As we started over the bridge on the Isle of Palms Connector, I noticed a line of large black and white birds through the pine trees. “Gourd heads,” I must have said out loud, because my wife said, “What?”
“Wood storks,” I said, pointing to the undulating line of five or six wood storks, alternately flapping and gliding across the marsh at low tide.
Last week I wrote about the dark subterranean part of our little family adventure, which was a visit to Linville Caverns (see www.smokymountainnews.com/outdoors/item/8139).
From the dark caverns of Linville we turned our attention to the light and headed for the highest peak east of the Mississippi — Mt. Mitchell.
Our Linville Caverns guide told us, at the end of the caverns, that we were a half-mile underground. I find that kind of hard to believe — maybe she meant we were a half-mile below the summit of Humpback Mountain. But if we were, indeed, a half-mile underground, our ascent to the top of Mt. Mitchell would have been a total elevation gain of approximately 9,324 feet.
Legend has it that curious fishermen watching trout seemingly disappear into Humpback Mountain back in 1822 discovered an entrance into what is now known as Linville Caverns. Henry E. Colton of eastern North Carolina and once a state geologist for the state of Tennessee was one of the discoverers. Colton wrote about the discovery in an 1858 issue of the NC Presbyterian: “… we emerged into an immense passage, whose roof was far beyond the reach of the glare of our torches, except where the fantastic festoons of stalactites hang down within our touch. It looked like the arch of some grand old cathedral, yet it was too sublime, too perfect in all its beautiful proportions, to be anything of human …”
The call of, “Come see! A frog!” is one oft repeated in the Hendershot household from spring through fall as toads go by both names – toad and/or frog. So the other morning when Izzy called to, ”Come see this frog!” I was expecting another toad. But when I walked to the front door, there on one of the glass panes next to the door was a treefrog – round saucer toes keeping it firmly planted on the glass.
After Jersey and the Big Apple (see last week’s Naturalist’s Corner — www.smokymountainnews.com/outdoors/item/7554-famous-nyc-offspring), it was time for a leisurely trip home. We headed south to Cape May and took the Cape May-Lewes Ferry across the Delaware Bay to Lewes, Del. The trip across takes about an hour-and-a-half. It provides a view of three lighthouses, Cape May Light, Harbor of Refuge Light and Delaware Breakwater East End Light. The ferry is also linked to another feature on our southward trek home — the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. Service at Cape May-Lewes began in 1964 with a fleet of four ferries purchased after the completion of the CBB&T ended their route across the bay from Cape Charles.
New York City is big, bustling and in July – hot, but there are always entertaining and even educational ways to escape the heat. The planets aligned just right giving both Denise and me the entire July Fourth week off.
We donned our tourist attitudes and headed north for a visit with Denise’s sister in Eastampton, New Jersey and a short train ride and a day in the Big Apple with Izzy (10) and Maddie (6).
News outlets began reporting Sunday night (July 1) that North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed Senate Bill 820, which would have allowed energy companies to use a process known as hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. fracking, to drill for natural gas in the state. Fracking is the technique of injecting drilling fluids composed of water, sand and toxic chemicals under intense pressure into shale or other rock formations, fracturing them and allowing the trapped natural gas to escape into the drilling casing.
Gov. Perdue has to be weary. This weariness was apparent months ago when she declared she would not seek re-election. Her vetoes are little more than symbolic with the current make up of the General Assembly and here she is with another bombshell on her desk — fracking in North Carolina.
Here’s the simple fracking definition according to the oil and gas industry: hydraulic fracturing is the benign process of injecting fluids that are primarily composed of water and sand and maybe a couple of chemicals, at high pressure, into shale or other rock formations to create cracks that then allow the natural gas to escape and be captured.
The Mountain Resources Commission, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center at the University of North Carolina at Asheville have created a Western North Carolina Vitality Index. The purpose is to provide local governments, various interest groups and the public with easy-to-understand data specific to the western end of the state to promote more informed decisions with regard to resource use and community planning. The Index expands and enhances the Forest Service’s Western North Carolina Report Card on Forest Sustainability.
Mountain bogs are some of the rarest and most imperiled natural habitat in the country. They are generally small and scattered across the landscape often isolated from other wetlands. This isolation can create unique habitats, which in turn create unique flora and fauna. Bogs are home to several federally endangered and/or threatened species including bog turtles, mountain sweet pitcher plant, bunched arrowhead, swamp pink and others.