September Visits

How is it already the end of Semptember? This summer has been a whirlwind of events and I haven’t been doing a very good job at keeping this blog updated.  Often times I’ll have these ideas pop into my head about what I want to write about but by the time I get to be on the internet I have too many ideas built up and I’m not sure where to start.

Recently my excellent and close pal Amets came down to the mountains to visit me and see what it is I actually do out here in the forest. Some of you may also be wondering this same thing. Although I could go on forever about what it is I actually do, luckily for you, Joy who is head of this research project, just sent me a link that describes the project quite simply. I plan to update a bit more on some of the details of my actual job at some point before I’m done down here.

For now, let’s get back to the awesome fact that my super rad friend came to visit me.  I haven’t seen Amets since late April.  Before we both left Michigan, Amets, Liz and I spent many hours together eating delicious vegan food and discussing and planning Fender Bender events.  Now the three of us are living in three different states.

Amets and I started our weekend off camping and riding bikes with Joy, Caroline, and Rachel (co-workers) on the loop road in Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains National Park.  Tourists frequent this area with hopes of catching a glimpse of a bear without having to get out of their vehicles.  It’s a bit of a nightmare to be there on a weekend – however being in Cades Cove with it’s closed to vehicles is quite enjoyable.  We have spent many late nights netting for bats on various roads and trails off of the cove.  On Wednesdays and Saturdays they open the gate later than usual, 10:30am, thus allowing in only pedestrians and cyclists.  Just as we were all crawling out of our tents at 7am, the rain started coming down.  We came to ride though, so that’s what we did. At times it let up but mostly it just kept on pouring down on us.  We never let rain ruin our fun, though.

It continued to rain most of the day but luckily let up enough so that Amets and I could set up the tent and let it dry off a bit.  The rain actually held off long enough to allow us to do the short loop trail in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.  We strolled through the forest admiring the huge Tulip Trees, looking for salamanders, mushrooms and enjoying nature while catching up with one another.

Back at our campsite we attempted to see which would happen first: 1. Would our water come to a boil?; 2. Would we be struck by lightening waiting for our water to boil?; 3. Would we get drenched waiting for our water to boil?  Ohhh the suspense! The thunder sent us multiple warnings but we but our bids on the water coming to a boil.  Thank you Trangia! (I’m planning on writing up a bit of a review on my camp stove set soon enough). Our water boiled and we raced to hide from the rain and eat our dinner.

Me and Amets with Tulip Trees at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

With the weekend over I was now back to work.  Amets and I headed back to the Smoky Mountains to collect data on our roost and random plots. What’s that you ask?  More on that soon as well (I told you I have all of these plans for posts).  We did some hiking on trails, but as always, with the work I do, we venture off of the trails often.  Hiking on a trail is completely different than hiking through the forest.  Most people don’t actually do this. Amets was ambitious, curious and incredibly helpful.  We had to walk on steep slopes at times, hike through what we called Thornsville in the hot sun and carry our gear in to one of the backcountry sites.  We hiked and worked for 2 days, camping inbetween and then Amets had to get on the bus that evening to head back home.

We stuffed ourselves at Veg-o-Rama in Knoxville, an all vegetarian restaurant (the only one in Knoxville) with vegan options and then stopped by the co-op to pick up snacks for Amets’ long bus trip home and sorbet for our dessert.  Sitting on the curb eating sorbet, laughing and people watching, guessing who was likely to be headed to the co-op was a good way to end our day of work.

It seems as though I was starting to forget how incredible it is to talk to a friend in person who understands you and feels the same way about many important issues.  My contact with close friends while down in Tennessee has been over rushed conversations while I’m in a town, scattered emails, and a couple of random surprise packages in the mail.  Although I love all of those moments that I can connect with my friends, none of them can really compare to actually getting to hang out, bike together, laugh together, eat together, and have serious discussions together.  So thank you Amets for taking the time and resources to come and visit me and work with me. I look forward to our next visit.

Amets on top of Whigg Meadow. We went there to check out the bird banding.

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