Sea turtle moonlight crawl

Looking down Juno Beach at twilight, I saw a large dark blob slowly emerge out of the rolling surf. More ocean debris, I thought. When the surf subsided, the object continued to move forward. That’s definitely not debris; it’s a sea turtle!

Sea turtle background:
There are five different species of sea turtles that visit Florida’s beaches; Loggerhead, Green Turtle, Leatherback, Kemp’s Ridley, and Hawksbill. A sea turtle’s life is challenging from day one. As a new hatchling, it has to dodge hungry birds, curious humans, and the hot sun on its way to the ocean. If they make it the ocean, they have to outwit the ocean’s larger predators. Throw in the probability of getting stuck in trash or other man-made obstacles and it’s easy to understand why all five species are listed as endangered or threatened.

Privileged viewer:
As you can imagine, the prospect of being able to witness such a magnificent, yet fragile species lay her eggs was quite exciting. After the slow trek up the beach, she found a spot under one of the boardwalks and began digging. It is critical that she is not disturbed which means no lights, flash photography, or even talking.

With amazing quiet and reverence, the impromptu crowd watched her. Surprisingly for almost an hour, people were in total silence or barely a whisper. No annoying ringtones, zero lights or flash photography, even a couple’s little dog was perfectly silent. I was inspired to see a group of strangers show such respect.

One final challenge:
After she finished laying her eggs, it was time to head back to the ocean which was another challenge. She had laid her eggs near a couple of pylons and moving forward required her to navigate a very tight space. Each move, placed her shell against a pylon which was enough resistance to prevent forward movement. The soft sand provided zero traction as she flapped her flippers to move forward. If you’ve ever been stuck in the sand or snow, you understand the scenario.

She’d fling sand everywhere with little progress and then just stop. The only illumination was from a full moon, but you could still see her breathe hard. This was no easy task.
With much effort, she rearranged her position perfectly and had a straight shot to the ocean. She didn’t get that big by giving up and tonight was no exception.


Freedom:
Once free and on the packed sand, she was promptly on the move. While turtles can’t run, I’d classify that last burst as fast walk. She stopped at the water’s edge, waiting for the next wave, which gave everyone a photo op.

She crawled into the next wave and disappeared into the moonlit night amidst applause from an reverent group of onlookers.

As I walked the moonlit beach, I felt humble and yet privileged to be able to view such an amazing feat of life. Life will definitely find a way…..

Green River guest post

I spent 11 days in Asheville and wrote about many hikes. Here’s a fun hike, I submitted as a guest post. Enjoy!
http://blog.exploreasheville.com/2013/06/green-river-hike.html

Linville Falls

Linville Falls
“Wow, look at that water flow down the canyon!” The roar of water screaming between the tall rocks and then falling down into the unknown echoed in front of us. Just before this canyon was a beautiful waterfall that emptied into a pool that looked quite inviting. Course, there were signs everywhere saying “no swimming”.

This was just the beginning of our hike up Linville Falls. We had gone past it on the way to Grandfather Mountain and decided to take a quick walk on the way home. The trail continued further up the mountain and promised more scenic views so up we went.

DSC_1349

Did I mention we were walking up? The views from the top are always good, just sometimes the walk up is a bit challenging. That’s okay, it helps you slow down and enjoy the view. We came to place with a stone wall on the edge of a cliff. Looking right over the edge, you could see the valley stretch out below and merge with the green mountains in the distance. Definitely picturesque but not the final destination.

Taking a left up some stairs, we made the short climb to the other overlook. Wow!!
The roaring falls and lush, green valley lay before us in full view. The first place we stopped could be seen waaay down in the distance. Remember the roaring water through the canyon? You could see where it went from here; it exited the side of the mountain and fell into the valley below.

Even though the falls and area looked small from up here, we could still hear the roar of the water. Looking out into the valley, we could see the entire scene unfold; the waters exited the forest, down through the rocks, falling freely into the valley and then meandering through the forest floor.

As the afternoon slowly turned into evening, we pondered the possibility of sunset pictures, but the sun was behind the rocks. I’d think that sunrise would be better, although I didn’t return to find out.

Regardless of the time of day, the hike is only about a mile round trip and the views are incredible.
For more information: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5188440

Blue Ghost Fireflies

“There’s one” I whispered, as we watched the little bluish white light up the darkness in front of us. It disappeared, and a few seconds later another appeared. Then another, and another.

The dark forest would be lit up by these little lights that flew to and fro. It really did look like we were watching fairies.

It wasn’t fairies we were watching, but the rare Blue Ghost Firefly. I grew up playing with the flashing, yellow glow of fireflies and assumed they were all the same. Not quite…. The Blue Ghost fireflies are different for a variety of reasons, but the most obvious is their bluish white light. Hence the name, Blue Ghost.

This adventure was a night time tour that was led by a Blue Ghost firefly expert whom provided entertaining and tremendously detailed information about these little creatures. Several features delineate the Blue Ghost firefly from other species; such as lights that steadily glow instead of flash in sequence and both male AND female have lights. Our guide explained that they’re mostly found in the North Carolina, Tennessee areas because the forest floor is the perfect condition; damp, but not saturated.

We spent about an hour enjoying the peaceful forest and the light show. Most everyone was quiet, even the kids, and enjoyed the opportunity to peer into a different world.

BlueGhost fireflies are mainly visible in May/June and watching them light up the forest was an experience I won’t soon forget. Nature is always amazing, day and night.

For everything you ever wanted to know about Blue Ghost fireflies but were afraid to ask, go here:
http://www2.brevard.edu/jefrick/Blue%20Ghost%20pub.pdf

Cedar Rock trail video

I enjoy composing short, informational T.V. stories at work, so I decided to do one for a beautiful hike. The video is only a couple of minutes, but you’ll get a sense of the trail and what to expect. I call it the “man on the ground” perspective.

For directions and more info:
http://www.carolinamountain.org/hikingchallenge2/dupont2

http://youtu.be/1bn9aR-WuE8.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly video

Butterflies are always interesting to watch; their vibrant colors, unique designs, and how they float almost effortlessly. I’m used to seeing them fly, so when I found a cluster of them huddled over damp ground near a creek, I had to stop and film them.

They are Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies and all the info can be found here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipevine_swallowtail

Here’s the short video that shows their unique colors, fuzzy heads, and how they use their front legs for rooting around.