. The area is also home to one of southern Appalachia’s greatest concentrations of threatened, endangered, or sensitive plant and wildlife species, with nearly 30 identified, including Gray’s lily, saxifrages, sedges, the saw-whet owl, and the northern flying squirrel. In 1941, 7,000 acres of this naturally significant area were incorporated into the Pisgah National Forest and Cherokee National Forest.

We have spent a number of hours walking through the Gardens on the Roan. Considering the actual number of hours we have spent exploring North Carolina, there are just a few places that have monopolized our time more. I look forward to eventually sitting on top of the Roan in the winter with the balds covered in snow…Probably wont happen this year, but soon, my friends, soon I’ll be North Carolina Mountain Dreaming for good.

Sherpa Guides are one of my favorite websites when it comes to checking out the natural world of the Appalachians. I spent so much time reading them on-line I finally chased down my own copies through Amazon. Check out the website, they have the full text of the books online. Then go pick up your own copy through the links below…The copies I have were all bought used through Amazon. I saved a few bucks and added some great guides to my bookshelf.

Source: Sherpa Guides | North Carolina | Mountains | Roan Mountain and Roan Mountain State Park

Don’t forget to check out my new blog at Coffee Muses

Categories
Drive to Work HDR nature politics weather

TGIF – Computer Blues

When I tried to put together this mornings post before I left home the laptop decided to lock up and laugh at me…So it was shutdown and hit the road with my post peculating in the back of my mind. The very first thing I heard on PBS as I was headed down the street I live on was about a major traffic backup two exits past the closest cross street to work. That told me right there not to hurry…so it was off through the country instead of down the freeway. Sadly, my back road trek still got me to within a couple of blocks of the office by 8am, and that’s where I spent 25 minutes trying to finish the trip. You really have to love Houston traffic…Or move.

The weather this morning was really what I consider springlike. It was 61 degrees when I hit the kitchen, so doors open and first cup of the morning while being serenaded by birdsong. The predominant player this morning, as on most here, was our state bird. When you get a half dozen Mockingbirds singing their hearts out to mark their territories, you really have a full chorus going.

I try not to let my political rants get out here very often, but this story in the Washington Post really got me .

The lawyers said any conversations Cheney and the officials had about Plame with one another or with reporters were part of their normal duties because they were discussing foreign policy and engaging in an appropriate “policy dispute.” Cheney’s attorney went further, arguing that Cheney is legally akin to the president because of his unique government role and has absolute immunity from any lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates asked: “So you’re arguing there is nothing — absolutely nothing — these officials could have said to reporters that would have been beyond the scope of their employment,” whether the statements were true or false?

“That’s true, Your Honor. Mr. Wilson was criticizing government policy,” said Jeffrey S. Bucholtz, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department‘s civil division. “These officials were responding to that criticism.”

So there America, as far as your government is concerned, if you criticize this administration they have an inherent right to lie about you or break the law and you, dear citizen, have no recourse. Welcome to Mr. Bush’s Compassionate Conservative America, land of the rich and liars…

Source: Judge Told Leak Was Part of ‘Policy Dispute’ – washingtonpost.com

Here is a photo I took earlier in the week of a moth sitting on the outside of the window beside my seat at the computer…The photo was taken from the inside with the outside lighting showing through.

Have a great day…

Categories
coffee_muses HDR nature Texas Roads

Almost through the week morning muse…

I see that even though the Blue Ridge Mountains are having a couple of days of early spring weather again they are looking a bit dry. Checking out Ray’s Weather Page today he closes his forecast with a warning about the lack of moisture and the chance of fires…But with maybe a frost in the forecast, my how nice it must be…coffee on the deck anyone?

Drought conditions continue to worsen in Western North Carolina with no relief in sight. Winter was very dry, and while we have had a few rainy days, Spring has been exceptionally dry as well. We are in the neighborhood of 50% of normal rainfall this year. Going into early summer, dry ground conditions will tend to reduce our normal afternoon and evening shower/thunderstorm activity. Our only hope at this point for drought relief is tropical activity later this summer. Be extremely careful with fire! The forest fire in Linville Gorge a couple weeks ago may just be the precursor of things to come. For more details about drought conditions across the country, see www.drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html.

Source: Ray’s Weather Center – Valle Crucis – booneweather.com

Kate at Cider Press Hill commented on the fact that the bird population in her area was down and posted on the connection to West Nile. I stumbled across this article this morning at the Washington Post…

Experiments had predicted that certain birds might be especially vulnerable to West Nile infection, and earlier tests on birds found dead on the ground appeared to confirm that some species were suffering a significant toll. But the new analysis is the first to track populations directly, species by species and year after year at the same locations.

It shows that the post-1998 declines were greatest at times and places in which the virus was especially prevalent — as indicated by the number of human infections diagnosed. As expected, American crows were among the worst hit, suffering declines of as much as 45 percent in some regions and wipeouts of 100 percent in some smaller areas. Other species that suffered included the blue jay, the tufted titmouse, the American robin, the house wren, the chickadee and — unexpectedly — the American bluebird.

“These are not the rare, vulnerable populations we think of as being at risk due to introduced species. These are our everyday, backyard country birds,” said Shannon LaDeau, an ecologist at the bird center who led the study with Marra.

Looks like we are in for a rough ride for the next few decades no matter what form of disastrous outcomes floats your boat…Global warming, imported diseases, bugs and plants let loose in damaged ecological niches. They all cause unforeseen consequences we have to live with.

Source: Bird Species Plummeted After West Nile – washingtonpost.com

Here is another shot from Monday. I stopped under the bridge on 1462 over the Brazos River and took this shot. You can tell from the red color of the water that the rains have been falling quite a bit far upstream. The dirt down here isn’t that color. And from the fact that the water is as high as it is, a whole lot of rain must of fallen. Normal water level at this point is probably 20 feet or more lower than this with a lot of sand showing in the bed of the river.
Time to hit the road…Y’all have a great day…