Thursday, March 30, 2006

screw the parts

Jason and Yaniv both got NSF fellowships. Three years. Money Money Money. That is awesome. It's competitive out there folks, and your's truly is struggling to stay afloat.

I hope I can pull it together
we come down the stretch
a lonesome, wholesome, fulsome young man
a less promising catch.

Bewitched? Betwixt? Between you and me
and miles to go before we can sleep
and miles to go between us this means

Planning a May fishing trip to Pennsylvania with my brother and dad for a week!

Details at 6!

Here are some pictures from what might have been...part three of my fantabulous spring break--YOU FIGURE OUT WHICH ONES CAN BE BLOWN UP

Go in peace my matisyahu.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

spring break epic 2006: part II (of III)

From Panthertown I drove rapidly and directly through the Qualla (Cherokee) reservation (the shady, deep parts) to Straight Fork Road where I met Daniel Hanks at the Hyatt Ridge Trail...trail head.

Here is a little Google Earth goodness:

The orange arrow points down the mountain toward our cars (just over 2000 feet above sea level). The yellow X indicates Low Gap (about 4800 feet) where we crossed Hyatt Ridge and the red X is the Enloe Creek campsite where we stayed (about 3800 feet). It was 1.9 miles from the cars to the top of Hyatt Ridge (so almost 1000 vertical feet per mile... which is a lot) and it was one mile from Low Gap to Enloe Creek. Not a terribly long hike, but very steep. Poor Daniel is always in such good shape and I creep up the trail. The blue splotch above our camp is supposed to represent the large pool that we pretty much stopped at.

That valley holds Raven Fork, the river we were there to explore. The Raven Fork watershed is very big and very wild, one of the most wild areas of the park for sure. Raven Fork is the biggest river in the park without a trail along it. So we walked straight up it. We figure we went just over a mile to that pool. It wasn't necessarily easy going, but we were fishing the whole time so it wasn't bad.

Here are a lot of pictures of Raven Fork...and Daniel. Note, however, that there are no fish pictures. This is mainly because I didn't catch any. Daniel, on the other hand, caught "a mess" of brookies, maybe 15 in all...on spinning gear. Oh well. He plans on posting his pics on his blog so I will link there when they appear.

A couple other things to note: the water was very high. I would love to go back in the summer. But I bet the fish would be very skittish. It was also very cold. A cold front came through the night before these pictures were taken. It rained. Very very hard. There was a spectacular thunder storm. Lots of lightening. But I'll tell you what, the palace was bomb-fucking-proof. Not a single leak. It probably was in the 40s all day the next day and we definately climbed up above 4000 feet on the river. It was very windy. And very sunny. My lips have never gotten so chapped in so little time. We were really impressed with how big the river was for being so high up.

Without further ado...Raven Fork.

Oh...and you can click on almost every picture for a big version. I highly recommend it.

This is a cool picture. This is the freaking huge pool that is indicated on the map above. It is probably over 4000 feet in elevation. You can just make out the high ridge spruce-fir forest in the upper left hand corner of the picture.

This shot is from below our camp, looking up at the bridge which was installed after some unfortunate soul was killed trying to ford the river at high water. The bridge is at least 15 or 20 feet over the river and yet during big floods, the river gets over the bridge. That is fucking intense.

This is a shot from the bridge looking upstream. Note the massive tree trunks, probably 20 to 30 feet long and 1 to 2 feet in diameter simply strewn about the boulders. That flood must have been intense.

This is a shot of the bridge and our food hanging from the convenient bear-proof rig.

It wasn't mouse proof though...and my new tent bag got chewed up...not to mention my sesame sticks and cous-cous.

More from downstream:

It really is a temperate rain forest.

I really love this kind of thing. CLICK FOR BIGGER.

This is some wild lichen or maybe a liverwort of some sort.

It got cold.

It was a nice campsite. The palace rules.

Cowboy coffee...does a body good.

how Powerpoint saved my academic career and in general, humans are fairly stupid animals

This for my 200th post? Kind of lame, but I had to say something. Look for part II of the spring break epic later today or tomorrow.

I had to say something about this. How fucking ridiculous. People line up to see some cracks in drywall they claim resembles Jesus? In a church that was flooded by Katrina? It's like a criminal leaving his mark: I flooded this church, I, Jesus Christ, son of God (and God himself at the same time) and here is my likeness for all to behold and look upon.

It's also hilarious that the "church" is actually in a strip mall.

Secondly, since Indiana University has installed a bunch of technology in the classroom I teach in, I've begun teaching with Powerpoint and I think it is going to save my academic career. Preparing lectures in Powerpoint is just really much more tolerable than simply writing them. Pictures and what not. Animation. I might even include some video one of these days.

Monday, March 20, 2006

spring break epic 2006: part I (of III)

I'm back bitches. Spring break was awesome...and long. Now, however, it is time for school hell. Now until the end of the semester will be pretty much very very stressful, but such is life.

This spring break I did much backpacking, hiking, fishing, shooting of the shit, camping, drinking and other sundry entertainments. I spent 6 nights in a row in my new tent which was pretty cool. I was shooting for 7, but alas, it didn't happen. But we'll save that for part II. I also nailed down some plans for the summer, at least tentatively. I'm going to head back to Western to work on my master's thesis research some more in the hopes of getting some data that is publishable in a good journal. I think I could publish now, but I want to shoot for Evolution. But more on that in part III.

I got to Gatlinburg TN last Friday around 7pm and had a couple brews and dinner at the Smoky Mountain brewery. The beer was decent, a winter warmer and a pale ale, the food sucked. I drove up into the Smokies, stopping at the highest driveable point in the park, Newfound Gap (~5800') to take some pictures of the stars etc.

This is what a long exposure and some photoshopping will get you. Unfortunately the longest exposure by camera has is 15 seconds.

I then drove down the mountain into North Carolina and camped in Smokemont for the night. That was easily the worst part of the trip and I don't want to dwell on it. Several things were very frustrating.

Driving through the Cherokee the next day I saw that they put up new road signs, with both the english and the cherokee names. The Cherokee alphabet was invented by one man in the 1800s I think. Pretty weird.

After a frustrating detour to Bryson City, I met up with Sean and his girlfriend Krista and we left for Panthertown Valley.

Sean took us into the valley via a relatively little-used route along the north rim to Blackrock Mountain at about 4900'. This is Sean and Krista on the side of Blackrock. Fenian the dog is off to the left at the end of the leash. CLICK FOR A BIGGER VERSION.

This is the view looking south into Panthertown. Little Green mountain is to the left (east) and the back of Big Green is to the right (west). I'm not very good at stiching together photos...yet. Panthertown is really cool because it is a "hanging valley". The valley floor is very flat, as you can see, which is strange for southern appalachia where the vast majority of valleys are steep sided, v-shaped valleys. It's hanging because the average altitude of the valley floor is 3600'. CLICK FOR BIGGER.

There are several nice waterfalls in the valley. This is one of the more famous and accessible: Schoolhouse Falls. CLICK FOR BIGGER.

There are a lot of unmarked trails in Panthertown, some of them are very faint and some are non-existent. Lots of them go through Rhododendron "hells" like this one. We actually crawled right through that tangle.

Dr. Sean O'Connell:

I only caught 5 trout on the trip. I fished for probably a total of 10 or 12 hours, actually on the water casting. It was of course broken up into several smaller chunks of fishing. But 5 fish isn't so great, but it's not terrible either. I caught all of them on one small section of the Tuckasegee river in Panthertown. I won't say exactly where, because it was a pretty freakin' awesome spot, but you could figure it out just by looking at the pictures and a topo map. The cool thing was that allt he fish I caught were wild brook trout. They are such beautiful fish. I think the average size southern appalachian "spec" (for speckled trout as per the locals) is about 5 inches long. Panthertown's trout, for some reason, are much bigger. I caught one that was probably about 12" long. That's a big southern apps brooky.


This is the 12" spec I caught (ok maybe not 12"), it's jaw was even starting to curve up a little bit. CLICK FOR BIGGER.

They are remarkably beautiful fish. CLICK FOR BIGGER.

The place I caught four of the fish (the fifth was caught downstream about 200 yards on a much smaller section of the creek). CLICK FOR BIGGER.

Sean took some pictures of me fishing the pool. CLICK FOR BIGGER.

Sean skipped a lot of rocks.

This is a shot of the valley and the west face of Big Green. CLICK FOR BIGGER.