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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!

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