As teen parents, my husband and I always dreamed of the day we would own our own piece of land. A place to call our own seemed like an accomplishment that could only be dreamed of and never achieved. Our prayers came true, and we were finally looking into homes to purchase. We wanted out of the small town I grew up in, and after viewing many homes that just didn't fit the bill, my father in law offered us my husband's childhood home! I had no idea of the blessings that were in store for us. Our home sits on the mountain top, on a dead end street, with endless trees across the small road. Its not a mansion, but it's home. I sit on the front porch, admiring the view and am humbled by my surroundings. I grew up on a huge amount of property, and had only prayed to give my children the lifestyle I had. And here we are! Its not a large piece of property, but they always say big things come in small packages, and that is certainly true with our piece of the mountain. We cherish what we have. Each afternoon is filled with wildlife adventures. Frogs and snakes visit our pond, birds rest on the fence posts, and foxes squeak across the drive. Most of days are spent on the porch, photographing the birds, teaching my children about the animals, and enjoying those moments of bliss with my family. When the moment comes, our girls will have our home. And now I dream they will cherish these moments as my husband and I have done. Mountain life truly is the best. <3
North Carolina has so much to offer. From mountains to the sea there is always an adventure to be had. In 2007 my husband made the decision to join the Marine Corps, and with it came moving. My first time out of the mountains was to the desert in 29 Palms California, and man was that an adjustment! I missed my family, I missed the humidity, and I missed the wildlife. When we moved back to NC we were fortunate enough to be located at the beach. We came back to the humidity, but just like my family, the mountains were hours away. It just wasn't home. And here we are, 10 years later, leaving on our own little piece of a mountain. Surrounded by beautiful wildlife, each day we are blessed with loving only a short drive to one of our most favorite parks, South Mountains State Park. We hike, and let our children play in the streams, but mainly its to enjoy the wildlife. When you pull into the park you are greeted with the visitors office. If you have not been before, you will want to stop in and see the displays of the local wildlife. Sit on the bench outside the restrooms and let nature envelop you.
To our family, it doesn't matter how many times we have traveled up and down this road, or how many deer we have seen, we always stop to let the deer cross and bask in the glory of wildlife so close to us. It's an honor to witness their movements! Deer are one of the main animals you will see during your visit, especially if you visit as frequently as we do. But, it's not the only animal you will see.
Summer brings about a lot of outdoor activities, and during the summer months you are sure to spot a snake basking in the warmth of the sunlight. Watch your step, and remember, you are in their home. Reptiles are miraculous creatures, and have such amazing camouflage, but if you observe your surroundings, and never attempt to pick them up (especially if you are unsure of the snake you are seeing) you both will venture off your own ways.
This image is of a worm snake we found off the River Trail. Worm snakes are relatively small snakes, that make themselves at home with their prey under the leaf litter waiting for their next worm or just hiding away from predators.
This rat snake was found just off the Hemlock Nature Trail on July 12th of this year. My daughter, who is a great herper, actually spotted this guy/gal before I did!
While I have found a few snakes at South Mountain, I have found a greater amount of mammals and birds. The park has more to offer than trails and waterfalls (which are absolutely stunning!). While I do enjoy having a hike and a picnic, I also enjoy visiting to relax and wait for mother nature to showcase her beauty.
Our families first trip the Congaree was such a great trip we just knew when we left that we would be returning again, and soon. From the water birds, to the snakes we just loved every moment of our visit.
Our second trip to Congaree was even better, minus the mosquito bites. We decided to take a different trail to see even more of the park and found ourselves watching what we thought was drift wood. Years of looking through a view finder has obscured my eyesight a bit, and I find myself using my telephoto lens as binoculars to see things from afar. Even with my Tamron 150-600 mm, the thing floating in stagnant water still looked like a log. We sat patiently waiting to see what we had only hoped was an alligator, and after a few moments we were stunned to see what came into focus. An American Alligator came closer to see what the hustle was on the bank as my children were excited to see the wildlife. My girls love mother nature, and are obsessed with Animal Planet. So much so, that they grab a long stick and stir the water, attempting to mimic an animal in distress and gain the attention of the alligator. It worked, slightly.
My hopes for our second visit to Congaree had been to see more snakes. I had never imaged we would an alligator! Among the wildlife we had seen included spiders, woodpeckers, but during this trip we did not find any snakes.
If you are planning a trip of your own to Congaree National Park, my best advise is to bring the bug spray, and be patient in searching for wildlife of your own to spot. Listen and enjoy mother nature and what she has to offer. And, take your time. There is so much to see, and so many trails to choose from but the best one is the one you take. Congaree will not disappoint! Thank you all for visiting! If you would like to purchase prints, you may add them to cart via my portfolio.
Alligator River holds true to it's name and, despite the rare chance of seeing an American Alligator there, there truly is alligators in the road side canals.
If you are one of the visitors waiting to spot one for yourself I suggest speaking with employees at the visitor center. The gentleman we spoke with not only gave us a map of the area, but circled areas where the wildlife we wanted to capture were most recently seen. But alligators are not the only thing lurking in those waters! With the amount of locals we spoke to, no one had mentioned the otters. So image my surprise when I am traveling along the wildlife drive and spot a whiskered face racing my car to the bend.
And there we were, about 10 feet away from 5 wild, hissing river otters who's territory we were imposing upon. Those teeth, those whiskers, those crazy odd noses, it was all so captivating. I stood there, enchanted in all of their glory photographing as best I could with the adrenaline rushing through my hands. Caught off guard by their presence and in awe of all that we had been blessed to encounter that day.
The days leading up to our trip to the refuge were hard. Our family had just gotten some difficult news, I quit my day job, and we decided it was best to focus on the betterment of our children's lives. My oldest daughter's favorite animal is the red wolf. Her days are spent researching how to preserve them and where to find them in the wild. When my own research lead me to the refuge I knew we had to go.
We made the wildlife drive our second day in Manteo. And after the first drive we realized we had questions about the local red wolves. We headed off to the visitors center where we were informed the red wolves were breeding with the coyotes! How exciting?! We spotted only two red wolves, and several coyotes. And though my photographs do not show much, we also saw bears, turtles, snakes, and much much more! If you love the great outdoors this is the place to be!
Our first trip to Cataloochee Valley was grand. I had heard of this enchanting land where there were always an abundance of wild elk roaming, and those rumors were true!
The road to the valley was not as talked about as the valley itself, which I believe will deter most travelers. If you plan a trip for yourself, be cautious when traveling along the old logging road as it is extremely difficult to fit two vehicles and the road does not have guard rails. I may have clutched my "oh poo" bar the entire time up and down it, but it was certainly worth the trip. My husband, on the other hand, refuses to return.
Bring your small car and leave the dually trucks at home. And when visiting, allow yourself enough time to be there in the evening. Traveling back down the mountain is not as hazardous as coming up it, as you will be hugging the mountain as opposed to the cliff.