Saturday, March 31, 2007

Spring has definitely arrived here in Wilmington. The weather has been beautiful and color is bursting out all over. The pears, cherries, dogwoods are blooming around the neighborhood. The Carolina jasmine is out and the azaleas are near their peak. So, I believe it is time for a spring tour. I visit the University of North Carolina Wilmington fairly regularly, since I know a few people there and play racketball with Jeremy and Doc on campus. We also use the intramural fields occasionally for Frisbee, etc. I took the pictures below near the campus entrance and near Trask coliseum, where we play racketball.

I also visited nearby Hugh MacRae park, which is in full bloom. See pictures below.

Finally, I hiked in Halyburton park (No relation that I can see to the Halliburton that is well known in the oil business). This is a relatively new park created to preserve a natural area in the Wilmington city limits. They claim to have deer, red fox, possum, raccoon and alligator, as well as several varieties of owls, hawks, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, jays and buntings, although I saw only a few doves and mockingbirds. I realize more and more how little of God’s creatures you see, unless you spend a quiet night with them. I did see a lot of local vegetation such as various types of oaks, pines, cypress, cherries, bay, etc. I also did see a coatimundi, a south American raccoon. The girl in the picture was walking him on a leash, but he kept getting spooked by all the people, so he climbed any tree he could reach.

There you have it, the Wilmington Spring tour.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mattox II, Greenfield III

After my previous trip to Joe and Kathy's, I checked out the area on Google Earth. Turns out I was working my way lengthwise along a low swampy area, which I thought explained why I didn't seem to be able to get through it. So, I visited again with the intention of working more to the west and intersecting with a logging road I saw on the aerial. Unfortunately, I still was never able to get through the swamp in that direction. I ended up working my way back east along the creek and running into a logging road in that direct. Below are a couple of pictures.

Then, today, I decided to make another visit to Greenfield park. With the arrival of spring it is becoming more and more beautiful. The azaleas are still not in full bloom, which is good, since the Azalea festival is still 2 weeks away. Here are a few pictures.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I’m still here in Wilmington, living the life of Riley. Today, it is watching the March Madness games I like, streaming live on the internet.

Yesterday, it was hiking on Pleasure Island. I hiked along the southern edge of the Carolina Beach State Park, then south along the Cape Fear River. Then around a nice, protected bay and further south, again along the Cape Fear River. All this, followed by singing praises and devotion to God with Ryan and Nicole’s small group meeting, typical for Wednesday nights.

Tuesday, it was tending the garden in Ryan and Nicole’s backyard. We’ve got spinach, lettuce, mustard and sugar snap peas up and growing. The carrots and cucumbers I planted this week, so I’m waiting to see them emerge. I’ve bought the seeds for sweet corn, okra, squash and melons, so I’m ready for next month. Of course, all this had to fit around my trading to take advantage of volatility in the market and completing my March Madness bracket, followed by a quiet dinner at Macaroni Grill with Nicole.

Over the past few weekends, it was helping with Ryan’s “shed raising project” with several friends. It is great working together with Christian friends, and I think the shed/workshop/doghouse is looking great.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Bridge to Terabithia-Greenfield Lake revisited

This hike was inspired by an article in today's Wilmington Star News (a subsidiary of the New York Times, more colorfully known by some local conservatives as the "Red Star"). The author refers to the above bridge as "The Bridge to Terabithia", because it leads to an enchanted trail which few visit in Greenfield Lake Park.

You may remember I wrote previously about visiting this park, which is a heavily used inner city park in Wilmington. At that time, I stuck to the apparently open, well travelled part of the park. After a couple of days barely leaving the house, I had it in my mind to do some hiking today and when I saw the article I decided it was time for another visit.

It turned out to be a good time for a visit, since the park is obviously signalling the arrival of spring with azaleas, daffodils and other plants beginning to blossom. While the annual azalea festival is a few weeks away, and it still seems cold to me, spring is near!

I also snapped this picture of 4 wood storks, which a kindly gentleman with a huge telephoto lens later informed me are an endangered species that rarely visits this far north.

And finally, I found the gate to Terabithia. Obviously, it is closed, I'm told because of a problem with squatters and drug dealers and inadequate funds for security. However, as the author pointed out, there is a well worn trail around the gate, leading to the rather tenuous bridge pictured at the top. The relatively short detour from the well used Loop trail is now poorly maintained, but it's disuse by humans contributes to its use by shy forest creatures. I scared up a few woodpeckers as well as a screech owl as I entered the cypress swamp shown above.

Oh, and I found out the name of the mysterious birds I showed in my post about hiking the neighborhood. They are cedar waxwings. They travel in flocks hereabouts, and I found out about them from another article in the Red Star a few days ago.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Carolina Beach State Park

As you can probably tell from my sparse retirement blog postings, I’ve been struggling to find good hikes here in Wilmington. (Laziness and a few projects and other distractions, I’m sure, had nothing to do with it.) But, Ryan came to the rescue and shared one of his favorite hiking spots on Pleasure Island near Carolina Beach.

It is a pretty large area, so I started by hiking a couple of trails in the Carolina Beach State Park. Interestingly, there are a lot of similarities with the Big Thicket. The first trail I visited, the Venus Fly Catcher trail, is home to all 5 known carnivorous plants because of the poor soil and swamp. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any, probably due to the recent cold weather here. I also hiked the Sugarloaf trail (minus the sugarloaf section, which was closed.). I did take the above pictures of the Cape Fear river and Snow Cut. This was an area of great strategic value in the Civil war, providing transportation for the needed trade. I visited nearby Fort Fisher with Nicole when I was here last year, and learned a bit about it. The civil war chess game over the area is pretty amazing.
I also took this picture of Lily Lake on the Sugarloaf trail. A bit ordinary now, but I'll make a mental note to return in spring, when the lilies may be blooming. And, there were some small cypress swamps, although none as impressive as those behind Joe and Kathy's house. I'm constantly amazed at the number and diversity of cypress swamps. I thought they were fairly rare when I started my travels.

Then, just as was nearing the end of the trail I saw a pair of red pileated woodpeckers working in the woods. While you know my history of taking pictures of birds, I did have my camera on the highest resolution and got a reasonable picture of one of them.

I plan to visit again soon and check out some of the other areas.
An interesting aside... my Word spellcheck doesn't recognize the word blog!! Wow, are they way out of date!