Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Late June in Congaree National Park



Two weeks ago some friends visited from North Carolina. We explored some of the trails in Congaree National Park. It was a warm day, with a high around 102 degrees F. Kermit was  really feeling the heat, with the recent move and everything associated with that, I hadn't been taking him for the usual long walks. 


The National Park Service does prescribed burns to manage the upland pine forests. Beware of chiggers! 

Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)


Living in Louisiana, and now in South Carolina, I have really enjoyed seeing the green anole. It's a beautiful little lizard with the ability to change its color. They move lightning-fast, and can jump surprisingly far. 

When I was a child, my family lived near Augusta Georgia. My twin brother and I use to spend hours trying to catch these little lizards. They're tough to photograph because they can be rather shy and quick to flee. I photographed this lizard this morning in one of the shrubs in front of our house. The way the anole is peeking out of the leaves, looking at me, it reminds me of the "clever girl" velociraptor  scene in the movie Jurassic Park.


Saturday, July 2, 2016

Congaree National Park (December 2016)


Congaree National Park is a beautiful forest and wetland complex. It is considered the largest intact old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. It is a relatively new park, having been designated as such in 2003, prior to that it was a National Monument.

Kermit and I visited Congaree during the last week in December. It was quite warm, once we got walking I was quite comfortable in a t-shirt (although everyone else was bundled up in winter coats!).


Congaree is a very biodiverse area, with some incredible cypress and tupelo stands.


Kermit does not have the best sitting posture   :-)


Much of Congaree was flooded during this visit



Crayfish holes

Cypress knees

Me and Kermit! Short sleeves in December! 

Shallow roots, another wetland indicator
A curious gray squirrel

Friday, July 1, 2016

Great Smoky Mountains National Park- Chimney Tops


In May of 2015, I spent some time with family visiting Smoky Mountain National Park. I've been negligent with this blog, for several reasons, not least of which is because last fall my wife and I moved from Louisiana to South Carolina. So there's plenty to catch up on. 

While in TN, I had the chance to do some hiking, including up Chimney Tops, which is one of the many popular hikes in the Smoky Mountains. 


The hike up was beautifully lush, with many little verdant coves such as this one



I believe this is Flatbacked Millipede, Sigmoria trimaculata

Beautiful timber check steps
I've been many trails in the northeast, and the steps along this trail are some of he nicest I have ever seen. My brother builds trails like this for the National Park Service in Washington.
Beautiful stone check steps


The rock outcropping on Chimney Tops, offering a 360-degree panoramic view

I did not climb all the way to the top. The rock outcropping was still wet from rain earlier in the day. 



The southern Appalachians reminds me of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The views are similar, with some overlap in plant species,  but the plant communities of the southern Appalachians are famously diverse.  Now that I live in SC, I look forward to exploring



Sunday, July 5, 2015

Turkey Creek Lake


Two weeks ago I went paddling around the northern portion of Turkey Creek Lake, Louisiana. It's a beautiful area, with some incredible cypress. There is an interesting Water-body Management Plan document publicly available from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries website, here. It covers some of the management issues they deal with, such as invasive aquatic species, both plants (water hyacinth) and animals (asian carp). 



Bald cypress leaves

It was tough trying to get a photo of this water spider, without leaning too far over in the canoe.






While paddling on the lake, I saw my first alligator gar, it surfaced a couple of feet from the canoe. I was able to get a decent glimpse of its long row of teeth and speckled scales.



Despite the fact that I went in the morning, it was still too hot to take Kermit, and have him sitting in a hot aluminum canoe in the sun. The humidity was essentially 100% and it was already close to 90 degrees F by the time I was in the water, with a heat index of at least 100 F. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Africa Lake- Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge


I took Kermit out paddling on Africa Lake in the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge. Africa Lake is an old oxbow lake of the Tensas River. The lake is smack in the middle of a large expanse of bottom land hardwood forest. This forest, the refuge, was the actually the location of the last confirmed sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker in the 1940s. 

It was a hot and humid day, but Kermit enjoyed being out on the water


I saw many alligators, I stopped counting after a dozen. The lake is very narrow, with very steep banks all around. I was the only person out on the lake, and I didn't see anyone else on the refuge until I was driving out. Paddling down the lake among alligators, with great blue herons, anhingas, and egrets flying overhead I could almost imagine myself having gone back in time. In my imagination, I've also thought these great water birds resemble pterodactyls, and alligators are essentially dinosaurs. 

A great pamphlet, which includes info on Africa Lake and many other areas to paddle can be found here. 

The shore has many large and beautiful bald cypress trees along it.


This inlet leads to the "Cypress Cathedral," and when the water is high to the second portion of Africa Lake.I intend to navigate through it sometime soon, and explore the rest of the lake. 


As I was driving out of the Refuge, I saw a green strip on the gravel road, I suspected it might be a snake so I stopped to check it out and found a beautiful little rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus).