Showing posts with label expeditions/travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label expeditions/travel. Show all posts

May 2, 2017

Experiencing Appalachian Spring

Redbud trees along the Blue Ridge Mountains Blue Ridge Parkway seem to glow through the early, budding trees on my trip back from North Carolina two weeks ago.

Just a photo essay from my trip though the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago. It's been a dream of mine to travel through the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachia and especially during spring - crank up the Aaron Copeland and join me for a visual journey via photos.

This is the land of Redbuds, ofRamps and Dogwood. Of Shadblow trees, migrating thrushes and songbirds of the Eastern deciduous forest, which of course also means peak bloom underfoot with ephemerals - the trilliums and even meadow wild flowers were everywhere, as were the spring showers - I just had to take a few extra days to travel home and why not - I don't have a schedule right now! 

As you may have read earlier, Ramps were in season,  which made my trip even more worth while. This 'wild leek of Appalachia' is also known as Allium tricoccum var. burdickii - a local foraging treat that now finds itself on the hippest tables of foodies across the Northeast. I was able to find some to pick at a friends house but also was able to get some seed - who knows if I can raise them in our woodland, but I am going to try in a raised bed where I grow trillium seedlings.

On this trip I drove from Raleigh, NC to the small town of Mt. Airy and Pilot Mountain (as in 'Mount Pilot - where many stores were themed around the Andy Griffith Show - really - I can't make this stuff up!). The parkway is managed by the National Park system, which means that the road was incredibly scenic (and a bit odd, as it wound through some back yards and a farm here and there, later disappearing back into the mountains like a relic from the past. Real human roads would cross it, but mostly, it was as if a National Park was just a road, and as long as one remained on it, you were transported back to 1800.

Rocky Knob & Mabry Mill was about as scenic as a postcard (remember those?). Once a gristmill and a saw mill, it in now a popular stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. It was Easter Sunday, so I basically had the road to myself, which was kind-of nice. I felt as if I travelled back in time to 1800.

This meant that along the parkway, there was nothing to remind one that it was the year 2017 - not even cars as this was Easter Sunday, and I seemed to have the road to myself.  I stopped at a couple rest areas to see a log cabin or to hike a short trail to a vista on a ledge, but I could hear gunshots in the distance (target practice?)  at one stop which this Yankee felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and then the rumble of thunder - which at this elevation, I didn't want to risk being caught on a rocky ledge.  Best to drive on.

Old dogwood trees and wild flowers were everywhere.

I drove through Fancy Gap, the Meadows of Dan, Cave Spring, Stuarts Draft and then through the lovely Shenandoah Valley, Pennsylvania home towards Massachusetts. I listened to folk music and basically immersed myself in Mountain Dew, listened to pro-Trump ad's on the radio and even ate at a Waffle House in my new camo hunting jacket that I bought at the Cabella's flagship store.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, there are many historic sites, this one had amazing split rail fences,  but I couldn't explore long as a line of thunderstorms was moving in, and I was on a ridge.

Later in the evening, just on the West Virginia Border, a thunderstorm on the Blue Ridge Parkway produced this rainbow as it passed just south of me.

After the storm, the migrating songbirds became very active, and I could hear various thrushes including robins, orioles and many warblers.

As thunderheads moved away in the distance, the sun returned and suddenly, everything looked like a nineteenth century painting.

As the sun set, the thunderheads which continued to grow in the distance far in the east, captured the setting sun.

The mountains became bluer, and one can see why they earned their name.

The next day, I continued my journey through Maryland, and later, central Pennsylvania where I came across this field of rape seed or mustard in full, spring glory. I saw it in the distance, and decided to take an exit from the highway and explore a bit on the back roads.

This was farm country, and every farm looked like a toy - don't worry, it wasn't an omen! Or, was it?

April 9, 2016

My Icelandic Immersion Ends

In my last post from Iceland, and before I return back to more traditional gardening posts, here are some of the various images from both the two cities of Reykjavik and Akureyi in the north.

The snow melted quickly in Reykjavik, on most days, the temperatures hovered around freezing. Iceland was very similar in climate to New England, at least in March and April.

It's just a couple of weeks after Easter Sunday here in Iceland, and many of the stores and homes are still decorated.

There is still plenty of snow cover in the north, where one is closer to the polar regions, but even in Reykjavik, which is in the souther eastern portion of the country, there was some snow. It was snowing when our flight  arrived and snowing back in Boston, as well.

There are only a handful of geysers in the world, and some of the best happen to be in Iceland. 

Reykjavic lays just south of many mountain ranges, and the rest of the country - extending many miles and hours north, is relatively barren with a few farms in between. From across the fjord here, you can see raw nature just miles away.

We visited Iceland's version of Home Depot, and were impressed with the color selection for home colors in their paint department. Coral-red, mustard, sage and light blues - clearly, the colors were limited but I can't help but imagine that this palette helps make the island nation look even nicer.

Driving north, Jess and I stopped to climb a few ridges to appreciate the amazing views, often with any sign of man in sight. No roads, street lights, jet trails but occasionally electrical wires on pylons. With so much geothermal energy,  electricity production is big business in Iceland.
Can you see the rainbow? This remote lake was frozen, and with only the site and sound of migrating birds. In a few weeks. when the ice thaws, these lakes will host one of the Planet's most diverse and rich populations of nesting waterfowl and waders.

It was encouraging to see that in some of the very remote areas, these pylons are forbidden. This sign was seen driving north on the western coast, where one could see for at least 30 miles and not see even a pylon.

Once in the north, only a few miles from the Arctic Circle, the temperatures were significant'y colder, and it snowed most every day.

In the northernmost city of Akureyi, the second largest city in Iceland, a  fearless use of color tints many homes. Homes here appear to made either of concrete, or sided in corrugated metal. Probably due more to the cost and shortage of wood than the cold.

Google helped us find our favorite coffee shop, although, once we found it, we discovered that it very 'Wes Anderson'-like.

The Icelandic Winter Games was one reason why we went to Iceland. The idea of skiing under the Northern Lights intrigued us, but that never happened. There was clearly a 'small town' feel about this event, which we really liked.  Snowboard pipelines, and a snow mobile rally made the night exciting, high above the small city and ocean beyond.

It was snowing hard, but the steep snowy slopes were no match for the many 4X4's that made their way up the hill.
No trees, and a very arctic looking ocean to ski down to, made the experience very special and unique. You could ski with your eyes closed, because there were so few people here.

Super premium all natural fish snacks - - - for dogs. It's what Icelandic dogs eat.

One of the first things I do, when visiting another country, is to peruse the supermarket aisles. This looked interesting.

Our AirBNB was so pretty, the host is clearly an artist, with her paintings on most every wall, and lots of Scandinavian influenced color and patterns. Jess, as  a designer herself,  really liked it.

Jess posed on one of the many colorful sofas in our AirBNB.

On the way back 'home' to Reykjavic, the setting sun enhanced the views.

This country had such amazing vista's and nature, that even though there were few interesting plants, especially in winter, I am certain that I will return again.

April 7, 2016

Exploring Planet Iceland

Our land speeder made traversing this planet rather easy, and...it played gay disco music from the 70's (which the native population apparently enjoys).

It's not a stretch to imagine what it is like on Mars while touring Iceland. It's easy to see why feature films often use Iceland's epic scenery as a location for interplanetary travel, and to be honest, there were a few time while here that it felt a bit too much like 'The Martian', than it did Planet Earth. Here are a few more images of this beautiful and remote country.

Danger lurked everywhere, due to the cold temperatures and the atmospheric conditions.

In some valley's. there was some low plant life, which was interesting given the volume of water on this planet.

Some areas were inhospitable, difficult to walk through so we could only document them on film. A distant volcano hinted at the planet's geologic history.

Judging by the foot prints, we were not alone. 

With some elevation, this blue planet displayed a tremendous volume of water. Most of it appeared crystal clear, and safe for drinking. Someone should bottle it and sell it.

Yet some of the water seemed un-drinkable and acidic at first. We found it to be highly alkaline. Blue cyan-bacteria populated some water sources, which the local's used as a skin treatment (i.e. facial masks at the Blue Lagoon? I won't share those pic's.).

Our diet of licorice, vodka and herring made us feel vital and healthy.

A remote outpost.

At first we weren't sure if we could breath the air. I had left my oxygen meter at home.

Sulphureus fumes from fumaroles hinted that everything might smell like rotten eggs (it did).

It may look toxic, but apparently, this water will make you feel and look ten years younger. It was hot, and  therapeutic and  we took advantage of such pools.

Our team also explored many craters - we experienced a wide range of climactic conditions.

There are few places to pee when there are no trees and our space suits were not equipped.

Rainbows were everywhere. actually, this was a snow-bow.
An interesting outpost hinted of another visit by other explorers - it held two cots, and some basic supplies enough for one night in the frigid temperatures.

The language here is difficult to learn. Siri, on our translation device did an admirable job.

Yet sometimes, Google Maps just seemed to make gibberish out of the language. 

Spectacular waterfalls seemed to be at every turn, making a second visit a must.

Our land cruiser handled the rough terrain well, although we got pretty muddy.

...but the  atmosphere was totally breathable, (the design of our space suits was necessary color,  due to the color of the environment and for safety concerns).
We could not help but notice that there was only one sun in this system, but it didn't warm the atmosphere that well.

The solar storms at night were brilliant, and safe. The symbol of the letter 'M' freaked me out a bit.

The Aurora Borealis ended each night with style. We were fortunate to be 2 hours from our basecamp one evening, which allowed us to capture amazing images without interference. We were not looking forward to our journey back home.