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Apr. 29, 2005
Friday the 29th was one of the all too rare cloudy and cool days in what has been so far a dry spring, and I jumped at the chance to cash in a few vacation chips and leave work early to spend most of the day slogging up and down a creek in the woods.

There's this one part of the creek where it goes through a steep-banked gorge where you've got to detour high up on the side of the ravine to get around it, and for dozens of transits of the creek I've looked down on that gorge and thought that we'd have to explore it someday. A few weeks ago we started doing that, and some pictures from those explorations appear here.

Today we continued our exploration of the ravine, and at some point in there, I think it was as we were making our way through the winding cascade, I was inspired to name it Gorgeous Gorge, which is hard for someone of my generation to say because our minds have a groove worn in them that wants to play "Gorgeous George" instead. If you don't know why, no doubt it's because you're too young. And if you've never heard of grooves that play sounds, no doubt that's because you're too young, too.

Gorgeous Gorge is maybe two or three hundred yards long, has three levels, three waterfalls, a sloping cascade, and for most of its length a bedrock creek bed. The picture above and the one at the top of this page were taken from the third level looking back on the second, which is the narrow slot in the middle of the image. You can't tell it here, but the slot ends at a little waterfall that tumbles down to the first level, and of course it begins with another waterfall that you can just barely see the top part of in the middle of the picture, and which appears in the shot below.
Somewhere in the middle of taking pictures here, I was moving the tripod and gear from one place to another and happened to spot a copperhead coiled up and barely visible in the mottled brown fallen leaves next to the side wall of the ravine. It was a fairly chilly day, and so the little fellow, or gal, as the case may be, wasn't very active. So I thought, on the whole, that we would be safe enough if I kept Junie away from her and we just went about our business, and after taking a series of photos, I looked over and she had moved on, which was kind of a mixed blessing, I thought, since now we didn't know where our toothy little friend was and we could blunder into her. But that was the last I thought of it, and we didn't as far as I know have any more close encounters with snakes that afternoon.

No pictures of the copperhead to show you because I don't know enough about the animal, or any animal really, to take pictures without risking causing the creature undue stress, and until I do, the best thing is let them be. Nothing I do out in the woods is important enough that it justifies harming the plants or wildlife there.

If I could back up for a minute, I'd like to show you a few pictures from a section of the creek I call the Stone Groove, which is a few hundred yards downstream from Gorgeous Gorge. We almost always stop at it on our hikes up the creek, and we almost always find something to shoot there.

Just a little beyond Gorgeous Gorge is Ferny Canyon, which has been a favorite place of mine for years. At the mouth of the canyon is a house-sized round boulder, at the head is a waterfall, and in between is an overhanging bluff with large boulders piled up underneath, as well as this unusual little waterfall. As you can see, it looks like the boulder on the left has had water running over it long enough to wear grooves on its top and down the front.
Just downstream from Ferny Canyon I spotted this group of cinnamon ferns growing on the stone bank of the creek. After getting a couple of exposures that were 20 to 30 seconds long, I gave up on the shot when a breeze kicked up and gave the ferns a case of the shimmies. It turned out that the shots already in the can were good.
After spending about six hours tromping around and taking pictures, we headed back downstream towards the car and about halfway there came across a delightful surprise in the form of a duck and her brood of about eight or ten ducklings heading downstream. About the same time I spotted them, the mother led them up the creek bank away from us. I kept Junie away from them and got downstream as quickly as I could, leaving the creek to them. It didn't last long and I didn't get as good and long a look as I would have liked, but it was certainly a special moment, and quite a shock, as I've never thought of that rocky little creek as prime duck habitat, to say the least.

In February of 2002 Junie and I hiked down to Spirits Creek from Ragtown Road on a sunny winter afternoon. I think it was about the second or third hike Junie had ever been on, but she was already demonstrating her knack for being the perfect hiking dog, although she did make a bit of a ruckus when some other hikers came tooling up the OHT from downstream. Oddly enough, they also had a dog named Junie with them, although her complete name turned out to be Juniper and not Junie Moon.

Anyway, there wasn't much to photograph on that sunny afternoon, but about the time the bright sunshine was cut back some by some high, thin clouds, I spotted this little drop in the bedrock of the creek bed that had some character to it, and some sweet gum balls scattered near it, and took some pictures there. Today's Back Light photo is a monochrome version of one of those pictures.