Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Great Smoky Mountains NP: Andrews Bald

Way back in September of last year we went camping in the Smoky Mountains...and I never even talked about it here. We had a wonderful time, and it confirmed my belief that I could live in those mountains and be happy forever. 

Just like when we stayed in Shenandoah, it rained for the first couple days. It's ok, we still hiked and enjoyed ourselves. But, we were really happy when the sky cleared and we were able to enjoy the fall colors with a little bit of sunshine and a little less wet. 

We decided to hike to Andrews Bald, a quick 1.8 miles one-way. The parking lot for Clingmans Dome was insane! We drove around four times before we found a spot. Most people were going up to the observation tower, only a few were going to the Bald. 

The trail was beautiful, it went through a spruce-fir forest and then would come out on some beautiful open vistas.

Almost there!

Oh yeah, wonderful. It was amazing, the sun was shining and we were above the clouds. We couldn't see mountains in the distance, but there was a surreal feeling of floating on the bald. We took off our packs and just laid down in the meadow. 

We may have gotten a few stares, but most people saw us and decided to take a seat and enjoy the view too. I mean, why hike out here and not stop and take it in. 

We took our time going back, stopping a bunch and really appreciating our surroundings. And by the time we got back the clouds had cleared and we could see the mountains for quite a ways. 

It made me want to turn around and go right back to the bald. 
Maybe another time. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Marblehead Lighthouse and Birding

Hello world! It's been far too long since I've updated this blog. Without really doing much, it seems as if life has been really busy the past few months. It's hard to believe February is almost over. 

Life is good, Andrew moved clinics at work and I think he is pretty happy. He has more responsibility and that makes him happy. I love my job working two days a week at the nature center. And next week I start a part-time internship! 

I love making progress in my field, and every bit of experience I can add to my resume before I graduate is a benefit to me. It does mean that time will be even more precious. I will work Monday-Saturday. That is short term though, it is only three months and then life will be back to normal. 

Anyway, just a few weekends ago Andrew had some leave to use and we decided to head up to Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie. It's somewhere Andrew and I have been talking about seeing for a long time, and never had the chance to go there. 

We picked a perfect day to do it. The sun was shining and the temperature reached at least 45. Of course, there was no one else there. Except a Border Patrol SUV in the parking lot. 

 I'm glad we saw it during this time of year, it was beautiful. 
After spending a little while walking around the property (museum was closed for the season). We stopped at a little cafe down the road called Avery's Cafe...highly suggest it. It was delicious. 

After that we headed south to stop by Killdeer Plains preserve to look for some birds. I had gone a few weeks earlier with work and hoped Andrew would get to see some good birds.
 We stopped at the owl wintering area and tried spotting roosting owls, but no luck. We did however find several owl pellets which I took home and dissected. More on that later.

After leaving the wintering area, we hit the jackpot and saw several short-eared owls. And got pretty close to a couple of them!

As we were leaving there were about seven perched in a tree, it was awesome! 
Anyway, there's more the story and I'll have to talk about that later : )