The Raleigh Naturalist

November 15, 2009

Hodge Road Creek Levels – Crabtree Changes with the Weather

Filed under: Central Raleigh, Crabtree Creek, Gems & Surprises, waterways — Tags: , — raleighnaturalist @ 2:54 am
Atlantic 11-11-09_1_1

Crabtree under Atlantic Ave at Hodge Road Nov. 11, 2009

Crabtree is a low -flow system that has carved itself an impressive channel through Raleigh over hundreds of thousands of years.  That course fills to overflowing fairly often, as Crabtree drains a huge swath of Piedmont terrain, from Brier Creek in north Wake County, out to west Cary and down to Walnut Creek south of Raleigh.  Flood control lakes such as Lynn and Shelley have eased flooding in Crabtree Valley, but Middle Crabtree Greenway in central Raleigh, as well as Walnut in East Raleigh, continues to flood after heavy rains.  Above is 12 hours after high water at Atlantic Avenue and Hodge Road.  Below is a high-low pair of pictures for the same spot.

                           Atlantic Ave greenway underpass_1_1          Atlantic Ave Crabtree bridge
              Crabtree threatens 9-08          Underpass completed 7-08

I have posted about flooding here before at Raleigh Nature, and maintain an ongoing post of comparison pictures at my nature projects blog, Pecans & Mistletoe.  “The Gar Hole” is the most important feature of this favorite stretch of greenway, accessible at Atlantic Avenue on weekends (parking available then at the plumbing supply warehouse) or at the deadend east of the Longbranch on weekdays (unless it’s flooded).  So I take regular shots of the gar hole and the view from the railroad bridge at different seasons and water flows.  Below are some interesting pairs.

                            gar hole with young slider 6-20-07          gar hole 11-07-09_1_1

                              June 07                                       November 09

                              gar hole March 7_1_1          Gar Hole 9-7-07_1_1

                                       March 07                              June 07

Gar Hole after December 07 rains

                                    Hodge View 11-7-09_1_1          Hodge 11-11-09_1_1

Crabtree from Hodge Rd RR bridge 7 November and 4 days later after “Ida” rains.

                            old bridge 12-31-07_1_1          RR Bridge 11-11-09_1_1

               Hodge Rd. RR bridge Jan 07 and after rains 11–11-09

Creek Levels at Pecans & Mistletoe

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                              box elder beetle at Hodge Rd RR bridge_1_1          barn spider in silhouette_1_1

box elder beetle at Hodge Rd RR bridge; barn spider

gar hole butterfly

gar hole butterfly

October 28, 2009

Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan probe American character

Filed under: About & reflection, Exotica, Gems & Surprises — Tags: , , — raleighnaturalist @ 1:37 am
Acadia interior creek_1_1

Acadia National Park

How radical is the idea of national parks? Dayton Duncan, Ken Burn’s partner in the National Park series, opens the series stating that entering one of these natural spaces crosses a boundary where human individuals are not the masters.  Yet we as a society DO control the existence, present and future, of the spaces themselves.  Their existence depends on democracy, while typifying the best element of democracy – universal access to high aspirations.  The PBS series initially focuses on John Muir’s highly spiritual perspective on the value of experiencing nature, and the contemporary writers who talk in the film extoll the very long term value of saving these spaces, whether humans ever visited them or not – just for the sake of their existence.  Yet the Burns series, in segment 3, “Empire of Grandeur,” portrays the eventual development and permanent protection of the parks as an evolving response to economic forces, development and use trends, and patriotic fervor expressed by some of the richest folks in the land.

Hetch_Hetchy_Valley

public domain image of Hetch Hetchy Valley from Wikipedia

John Muir died in 1914 knowing he had failed in protecting his very favorite nature spot, Hetch Hetchy Valley.  Part of Yosemite National Park, it was flooded by the creation of a reservoir in 1913.  This loss, still controversial, is portrayed in the Burns film as a trigger or rallying point which instigated and motivated much support for the parks and the emerging Park Service, which would provide organized regulation and protection of park lands and wildlife – wildlife being an afterthought in some roots of national parks thinking.  Muir inspired a strong and still-present reverential perspective on the natural landscape, but the national parks themselves were captured and developed by a very different mode of operation.

Stephen Mather was the first of many very rich men to support the National Park System, and perhaps the most devoted to its cause.  His vision, implemented through years of quasi-volunteer government service with crucial assistance from Horace Albright, saw economics and patriotism as the twin keys to developing the national parks.  “Popularize to Protect” was the slogan of his very successful PR campaign to promote the parks.  If enough people visited them and enough philanthropists claimed them as causes, they would be safe.  Mather rescued the parks from a variety of unsavory commercial interests and activities, but also allowed railroad interests to pursue park politics, Native Americans to be marginalized, and a group of populist patricians to dominate the selection of park sites.

No one can argue with the success of the national parks, nor their importance, nor the profound satisfaction we as Americans can take in their existence and permanent status.  The paradox clearly stated by Dayton Duncan, who wrote the film, is in the tension between the enjoyment of them by The People and the unimpaired future existence of the natural features.  Duncan compares the broad parameters of the National Park charter to the Constitution, in that both allow for “movement into the future.”  We’ve evolved from “white men with property” to (almost)everybody, and so our view of national parks can perhaps transcend Major Tourist Site.

Abbe garden frog_1_1

The are glimmers of such vision embedded in the film.  Dayton Duncan gets a little teary describing his reaction, as an Iowan, to seeing new land on Earth created in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  ( Mark Twain jump-started his journalism career as one of the first visitors to Kilawea).  The spirituality of Muir endures well beyond the earnest pieties of the Serria Club.  Enos Mills and the Rockies, Charles Shelton and Alaska – the list of inspiring heroes and their meccas will continue throughout the massive film.  But if there is a truly radicalizing element in it, it is the off chance that watching it will provoke one to go experience one of these places.  One of the best reviews points out that many Californians could actually travel to one of several national parks in the time they spent watching the Burns film.  I hope you get out and find your special nature spot soon.  Take your time, and let the planet speak to you.  The message might be life-changing.

National Parks: America’s Best Idea

30 minute preview show

(selected footage from many parts of the project)

Long Pond from marshy area_1_1

Long Lake in Acadia National Park

Raleigh Nature posts on the Ken Burns film

 

September 7, 2009

Brookhaven Offers “Old Raleigh” Nature

heron profile_1_1

I finally got around to finding Brookhaven Nature Park, which is truly hidden away in one of Raleigh’s oldest suburban subdivisions.  Come to find out Scott Reston’s excellent new blog,  Get to Know a Park, covered the spot in July with a nice pictorial post.  With a respectful nod to Scott, here is my own quick take on the park.

Brookhaven Trail_1_1

It’s hard to find! The entrance is located is off Rembert Road, off Glenwood.  Brookhaven was begun in 1958 and contains many fairly regal residences with large yards and woodlots surrounding the numerous small waterways.  Scott mentions that the park is maintained by the Junior Woman’s Club of Raleigh, and the few reviews I find online describe it as decidedly low-key as a nature adventure.  But the small pond with a nifty zig-zag deck and the additional decks over wetland area make it a perfectly lovely site, in my humble opinion.  I had fun snapping shots of the heron.

pond at Brookhaven Park

pond at Brookhaven Park

heron at pond's edge

heron at pond's edge

Great Blue Heron at Brookhaven Nature Park

Great Blue Heron at Brookhaven Nature Park

wetland deck at Brookhaven

wetland deck at Brookhaven

The post at Get To Know a Park has some nice photos (and an excellent map!).  It’s good to have some friendly, high quality competition in providing online coverage of Raleigh’s natural amenities.  Those features are more valuable and unique than most people realize.  Brookhaven Nature Park established that tradition well before the greenway system was begun.

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Bonus Shot

harassed hawk_1_1

This hawk was being harassed by crows.

July 13, 2009

Maine Course, Thoreau on the side

     Cara and I stayed in Bar Harbor, Maine the last week in June, exploring Acadia National Park and the coast of Mount Desert Island.  We had some wonderful nature adventures, and I made use of a unique opportunity to read about Thoreau’s Maine travels while in the context of that landscape.  He traveled there 3 times 1846-57, and wrote essays collected as The Maine Woods.  I purchased a sumptuous guide book based on his trips in Central Maine , and though Thoreau’s travels were inland (mostly traveling by canoe over lake water), he was a great spiritual companion for my Maine experience, especially when I returned home and read my copy of the original Thoreau book.

It is a country full of evergreen trees, of mossy silver birches and watery maples, the ground dotted with insipid, small red berries and strewn with damp and overgrown rocks, – a country diversified with innumerable lakes and rapid streams.          H.D. Thoreau, Ktaadn

     We experienced terrain much like he describes on our visit to the Blagden Nature Preserve at Indian Point, pictured above.  The Nature Conservancy holds a strip of land that stretches past private properties down to Indian Point, an outcrop jutting into the Western bay that is home to the largest population of harbor seals north of Boston.  We went at high tide and couldn’t see the seals, but we could hear their grunting and jostling through the foggy bay waters.

Indian Point, Mount Desert Island

Most of our time in the island’s interior was spent in Acadia National Park itself, which was founded by George Dorr with huge support from John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  Rockefeller loved designing and building roads and bridges, but he didn’t like automobiles much.  The covenant he set on the 47 miles of carriage roads he built and donated still protects the park today.

                     Acadia carriage_1_1                Acadia horseman_1_1

The carriage ride showed us 5 of the 14 stone bridges in the park.  Our driver was a horseman from Pennsylvania who uses these horses for logging in the winter and hauls eight of them to Acadia each summer for some productive exercise!

     We did use our car to travel to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the huge, glacier-scraped slab of granite that is Mount Desert Island.  We caught a brief respite in the cloudy mists that enveloped us much of the week and were able to see upper Frenchman’s Bay, the location of our cottage, the town of Bar Harbor and it’s namesake island, whose sandbar constitutes an extension of Bridge Street, accessible on foot or by vehicle during low tides, and Otter Point, whose cliffs make the beautiful scene photographed by Cara below.

Cara and I are both point-n-shoot folks, but we both had some luck on this trip, displayed in the photo albums linked at the end of this post.  Below is my shot of upper Frenchman’s Bay.  The triangular protrusion just to the right of center is Sand Point, where we stayed.  We could walk at low tide and see all kinds of barnacles, clams and sometimes starfish.

  starfish by Cara_1_1  purple starfish by Cara_1_1 starfish in water by Cara_1_1

The geology available right below our cottage was also amazing.  We saw smaller versions of the caves and natural bridges to be seen on the bay islands from our nature cruise boat.

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Mount Desert Rock, 25 miles out to sea

Mount Desert Rock, 25 miles out to sea

The two boat trips we took showed us no whales (thus the double trip) but lots of interesting sights and tales.  The official (and unsuccessful) whale watch took us all the way out to an amazing outpost on the continental shelf, Mount Desert Rock, whose intrepid lightkeepers maintained their residental post until the late sixties.  We saw lots of harbor seals and some gray seals there.  Our bonus nature cruise was just as foggy, but lightened by the salacious gossip of our nature guide, a grizzled native who had taught biology for 30 years but seemed much more interested in talking about the various owners of mainland and island properties than locating wildlife.   Bar Harbor history and the development and donation of Acadia represents a fascinating portrait of big money, monster money, and the economies of land use. Pre-income tax money built an large array of mansions, styled (50 room) “cottages” by their wealthy summer inhabitants, but almost all burned in a massive 1947 fire and were never re-built.  Modern billionares still have summer homes, but are likely to cooperate with the nature groups in maintaining the natural habitat around them.  Acadia, the first national park east of the Mississippi, was founded by George Dorr, a wealthy wilderness lover whose namesake mountain we half-climbed.  He, Rockefeller and others bought the many thousands of park acres one farm at a time.   The pristine, forested small islands we saw on this trip were bare, sheep-mown homesteads well into the twentieth century, and modern conservation acquisitions focus on these .  As commerce disappeared from the coastal waters and tourism rose as the leading industry, the island transformed from fishing and boat-building villages into Acadia-aligned restaurants, campgrounds, motels and services.  There are still plenty of boats and a healthy lobster fishery, which history we explored at a local nature museum and lobster hatchery.

pregnant lobster at Oceanarium

pregnant lobster at Oceanarium

     The main respite we got from tourist crowds ourselves was on the state highways that follow the southwestern portion of the island.  Indian Point was off this road, and we found the prettiest rocky coast at the farthest tip of the island.  Bass Harbor and its historic lighthouse are shown below.

Mount Desert Island is a remnant of mountains that may have been as tall as the Alps, extending 80 miles beyond the current coastline.  The shore is built of granite and metamorphic materials carved and deposited by glaciers up to a mile thick.  The numerous bodies of freshwater are all long, narrow and aligned with the path of the glacier.  We canoed on Long Pond, one of these, and took the pictures below.

     Somes Sound is another of these long bodies of water but opens to the sea, splitting Mount Desert Island up the middle.  Somes Sound is the only fjord on the Atlantic coastline.  A waterfall that feeds it is shown below.

     The trip was adventurous and contemplative, invigorating and still soothing to our teacher souls.  I’ll end with one of the more thrilling sights – a bald eagle perched on the edge of an uninhabited island.  A close-up is at the top of the post.  Please do check the photo albums – many more beautiful sights of Maine.

Maine photo album Part One

Maine photo album Part Two

a wonderful professional set is at sueannhodges.com

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     Who shall describe the inexpressible tenderness and immortal life of the grim forest, where Nature, though it be mid-winter, is ever in her spring, where the moss-grown and decaying trees are not old, but seem to enjoy a perpetual youth; and blissful,  innocent Nature,  like a serene infant , is too happy to make a noise, except by a few tinkling, lisping birds and trickling rills.     Thoreau,  Ktaadn

March 19, 2009

Look down, look closely, at Spring’s lovely weeds

Filed under: Central Raleigh, Gems & Surprises, Nature Lore — Tags: — raleighnaturalist @ 2:17 am

 wildflowers-and-dandelion

   Weeds are just plants someone thinks are out of place.  As the season arrives, we can all get some pleasure from these signs of a diverse ecosystem  in your yard.  Take the time to look down and closely!

snowflakes, an early bulbous wildflower

snowdrops, an early bulbous wildflower

 

snowflake-patch_1_1

 

blue-wildflowers_1_1

March 2, 2009

March Mad Beauty

snowy-oakwood-trees_1_1

   A late snow and a schoolday off to blog about it!  It didn’t take long to find a snow paradise.  The Oakwood Inn’s block sported the lacy treetops above.  But I was headed to the greenway.  I decided to check out an old favorite – the east end of Buckeye Trail.

   This wonderful view is the edge of the meadow at Buckeye Trail’s east end off Milburnie.  Down this oldest section of Raleigh’s greenways is a vista that provoked one of the first thoughts that originated this project – and it was a book project long before I ever knew what a blog was.  The scene used to look like a cathedral of treetops – but the loss of a huge red oak several years ago changed the look.  What’s left is seen below.

   The missing tree was on the right, and when it was there, I was ready to write a book partly to tell people to come here and take a deep breath.  It is still a very nice section of greenway.  I got to see the baby beeches of a couple of posts ago in a new light, literally.  The gentle snow provided a chance to see water moving across the greenway: in a freshet, and being blocked by the asphalt.  The creek was medium high, which I documented with a current shot of my favorite log-sitting spot.  Once I had done that, I knew I should head over to Hodge Road and take shots of my water level standard spots, which I’m documenting over on the nature projects blog.

snowy-landfill-meadow_1_1

The March snow was mighty pretty!

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