May 29, 2018

Finding Fun and Fungi with a Fun Guy

"For fast-acting relief, try slowing down."                                                     -Lily Tomlin

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of closing the school library for the year, planning and diving head first into a small reno project at home, nursing an old soccer injury, and kicking off summer vacation.

Every year, April sneaks up on May and jump-scares it into a frenzy. The end of the school year is always a combo of testing, awards day, field day, inventory, ordering, and year-end reporting. Preparing a punch list that seems impossible to accomplish––and then it's finished, you're out of school for the summer, and now you're making entirely different plans.

So, for the old soccer injury. It is old as in a couple weeks. It is a soccer injury as in, while shagging balls for a bunch of students during our annual field day, I decided to kick a ball and felt as if I had thrown out my hip. The pain subsided and I continued my 4.5-5 mile daily walking routine even though my hip complained like a whiny baby.

School ended two Fridays ago at noon and, by Saturday, my husband and I had started the redo we had been promising our old Master Bedroom since we built the new one. I'll show and tell in an upcoming post.

"But what about hiking?" you ask.

That Sunday afternoon, we headed up to Pilot Knob a) because it is a fairly close drive and b) because we were really exhausted. We logged 6.5 hot, muggy miles and came out of the woods covered in ticks, but we did spot some neat fungi.

Here's the down side. The reno work, e.g. climbing up and down a ladder, scraping overhead, etc., followed by the hike, took a toll on the hip and forced me to slow down and take stock.

So, last week:

  • I broke a 9.5 month streak for meeting my walking goal every day,
  • I promised never to kick a soccer ball again, 
  • My husband and I celebrated 39 years since jumping the broom,
  • And we shared a great meal with our greatest accomplishment at one of our favorite Nashville spots, Burger Up.

This week, I'm back on my walking game and I have a new and very different punch list going. So, watch for a Hearth & Home post here in the next few weeks tentatively entitled, Be Our Guest.

Until then, be well and take good care.

Mona B

May 9, 2018

Lessons from Thoreau on the Cub Lake Trail

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
- Henry David Thoreau

When one first begins to hike and all the trails are unfamiliar, there is a sense of adventure, true, but also a tiny fear of the unknown.

Will the trail be too strenuous or blazed (marked) inadequately? Will we get lost? 

The answer to all these questions, if you are hiking on established trails in a state or national park, state natural area, or national recreation area, is no; however, you will––in all likelihood––get frustrated, rerouted, turned around (momentarily), and bewildered. Hiking is not like going to the movies, out to dinner, or to a theme park. All those activities are fairly predictable, plus, you are surrounded by people paid to help if you get lost or overly tired or confused. 

Hiking requires planning and often pre-planning. In the beginning, I pored over Tennessee State Park websites, looking at the trail list, mileages, and levels of difficulty. We wanted some idea of what we were walking into.

Often there is a visitor center open with knowledgeable staff to assist you pre-hike, but sometimes there is not. Early on, when we were unfamiliar with the trails, I would save the park map on my phone before I left home. Here is what the new Tennessee State Park maps look like:

One of our favorite trails is the Cub Lake trail at Natchez Trace State Park. It is a beautiful woods with great elevation changes. NTSP has made several trail improvements over the past few years, rerouting some sections around trouble spots, but it's tough, time consuming work and there is much work still to be done. 

Here's our favorite hike isolated from the entire map. It's that little orange dotted line. You will note that trail is listed as 4.0 miles, but that mileage is measured from where you go into the woods (the trailhead) to where you come out. According to every measuring device I've worn over the last several years, this trail is just over 5.5 miles car door back to car door.

We love to hike year-round, but, honestly, our favorite time is when we don't have to watch our step for snakes or deal with ticks and mosquitos. That said, the trade-off is beauty. From now until October we will gladly deal with those inconveniences because there is most always something lovely to see.

American Snowbell
Last Sunday, the weather was perfect. Lots of folks out taking advantage of a beautiful day, many were practicing their kayaking skills. I think these ladies thought I was paparazzi.

We met only one other group of hikers, a couple about our age with a 5yo grandson. It was a hot, sticky, buggy, muddy day on the trail, but that little hiker looked as if he was having fun. Maybe there's an age threshold for complaining about those things.

The spring bloom is slightly behind what I've photographed in previous years, probably due to Tennessee's cold snap in April. Still, I happened to see some interesting fungi. . .

a few wildflowers. . .

and a woods absolutely teeming with several varieties of lovely wild azaleas.

Pinxter Flower

Wild Azaleas
So, still listening and learning from the woods, but Thoreau was definitely right.

Until next time,

Mona B

May 2, 2018

Blue skies smiling at me

Great Egret over Honker Dam

Last Sunday afternoon was one of several near-perfect hiking days this spring. Not only does it finally feel as if spring has arrived, but also as if summer is breathing down its collar. 

The Honker Lake Trail, a part of the Nature Station Trails at Land Between the Lakes, is one of our favorite spots. It is listed as 4.6 miles, but we usually wind up stitching together somewhere between six and seven miles of great day hiking with decent elevation changes and beautiful vistas.

Last weekend, the trail was a bit wet in places, but if you haven't picked your way through a soupy spot or trudged on through some mud or pulled off your KEENS and socks and waded in water, is it really an adventure? So, yes, all of the above happened and made for a great day.

For the past several years, until this winter, I had hiked with my iPhone as my only camera. I was lucky enough to capture some images I really enjoy, but after Santa brought me some new gear last Christmas, I vowed to start carrying my DSLR. The shot below is very similar to a shot I took last year, but my phone camera did not offer the reach of my actual camera. A couple of these guys slipped off into the water before I could grab the shot, but I was tickled to snap the remaining crew.

The Turtles - Happy Together
On the other side of the bridge, grandma (or grandpa) was enjoying the sunshine with a side order of solitude.

If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen the next two images. I must preface them by saying that I am a hiker who loves birds, not a birder. I don't have the right lens, the patience, nor the knowledge base to be a good birder. I follow the Tennessee Birding group on Facebook and I enjoy it immensely. Those people are good and they inspire me to be better. 

The two pictures below are of the male Prothonotary Warbler, but probably not the same guy, although I guess they could be. One picture was made at the beginning of our hike, the other threeish hours later at the end of our hike. As the crow (or Prothonotary Warbler) flies, though, probably not that far apart. His song and his color make me smile.

I always consider it a bit of luck to see a butterfly, serendipitous if it actually lights long enough for me to get a picture. I have ID'ed this one as a male Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus). If you are an expert and disagree, please correct me.

Spicebush Swallowtail

About mid-trail, there is a long narrow concrete walkway that runs between Lake Barkley and Honker Bay. We have hiked this trail many times, but Sunday was the first time we had ever seen the walkway entirely under water. Was probably comical to the younger set watching both us and the couple crossing after us remain upright on that narrow, algae slick path. Hey, we made it without getting us or any of our gear wet. 

As evidenced by the top shot of the Great Egret and this last shot looking out over Honker Bay, there was not a cloud in the sky. 

Nothing but blue skies do I see.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time.

Mona B

"I needed a mountain to rest my eyes against."                                                                           -E...