Raining Frogs

It’s been a tough few months for the people who live along the North Carolina coast.  First, it was abnormally heavy rains in June and July.  Then, in September, Hurricane Florence hit and left the area battered and flooded.

adult3And now, it’s raining frogs and toads.

The conditions are all related.  The heavy rains earlier in the summer, and the many puddles left by Hurricane Florence, created ideal conditions for tiny critters like the eastern spadefoot toad.  It’s one of a number of frogs and toad species that thrive in such conditions — and are biologically designed to go from birth to mature reproductive adulthood in a very short period of time.  In short, it’s high times for the eastern spadefoot right now, and it and the other frog and toad species are taking advantage of the many available love-puddles to engage in “explosive breeding.”

Once the frogs and toads take care of that biological imperative, their rapidly growing legions go searching for drier locations — and, because the conditions are so damp, that means houses, and cars, and other places where people don’t want or expect to encounter frogs and toads.  The darned things are everywhere, croaking and hopping and staring at people with those big yellow frog eyes.  Carolinians are finding frogs and toads in their kitchens, clinging desperately to the windshields of cars, and falling on them when they leave their houses.  It’s got to be unsettling, to say the least.

Over time, the puddles will dry out, the conditions will change, and the frog and toad population will return to its rightful balance.  For now, though, the people of North Carolina have to be wondering what’s next.  Locusts, perhaps?

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The Speeding Calculus

I saw a news story earlier this week in which North Carolina police warned folks in the Tar Heel State that they would be cracking down on speeding.  They’ve launched an “Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine” campaign.  (Apparently the law enforcement folks really, really like law enforcement campaigns that involve simple and annoying rhymes, like the “Click It or Ticket” seatbelt effort.)

an-explosion-of-colorThe point of this North Carolina law enforcement initiative apparently is to disabuse drivers of the notion that there is some sort of safe speed above the posted limit that you can drive without getting pulled over and cited.  The news story linked above says the common belief is that so long as you are going less than 10 m.p.h. over the speed limit, you’re okay.  Nope, says the North Carolina Department of Transportation:  in this new campaign, they’ll be ticketing anyone going even one mile an hour above the posted limit.

One mile an hour?  Yikes!  That’s expecting a lot of precision out of the speedometer in my car.  It doesn’t provide me with a digital readout, after all; it’s just an orange arrow that points in the general direction of a range of numbers and can move abruptly.  And since the numbers on the speedometer occur in increments of 10, there’s not even a “65” for the arrow to point at — 65 is just one of the little lines between 60 and 70.  If I got a ticket for going 66 in a 65 m.p.h. zone on a North Carolina freeway, I wouldn’t be a happy camper.

I’ve never thought there was a 10 m.p.h. buffer zone, anyway.  But I do think there may be another kind of calculus that highway drivers should consider, and that’s the day of the month.  Have you ever noticed that many more patrol cars are on the road at the end of the month?  It always makes me wonder whether there is some kind of monthly quota that highway patrolmen and local police are hoping to meet.  And — purely by coincidence, I’m sure — the North Carolina “Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine” campaign started on March 24.

I’d come up with some kind of clever, poetic reminder of this for the drivers out there, but I can’t think of a word that rhymes with “end of the month.”

Waterfall World

IMG_0461The Pisgah National Forest around Asheville, North Carolina is full of surprises — like unexpected waterfalls.  You follow an otherwise undistinguished creek and suddenly find it tumbling over a craggy rock face, creating a scene of great beauty.

The waterfalls apparently are so commonplace that they don’t even get names.  The waterfall above, where a creek spills over a sheer 200-foot drop of rock, is one of the anonymous ones — presumably because it’s not by the road and reachable only by a hike into the woods.  It’s worth the walk, if only to get up close to the area where the rock somehow splits the water into individually discernible, almost perfectly parallel lines.

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Professor Brown’s College Of Troutology

IMG_1986This weekend I took a few lessons at Professor Brown’s College of Troutology in Asheville, North Carolina.  Lessons included crash courses in casting, dry fly technology, unhooking snags from trees, wading, and the crucial differences in hardiness and water temperature sensitivity among the native brook trout, the brown trout, and the rainbow trout.

It was like being transported back to the in-car portion of your driver’s ed class, when the instructor unnervingly watched your every move and provided a running commentary on your failures — except this time the running commentary was about casting with an appropriate flick of the wrist and trying to get the fly a little bit more to the right, rather than smoothly applying the brakes or turning the corners more sharply.  But the lessons worked!  I caught one of the elusive and beautiful “brookies” — his photo appears below, just before we released him into the stream — and the day on the water was a success.

Thanks to Mr. Brown and the lovely Donna, for showing the Wrestling Fan and me a wonderful time down in Asheville, and thanks especially for the patient fishing tutorial.  Fishing is a reel challenge, and a lot of fun besides.

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A City Tour Like No Other

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Last night we took a city bus tour of Asheville, North Carolina. Normally I can’t stand city bus tours, which may be informative but typically are painfully dry. The Asheville tour, like Asheville itself, was a bit . . . different.

The Asheville tour is called the LaZoom Comedy Bus Tour, and it was hilarious. Our tour guide was the vivacious and hugely entertaining Augusta Wind —probably not her real name — who danced and wisecracked her way through the tour, strolled the bus, insulted a few Yankees, and managed to mix in a few Asheville historical facts, besides. She was delightful and fabulous.

Along the way the tour was invaded by curious characters who looked suspiciously similar. They included a scary and chronically misbehaving nun, who was then sighted engaging in various bits of naughtiness as the bus tour rolled on, Asheville’s superhero, the tipsy and pot-bellied Beer Man, and a mysterious levitating seer. And the tour helpfully included a midpoint rest stop where the passengers could buy a local brew.

In short, the LaZoom Comedy Bus Tour was a riot. If you’re in Asheville and in the mood for some fun, you’ve got to give it a shot.

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Bear Country

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We’ve been trekking through areas of the Pisgah National Forest, enjoying some beautiful streams and waterfalls, cool air and chirping birds. So far, we haven’t seen one of the other natural wonders of this area — bears.

The Asheville area is black bear country, and the Pisgah National Forest is where they live. It’s one of those areas that is wilderness — in the sense that no houses are in sight — but it’s regularly visited by campers, hikers, anglers, birders, and tourist who drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway. Bears often see humans, and are known to prowl suburban neighborhoods at night, rooting through garbage and looking for food. The bears are accustomed to people and have lost their fear of them. That’s not a good thing, because an emboldened bear is more likely to charge — and we don’t want that.

The trail heads here feature posted warnings about bears that seem ironically hilarious to me. Don’t approach a bear? Give a bear in the distance wide berth? Hey, thanks for those useful tips! But some people are idiots, and expect any bears they see to be like animals in a petting zoo. They’ll approach them and even try to feed them and take a selfie while doing so. I’m not sure that posting notices will penetrate the cluelessness of such people — but you’ve got to try something, I suppose.

On our hikes I’ve tried to stay alert for signs of bears. If I see one, I’ll gladly turn and head carefully in the opposite direction.

Fly Fishing Foray

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Today I went fly fishing for the first time.

I put on the waders and ventured out into the Davidson River, where I received expert instruction on casting from the Brown Bear himself. I didn’t catch a fish, but I also avoided impaling my ear, falling down, putting out someone’s eye, and snarling the line. I only snagged my line on a tree once and I managed to wade across the swiftly moving river without falling down and being swept away, so the outing was a success.

Lots of fun, and the countryside here is spectacular. Tomorrow we fish in earnest.