A note from the photographer

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Check out my photography website at J. Commons Photography

Contact me to find out what I can do for you! Jennifer.commons@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Appalachian Trail ~ Cross Mountain, Shady Valley, TN {J. Commons Photography ~ Cross Mountain, Shady Valley}

Several years ago, I drove out to Johnson County to check out a spot where the Appalachian Trail meanders through a cow* field.  I didn't walk very far into the field, but I was definitely intrigued.  Today, my sole sister Deanna and I headed out there.

Trail head at Cross Mountain, just past the Johnson County line.

After figuring out my own way to open the special gate (I couldn't seem to do it following the directions) we made our way into the field.  Neither of us have ever hiked through a cow field and we weren't really sure what to expect.  We were both delighted to find that there were actually cows in the field with us!  There were only two and the big guy with the horns was, thankfully, on the other side of the fence!
Cow fields have nice, wide walking paths!

The white blaze of the AT.

The moment I realized there were actually cows in our field and I squeed with joy!

Cool barn.  This photo feels a little "Dorothy in Kansas" to me.

LOVE this truck in the field!  Before wandering out to the front of the truck, that little black cow was trying to figure out how to get in the back!


 "I don't know where this road is going to lead. . ."

"All I know is where we've been. . ."

If you have never visited Shady Valley, I am here to tell you, "It's beautiful!"

The field is dotted with these purple flowers/weeds and they are butterfly magnets.

I love, love, LOVE how you can see the flower shadow through the butterfly's wings!  So cool!

Headed to the trees.

But first - this happened!  As I already stated, the AT goes through a cow field.  It appeared as if the AT continued to the next field, but you had to cross a muddy spot.  Well, I went first and, as you can see, sunk halfway up to my knees into the quicksandish mud!  I struggled to get back out with my shoes still on my feet and after some maneuvering did manage. And the stench. Oh my word, the stench!  After I was back on solid ground we laughed and laughed and laughed!  We tried to go around the outside of it, but the barbed fence didn't allow us anyway through.  We had just decided to turn around when some thru hikers showed up.  They commented that we must have been having a good time because they could hear our laughter.  Trying to be friendly, we informed them of the sinking mud issue.  As we turned to leave, it dawned on me that there was a fence structure that lead into the forest that was, in fact, the correct way to continue along the AT!  You can see in this collage below that Deanna put together my lovely, muddy shoes, the offending mud, and the hikers behind me past the fence climb.  We laughed harder and harder and realized we need an AT for Dummies book!  And I am sure those thru hikers will laugh about us all the way to Roanoke!
(From Deanna's iPhone)

Oh, look!  The way we should have gone!

We did climb the fence and head into the forest.  We were on a bit of a time crunch today, so we went about a half mile in and then turned back towards the car.

Me taking a picture of Deanna taking a picture of this cute little fall-like leaf.  Yes, that's a selfie stick.  Stop judging us. 


More butterfly hunting.

 Thistles.  Butterfly.  Old truck.  Love.

This little one was closer to the fence, but it was a bit startled by me and kept walking further away and then turning back to see where I was.

Another great day.  Another great hike.  Today's trip on the AT covered 3.22 miles and burned a lot of calories with laughter. :)

*No cows were harmed in the making of this adventure1

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Beauty Spot ~ Take Two {The Beauty Spot, Erwin, TN ~ J. Commons Photography}

Monday morning I texted my Sole Sister, Deanna, to see if she was ready to check out The Beauty Spot.  She was up for it and a little while later we were on our way.  There was a high percentage chance of scattered thunderstorms, but we thought rain, thunderstorm, rainbows, or shine it would be great.  Of course, it was!

Almost to the top the rain began to fall, but it wasn't very hard and we could still see blue skies.

Sat in the car for a minute and waited for it to pass.  (iPhone pic)

 Just after the rain.

We headed out to explore the AT for a bit.

The bugs were a lot worse than last week, I guess because of the rain, but the butterflies were out, too.

Learn to fly with your imperfections.

The AT continuing off into the woods.

Climbing back to the top.

It was very muggy out and we planned to stop and enjoy the super windy spot when we reached the top.  This photo below of Deanna is the second before she calmly turned and said to me, "There's a little snake." I'm not a fan of snakes, but Deanna was so calm and emphasized little, so I approached quietly with my camera in one hand and my phone in the other - you know, for double photo opportunities.  Maybe I should have grabbed the bear spray.

We searched, yes searched, for the little guy for a bit and I finally got to see him scurry (do snakes scurry?) to another clump of grass.  We decided to stop harassing the little fella, probably a wise idea, and moved on.  A google search later and I think it was a juvenile Grey Ratsnake - apparently they eat Copperheads.  I like him even more than I did.  He's in this picture, but hidden under the plants.

We hopped back in the car and continued along the gravel road towards the Unaka Mountain Overlook.  Along the way we discovered this really cool butterfly garden to the right of the road. There were literally dozens, maybe a hundred, butterflies flitting around.

I slowed down (I was only doing 10 mph to begin with!) so Deanna could take pictures out the window and she spotted this snail on the underside of a leaf.  It was pretty neat!

The road switchbacked up the mountain and made for a very smooth drive for my little Susie Vue. Our first look at the Unaka Mountain Overlook.

A panoramic from my iPhone.

A pole on the opposite side, tagged by a Marine.  I took this pic for my Marine hubby.

Looking across the road to the overlook.  So proud of Susie Vue for making the climb to the top.

There was a deteriorating stone wall and path at the edge of the overlook.  It was super windy (even more so than the windy area at Beauty Spot) and we really couldn't hear one another unless we were standing together.  We had spent most of our time on the left side of the wall because the view looked better from that side, but I decided to wonder down the other end and check it out.  I was focused out towards the view when I turned and looked down to the ground next to the wall.  At first take it didn't register what I saw, but a quick second glance confirmed it was a LARGE snake!  I tried to yell to Deanna, but it just came out as breathless whisper.  The second attempt was still not much more than a whisper!  I turned and hurried down the wall to tell her there was a large snake.  We went back over to the corner and sure enough, he was still there.  Slithering around very slowly.  We only saw from his middle to his tail and we thought he was gone, but then we got to see his head.  I was speculating that it was a Copperhead, but his triangle shaped head confirmed that he was poisonous at the very least.  We tried to get pictures of him, but none were great.  He was about two feet below us and in a thick area.  This is what I managed with my camera.

Deanna decided it would be a great idea to lie down on the wall to get a closer shot.

She managed a decent picture and then we lost sight of it again.

We waited a minute or two to see if it would return so we could get a picture of the head, but when it didn't we decided to move on because we didn't like not knowing where it had gone!  More google searching confirmed it was a Canebrake or Timber Rattlesnake!  Neither of us recall seeing the rattle, thank God we didn't hear it, but the picture I found online was spot on to what we saw.

Did I mention it was windy up there?  The wind was so strong, when we stood on the left corner of the wall we kind of spotted each other so we didn't get blown over!

This is our hair selfie to show the wind!  (From Deanna's iPhone)

After we left the overlook, we continued on the gravel road and came out on TN 107.  Unfortunately, I turned the wrong way and we ended up in North Carolina! We were hungry and needed to pee so we continued to Spruce Pine and then turned around and headed home!  It was a very fun, exciting day.  We did an animal count of our adventures (not counting Cades Cove, that's an unfair advantage!) and came up with a couple deer, a chipmunk, an American Woodcock, and these two snakes!