Friday, April 25, 2014

Spring Break Hiking- Hanging Rock, NC

On the last day of our spring break we decided to head to North Carolina to check out Hanging Rock State park. It's not too far from us and is actually pretty close to Pilot mountain where we have hiked many times before.   i did a little research on it, and found that there are may waterfalls in the park and was excited to check it out. i printed up this waterfall tour to take with us. 

Hanging Rock has a really nice Visitor's center. There was some interactive educational displays, and a small gift shop.  Almost all of the hiking trails start here in the parking lot near the visitor's center. There are indoor bathrooms and a water fountains to fill up water bottles.  So it ended up being very convenient that we would end up back here after hiking each trail. 

The first waterfall we checked out is the Upper Cascade Falls. This one is across the road from the visitor's center and only about .2 miles. It was a easy trail, and falls are beautiful. There is a small wading pool in front of the falls where the kids can get their feet wet.  There was a family at the falls when we arrived, they were sitting along the edge with their feet in the water and the space was a bit too crowded for us to stay very long. We snapped a quick picture and then headed on to the next trail. 

The next trail we took was the Hanging Rock Trail. It is listed as only being 1.3 miles, but i swear it was the longest mile of my life.  ha ha. i'm wondering if it was 1.3 miles as the crow flies, because it felt much longer than 1.3 miles, and we hike all the time.  So this picture was taken at the base of Hanging rock. We still have to climb all the way up to the top.  The trail isn't really difficult, but it is a little strenuous. If you have any issues with heights i would not recommend climbing to the top. 

This photo was taken at the top of Hanging Rock, although we have not yet walked out onto the actual Hanging Rock ledge. i was already pretty terrified at this point. That cliff behind us, just goes straight down. It doesn't look like much in the photo, but it was really scary. The man that took the photo for us, made a gasping noise when he went to hand me back the camera and stepped closer to the edge. He wife was sitting on the rocks across from us and afraid to move. i honestly had no desire to climb out onto the ledge, this was plenty high enough.

So this is a nice shot of Hanging Rock.  In just a moment, we are going to walk around to it and then walk out and sit on the edge of this ledge. There were a lot of folks at the top of Hanging Rock, i'm not quite sure how i managed to get a picture without anyone on it. Most folks were hanging back on the less scary areas. 

This photo was borrowed off a page about Hanging Rock. Just to show you some perspective. People are seriously freaking crazy. lol. 

Here is my family sitting the same place the folks above are sitting.  i was just about having a panic attack, and kept telling Kenan not to go all the way to edge. My knees literally turned to jelly and i had to sit down about half way out on the ledge. i was almost in tears, begging Kenan to come back up to where i was.  So, sorry to say i did not enjoy Hanging Rock. There were a lot of young adults/college students sitting right out on the edges. i even watched one girl's foot slip and she was walking out on a ledge and had to look away so afraid she was about to fall. 


The view from Hanging rock was spectacular. We could even see Buffalo Mountain on the horizon, although it's tricky to see in the photo. i'm always amazed to see trees growing out of the cracks in the rock. There were quite a few at the top of Hanging Rock.

We even spotted this Fence Post lizard at the top. This was the time i'd ever seen a fence post lizard, so i thought that was pretty cool. i have the goal every year to see/identify something i've never seen before. It's amazing to me that after living here for 14 years, i still find new things each each. 

After coming down from Hanging Rock, we walked back to the Visitor's center to refill water bottles and then continued on to the Indian Creek trail.  The frst falls we came upon are Hidden falls, but there were some folks ahead of us that turned down the path to those falls so we continued on to Window Falls. It is  .6 miles to the Window Falls. These are absolutely beautiful falls. There were some young folks who had put up a hammock here and were chilling out by the falls and smoking some funny stuff. ;)  So we didn't hang around long, just snapped a couple pictures and then went back to Hidden Falls. 

We were all getting pretty tired at this point, and it was starting to get late so we know this was going to be the last hike even though we didn't get a chance to see all of the falls.

Hidden Falls, are just off the Indian Creek Trail only about .4 miles from the parking lot. There was no one else at these falls when we got here, which was really nice. These are smaller falls, but the water is shallow and the kids were able to kick off their shoes and play in the water. 

After leaving Hidden Falls, we headed back home. Here is a nice view of Hanging Rock.  This is a wonderful park to explore. i look forward to coming back to see the rest of the waterfalls. We did not get to see the Lower Cascade falls or Tori's Den and waterfall.  There are several other trails that i would love to come back and hike, but i do not ever need to go to the top of Hanging rock again, ever. :) 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring Break hiking- Beaver Dam Creek

 After visiting Panther Creek, we continued down the road and stopped at Beaver Dam Creek.This is a short established walking trail in Hillsville, VA.  It's really close and makes a nice afternoon family walk.  We typically spot a few wildflowers and the kids enjoy throwing rocks in the creek.  We usually pass a jogger or two, but it's never very busy here.

The trail follows the creek, and new raised bridges were put in where they had been partially washed away last year or the year before.  We spotted a little warbler here, although i was unable to identify it.

The trail is flat, so the kids love to run ahead and climb on the big rocks. It's really a pretty safe/ family friendly trail.

i was a bit disappointed by the lack of flowers. i thin we are just a couple weeks early, for the trillium and may-apples to arrive.  Skunk cabbage was popping up everywhere, although most of the flowers had dried up and the green shoots were beginning to open. 

i found some Shrub Yellowroot on the edge of the creek. Although the flowers are tiny and easily overlooked, if you take a second to really look at them they are quite lovely ad delicate. 

Every year we come to Beaver Dam looking for tadpoles.  The first year we visited we found both tadpoles and newtpoles.  i didn't have any luck raising the newtpoles, but we were able to raise and release the tadpoles.  We found egg mass in one of the swampy areas. i'm not sure what it is from. 

We found tadpoles in one of the puddles in the parking area.  There were tons of tadpoles in all sizes. i often wonder what happens if the puddle dries up, as it hasn't rained in days and there really wasn't much water in the puddle. :(

i just happened to have a bucket with me. ;) So we scooped up a few to bring home and raise. We'll release them once they grow into frogs.  We raise tadpoles almost every year, but didn't get to last year. So i was pretty excited to find them this year. :) 

i really like that Hillsville has this established walking trail that is well maintained by the town. i would love to see something like in Floyd.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spring Break Hiking- Panther Creek

Every spring we take a drive down Panther creek to see the phlox bloom. The rock faces all along the side of the creek are covered with it.  The kids were on Spring break this weekend Fri-Mon so we decided to enjoy the nice weather and do a bit of hiking.  

  It is a much darker pink than it looks. It always looks so light and washed out in the photos.

 i've never been able to capture its beauty in photos, but it doesn't stop me from trying.

It goes all the up as far as you can see, and spreads down over the rocks.  It doesn't last very long. i think the phlox only blooms for a week or two.  It is pretty amazing to see.

Wild Columbine is coming up everywhere.  i was hoping to collect some, to help establish it in my woods but it growing in the rock crevices. There was no way to dig the plants without pulling and breaking the roots off because it was so dry out. i love to collect native wildflowers and transplant them to areas where there are none.  i've collected a few of the columbine in the past, and they still come up in my native wildflower garden.

The kids and i took a small hike up the stream, but didn't go too far. We were not really dressed for hiking, and the area is know for rattlesnakes and copperheads.  Kenan injured his back last week, so he hung behind while i wandered into the woods a bit with the kids. This is a lovely place to hike, but it is quite rocky and a little treacherous in places. Very easy to slip and twist an ankle or bust your head open.  i was hoping to see more wildflowers, but there was not that many back in the woods.

i did find a patch of Little Heartleaf wild ginger up on top of some rocks. i identified Wild ginger for the first time last year, and ever since then i see t every where!  

There were several Swallowtails fluttering around enjoying the phlox. This is the first swallowtail i've seen this year!

i also found wild bleeding hearts coming up along the rock faces. Like the columbine it was coming up in the rock crevices.  So beautiful!

It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed just hanging out for a bit and then we headed on to Beaver Creek Dam to look for tadpoles. 

This winter has been so long, it is nice to finally get  out and start hiking again. i missed our weekend day trips to the local state parks and other hiking trails.

i'm a little behind on posts this month. We took a trip to Florida at the beginning of April, and i'm planning to share some of our adventures on here. We also just hiked Hanging Rock yeterday, and i have a ton of pictures to share. i have to catch up on my creative everyday posts, and i have a product review for Earth Friendly Products to post in the next day or two.

i hope that you are all beginning to feel spring where you are!  Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Garden Prepping.

Just a few days ago it was snowing, and this week it is finally starting to feel like spring.  It's been the 70's the last couple of days, so i've been out trying to get the gardens prepped and ready.

i was hoping to start a bunch of seeds inside, but my mischievous kitten Banjo, has made that rather difficult. He chews up the seedlings, and digs in the soil. So the husband put together this cold frame, so i can try to get a few things started early. i typically plant seeds directly in the ground for almost everything. The exceptions have been tomato, peppers, broccoli/cauliflower, eggplant and sweet potato. i've never had great luck starting these inside and transplanting so in the past i have typically purchased them as plants from our local garden center. They actually have a great selection of heirloom varieties.

Last year i started a few tomatoes from seed and they did really well, so i bought a bunch of tomato seeds this year and am attempting to start them all from seed this year instead of purchasing them. i'm also starting seeds for Violet Cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli, because i can't get these variety at the garden center.  i'm attempting to start my own sweet potatoes as well, but so far they are not producing any starts.

My front garden was a huge mess. It was never turned up in the fall, and the weeds had taken over. It was covered in chickweed, ground ivy and grass. We still do not have a working rototiller, so the husband turned up the bed using a pitch fork.  Then i let the chickens get in there and really scratch it up.  eat up grubs, weed seeds and some of the chickweed. They  also eat the earth worms, which is good for them, but not necessarily good for my garden.  They do leave a bit of manure behind, so hopefully that makes up for it. 

i worked on turning up the soil in the main (summer) garden. Rather than planting in traditional rows, i like to plant in blocks. A few years ago i can across this method of making raised beds without building boxes or frames from Martha Stewart. You can see a video on it here.  i really like this method, it allows you to concentrate your fertilizer or compost where it's needed most and helps with drainage.  i also prefer the look of it.  i always felt very limited when i planted in rows, but with blocks you can split up the blocks and plant much more of a variety.

i recently came across this chart on the Heirloom Organics Fb page, and thought it was great!  It really shows how you can have fun with the blocks and create a nice looking garden without tons of space.  i love how they incorporated the flowers in with veggies. i tend to plant nasturtium with just about everything. It's pretty and edible.

i still have a quite a while before i can really start planting, but i'm enjoying playing in the dirt and getting it all set up and planned out.  

"In the spring, at the end of the dayyou should smell like dirt." - Margaret Atwood