Sunday, June 20, 2010

Just a couple pictures

I spent Wed-Fri last week in upper east TN in the mountains doing some "field work". I mostly went birding, but did do some official work. This area is probably my favorite part of the state. The views are spectacular, the mountains to bike up are brutal but fun, and the birds that breed here are unique in the state. This area is near Johnson City and a fair amount north of the touristy Smoky Mtns National Park.

I always end up driving up (and sometimes biking up) to Roan Mountain and Carver's Gap, which is at the top. The AT (Appalachian Trail) crosses here and the AT is the state line with NC. This is probably one of favorite places in the world (so far). If you hike the AT for 20 min to get to Round Bald (a few hundred feet higher than the gap). It is totally worth it.

This is a Vesper Sparrow, which breeds at the top of the mountain in what are called "Balds", which are basically big grassy fields at the top. No one is really sure why there are grassy fields at 5600 ft of elevation, but they are there. Vesper's only nest in TN at this one place.

These are Flaming Azaleas. This is the time of the year that the azaleas and rhododendrons bloom, but the blooms this year weren't very good for some reason. This spot with the azaleas was really nice.

another view. The mountains in the distance are in NC

Here is Round Bald at Carver's Gap. Lots of people hiking the trail on a random Thursday, so it wasn't as serene as usual. I've been here in fall (I think), wearing 2-3 layers of clothes late in the day towards sunset and just sitting on a rock up here for an hour and a half, seeing no one, seeing no cars come over the mountain, hearing nothing but a few birds and the wind. Simply spectacular.

I did bike up the mountain this time. I'm not in very good shape for going uphill for 9.1 miles, but I did it. I was completely fatigued at the very top (and cold), but it was great training. I rode 110 miles this weekend and was way stronger than I thought I should be!

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