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A grand gorge

out naturalistSomewhere in the deep reaches of Sugar and/or Grandfather Mountains, seeps, rivulets and trickles begin to mingle and grow and slide over the hard rocks coalescing into the headwaters of the Linville River.

The river slips over the rocks and begins a 2,000-foot descent. It’s a path carved in stone over millennia resulting in one of the most dramatic, beautiful, rugged and diverse wildernesses in the country — Linville Gorge Wilderness.

It’s in the wind

out natcornI was outside with Maddie (6) the other afternoon and there was a gentle breeze. “Daddy, doesn’t it smell like autumn?” she asked.

And it did. In fact, I had just had the same sensation only didn’t mention it because what would a 6-year-old know? Obviously much more than we give them credit for.

Stoked for storks

out natcornAs we started over the bridge on the Isle of Palms Connector, I noticed a line of large black and white birds through the pine trees. “Gourd heads,” I must have said out loud, because my wife said, “What?”

“Wood storks,” I said, pointing to the undulating line of five or six wood storks, alternately flapping and gliding across the marsh at low tide.

Onward and upward

Last week I wrote about the dark subterranean part of our little family adventure, which was a visit to Linville Caverns (see

From the dark caverns of Linville we turned our attention to the light and headed for the highest peak east of the Mississippi — Mt. Mitchell.

Our Linville Caverns guide told us, at the end of the caverns, that we were a half-mile underground. I find that kind of hard to believe — maybe she meant we were a half-mile below the summit of Humpback Mountain. But if we were, indeed, a half-mile underground, our ascent to the top of Mt. Mitchell would have been a total elevation gain of approximately 9,324 feet.

out natcornLegend has it that curious fishermen watching trout seemingly disappear into Humpback Mountain back in 1822 discovered an entrance into what is now known as Linville Caverns. Henry E. Colton of eastern North Carolina and once a state geologist for the state of Tennessee was one of the discoverers. Colton wrote about the discovery in an 1858 issue of the NC Presbyterian: “… we emerged into an immense passage, whose roof was far beyond the reach of the glare of our torches, except where the fantastic festoons of stalactites hang down within our touch. It looked like the arch of some grand old cathedral, yet it was too sublime, too perfect in all its beautiful proportions, to be anything of human …”

out naturalistThe call of, “Come see! A frog!” is one oft repeated in the Hendershot household from spring through fall as toads go by both names – toad and/or frog. So the other morning when Izzy called to, ”Come see this frog!” I was expecting another toad. But when I walked to the front door, there on one of the glass panes next to the door was a treefrog – round saucer toes keeping it firmly planted on the glass.

Homeward bound

out natcornAfter Jersey and the Big Apple (see last week’s Naturalist’s Corner —, it was time for a leisurely trip home. We headed south to Cape May and took the Cape May-Lewes Ferry across the Delaware Bay to Lewes, Del. The trip across takes about an hour-and-a-half. It provides a view of three lighthouses, Cape May Light, Harbor of Refuge Light and Delaware Breakwater East End Light. The ferry is also linked to another feature on our southward trek home — the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. Service at Cape May-Lewes began in 1964 with a fleet of four ferries purchased after the completion of the CBB&T ended their route across the bay from Cape Charles.

out natcornNew York City is big, bustling and in July – hot, but there are always entertaining and even educational ways to escape the heat. The planets aligned just right giving both Denise and me the entire July Fourth week off.

We donned our tourist attitudes and headed north for a visit with Denise’s sister in Eastampton, New Jersey and a short train ride and a day in the Big Apple with Izzy (10) and Maddie (6).

out naturalistNews outlets began reporting Sunday night (July 1) that North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed Senate Bill 820, which would have allowed energy companies to use a process known as hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. fracking, to drill for natural gas in the state. Fracking is the technique of injecting drilling fluids composed of water, sand and toxic chemicals under intense pressure into shale or other rock formations, fracturing them and allowing the trapped natural gas to escape into the drilling casing.


out naturalistGov. Perdue has to be weary. This weariness was apparent months ago when she declared she would not seek re-election. Her vetoes are little more than symbolic with the current make up of the General Assembly and here she is with another bombshell on her desk — fracking in North Carolina.

Here’s the simple fracking definition according to the oil and gas industry: hydraulic fracturing is the benign process of injecting fluids that are primarily composed of water and sand and maybe a couple of chemicals, at high pressure, into shale or other rock formations to create cracks that then allow the natural gas to escape and be captured.

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