Hemp Top Trail Hike (Cohutta Wilderness Area) 

Spent Thursday morning/afternoon with my dad hiking Hemp Top Trail in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The weather was gorgeous! Hot of course, but the cover of the trees helped keep us cooled off. The majority of the trail was an old forest service road, which was nice.

About a mile up the mountain we just-so-happened to wander upon a rather large, defensive Timber Rattlesnake! I LOVE snakes, but she spooked me. However, I was so glad to finally see one! I was watching 9my step (like usual), but I was only looking about 3 feet ahead. We saw each other at about the same exact time. I froze in my tracks and threw my arms out to keep Dad from running over top of us both. I might have even let an expletive or two slip out.

Anyway, she immediately let out a loud puff of air (I don’t know how else to explain it) and went into a defensive coiled position in the middle of the trail. Once the initial shock wore off after a few seconds, I immediately turned on my camera and started taking pictures and making videos. She never offered to move until Dad attempted to get her to strike the walking stick I had. She had no interest. She tried to hide in the weeds on the edge of the trail against the bank. (The video I will attach below this post is her trying to hide in the weeds and us moving her across the trail and off the bank.)

She continuously rattled the entire time. We were with her at least 10 minutes and she never once stopped. If you’re interested, check out the video to see what happens. Pay extra close attention to the last few seconds. As she crosses the trail and disappears off the bank, watch how FAST she darts through the leaves. It amazed me. It is very clear to me that had she wanted to bite us when we first encountered her she could have easily.

I guess you’re wondering why I keep referring to it as “her” and “she.” Maybe you haven’t thought anything about it… but to answer the question anyway, I spoke with a somewhat local snake expert who is very experienced with most all snakes, especially venomous snakes. According to her, the Timber Rattlesnake we encountered was a gravid (pregnant) female! I knew she was really thick but didn’t realize she was going to be a mom!

I’m just thankful it was my dad and I that came up on her and not some asshole or coward whose philosophy is “the only good snake is a dead snake.” (Those people drive me INSANE.) I posted a picture and video to the local Facebook page and had a few “why didn’t you kill it?” “Shoot it!” “A dead snake is good snake!” responses… If your first response is that I will automatically assume you’re an idiot. Don’t try to justify your feelings on the matter. You’re WRONG. Plain and simple. I was respectful, but made sure to point out I was in HER home, she was not in my home. Also, I don’t believe in the senseless killing of anything. If you hunt and eat what you kill, I have no issue with that. BUT if you’re one of those people that kill creatures just because you’re a coward and scared of them, we will not get along.

Going to get off my snake/critter soapbox now. Hope you enjoy the pictures. Be sure to check out the video. The rattling sound is pretty amazing to see/hear if you’re like me and never experienced it before now.

Also, I was curious as to why the mountain was named Hemp Top. I asked Dad and he didn’t know (but he did know why they called Penitentiary Branch its name.. that’s for another time though!). I did a little research and found this little bit of info I thought was interesting.

Hemp Top – Translation of Cherokee word “gatun-lti-yiy,” or literally “hemp place.” This community in Fannin County was probably so named because of wild hemp (Apocyunum cannabinum), which apparently grew there. This species of hemp was used for bow strings.
(Source)

Cool, huh?

Oh and here is the snake video: 🐍🐍🐍

Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)

(I originally wrote this post at the end of July/first of August 2017… But for some reason I didn’t publish it?! So, I’m publishing it now… Almost a year later. Enjoy!)

A map of our venture!
Cohutta Wildlife Management Area! (We came in through the Tennessee side. In Tennessee the section is known as the Cherokee National Forest)

One of the many gorgeous flowers we saw! I will look up what kind it is soon and update the caption.
Dad took me up to the highest point of Hemp Top. From there he showed me what was left of the foundation of the huge tower that used to be up there. I found this little piece of metal on one of the giant slabs of concrete that the tower previously sat on. I have no idea what its purpose was, but I thought it was neat so I kept it!
Another pretty flower! 😊
This was the first time I had ever seen a tree with a limb thicker than its base, so I had to snap a picture.
I have no idea what this creepy fungi-looking stuff Is, but I thought the color was really pretty! No editing. It was THAT bright.
A giant millipede?! (I grew up calling these turkey worms because that’s what my dad has always called them.) I usually hold them, but we were in a hurry. Don’t worry, they can’t bite but they have a defense mechanism where they spit on you. It REALLY stinks and will stain your hands for days. Been there. Done that. MANY times.
This is the position she immediately went to when I stumbled upon her!
Trying my best to guide her off the trail and away from any possible traffic.
I cannot get over those gorgeous markings!
This mushroom was huge. HUGE. Like if you cut a basketball in half. No, I’m not kidding!
We did not venture down Penitentiary Branch this time, but probably next time!
Benton Mackaye Trail (Section 10) & Hemp Top Trail sign
I took this standing on the top of Hemp Top!
Another snapshot from the top!
Dad said he thought this was the old septic tank but was not certain.
Another first. Apparently this tree’s limb decided to grown down and into the ground instead of up in search of the sun.
Another critter we shared the trail with. I love toads!!
This… I don’t know what this is but I know what it reminds me of. (I plead the 5th.)
Wanted to take a quick picture of the old forest service sign!
Lots of long entertwined vines intrigue me. No, I don’t know why. I just like them.

✌💚⛰

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Better late than never, right?

So, as you can see, I never got the chance to post any pictures while we were in Arkansas.  We were pretty much on-the-go 90% of the time, the other 10% we were sleeping.  We traveled just under 2000 miles in 6 days.  I suppose that was my first “official” road trip and it was amazing.  We saw a lot of interesting things and beautiful places (7 states) and made some great memories.

Rather than post 50 pictures and completely over take the post, I made a few collages to share.  If you’re reading this… I hope you enjoy them! 🙂

Day 1:

We started the journey by leaving Georgia (state 1) and heading north into Tennessee (state 2) and then west.  Destination: Eureka Falls, Arkansas  (It took us about 12 hours to drive there!)

Day 2

Arkansas (state 3)

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Our first official day in Arkansas we hiked to Hawksbill Crag.  (Also known as Whitaker Point.)
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Just a few quick pictures from the hike.  Arkansas was SO rocky.

Hawksbill Crag is a must-see.  If you’re physically able and ever find yourself in Arkansas (Kingston to be exact), do yourself a favor and hike to it.  The hike was fairly short.  Right at about 3 miles to the crag and back.  The only steepness was a little bit of a climb at the end.  Nothing difficult at all.

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Triple Falls (formerly Twin Falls)

After our hike to Hawksbill Crag, the SO and I decided to venture to another nearby view.  It was only about a 45 minute drive from the crag to Triple Falls Trail (Jasper, AR) to see the gorgeous Triple Falls.  The trail into the falls and back was a short .3 of a mile.  The view was gorgeous, but the drive down the mountain was horrendous (Sorry J).  There were signs posted with “rules” for the trail/waterfall.  I noticed one mentioned no animals, but on the hiking website I found the trail on it stated dogs were welcome on leash.  That was a bit aggravating but overall, the falls were amazing.  I imagine it would be an epic place to swim!

Day 3

Missouri (state 4)

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The next day we ventured into Missouri to visit Bransom & Springfield!

Our first stop was Branson.  We wanted to visit the Bass Pro Shop there, so we did.  From there we ventured further into Branson Landing (shopping mall there in Branson.)  We went into a few stores but did not stay there long since we planned to travel a bit further into Springfield.

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NRA Museum inside the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Missouri
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It doesn’t get much more American than this. 🙂

Okay, so the main purpose of us visiting Springfield was to see the Bass Pro Headquarters.  We were lucky enough to see the NRA museum there as an added bonus! I took SO many pictures, I won’t bore you with all of them.  If I manage to find the time, I might eventually make a post with all the pictures I took just from the museum.  Make sure to check it out of you find yourself in Springfield like I did!

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We had to hike back mostly in the dark.
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Black Bass Lake hike
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Groundhog we saw as we were turning on the dirt road toward Black Bass Lake.  He has clearly been eating well!

We got back from Branson/Springfield about an hour before dark.  Unbeknownst to me, apparently the sunsets sooner in Eureka Springs than my little town.  I thought we had about 25-30 more minutes of day time than we actually did.  Thankfully, I always carry a LED flashlight in my purse as well as a headlamp.  (Can you tell I’ve been out on a trail after dark before and needed a light?)  I suppose that sounds like odd items to have in a purse…  I guess I just prefer to have back-up (lights, first-aid kit, battery back-up charger, etc.) than make up, lotion, and mirrors.  I suppose if I was stranded in the middle of the woods, the former would come in more handy than the latter.

Anyway, the hike around the edge of Black Bass Lake was fairly short (just under 2 miles) and mostly flat.  There were numerous caves along the trail.  As well as a few wildflowers.  We ran into a few fisherman who seemed to have been having a good bit of luck fishing.  They had several crappie and blue gill on their stringer.  Was kinda jealous they were fishing and not myself.  Funny story:  The last 20 minutes on the way back with the flashlight/headlamp I kept seeing tiny glowing eyes ALL over the trail and around it.  Turns out it was tiny spiders everywhere.  It was a little creepy but cool.  I suppose if you have arachnophobia it would not have been quite as “cool.”  I enjoyed it though!

Day 4

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge-Eureka Springs, AR/Siloam Springs, Oklahoma (state 5)

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Considering the tiger is my FAVORITE ANIMAL in the ENTIRE WORLD, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was obviously on my list to visit.

While the animals at Turpentine Creek were beautiful and well-cared for, I could not help but be sad for them.  We did the tour around the entire refuge and heard stories about many of the big cats (and the grizzly, coatimundi, macaque, and black bear) and how/why they ended up there.  Most of them were previously pets.  PETS.  As much as I love tigers and I think I’d like the idea of having one as a pet, I’m intelligent enough to know how BAD of an idea that would be.  One of the bobcats was there because a man attempted to raise it with his one-year-old son.  You can imagine how that went.  The cat bit him and then it had to go (understandable) but why have a wild animal around your baby in the first place?!  Another story we were told was that a man had a tiger for a pet for several years and then got sick (I forgot what from) and decided he could no longer take care of it.  Rather than turn it over to a refuge, he drove several miles (over 50 miles) away and released it into the wilderness (No, I’m not kidding).  Apparently, it was back at his house the next morning.  We were also told the story of how a breeding pair of big cats was turned over to the refuge.  Apparently a company had them and bred the MULTIPLE times so that they could use the kittens for photo ops.  Once the kittens were no longer kittens they were sent away.  She had multiple litters in 3-4 years.  The first litter at under a year old.  If you know anything about big cats, you know how insane/sad that is.  When they took the mother in there and gave birth soon after.  The really sad part?  After a week or so she began to reject her kittens.  Why would she do that?  She must be a terrible mother, right?  WRONG.  She did not know anything else to do.  All she had ever known was to birth kittens and then a short time later they were gone and she never saw them again.  That seriously makes me want to bawl my eyes out.  That poor momma and those poor babies.  Screw shitty pet owners and people who do stuff like this!  (End rant….sorry)

Interested in donating to their cause?  Click HERE.

Also, huge shot out to Tyson Chick envfor donati approximately 300,000 lbs of chicken, beef, turkey, fish, and pork annually!

Natural Falls State Park (OK):

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Dripping Springs Falls view from the top!
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Dripping Springs Falls bottom view!

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Natural Falls State Park was a short trip but it was worth the drive to Oklahoma!  Dripping Springs Falls was epic.  At 77 feet tall it is one of the two tallest waterfalls in the state (along with Turner Falls in the Arbuckle Mountains).  It was also used in the production of Where the Red Fern Grows (1974).  You’ve seen the movie, right?  If not, go rent or stream it immediately.  I watched this as a little kid and bawled my eyes out.  Great movie nonetheless.

Day 5

We packed our bags and said goodbye to Eureka Springs.  We drove back east to Memphis (visited our third Bass Pro, the Pyramid) and then south to Tupelo.

Destination: Tupelo, Mississippi (state 6)

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Driving through Memphis and had to make a stop at the Pyramid!
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Brice’s Cross Roads

This was a quick stop on the way to Tupelo.   Brices Cross Roads is also known as the Battle of Tishomingo Creek and the Battle of Guntown.  The battle was fought on Friday, June 10, 1864 near Baldwyn, Mississippi.  At that point in time, it was part of the Confederate States of America.  Long story short, it was a victory for the Confederates.

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Our last official visit was to the birthplace of Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll.  The museum was well-laid out and an interesting visit for sure!  Although we had not originally planned to visit there, I’m so glad we did!

Destination: Home

After leaving Tupelo we headed east toward Alabama (state 7) and then continued on back to Georgia.

So, here it is… 4 am.  I have to be up in 4 hours to make a trip out of town so the conclusion is going to be a bit short.  Who knows, I made edit it later.  (Not likely).  Overall, our trip was better than I could have imagined.  We are spur-of-the-moment kind of vacationers, which means we did not know we were for our vacation/road trip until the day before we left.  (No, I’m not kidding!)   I like spur-of-the-moment though.  It keeps life interesting.  If you’re still here, thanks for reading!

Peace.

 

I AM ON MY WAY TO THE OZARKS!

YES, I’M YELLING! Nah but really, I’m so excited! I cannot wait to do some hiking and adventuring. I’ll try to make a few posts while I’m there to share pictures, but it will depend on how busy I stay. At the moment, I haven’t been asleep in 24 hours. Yes, that’s right. TWENTY-FOUR HOURS. 

I had WAY too much to do to go to bed. Most of which was preparing for all my furbabies to be taken care of. Anyhow, I guess I should go for now. 3 hours down!!! 8 hours to go…  🙄

Eureka Springs, here I come… Ready or Not!

👊🏞💚

Creatures on the Trail

So, I found this little guy (or girl) while hiking with my Dad the other day. First and foremost, he was never harmed. A majority of the time I can ID any animal or insect on a trail, but I have a hard time IDing certain trees. Who knew there were so many different species of oak tree?! 

Anyway, I was looking at my phone (not smart to not pay attention when you’re hiking) and just-so-happened to hear something rustle the leaves. I hear that sound often and 99% of the time it’s an Anole or Eastern Fence Lizard, but when I looked down it was this Copperhead!

He was slithering as fast as he could away from me. I was lucky that he never even struck at me. My dad held him in place (gently), so I could snap a quick picture of his gorgeous colors and then we all went happily on our way. 

I adore snakes and it drives me INSANE when people kill them. I understand some people are scared of them, but does that mean everything we are scared of deserves a death sentence? No, it does NOT. I won’t get on my soap box for now, because I could on ALL day long. 

Just do me a favor and remember everything has its place in the ecosystem. When we hike we are in their territory, not our own. Don’t let fear drive you and cause unnecessary harm to anything. 

✌💚🐍

PS: I am proud to say I can now decipher Northern Red Oaks, Southern Red Oaks, White Oaks, and Post Oaks. That’s something at least, right? 😉

West Fork Trail hike with Dad!

So, since I have the majority of the summer off (yay teacher benefits!) my Dad and I have been hiking a lot lately. We decided to do West Fork Trail a couple days ago because I had never done it before. West Fork Trail is one section of the Benton Mackaye Trail. It was a rather simple hike honestly. The trail comes out at West Fork Rough Creek (my dad kept referring to it as Short Creek. Apparently that is what locals call it).

A short distance from there he took me off trail to show me a rather interesting Beech Tree. (I will make a separate post for it… it is a really interesting find. I did include one picture of it on this post though!) We kept going another mile or so up the old road and Dad showed me the remains of the old bridges and culverts that were once used. The road and bridges were closed in 1986 when the area was added to the Big Frog Wilderness. He also told me a story from when he and one of my uncles were hunting up in there 30+ years ago. He said they were hiking up that road when it started snowing. Dad said the snow was coming over the mountain like giant waves. I love hearing his old stories. 😊

Anyway, we had to cross the creek 3 different times to get to the end of the road where the camp site was. We managed to successfully cross (with pup in hand might I add) all three times without getting our feet wet. **Note to self: Bring a pair of water shoes to make crossing ten times easier next time?!

Did I mention we saw a bear? It was ADORABLE. I believe he was playing in the creek when he heard us, panicked, and hauled ass up the side of the mountain. Overall, it was a fairly easy hike. Moderate at most. The elevation gain was minimal. According to my book (Hiking Trails of the Cohutta and Big Frog Wilderness-AMAZING) the trail actually loses about 240 feet of elevation going down the trail and then gradually gains elevation back until it ends. =)

Overall: 10/10

I would (and will) hike again

Trailhead: Forest Service Road 221 (Starts on southern slope of Chestnut Mountain)

Top L-R: The pup and I believe a woodpecker feather, Crawfish I caught flipping rocks, and salamander!

Middle L-R: Another salamander (found in rotted log) and some kind of creepy translucent worm that was in the creek.

Bottom L-R: Another salamander (notice his scarred tail and missing back left leg 😢.. I should note he still seemed to be thriving though! 😊), Dung Beetle (aka: Tumble Turd… this is what we grew up calling them. 🤣), and that same creepy worm from above in my hand.

A young magnolia tree.

The ADORABLE bear. 😍

Benton Mackaye Trail marker with Dad in background.

Part of one of the old culverts/bridges.

One view of the creek!

Acorn that fell off the tree and impaled itself into this Rhododendron leaf.

Another creek/bridge/culvert view.

One of the camping spots we saw!

Creepy freaking face we found carved in a tree.

Camping spot at the end of the trail!

Wooden trail marker. First of these I’ve seen!

That magnificent Beech Tree I mentioned above. Be watching for the next post that has more pictures of it!

All the little fungi I found. Well, most of it anyway.

Pretty little flowers I saw (but have not yet ID’d)

Saturday Adventures on Aska

Saturday I had to make a trip to Blue Ridge to run some errands, so decided while I was up there to take one of my babies (let’s call him K) and do a quick hike on Aska. According to the radar it was supposed to start raining at 4, so we had a couple hours to hike/adventure. We saw the usual few squirrels and K went berserk. I’m not sure he’d even know what to do with a squirrel if he did manage to catch one. I think he just likes to hear himself bark. 🙄 

There are several trails on Aska, I just mostly like this one because when I’m pushed for time I can get a good hike in fairly quickly, plus it isn’t quite as busy as the other trailhead. The entire time I was on the loop I only saw 3 other people and they were all together. 

There was a good sized tree down at one point. Thankfully, someone had already cleared a small path around it. I didn’t see the first critter (other than squirrels) but I did take a couple quick pictures of the old rock wall (not sure how old it is or the origin of it… Maybe Google could tell me) and the big chimney that’s still standing at one point along the trail. 

Overall, it was a beautiful, cool day. Hoping to go hike the trail with a couple co-workers soon. I think they’d like it. 😊