Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A walk in Greenfield Lake Park, Wilmington, NC

I made another visit to Greenfield Park, a hike of about 4 miles. I'd seen the signs indicating there were alligators in the lake, but had yet to see any. This trip I finally spotted this one.

I crept up close to take the picture with him looking right at me until he started to move. Then, just as I turned my back and started to walk away, there was a dramatic thrashing noise from his location. I expedited my retreat, and Nicole tells me I had a funny look on my face. Turns out he was retreating as well, to deeper water. Eaten by a bear or an alligator, which would be worse!? The resident experts here tell me alligators don't eat you initially, they just grab you and drown you. That's comforting to know!

There, of course, are ducks in the water also, and they scattered when the alligator headed their direction. We had a bit of fun speculating whether they had a small hatch, or whether some of the chicks had become alligator bait.

Tomorrow it is off to Texas.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Back Yard Garden

Finally, I believe we are beyond all danger of frost and the garden is taking off. I thought this was the case over a month ago, but we had a hard freeze in mid April. Lots of things were nipped back and the rest went into hibernation for a week or two. I replanted some things, like cucumbers and some corn.

Anyway, lots of interesting things happening in the garden. The radishes are finished now, but at one point we had so many I had to check the internet to find a recipe for baked radishes. We've been eating all manner of greens for a couple of months now. Within the past week or two, we've been swamped by sugar snap peas and squash. Produce from the corn and okra is a few weeks away, but they are really beginning to grow now. Here are a few pictures, just to prove I'm not picking this stuff up from a roadside stand.

I did spot this bright green lizard in the peas and spinach. He appeared to be eating something from the vines, so I suppose he's helping me fight off any insects.

I'm splitting my time between Ryan and Nicole's back yard and my own, where I'm working on a solar A/C prototype. I hope to write about it in the energy blog soon. And, I'll be back in Texas for a couple of weeks in early June, when I hope to see some old friends.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Uwharrie National Recreation Trail

I've been a bit frustrated by the distance from Wilmington to some of the better known hiking and backpacking locations, as well as the minimal opportunities nearby. So, I decided to try looking at a middle distance and found the Uwharrie National Forest. It was touted as clearly the best hiking destination in the Piedmont, the central section of NC.

The Uwharrie trail is in the Uwharrie National Forest, which is named after the Uwharrie mountains and the Uwharrie river, named by a local indian tribe, but no one knows what the word means. They say this mountain chain once made the Appalacians seem puny, with peaks around 20,000 feet, but they are so old they've eroded down to less than 1,000 feet now. Even so, they offered the chance to get away from the NC lowlands and do some real backpacking. Even better, no worries of running into a hungry bear.

The route I took covered the southern half of the Uwharrie trail and looped back in a figure eight on the Dutchman's Creek trail, all told, twenty-some-odd miles of relatively challenging backpacking. I say 20-some-odd, because various sources I read listed the trip between 22-28 miles, and I'm not sure which is right. One thing is for sure, I've gotten plenty soft sitting around Wilmington. Although there are no dramatic climbs, the routes include numerous peaks and valleys with elevation differences of 300-400 feet. Between the terrain, my conditioning and some mixups in my water supply I was pretty beat by the time I got back to my car.

Due to the heavy forest and relatively low elevation, there were no dramatic picture-taking opportunities of grand vistas, but I did take a few photos. Although I did see a few deer, squirrels, snakes and birds, I thought the lizard and butterfly shown below were most representative of the wildlife I saw.

There were lots of trails, creeks and flowers, but they all seem to look alike. One of the highlights of the trip was the mountain laurel, which was in full bloom and fragrant. So, here are a couple of representative pictures.

So there you have it, my first backpacking trip into the Piedmont. Not so dramatic, but challenging enough and enjoyable. I've heard about a few other trails, so hopefully I''l have the opportunity to try a few others in my time here.