Late Day Start
Friday, May 20, 2005: I started packing last night and finished this morning. Then I went to work. Much of the day was taken up in writing a new draft of a paper, which I sent to my co-author in the afternoon. Soon afterward everything was in order so I could leave, and I took off at about 4pm, a bit ahead of schedule. The drive to Wildwood (285 miles from campus via turnpike, 75, Sawgrass, turnpike) was reasonably smooth and I arrived at about 8:30, having stopped to eat on the way.
The one interesting thing on the way was a big cat sitting on its haunches by the side of the road somewhere in Osceola county. I only got a brief look as I whizzed by, but it appeared to be a Panther! I couldn't see the tail, but it had the size and a panther (not bobcat) face. I don't know if it was wild or an escapee. It looked pretty scruffy.
Saturday, May 21, 2005: I drove to San Felasco Hammock State Park, getting there about 8. I didn't realize I could have gotten in earlier if I'd been there. It was nice to hear all the birdsong at San Felasco. I did the nature trail and a bit over a mile on the north side trails. Highlights included an Acadian Flycatcher singing from about 12 feet away on a very low branch next to the trail and lots of singing Hooded Warblers.
The next stop was nearby Devil's Millhopper State Park. The birds were a subset of the birds at San Felasco. The sinkhole itself was interesting. According to the park brochure, the trail to the bottom (via boardwalk) includes 232 steps. Needless to say, they are easier going down than up!
My last stop of the day was Big Shoals State Park. I walked the trail to the Big Shoals, and then about 2/3 mile further down the river. A Hooded Warbler put on a show near the beginning of the trail. The trail runs on top of a low bluff overlooking the river. Several swampy areas were present right near the edge of the bluff. Near the shoals, there is a trail down the bank to a little beach. Some stone pillars on the other side of the river caught my attention there.
|Big Shoals||Swampy Area||Stone Pillars|
|Fence Lizard||Beach View|
On the way back, I found a recently fledged Parula that seemed to still have a few downy feathers. Had papa Parula not been present, I might have had trouble accurately identifying the bird!
I walked over 8 1/4 miles today. Except for the steps at Devil's Millhopper, it was flat walking. My trip bird total is 48 species.
Sunday, May 22, 2005: My first stop today was Tallulah Gorge State Park, where part of Deliverance was filmed. I walked both the rim trails and the steps to the bottom (and back again), a total of about 1 1/2 miles. Included in this is a series of stairs leading to a suspension bridge over the river. I crossed the bridge, then went down further to the river level before ascending the stairs on the other side. I didn't count the steps, and different sources give different numbers, but it is over 600 (maybe over 700) from the bottom to the top. However many it is, it's a lot of steps! One of my knees was hurting by the time I returned to the top. After exploring the other rim, I returned to the visitor's center via the highway bridge.
|Oceana Falls||L'Eau d'Or Falls||Swinging Bridge|
|River Level View||Hurricane Falls||Swinging Bridge|
Due to a dam upstream, very little water has flowed through Tallulah's waterfalls since the dam was built in 1913. However, on a few days each year they release water for scenic or recreational (whitewater) purposes. This weekend was one of the scenic releases and plenty of water was flowing in all 5 major waterfalls.
|Hurricane Falls||Tallulah Falls Dam|
My next stop was Black Rock Mountain State Park. I took the Tennessee Rock Trail, which loops around the side of Black Rock Mountain and then returns over the summit (3640 feet). Near the top, it passes through a rhododendron tunnel. I saw plenty of Mayapples and Catesby's Trillium along the trail. There was even a little remnant American Chestnut. I was puzzled by a "seet" call I was hearing along the trail. Eventually, I found a couple of Ovenbirds high up on a branch. It looked as though they were recently fledged. The uphill was fine, but my knee was definitely complaining as I returned to the trailhead.
I took a scenic path into North Carolina, but skipped the planned stop at Rabun Bald (I was running late and not up to hiking any more today). I took US-64 through the Cullasaja Gorge, visiting two waterfalls on the way: Bridal Veil Falls (right next to the road) and Dry Falls (a short walk from the parking area). There's a parking fee at Dry Falls, but my park pass (with hologram) meant I didn't have to pay. There are two other falls in the gorge, but one appears to be over a dam, the other lacked good parking. What there was, was taken.
|Cullasaja Gorge Waterfalls|
|Bridal Veil Falls||Dry Falls||At the Chalet Inn|
My target was to arrive at the Chalet Inn by 5, which I did (maybe 4:30) by skipping Rabun Bald. I paid a short visit to the park (Great Smoky Mountains National Park) after dinner and saw some elk by the road. My knee is feeling worse now and I am reconsidering plans for tomorrow. I'll see how I feel in the morning and start with the Chalet Inn trails. I walked about 4 miles today. My trip bird total is 72 species.