Fire Tower

Inside the Prentice Cooper Wildlife Management Area, along side the gravel road that leads to Snoopers Rock, there is a Ranger Station.  Like many ranger stations, it looks like someone’s home.  Unlike any other ranger station I’ve seen, in the grass-covered yard outside the house sits a tower.

The tower stretches impossibly high for it’s width.  Just looking up at the top from the ground makes me dizzy with the probability that it will topple over in a strong wind.  I am not the only one who thinks so–the national forestry service, or some such official organization, saw fit to tie the tower off to a post on one side, presumably to prevent such toppling.  It’s left to the viewer’s imagination as to why the wind blows from only one direction at least in the minds of the people who added this safety precaution.

There is a sign at the bottom of the tower.  It tells visitors that they may climb to the top of the tower at their own risk.  The first time we stopped to see this tower, I thought I might be brave enough to scale the steep and narrow wooden steps that lead some 70 feet straight into the air.  I was wrong.

Like a giant mouse trap baited with the promise of a spectacular view, the tower felt poised to spring the moment I set foot on the first step. The steps creaked and groaned their surprise at being asked to bear my weight. There was nothing about their rotted appearance that promised they would be strong enough.

I crept up one flight, and then two.  As I got higher, the structure seemed to sway more.  When the wind picked up momentarily, I felt like I was high on a tree branch swaying on a branch.  I have more faith in a tree supporting me than the tower.  By the time I made it up the third flight of steps, I was paralyzed with fear.  The vision of the entire tower imploding with me deep in its belly was too much for me.  I turned and made the even more frightening descent, learning how truly steep the steps are as I reached one foot downward in space, finding the faith that another step would be there as I shifted my weight past the point of no return and gratefully landed on solid wood.

This trip.  I did not attempt to climb more than half of the first flight of steps.  I went up just far enough to sit down on the steps, my back to them, and lay back so I could take some shots of the belly of the beast.  Even then, I could feel the entire tower swaying in the wind.

Advertisements

Dog Walk

The "Happy Puppy" face comes through even in the Hipstamatic blur effect

The “Happy Puppy” face comes through even in the Hipstamatic blur effect

I discovered something about my dog last weekend.  At least I think I did.  I’ve always suspected he thinks he’s walking me when we go for our spins around the park.  He has good reason to believe this.  I take the approach that as a dog with no yard, his walks should simulate the experience of wandering around the yard amusing himself.

An urban dog's lot in life is to enjoy the outdoors while attached to his people

An urban dog’s lot in life is to enjoy the outdoors while attached to his people

Instead of expecting him to heel, I let him pick where he wants to wander within reason.  If he meanders off the sidewalk and into the grass because he’s suddenly caught a really good scent, I follow.

Is it time to go?  Are we going?  Now?  Now?

Is it time to go? Are we going? Now? Now?

If I get impatient, I whistle to him and say, “Let’s go this way,” in my high, happy puppy voice and move my body in a way that suggests play.  I hope no one has ever caught this on video.  Usually, he will come with me.

But when an urban dog is at home, life can be pretty luxurious

But when an urban dog is at home, life can be pretty luxurious

Interestingly, he rarely pulls on the lead.  When we’re in motion, we walk together like he’s been expertly trained.  The lead hangs so loose, I have to loop it to keep it from dragging and tripping one of us.  He walks at my side content until the next great scent piques his interest.

So, while on the one hand, he could have the impression that he is walking me, on the other hand, he stays with me nicely much of the time.  It’s a win-win and I’ve never really worried much about it–he and I seem equally content in our style of walking together.

Cuddling in a blanket next to Mommy seems to be the highlight of the day

Cuddling in a blanket next to Mommy seems to be the highlight of the day

When we went for our little hikes in the Prentice Cooper State Forest this past weekend, we let Tisen off his leash when we were on trails where we were unlikely to run into anyone and far from ATVs.  Because Tisen is the kind of dog that wants to have his people in sight all the time, we don’t have to worry about him running off (unlike an Akita we once fostered who seemed to think he needed to run 10 miles a day and that being let of the leash was an invitation to go do so).

Hey!  Where'd everyone go?

Hey! Where’d everyone go?

Tisen sometimes gets lost in a scent.  He forgets where he is, who he’s with, and goes blind as all of his brain becomes occupied with deciphering what message was left for him.  When we hike, we just keep going, figuring he’ll catch up after a bit.  If he doesn’t show up before we get very far, we call him.  Then, he usually panics and comes galloping back to us like he’s just had the daylights scared out of him.

The blanket is supposed to protect the sofa from Tisen--a point he seems to have missed

The blanket is supposed to protect the sofa from Tisen–a point he seems to have missed

This isn’t new behavior.  But, for the first time it dawned on me that he’s shocked to realize we can get away.  He forgets we’re not on a leash.  He expects to look up and find us standing next to him, waiting for him to finish.  I feel certain his panic is proof that he really does think he’s walking us.

This photo may be blurry, but it still cracks me up--Tisen is so determined to hide his face, he sticks his head in the crook of Daddy's arm

This photo may be blurry, but it still cracks me up–Tisen is so determined to hide his face, he sticks his head in the crook of Daddy’s arm

Not Snoopers Rock

Looking back up the trail, parallel to the cliff wall that makes up the bulk of Indian Rock House

Looking back up the trail, parallel to the cliff wall that makes up the bulk of Indian Rock House

On our weekend adventure, after going the wrong way and ending up at Signal Point, cowboying our way down a road made for ATVs rather than mini-vans and nearly removing our bumper trying to turn around, we headed towards our initial destination:  Snoopers Rock.

We made our way slowly back up the ATV-friendly road back to the long gravel road that traverses the Prentice Cooper State Forest.  At some point, I got a signal on my iPhone and looked up a map of the park.  True to the rest of the day, I realized we had passed the trailhead for Snoopers Rock and we turned around.  But, curious about what appeared to be a fire tower along the way, I asked Pat to stop, back up, and pull into the park headquarters to check it out.

Not the fire tower stairs, but still a little dangerous

Not the fire tower stairs, but still a little dangerous

When Pat put our trusty mini-van in reverse, something drug on the gravel road.  Pat got out and discovered the radiator shroud was hanging far lower than it should be.  I don’t know what a radiator shroud is, but was relieved that Pat thought we’d be OK for a few days as long as we stopped running over things with it.

The fire tower was open to the public with an ominous sign at the base of the terrifying stairs stating that if you enter, you have to assume responsibility if you get hurt.  I made it up the first two flights of steep, narrow steps (less than halfway to the top) before a strong wind shaking the tower reminded me just how afraid of heights I am.  I took what were, I’m sure, my best shots of the day of the tower.  However, they mysteriously disappeared, making me slightly less enamored with shooting with Hipstamatic on my iPhone instead of my DSLR.

Side wall of Indian Rock House shot with the color verison of tintype in Hipstamatic

Side wall of Indian Rock House shot with the color verison of tintype in Hipstamatic

We headed back to the trailhead, parked, crossed the road and headed down the trail, expecting to arrive at Snoopers Rock in less than half a mile.  Eventually, we saw a sign that said Indian Rock House was .9 mile away and Snoopers Rock was a couple of miles beyond.  I was quite perplexed.  We decided to head on down to Indian Rock House–we were nearly there.  Our day was destined to be a day of detours.

A more realistic image of the entrance to the stone door shot with the Camera! app

A more realistic image of the entrance to the stone door shot with the Camera! app

Indian Rock House has a stone door much like the one at Savage Gulf, but on a smaller scale.  The gap in the rocks leads down narrow, steep steps that rivaled the fire tower for hazardousness, but felt far more secure with the ground much closer.

The Rock House is a large indentation in the cliffside that provides a roof if you stay close to the rock wall.  I wouldn’t call it a cave, but it did provide shelter to indigenous people at some point in history.  It was pretty cool in any case.

Pat pointed out a "whale" in the end wall of the rock house--can you see it?

Pat pointed out a “whale” in the end wall of the rock house–can you see it?

By the time we hiked back up to the trailhead, we decided we’d better call it a day.  Some day, we’ll make it to Snoopers Rock.

I'm not sure why, but I find this image interesting with Pat blurred in the background and the foreground rock in focus

I’m not sure why, but I find this image interesting with Pat blurred in the background and the foreground rock in focus

 

Nearly the same shot as above, only with Pat in focus  instead

Nearly the same shot as above, only with Pat less blurred

Crater Lake, the Second

Crater Lake really is almost this blue.  Shot with the Color version of tintype "film" in Hipstamatic.

Crater Lake really is almost this blue. Shot with the Color version of tintype “film” in Hipstamatic.

From Signal Point, we loaded back into our trusty min-van, found directions to Snoopers Rock on Google maps, and headed back down Signal Mountain to drive around the base along the Tennessee River.  The drive was mostly beautifu–there were views of the river and the gorge much of the way.

Snoopers Rock is in the Prentice Cooper State Forest.  It is not only not near Signal Point, it is not even on Signal Mountain (see yesterday’s post).  But, it was a lovely day for a bit of exploring in any case.

The longest part of the drive was the gravel road from the entry to the park to the trailhead.  We happened to arrive on a day when ATVs were over-running the place.  We originally thought there must have been some kind of event there, but in retrospect, I suspect it’s just that popular to go driving around in an ATV here.

I'm not sure if I was shooting the plants in the water or plants above, but I kind of like the patch of sharpness in the midst of blur.  Need to figure out which Hipstamatic lens does this

I’m not sure if I was shooting the plants in the water or plants above, but I kind of like the patch of sharpness in the midst of blur. Need to figure out which Hipstamatic lens does this

Along the way, we saw a sign for “Crater Lake.”  Thinking of Crater Lake in Oregon, our curiosity was piqued and we decided to take yet another detour.  We turned down a road that was clearly not designed for mini-vans.  We drove slowly, going up and down bumps and through muddy puddles that spoke of the popularity of ATVs here.

We made it to a grassy parking area and I suggested we were at the lake, but Pat thought we needed to go further.

The road got bumpier, rootier, and muddier the further we went.  Of course, we had no cell reception to try to figure out where we were, either.  I had a vague feeling we were going in a loop, however, and suggested we turn around.

This one was shot with the Camera! App and was only slightly adjusted--this is what the lake actually looked like.

This one was shot with the Camera! App and was only slightly adjusted–this is what the lake actually looked like.

By this time, we all three needed to use the facilities.  Having quite a bit of experience with natural facilities, I worked my way through a few brambles to a bit of cover from view of the roadway.  I was glad I did when, just as I was finishing up, I heard an ATV approaching.

Pat was in the middle of turning the van around when I got back to the road.  He was also dragging the bumper over the roots at the base of a tree.  Fortunately, our van suffered more harm than the tree did.  But, tree-hugger that I am, I yelled “Stop!” as soon as I saw the bumper drag on the roots.  This was a good thing–I’m not sure our bumper would still be attached otherwise.

Pat posed for me in front of the lake.

Pat posed for me in front of the lake.

We eventually made it back down the road in the direction we’d come.  Although the couple on the ATV seemed to think we might be close to Crater Lake by going the opposite direction, neither Pat nor I thought trying to turn around again was a good idea.  As we arrived back at the grassy parking area, from this direction, the lake was visible through some underbrush.  We looked at each other and laughed.  I managed not to say, “I told you so.”

Tisen wasn't sure if he was hot enough to go wading in the strange looking water

Tisen wasn’t sure if he was hot enough to go wading in the strange looking water