Sunday, June 21, 2015

Is it August?

From lunch time one day last week....
It's not even August yet!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Table Rock / Foothills backpacking

Two weekends in a row for backpacking hasn't happened in a long time but after not officially camping in Shining Rock I was thrilled to head out with my son last weekend.

We planned on a 5 mile hike of the Foothills trail starting in Table Rock State Park.   The trail is steep and it was extremely hot but we were making good progress and I was glad to be out there.

At lunch we sat on a rocky bald with a view.  This is where the apple I had carried for lunch rolled down and launched itself off a cliff.  At least my sandwich wan't shaped like a ball.

As we approached within a mile of our campsite we encountered a hiker coming from the other direction.  He filled us in on some other campers up ahead of us and we realized our favorite site had already been claimed.  We decided to head on and see what was going on.

After evaluating a small campsite beside a small creek we decided to hike about a mile back and set up camp at a site we had passed earlier.

It didn't take long for us to get our tent setup and a fire going.

We discovered some wildlife in our campsite.  There was this guy. . .
also a large spider, a frog, a snail, and a scorpion were all found living in the fire ring.
We let all of the above creatures live as they didn't seem to be bothering our fire.

After toting a previously blogged about bear canister for the day I was glad to take it out of my bag and use it as a camp stool.  Once opened it also provided me with some dinner.  I was mostly interested to see how it would fare during the night.  Instead of attempting to find an appropriate place to hang food I decided to cram some rocks around the canister and store it away from the camp.
In the morning I was thrilled to find our stash completely untouched.

The views continued to beautiful and the weather was much easier as we hiked out Sunday morning around 8am.  Because of our Saturday afternoon back tracking we only had about four and a half miles to head out.

We made it back to the car in record speed.

This allowed us to beat the intense heat of the coming afternoon and allowed us to leave the park before the large crowds gathered at the waterfall to swim.

Here's an upside down view of our hike on the Foothills Trail:

Oh, and remember that scorpion I mentioned earlier?  He came home with us!!!!!!!
As I was on the porch unpacking my bag I pulled my sleeping bag out from the bottom of the pack and I felt a bite on my stomach.  I brushed it off, looked down, and there was a scorpion on my porch!!!!  He quickly ducked between some boards but we got a good view of under the porch, knocked him to the dirt and stabbed him dead with a wooden stake.  It took me about an hour to calm down from that.  I couldn't believe I had accidentally brought home such an awful creature.

After two weekends spent in the woods I think I'll be content to spend this coming weekend laying down watching movies.  At least I can't pick up any more scorpions that way.

There are additional photos from our trip posted HERE for anyone that is interested.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Random Cell Phone Pics

Because we now have the ability to photograph everything I often end up with some random photos on my phone.  Here's the latest sampling. 

After dinner on the new patio we discovered a new game of throwing the pebbles into someone's drink.  Bonus if you can bounce the rock into the cup!

In the freezer.... anyone want stew tonight?

Guess who won the family game night trophy (again). . . this guy!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Bear Canister in Shining Rock Wilderness

For our anniversary Cari planned a backpacking trip for her and I to take.  Last weekend we headed up to one of my all time favorite places to hike.  We arrived near the Blue Ridge Pkwy with our bags packed and ready to go.   The weather was beautiful and we took the last available parking spot when we arrived.

After getting our packs on and adjusted we started to the trail where we were quickly met with a sign...

We didn't have a bear canister.  We had our food in plastic bags that were advertised to block scents from bears.  The plan was to hang our food in a tree after dinner.  As we looked at the sign we discussed if we wanted to proceed or turn back.  We were both looking forward to this trip (more so for me) and we started up the trail.

Within five minutes we stopped and talked about it again.  Certainly there have been problems with bears if these rules are being implemented.  We decided we didn't want to be part of the problem so we returned to the car, loaded up our packs, and put together a small daypack.   With this smaller bag of food and water we headed up the trail for a hike without camping.  Although disappointed on missing out on the camping we were still excited to have the day together.

We made our way up the Art Loeb trail with Shining Rock as our goal.  The weather remained clear and we were presented with amazing views for our hike along the ridge.

We stopped for a short lunch break on Tennent Mountain.

About one o'clock we arrived at the border of the Shining Rock Wilderness.  I have previously been in the wilderness one other time  and I was excited to show Cari the white rocks that give the mountain its name.

It took another hour of hiking to reach the white rocks scattered on the ground.  It's a unique view to see these white boulders appear when you haven't seen anything else like it around.

We were checking out our map and planning our hike back to the car when a hiker with a dog approached us.  He asked if we needed any directions and stopped to talk to us about the various trails in the wilderness area.  He also warned us of bears in the area that have become very active.

We decided to take the old logging road of Ivestor Gap Trail back to the car.  The old logging road would remain pretty level and should be quicker than ascending and descending all the hills again.  We were both getting pretty tired and were glad we weren't carrying our twenty pound packs with us.
When we reached the edge of the wilderness area I reviewed the posting about bear canisters.   This was not a suggestion.  This was a regulation that could get you fined (and possibly jail time).
Some hikers had also written on the board several specific sightings.
This helped confirm that we had made the right choice of not camping until obtaining a bear canister.
We continued on Ivestor Gap Trail until we made it back to the car nearly eleven miles after we had left it.  There were also two park rangers in the parking lot talking to hikers and campers.  I imagined they were talking about bear canisters but we didn't stick around to find out.
We were sun burned, hungry, and sore.  But it was a great day together in the wilderness.
Here are a few more views from our amazing adventure:

The morning after our trip we made a trip over to REI and found bear canisters to be about $70.  This is not a cheap requirement to fulfill but a necessary one.  After reading online it looks like more and more of our national forests and wilderness areas are requiring bear canisters for food.  At this time it is the most reliable way to keep your food out of the mouths of wild animals.

Her is a quote from the USDA Forest Service website for North Carolina:
U.S. Forest Service Reminds Visitors, Bear Canisters are Required for Backcountr
PISGAH FOREST, N.C., April 27, 2015 – As bear encounter reports continue, the U.S. Forest Service reminds backcountry users that bear canisters are required in the Shining Rock Wilderness, Black Balsam, Sam’s Knob and Flat Laurel Creek Areas of the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest. 
A camping closure in the nearby Graveyard Fields area is still in effect, though the area remains open for day use.
“We’ve had numerous reports of bears having success in acquiring improperly stored as well as hung food, reinforcing that bear canisters are the best way to deter hungry bears,” said Pisgah District Ranger Derek Ibarguen.  “Visitor safety is of the utmost importance and canisters are the most effective way to safely store food and reduce bear-human conflicts.”
These regulations, issued in consultation with the N.C. Wildlife Commission, were implemented due to human safety concerns after a bear entered a tent and removed a hiker’s backpack earlier this year. 
All bear canisters must be commercially made; constructed of solid, non-pliable material manufactured for the specific purpose of resisting entry by bears.
Please ‘Be Bear Aware’
  • Do not Store Food in Tents
  • Properly Store Food by Using a bear proof container
  • Clean up food or garbage around fire rings, grills, or other areas of your campsite
  • Do not leave food unattended
For more information visitors are encouraged to call the Pisgah Ranger District at (828) 877-3265.
For tips, visit

This canister adds two pounds to my pack and is very bulky.  Not ideal, but safety outranks convenience.  Now I'm ready to visit the Black Balsam area again!
**At least the canister can double as a seat at camp.  If it will withstand a bear it can hold my weight.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Baby Birds

For the second Spring we have some baby birds in our crab apple tree.

At first I noticed two adult birds acting strangely and fighting a lot in the back yard.

Then Cari noticed a nest with three babies in it.  Maybe the adults were "fighting" to distract us from the nest?

We tried to give them some space and not scare them out of the nest, but we also were in the middle of working in the back yard when we discovered them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

HBO NOW - Get it.

HBO is not just movies.  They are a source of terrific original content that they produce.  Oh, and they still have movies.  HBO released their service a few months ago to Apple users and now will be releasing this service to Android devices.

For families like mine that have no cable or satellite service, I'm happy to pay the $15 a month directly to HBO.

It's getting easier than ever to cut the cable.  Live sports are the last piece to the puzzle and I would not be surprised to see a service in the near future that allows you to pay someone like the NFL to have the ability to stream any game directly to your device or television.

The HBO Now service works perfectly and gives you access to any of their content any time you want it.  Even at lunch, sitting in your car, close enough to someone that offers free wifi!

Monday, June 08, 2015

19th Anniversary

After spending the majority of my life with her, I'm glad to report that Cari is still my best friend and that I am extremely lucky to have her.

We have been married for 19 years today!!

I love you Cari!

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Sticky Notes are Scary

I'm married to a nurse.  This means that we get weird sticky notes near the desk.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Safety First

Several years ago, our community lost a young girl to a car accident.  She was in front of her house riding her bike when a car came over a hill and hit her.

Emma's parents wanted to get the word out about wearing a helmet when riding your bike and for at least the past two years, they have distributed free bike helmets to first graders at both of our local elementary schools.

Our youngest daughter always wears a helmet while riding her bike (when her older brother isn't wearing it)

but going to a school function to hear about bike safety is terrific reinforcement.   It's unfortunate that so many great programs like this are created only after the loss of a loved one.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Addicted to Technology

Have a technology habit.  I can't help myself.  If it is shiny and has a digital screen you already have my interest.

I've spent the past few months slowly saving up for a smart watch that I don't need.  These watches cost close to $300 for the high end models.  As always happens with technology, as we approach another round of new devices, the current prices will drop.

The price drop of those $300 watches matched up to the amount that I have saved and I was able to run out this past weekend and pick up a new toy for a price I was willing to pay.   Sure, I could have waited until the end of summer to see what the new models would bring, but I have already determined that I wouldn't spend more than $200 on a watch and the new models will exceed that price.

So, here I am, the proud new owner of a thing with a battery to be charged.