It was a beautiful day to be in a forest.
Alright, every day is a beautiful regardless of the weather — but this was an exceptionally beautiful time as Andy and I wound our way up mountains until we reached George Washington National Forest.
It was last August and a surprising perfect summer day — There was a brief reprieve from the heat and zero humidity, along with a cool breeze. Plus, heavy rains recently made all around seem even more alive with colors so vibrant that they glowed.
Above our heads, lush canopies covered the sky and on each side of the trail, little forest flowers bloomed . . .
Within yards of the parking lot, a hand-built swinging bridge appears, showcasing the lovely Tye River.
At the time I admit I was a bit “mardy,” as Andy would say, because I was concerned nature’s breathtaking quality would be lost in translation through these pictures. This is due to one horrible confession: My Canon DSLR camera stopped working because it died . . . a very painful and slow death. After it refused to turn on, I had just dropped my camera off for repair only to receive reports later of Canon’s findings: Water had gotten in and caused my camera to not only malfunction but have such significant damage that it was totaled. This came a short time after it was covered under warranty, too. Go figure. Also, let’s pause for a moment to talk about my horrible luck with cameras after my first and most beloved Canon DSLR was stolen by employees at car rental company AVIS — In fact, I blogged about how horrible that company is here and that post is totally worth a read so that you do not get caught in the same situation. Anyway, that first DSLR I had for almost a decade and I was totally in love with it . . . then it was stolen. Without luck finding it, I saved my money and (extremely) begrudgingly purchased a second brand-new DSLR . . . only for it to suffer death by drowning during, I believe, a torrential-downpour hike to Cascade Falls and Barney’s Wall. The worse news? That rainy hike happened nine months after thieves took my camera but it took a long over-one-year later for my Canon to officially shut off and never come on again. Long story short: Why do I rant now? Because I’ve been forced to be one of those cellphone picture-taking hikers. Yuck — The disgrace to original photography. Still, I want to document our hikes so, reader, know all pictures here and in future posts for at least the next year are taken using a dreaded cellphone.
Therefore, Andy, me, and Cellphone continued onwards and upwards on the Appalachian Trail for what is described as a “moderate” climb . . .
On our journey up, we found this five-legged fellow — Poor skinny beast somehow lost a leg.
Now four fun facts: First, this was the first time I have ever seen a phasmid, also nicknamed stick-bug, so imagine my overwhelming excitement! I mean, truly — Hike could have ended here with me staring at the lime green guy for hours. Second fact is that stick-bugs are in the same family as leaf-bugs. Imagine that! An entire family dedicated to appearing like a tree in two distinctly different ways. Go Phylliidae family! Don’t let one profile stop you, you bamboo-looking bugs . . . or conventional spelling, for that matter, because you simply needed to have two ‘l’s and two ‘i’s! Third and last fun fact is that phasmids can grow to be the longest insect in the world. That’s the truth, friend, and you should look up images too because it is actually terrifying how large the stick-bug can grow. Before I thought they should be called baby twig-bug; now I fully feel they should be called full limb-monster. Oh and now that I am fully immersed in stick-bug research online: Here is a super interesting read about the largest stick-bug — which makes it the largest insect — ever recorded. In 2017, a Chinese entomologist — or person that studies insects — found a very long stick-bug in China and more incredibly, it laid eggs! The man took the eggs back and hatched the stick bugs at a Chinese insect museum to study and, from my understanding, one that was bred grew to be over two feet in measurement, making it receive the award for being the largest! Also, fourth fact (I’m editing right now because I had only three — I can only imagine how consumingly exciting entomologist is!): Stick-bugs are nocturnal and prefer moving at night, which explains why they prefer traveling up trees — The moon guides them to climb! Y’all. The amount I’m learning — I could write entire posts and, by the way, this is only a tiny sample of how I was as a child when growing up I chose to write continuous book reports on animals I studied from Encyclopedia Britannicas before I made my mom read the reports. You are welcome for that childhood story . . . and explanation on my profuse passion for nature since exiting the womb.
Now back to nature where looking up was just as beautiful as looking straight or down . . .
Bright green moss and massive red mushrooms made the area seem as if we stepped into a magical land.
We could not stop for long though because we had larger plans: We were on our way to the blue blaze Mau-Har Trail.
This trail is advertised as being for the “energetic” hiker and on it, the true treat: a forty-foot waterfall.
Before that waterfall though, a dream campsite that rests beside Campbells Creek and its swimming hole . . .
Continuing on though, we searched at great lengths for this secret waterfall, which dropped a short distance down from this swimming hole . . .
However, the semi-unfortunate news is that the forest has grown so full and thick that the view of this cascade is essentially unable to be seen.
I’ve written before how I would prefer to find overgrown views any day because it means nature has reclaimed. Anyway, the narrow waterfall (at least looking at images from other hikers) flows down Three Ridges Mountain, which we hope to hike another day so it is possible the view of this cascade can be seen then.
Without a waterfall at the end of our trail, Andy and I decided to make the most of our hike and be spontaneous so we took a leap into this secluded swimming hole . . .
I told Andy I often feel I miss out on our hikes — Did we trek to the bottom or the top of waterfalls? Did we jump into every swimming hole? Did we climb to the top-most boulder at vistas? More often than not, I find my answer is “No” and that is disheartening — to travel all that way, to scale mountains, to be precisely at nature’s most grand location . . . but to miss its highlight.
On this hike though, we embraced the beauty, the impulsiveness, and the excitement, which is why — on the way back — our hearts beat to the rhythm of happiness and I found still more appreciation for nature . . .
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Looking for another waterfall hike next to this one? Hike Crabtree Falls and even better — make it a longer trek through the woods to Spy Rock for the real vista treat. Happy trails!
Hi Midaughter. August.! Why so long posting.?? Fascinating insight into “Phasmids”… “Stick” at it.!! See what I did there.? 😁 Take care, love to you both. XXXX
Hi, midad! I’m definitely catching up on writing — I wrote about how we have been busy working on the Cortez so hikes have sadly fallen behind, but that is something we are rectifying this year!
PS–Love the stick-bug joke!
Miss you much!
L (and Andy)