Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Sunday, 12 March 2006

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails

Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina – March 12, 2006

Our location presently is 35.26145N, 82.72678 W, give or take ten feet. I remember my youth, raising a periscopic bubble sextant though an aircraft roof over the Pacific and hoping to get a location accurate to within 5 or 10 miles.

We are in the Pisgah National forest in western North Carolina just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge National Park campground that we had chosen for last night's destination proved to be closed for the winter so we diverted to this place.

A Great Horned Owl repeatedly asked me a question at 4 AM in a deep-throated voice, 'Whooo?' This is a very good question. Fortunately, I'm not a small furry thing and am unlikely to end up as an indigestible pellet of fur and bones.

The motorcycle has a dead battery from sitting in the garage for three months so I add water and charge it up. I notice a gasoline leak. I unbolt the seat again and then remove the big bolt that secures the gas tank and the four bolts securing the fuel pump and petcock plumbing to the gas tank. The dripping gas is coming from a hidden spot where a bar is welded to the tank for the big bolt. My guess is that a new tank will run about $400. I will try to buy some epoxy patching material at Wal-mart first.

I bolt the bike back together, assure my faithful companion that gas constantly dripping on the cylinder head is no big deal, and we go touring for the day. We pass by Slide Rock, which I have a faint memory of having visited before with our son. Then we see Looking Glass waterfall. At the waterfall, we encounter a cloud of what I think must be Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies. These appear to really like the mist from the falls and the warm sunshine. They are either mating in the springtime sun or just enjoying each others company very much.

Pisgah Forest and Mountain are named for the mountain where Moses reportedly first saw the Promised Land. The forest was owned by George Vanderbilt. In 1912 he sold the logging rights to Louis Carr for $12 an acre. Carr built a 75-mile standard gauge railroad through the mountains and used Climax steam locomotives to haul out the timber. Vanderbilt was an early environmentalist and insisted on no cattle, forest fire prevention and suppression and cutting only the trees exceeding a 16 inch diameter. In 1914 Vanderbilt's widow, Edith, sold the land to the Forest Service for $5 an acre. She asked that the name, Pisgah Forest, be retained.

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