This weekend I went to Red River Gorge (aka the Red) to climb with friends. I onsignted Brolo El Cunado (5.8), and top roped Mary Pop-Parazzi (5.5), Pocahontas Path (5.7), Raindancer (5.10a), Rinse and Repeat (5.7), Cheaper than a Movie (5.8), Brown Eyed Girl (5.10a), and Baby Blue Eyes (5.10c) on the Chica Bonita wall in the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve. I toproped Wonkaholic (5.10a) and tried Old School Chocolate (5.7) on the Chocolate Factory wall in the Bald Rock Recreational Preserve. We climbed a good mix of slab routes with small holds requiring balance and crack climbs with laybacks. We camped and ate at Miguel's, and I got to use my new tent and sleeping pad for the first time.
Today, on the summer solstice, I ran in my first 1 mile race at the Island Home Airport, also a first. I finished in 6:20. Previously, my fastest per mile time was 7:34 at the 2015 Turkey Trot 5k. Island Home Airport is pretty cool. It's only a mile from downtown Knoxville on a small island in the Tennessee River. Of course because we ran on the runway and the airport is on a river the whole race was flat! Quite a rare thing in East Tennessee.
I set out to see the synchronous fireflies, Photinus carolinus, again. This time I went to Elkmont Campground, the best place to see them, three days after their peak activity. Conditions were very good for the fireflies. The campground is at 2000' (the ideal elevation) the temperature was warm (70s; above 55), and there had been only a little rain. First we went to a small cemetery. The air was very still and we saw many blue ghost fireflies along the edge near the forest. Blue fireflies are difficult to photograph. With the 30 second exposure below I only saw a few yellow fireflies. The open area of the cemetery isn't the best place to see the synchronous fireflies; they prefer more wooded meadows. We walked to a more wooded area and saw the fireflies synchronize! At this point I put my camera down and just enjoyed being there.
Today my sister, mom, and I went on a sunrise hike. We woke up at 4 am to drive to Carvers Gap and hiked to Round Bald (5825'). The sun rose over layers of blue mountains creating a beautiful contrast with the orange sky. We then walked around the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Gardens. This time of year is when the rhododendron are in peak bloom. We got lost on the trails and there was a lot of cloud cover. We saw a few blooms but not any at an overlook.
Today I went on my first night hike. We set out to see the synchronous fireflies. The fireflies are best seen at Elkmont, but the area is only open to those with a pass from the lottery in April. We hiked Abrams Creek because I'd done it before and the start is along the creek, hopefully where the fireflies would be. We started about 45 minutes before sunset, and hiked about 2 miles, paused to take pictures at the creek, and turned around to hike back in the dark. Hiking in the dark was a bit creepy. Spider eyes reflected my headlamp like diamonds with beautiful pure colors, but there were a lot of spider eyes. After having only seen a few fireflies on the hike we got back to the car and saw dozens in the field and forest edge next to the parking lot. Not what I was hoping for, but fun nonetheless.
Found this mushroom this morning. Unknown species. It was shriveled and dead by the time I got home in the evening.
An indigo bunting landed on my windowsill at work. He stayed there for about 45 minutes, so I got a few good photos of him.
I hiked alone to Abrams Falls from Abrams Creek instead of the more popular trail from Cades Cove. I completed the loop on Rabbit Creek Trail that included two stream crossings I didn't know about before setting out. Carrying my boots and socks, I crossed bare foot. It was a peaceful hike, and I stopped many times to look at the spring flowers. I spent lunch on a rock in the middle of the stream a bit down river from Abrams Falls. The orange flower was toward the end of the hike around mile 11 and was the only flower of that type I saw on the hike. On my drive home, I saw a neighbor has about 25 of them growing just down the road.
Today I competed in my first bouldering competition at The Climbing Center. I got second place in mens intermediate division. There were 60 new boulder problems broken up into 4 divisions, beginner, intermediate, advanced, and open. We could try routes as much as we wanted and just needed 2 people to sign off on successful climbs. The points for everyone's top 5 hardest climbs were added up and ranked. I won a bag of Friction Labs chalk and a 1 month pass for bouldering! The hardest route I climbed was marked in the V4-V6 range; the first one in that range I've climbed!