First Beaver Sighting in Otter Pond

It was another crisp Spring sunrise with a deep Carolina Blue sky. Buddy didn’t mind the 37 degree chill, so we headed for Otter Pond to check out the rising mist.

The waning Moon hung low over Dick’s Mountain.   *Can you spot Buddy?)Otter Pond 1

The western ridges were just catching the Sun’s rays…Otter Pond 2

Evidence of Beaver activity has now affected the largest trees around the pond.Otter Pond 3

Suddenly, there was a loud splash out in front of me, and there, gliding across the pond’s still surface, was a Beaver. It’s the first one I’ve seen in person, ever. These busy critters are nocturnal, so to finally catch sight of one after sunrise was such a surprise.

I managed to capture some of its antics on video,  so here is my first attempt.

Another Springtime Cold Front

It was 41 degrees when Buddy arrived before sunrise, and the mountains were recovering from very heavy rains from a violent cold front that passed through yesterday. The house was just waking up, and a lush layer of Honeysuckle vines had covered the formerly drab front meadow.

Before SUnrise

To the northwest, the Sun was just hitting Wolf Pen Mountain above 3,000 feet.

wolf pen

Buddy’s house was still in the dark, but the tall Tulip Poplars and Hickories were already basking in the glow of morning.

buddys house

Buddy seemed fascinated by the young grasses that had sprouted around one of the neighbor’s ponds. The water was cloudy from all the rain.

buddy pond

The falls from the two ponds was quite active, and Otter Creek nearby was already a torrent of milky runoff from higher up the valley.

waterfall

Along the creek, Small’s Ragwort had recently appeared…

yellow

Ragwort was also beginning to blanket the forest floor across the creek…

forest floor

Along the creek, Toadshade Trillium were blooming…

trilliam

As was Pink Cateby’s Trillium

pink trilium

The Dwarf Violet Iris were late this Spring…

iris 2

iris 1

Delicate white blossoms of this Carolina Silverbell grow on stems from one spot on a limb, much like a bunch of cherries might grow. 

white tree

The Sun was now up as we headed up the road back toward the house.

fibber magee

The Dogwood are in bloom, just in time for Easter…

dogwood

dogwood 3

Brushy Top Mountain is clothed in a blanket of green as clouds once again begin to gather….

Brushy Top

After our two mile hike, my driveway looks inviting, especially with temperatures still in the 40’s, and it isn’t even 8 a.m. yet.

driveway

 

April on the Florida State University Campus

Located in Florida’s capital, Tallahassee, Florida State University has recently seen major changes to it’s sprawling campus. Built to reflect the trend of “University Gothic” from the 19th century, that style was abandoned in the 1950’s after Florida State College for Women became coeducational in 1948.  Boxy high rises were the thing after the War, and never more so than at Florida State. Today, most of those “industrial” style dormitories have been demolished, and in their places are modern interpretations of the Campus Gothic from the original master plan.

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High rise men’s dorms, Smith and Kellum Halls, are history. In their place will sprout modern Gothic structures to match the red brick dorms shown in the old postcard, above. Two original women’s dorms, Deviney and Dorman Halls, all seven boring floors of them, have been replaced with bright new buildings, named for Magnolia and Azalea blossoms that grow in gardens nearby.

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That’s Dorman on the left, and Deviney on the right, in original construction photos.

Their replacements, Magnolia and Azalea, are seen in this drove view…New-Halls

Below are ground level views of the recently opened dormitories.

florida hall    Devinney Hall

westcottThe Historic Westcott Building faces the main entrance to the university, atop the highest point of campus. Seriously damaged by fire in 1968, it was rebuilt to completely match it’s original design, with modern interiors. At least one immersion in the fountain is traditional for any student or alumnus who takes their time at F.S.U. seriously.

landis greenLandis Green is the “Central Park” of Florida State, surrounded by the Gothic buildings.landis fountainIn the center of the Green is Landis Fountain, that faces the Strozier Library to the north.

live oakThis ancient Live Oak in front of the library was here long before the college was founded in 1851. You can see two steel poles supporting the massive limb. A similar tree near Charleston is thought to be over 1,000 years old.

two pinesTwo massive Loblolly Pines frame a quiet spot on the western side of the Green. Cawthon Residence Hall is visible through the trees.cawthon hall

bryan hallBryan Hall is the oldest building on campus. Its fortress appearance is no coincidence. Originally, the site was home to a military academy, that later became the college for women. It’s now a residence hall.

maplesJapanese Maples show their true colors every spring.

Just west of Landis Green is the site of the new Student Union that will replace the original Union building that stood here for almost sixty years.

Student Union 1

The recently razed Oglesby Student Union was voted as the second best student union in the entire country a few years ago because it offered such a wide variety of activities, retail shops, restaurants and cafeterias, along with a bowling alley and an auditorium. Its architecture was influenced by modern buildings in Brasilia.  

a union Old Union

Concrete was everywhere, especially in the decorative molded appliques featured all around the ground floor walls. One of those walls, left, is being preserved in the new construction as a tribute to what was here before.

union image

 The new Union will reflect the Gothic found all over campus.

suwannee roomThe first “Student Union” was the Suwannee Dining Hall located in the center of the old women’s college campus. It’s Gothic beams and painted ceilings have been restored to their 1920’s splendor, and once again the room, with it’s large windows and original lighting fixtures, serves as a major gathering place on the eastern side of campus. Harry Potter would feel right at home in this “Hogwarts” space.

Bradford CyprusA few miles southwest of campus is Lake Bradford, that has served the college for almost a century as a place of recreation for the faculty and students. Known as the “Reservation”, canoeing and kayaking are still the best ways to enjoy this natural wonder, while gliding past these Bald Cypress trees.

Lake Bradford 1Sunset over the Lake is the perfect time to reflect on a day of learning and relaxation. Visiting Florida State University in late Spring is always a treat.

 

The Green Days of Spring

After three inches of rain on April 13th, the dormant trees of winter finally burst fourth with a symphonic display of every shade of green you can imagine. The best time to enjoy this annual spectacle is at high noon when shadows are nonexistent. This greening frenzy will only be visible for a few days as new buds turn into darker leaves.  Hickory, Ash, Beech, Tulip Poplar, and Acer Maples, all bud at the same time.  Oaks of all description are waiting a few more days, and always bud out last. Red Maples with their tiny red buds are scattered throughout the ridges. Dogwood, both white and pink have been blooming for a week now, and are also visible among all the green.

churchSugar Hill

Dogwood MtnWhite Dogwood as flowers first begin to open…

Dogwood CabinDogwood fully open…

wisteria 1Wisteria

Hemphill RoadLake Lure Mountains

Montford CovePinnacle Peak above Montford Cove

Oak Mtn FarmOak Mountain Farm

Otter PondOtter Pond

 

A Late Spring in Otter Creek Valley

With morning temperatures still below freezing, and one morning this week in the mid-20’s, the forests here in the valley have delayed their leafing out and blooming by almost two weeks. Finally, afternoons near 70 degrees have kick started this annual ritual.

The Red Bud opened on Wednesday, very late.  Today I brought a few branches inside so I could enjoy them as they bloomed.

red budIn the distance you can see a lone Red Maple that has finally bloomed…First Maple

fallsOtter Creek Falls are active after record breaking winter rains.

sunriseThe first sunrise of April was greeted by a winter landscape…

donnas houseThis log home sits on a bluff high above the creek, waiting for the Poplar, Maple, Sycamore, and Hickory to awaken.

otter creekOtter Creek makes it’s way down the valley on its way to Cove Creek to the east.

blossomsThese Cherries have opened along Otter Creek Road…otter creek road

myrasA 100 year old cabin along the creek greets the rising sun on a frigid Tuesday.

jeannes pondsAn Eastern Hemlock forest sits above two ponds along a Branch of the creek…

geese 1Canada Geese have been overnighting in the upper pond…

monetPond reflections remind me of Monet’s Water Lilies at Giverny…

loblollyThank goodness for the Pines and Hemlocks around the house that provide a rich green to an otherwise wintry woods.

shadowA Spring sunrise makes for some unusual shadows looking due west.

overlookThis Black Walnut is still weeks away from the first buds.  Brushy Top Mountain in the distance is all hardwoods, and should start to green out next week.

 

    

Cherry Blossoms near Lake Lure

When  most people hear the words, Cherry Blossoms, they think of that city with all the monuments, but if you want to see amazing blossoms two weeks earlier, you might consider visiting Lake Lure, North Carolina, especially the Rumbling Bald Resort at the north end of the lake.  Seventy-five years ago, developers had the foresight to plant the Yoshino Japanese Cherry trees that had been planted in Washington decades before.  The display is no less breathtaking.

cherry 5

Their are over 250 varieties of Cherry trees worldwide, and most of them bloom at the same time, depending on temperature and length of daylight.  The blooming, from first blossom to last, is about two weeks, not very long.

cherry 1

cherry 3

caddy

cherry 2

cherry 4Turkey Tail Mushrooms extract nutrition from these aging trees, but that doesn’t stop new shoots from breaking through.cherry 7

cherry 9

cherry 8A few miles further north is an orchard of Sakura Cherry trees.

Autumn is not the only season to enjoy the colors of the Blue Ridge.  Springtime, especially when the Dogwood and Azaleas are blooming,  can be just as dramatic.

Spring Awakens along Otter Creek

Just over a week of winter remains, but the first wildflowers are breaking through the leaf cover left over from last autumn. The moist ground along Otter Creek encourages these hardy plants to flower early. It was below freezing this morning and a light frost held on until after sunrise.

milkweedA young Milkweed is coated with ice crystals…

green rockA giant boulder shows off its winter moss in a bend of Otter Creek…

blood root 1Blood Root shows her first blossom…

green 3These Trout Lilies will open fully in two days, and will look like this…40570486035_4cf285ff7a_b

mud dabberMud Dabbers will some reoccupy this old nest…

white blueThese tiny blossoms look almost like roses, but I’ve been unable to identify them…

phloxPhlox are always the first flowers to appear along the ground…

buddy daffsBuddy was watching a crow along the creek…

blossoms 1

green mossAway from direct sunlight, the mosses flourish before other plants break ground.

beaversA new family of Beavers have taken up residence in a Branch of Otter Creek…

green 4Just one more hopeful Trout Lily.  It got its name from the waxy leaves that resembled a swimming mountain Trout.