Getting Out

With my husband out of town for the week, I was left to my own devices.  I took the opportunity to get out and shoot a bit further from home than usual.

First there was a road trip to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, tucked in the Cherokee National Forest. To get there, I had to first see to the completion of the repair of our second car, which was in the shop after not having been driven for over a year.

I quickly realized how spoiled I am–my husband normally attends to car maintenance and repair. First I had to arrange with the shop for them to pick me up when the car was “done.” Then I had to take the car to another shop to get the battery replaced, which undid all the settings, including the computer that controls the idle speed, which resulted in the car revving the engine every time I stopped. I’m surprised no one attempted to race me off the starting line at traffic lights!

Then there was the little complication that the fan wasn’t running and I was advised not to go less than 35 mph to avoid overheating. I had visions of driving on sidewalks to avoid red lights. That took a second trip to the shop when the part arrived so I could drive to the mountains without having to take the sidewalks.

By the time I got out of the shop Saturday afternoon and drove to Joyce Kilmer, which turned out to be a 3 hour drive, I had only a half an hour to battle the mosquitos and grab a few shots before Tisen and I had to get back on the road to head home.

On Monday I pulled out my bicycle and stopped at Amnicola Marsh to discover what might have been a Great Egret. Of course, I did not have my camera with me, so back I went the next morning, when, of course, the bird did not appear.

Since the car’s idle speed didn’t reset over the weekend, I returned to the mechanic on Monday. Fortunately, they were able to greatly improve things.

Next I made the drive to the Blythe Ferry Osprey nest with a couple from the photography club who allowed me to drive, in spite of Tisen crowding the lucky passenger who got to sit in back with him. But on the way home, the coolant light came on and we discovered I was losing coolant. Fortunately, we made it home without a problem, but that put an end to my driving career (at least for a few days).

I stuck to my bicycle and made one more trip to Amnicola and Curtain Pole Road Marshes. No Great Egret, but I did meet another photographer and stayed far longer than I intended shooting at Curtain Pole–it’s amazing how much more you see when there are two of you looking.

All in all, I’d say I’m pretty good at entertaining myself.

Returning Home

Trips to Columbus, Ohio are always confusing to me. I never know which direction should be referred to as “going home.” I once wrote that home is where your bed is. By that criteria, I guess Chattanooga is our home destination. However, having spent nearly 40 years living in Columbus, the paltry 3 we’ve lived in Chattanooga have not been enough to erase the feeling of returning home when we head North on 75.

This last trip North ended the longest stretch I’ve gone to date between trips to Columbus. It’s been long enough that I can’t actually remember when my last trip up was, but I know it wasn’t in this calendar year. With my remaining family all living elsewhere these days and many of my friends having moved away as well, it sometimes catches me off guard how much Columbus still feels like home. When I think about what makes it feel homey, here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. I know how to get to every place I want to go without using GPS. If one route has traffic, I know another route, also without GPS.
  2. I can come up with restaurants I want to eat at based on style of food, quality of adult beverages, particular favorite dishes, or outdoor ambience. (I confess, I did have to check with several restaurants on whether they allow dogs on their patio or not–Tisen came along on this trip.)
  3. I know where the “bad” parts of town are.
  4. I know where the best camera shops in town are and which ones carry Canon gear.
  5. I have a doctor and a dentist there.
  6. I know where to go for a safe pedicure without an appointment.
  7. Graeter’s Ice Cream is available just about everywhere–even Costco.
  8. The biggest problem is trying to fit everyone we want to see into a few days and realizing we’re not going to be able to get to see many of the people we’d love to catch up with.
  9. We have a place to stay where there is a room just for us and our dog is welcome (and offers from several other friends to stay with them)–I guess we do have a bed in Columbus.

This trip was timed around the Columbus Guitar Show. It was my first time working a show (although I’ve attended a couple before). Manning the booth and giving away T-shirts to people who participated in my marketing campaign turned out to be both fun and exhausting.

One of the best things about our timing was that we were in Chattanooga for the beginning and end of the Riverbend Festival, but missed the middle of the 9-day event. This means we didn’t get tired of the extra people and traffic in the downtown area. And, we were home in time for the fireworks–out of all the fireworks in Chattanooga, the Riverbend fireworks are by far the best and longest display.

Dismal Nitch

This week has been another vacation week (I got a bit behind on using my vacation days this year).  This time, I left Pat and Tisen at home and travelled out to visit family in Portland, Oregon.  Portland is one of my favorite parts of the US–this is a trip I look forward to every year.

While visiting the Oregon coast, we stopped at Dismal Nitch across from Astoria, Oregon.  Dismal Nitch is an easy rest stop to access these days–a long, long bridge from Astoria to Washington makes it a really interesting drive with fantastic views.

But, when it was named by the Lewis and Clark expedition, it was no picnic.  Traveling by boat, the craggy harbor became a dangerous place for the explorers and their team.  They were stuck out in the rain for 6 days, waiting for the weather to clear so they could safely navigate the rocks and other hazards that have made this area among the most dangerous waters in the country.

I pause as we stand along the fence at the rest area, looking out at the Cormorants, Seagulls, and Pelicans.  The face of a seal suddenly pops through the surface of the water.  I stand there wishing I had my 100-400mm lens.

And then, it occurs to me, I feel mired.  I think about Lewis and Clark sitting in that same spot, cold, wet, and probably hungry.  I think about them bobbing about on rough seas and waiting out the stormy weather.  I wonder if they felt it was hopeless.  I wonder how long they were prepared to wait before making their move.  I wonder if they saw seals and pelicans and thought of them as signs of hope.  All of this flashes through my mind as I realize the difference between me and people like Lewis and Clark is that they took the safest course for the duration of a storm and then moved on.  I seem to confuse safety with long-term direction.

I took some photos of the dismal nitch.  The clouds gray and swirling above relatively still water created a nearly monochromatic scene.  I stared out over the waters, hiding the dangers of shoals and debris that had sunk more than its share of ships.  It looked so peaceful.  Tranquil.  A cormorant stood on the stump of what might once have been a pier, spreading its wings and flapping them.  He couldn’t wait for them to dry so he might fly again.

Perhaps we are all like the cormorant.  We dive in, get wet, and then have to hang out and dry out before we can jump back in.  Perhaps some of us have to hang out longer than others before we’re willing to take the next plunge.  I metaphorically flap my wings and wonder just what kind of drying time to expect.  By my count, they’ve been drying for at least 8 years.  I find myself wondering if the Cormorant ever forget how to swim.

Pit Stop

This image looks way more interesting in sepia that it did in color--why is that?

This image looks way more interesting in sepia that it did in color–why is that?

On Saturday, we went on a not-so-fun road trip.  We took Tisen to see a doggie dermatologist to get allergy tested.  His allergies have been getting worse and worse and he’s been getting more lethargic.

We skipped his antihistamine the night before and the morning of so as not to interfere with the allergy test.  This had a profound effect on his energy level.  When I took him for his morning walk, instead of feeling like I was walking a pet turtle, I was having to double-time it to keep up.  In fact, he actually galloped the last 100 yards back to the building, charged down the hall, and then ran all over the place once we were home, chasing me and tossing his toys around like a puppy.

It made me sad to realize how much the drugs had been affecting him.  My poor boy.

What a silly face!

What a silly face!

We loaded him into the van and took off for Louisville.  That’s Louisville, Tennessee–there are not many unique city names in the Eastern US.

In any case, Louisville is just outside of Knoxville.  It reminds me a little of the Lake of the Ozark’s in Missouri in terms of scenery, but it’s not ridiculously over-developed–or if it is, they hide it well.

We arrived about 30 minutes ahead of schedule, so we made a stop at Admiral Farragut Park.  There, we found a nice little walk by the lake, a good strong breeze, and a sign that told us about Admiral Farragut who was born in Knoxville and joined the navy when he was 9 years old.  I used to think I was industrious because I started mowing lawns at 9–now I feel like a slacker!

My boys

My boys

I got out my camera and attempted to find something interesting in the high-noon sun.  I was impressed that on a Saturday in July, we saw only 3 boats go by in a half an hour–definitely not like the Lake of the Ozark’s.

Then, I turned and saw Tisen and Pat waiting on me.  Pat was petting Tisen and apparently hit a spot Tisen really wanted scratched–he started backing up so Pat could reach better with the silliest expression on his face.  My happy boy . . . I wish he were looking half as happy now.

He was sedated for his allergy test and has been so miserable ever since, I am feeling horribly guilty.  On the plus side, he hasn’t been itching since we got back.  There’s not really a good explanation for that–he’s been so sick we haven’t given him anything new.  The only thing that’s changed is we found out he’s allergic to dust mites (along with about 25 other allergens) so we got rid of his old bed that had a washable cover over an un-washable fill.  We got him one that’s completely washable instead.

I don’t know if I’ll every forgive myself if all this time it was his bed making him itch!

A view of the lake

A view of the lake, which is really a reservoir on the Tennessee River

Nickajack Lake

Roadside view of Lake Nickajack

Roadside view of Lake Nickajack–I needed a hedge trimmer

On Sunday, our journey through the Tennessee River Gorge ended when we got to the portion of the river where it becomes Bennett Lake.  This corner of what is nearly a 180 degree bend in the river marks the first time a major road intersects Mullins Cover Rd, the road we were on, after a lot of slow miles.

We opted to stick to major roads at this point.  In part because we’d had enough sitting in the car and in part because we were starting to get low on gas and we hadn’t seen a gas station for many miles.  We worked our way back to I-24 and headed back towards Chattanooga.  We were surprised to discover we were in the Central time zone and on the Nashville side of Nickajack Lake.

I decided we should stop and get some shots of Nickajack lake since we hadn’t managed to get any really great shots from down in the gorge.  Unfortunately, I didn’t decide this until after we had passed the best exit for views of the lake.  We went down several dead ends trying to find a road to the lake.

Another roadside view

Another roadside view

We ended up driving up the ridge around the lake a ways when just by chance I saw a break in the trees.  We parked down the road and I walked back to the spot.  It wasn’t much of a break in the trees, but it at least provided a view of the lake.

Driving through (the highway literally goes right over the middle of the lake) Nickajack lake is one of my favorite parts of the drive to Nashville (or the West end of Cumberland State park), although almost all of the drive is full of great views.

When we got back on the freeway to make our way rapidly towards food, we soon found ourselves in a traffic jam.  I started taking pictures from the car.  It’s always a bad sign when I start shooting through the windshield, but it gives you an idea of the kind of scenery that unfolds as you drive through this part of Tennessee . . . uh . . . Georgia?  No, this was Tennessee.  Barely.  We crossed the Georgia state line about a mile after this image was taken.

Scene from the actual road--a "through the windshield" image

Scene from the actual road–a “through the windshield” image

That’s another interesting thing about driving from Chattanooga to Nashville–you have to go through Georgia to get there–at least if you take I-24.  I-24 dips across the state line for about 3-4 miles as it winds it way through the mountains.

Every time we drive down I-24, I am amazed that such spectacular scenery surrounds the freeway.  Having grown up in flat Columbus, Ohio where you could drive for 2 hours in either direction and barely see a bump in the landscape, the ancient mountains of the Southeast make my mouth drop open.  I used to always think I preferred the Rockies.  I do love the Rockies, but the gentler slopes of the Appalachians have equal, if different, charm.

The moment Georgia entered my mind

The moment Georgia entered my mind

Cove Lake


A nostalgic version of a fisherman sitting by the lake

A nostalgic version of a fisherman sitting by the lake

For anyone who has gone boating on a lake, one of the more popular boating activities is referred to as “coving.”  While coving sounds like something romantic two doves might do, coving can be among the most dangerous of activities that boaters undertake.  It largely consists of bobbing around in the water with adult beverages and hoping that no one runs over you with their outboard motor when they decide to leave after bobbing around drinking large quantities of said adult beverages.

I knew of one person who lost a leg when one of those inebriated boat drivers failed to avoid running him over in spite of dozens of people screaming at him to stop.  I was not there, but the story has soured the concept of coving for me.

A collection of clouds formed over the mountains in the distance in an otherwise clear blue sky

A collection of clouds formed over the mountains in the distance in an otherwise clear blue sky

On the flip side, coves are also coveted by water skiers, especially early in the day for their calm water that can look like glass when there’s no traffic on the lake.  Where there are water skiers and power boats, coves can be both exciting and dangerous.

Where there are no power boat, coves become a quiet area coveted for fishing.  Cove Lake State Park appears to have no power boats, only row boats (although I didn’t see any boats on the water on my way home last week).

What is perhaps the most odd circumstance of Cove Lake is that in spite of the quiet, secluded solitude its name implies, it’s cradled in the nook of two major highways, one of which is I-75.  When I got off the highway to check it out, I saw a lake from the freeway, but I assumed that was not Cove Lake.  I was wrong.  You can watch cars zooming by on an overpass from some parts of the park.

The row boats was patiently for someone to take them for a spin

The row boats was patiently for someone to take them for a spin

Curiously, the proximity to the freeway doesn’t make the park any less peaceful.  If there was noise from the freeway, I didn’t hear it.  From the number of fisherman gathering in the parking lots, preparing for their evening fishing, I’d guess it has a healthy fish population.

Tisen and I didn’t stay long enough to see anyone catch a fish, but it seemed like the guys in the parking lot had the kind of equipment only serious fisherman own and made a regular habit out of fishing at this little lake.

As we made our way back to the car, a Canada Goose couple started honking their alarm to their young, who immediately started hustling toward the safety of water.  I have read that geese who have never seen a canine will still respond with alarm to a canine-shaped animal, suggesting innate fears can be passed from one generation to the next.  I don’t know if these geese had seen a dog before, but Tisen barely had time to decide whether he was interested in the geese or not and turn his gaze their way before they were all in the water.  I’ve never seen goslings move faster!

One final shot of the lake as it continues its course around the bend and out of sight

One final shot of the lake as it continues its course around the bend and out of sight

Berea College

I believe this is a dorm--Hipstamatic tintype style

I believe this is a dorm–Hipstamatic tintype style

Berea and Berea College are an interesting place.  I say “an” because it’s not clear to me that they’re separable.  The founder of Berea College was also the founder of the town.  It seems they grew up together.

Having done no research on the place besides having seen signs for Berea and stopped in their visitor’s center once when we needed to make a quick pit stop on the way home, I had only a few second-hand pieces of knowledge about the place to work from.

I was fascinated by this giant tree in front of the dorm

I was fascinated by this giant tree in front of the dorm

First, I knew there was an artisan community in the town.  Second, I knew the college has a work-study program where the students are required to have a job and they get a portion of their tuition covered in exchange.  Finally, I knew of a girl in my nephew’s class in Indianapolis who was attending Berea and studying opera singing–they apparently have a good music program and are affordable even for out-of-state students.

A more modern spin on the same dorm and tree

A more modern spin on the same dorm and tree

When Tisen and I took a short walk in Berea, we managed to see a couple of buildings on the Berea College campus.  The buildings look much like buildings found on any college campus started in the late 1800’s.  What surprised me was when we were across from the Boone Tavern, there was a sand sculpture on the lawn of a building I would guess was a dorm.  The sand sculpture said two things that gave me pause.

Sand sculpture in lawn of the dorm

Sand sculpture in lawn of the dorm

First, “interracial” appeared as one of the values of the college.  I was rather shocked that in 2013, a liberal arts college felt the need to declare “interracial” as an important value to the college–are there any colleges that aren’t interracial in the US?

The second was, “Christian.”  I had never heard that Berea was a Christian school.  These two words caused me to do a little reading about Berea College online.  As it turns out, while Berea identifies itself as Christian, it also believes that you don’t have to identify yourself as a Christian to further Christian ideals.  As long as you accept the college’s mission, which includes doing work and doing it well, providing service to others, and promoting the notion that we’re all of “the same blood” whether we’re black, white, female, or male, you’re welcome to attend or work at the college.  So, while the college is Christian, the students and faculty may or may not be.

I love the big old trees on older campuses

I love the big old trees on older campuses

The fact that the college was conceived before the civil war explains why being interracial warrants comment in its mission.  It was among the first interracial schools in Kentucky, but was stopped from being interracial for about 45 years when Kentucky law prohibited it.  Berea College assisted with the creation of another school near Louisville to serve black students during that time and then re-integrated the school when the law was changed again in 1950.  They have good reason to consider integration an important value of the school, even if it is 2013.

I thought "Sustrainable" was a clever name for a group training others on sustainability until I realized it was a mistake in this hand-created sign

I thought “Sustrainable” was a clever name for a group training others on sustainability until I realized it was a mistake in this hand-created sign