Friday, August 26, 2011

Nature Calls

I've been hiking a lot since the first of the year, but this morning's hike was the mother lode. In my hikes, I've spotted squirrels, birds, snakes and chipmunks. Today, I spotted one bear, one fawn and a wild turkey. And no, I was not drinking Wild Turkey when I spotted the bear and deer!

There's a lot to be said about getting up and out early. Firstly, it's much cooler. With temperatures hitting the low 90's by mid-day, an early morning hike is the way to go -- particularly since the temperature is usually a mild 70 or so -- most mornings.

It was just such a morning.  I was standing in an old logging road in a remote area near Hot Springs, NC, when I heard twigs snapping in the rhododendron just ahead of me -- about 30 feet. Something was bounding down the bank at a fast clip -- deer? I thought.

Suddenly, a beautiful black bear came into view -- crossing the road and heading down the hillside into more thick bushes and rhododendron. Wow. It felt like the bear had been cued to bound across the road in front of me -- as if in a movie or a planned sighting. Absolutely amazing.  The bear was medium size and there was no time to snap a photo since this all happened within about 3 seconds.  I waited a few moments to make sure the bear didn't have company and then proceeded along the trail.

30 minutes or so after this encounter, I heard furious wing-flapping off to my left. I look up and to my left just in time to spot a wild turkey taking flight. Further along, as I was wrapping up my hike, I thought I spotted what appeared to be a large dog about 20 yards in front of me. As it came into view, I realized it was a fawn. We stared at each other for a second or two, before it moved off the road and across the forest.

My biggest fear now is chiggers.

There were a lot of weeds and plants along the trail and those little critters love to catch a ride and then create an incredible itch that lasts three or four days.

I just jumped out of a hot shower. Hopefully, I won't spot any signs of them.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Eat a Peach

I had forgotten what it was like to eat a delicious peach.

The taste came back to me the other day when I bit into a ripe yellow peach from South Carolina. The juice ran down the side of my mouth and the flavor sent my taste buds into heaven. It was a case in which the memory of a good tasting peach simply couldn't do justice to the actual taste. (It's usually the other way around!)

After the rediscovery of what a real peach tastes like, I hopped in my car and drove straight to the farmer's market where I bought one bushel of peaches -- Yellow Flesh and Freestone varieties (also called O.Henry).

O. Henry wrote at least one short story about peaches. Little Speck In Garnered Fruit is about newlyweds on their honeymoon and the bride asks her husband to find her a ripe peach, but it's early spring and he struggles to find even one. Read it here:

I can relate to O. Henry's bridegroom character. I've found myself on a mission to find a specific fruit or vegetable in some of the places where I have lived over the past ten years. In Timor-Leste, it was grapes. Here in the states, I miss Central Asian cherries.

This morning, I am savoring those ripe South Carolina peaches. I am on my fourth one. They are so addicting and I think before too long, I'll be back at the farmer's market. Peach season will soon be gone :(