Monday, October 26, 2009

Bears in the GSMNP, don't be afraid

If you're a hiker, don't fear the bears.

We had 6 bear sightings last week in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park on 2 hikes. Five were from the hike up the Appalachian Trail from Fontana Dam to Shuckstack.

There seemed to be a lot of campsites closed due to 'bear activity'...and a bellicose new sign I hadn't seen before: "Campsite #XX is closed due to aggressive bear activity."

Aggressive? From what we saw, these animals were anything but. They could not wait to get out of view of us. One came down a tree so fast that I thought it would fall.

I sent a photo of the above sign to my father. He sent me a few hysterical texts, hinting that I was putting my life and Iska's in grave danger. Absurd. Bears don't go after hikers. They go after the smell of food, smells usually created from cooking at a campsite.

This bear photo I took at a distance of about 50' with 3X zoom. Isn't he cute? This bear was in our path just off the trail and when I yelled at him, and waved my stick, he promptly left. I followed him a little ways and when I got too close, he let me know by squaring around on all fours, facing me. Like he was saying, 'don't mess with me.' I didn't, I took the photo and left.

The only circumstances that I could see that a bear would be aggressive to a hiker is if a bear were surprised and had no easy way to run away or if you got in between a mother and cub. Otherwise, don't fear the bears. They have an extreme fear of humans and your fear of them is not healthy during an encounter. You should stand your ground and ready your hiking pole or walking stick just in case.

Fontana Lake and the Great Smoky Mountains - Oct. '09

Fontana was as beautiful as ever.

Four nights on the boat in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains, an ideal getaway. The fall colors were nearly at a peak.

Iska and I did two hikes, saw 6 bears and a lot of beautiful trees.

Despite the cool temperatures, I swam everyday. The water temperature was about 65 degrees and one morning when I swam, the air temperature was 40 degrees, but it was sunny.

The boat ran great and due to some high winds and showers, we kept the canvass up most of the time and the heat on inside at night. The new electric blanket made the bed quite cozy. The weather was generally mild (near 70 during the day, upper 40s at night) except on the last day when a cold front came through, Sat night it was in the 30's. We had one rainy day but were able to hike everyday we were there. The rainy day was great for some evening movies.

We did the Shuckstack tower hike from Fontana Dam and the High Rocks hike from Forney Creek - 16 miles roundtrip and 3500' climb. Unfortunately, High Rocks peak was socked in with fog and quite cold.

Here are descriptions of the photos from top to bottom (click on photos to enlarge) :

1) Morning fog - looking north toward the Welch Ridge from Fontana Lake.

2) Me and the boat

3) View from Shuckstack tower

4) Dawn on the lake

5) Boat at Chambers Creek

6) Shoreline near the dam

7) View north from Shuckstack

8) Iska hiking in the rich colored forest, Bear Creek Trail

9) Iska at an overlook on the Appalachian Trail near Shuckstack

10) Iska hiking

11) Me swimming on a 40 degree morning

12) Iska doing yoga stretches on shore in the morning sun

13) Iska and I on the roof of Shuckstack Tower

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

August boat trip on Center Hill Lake

Boating to Great Falls at Rock Island State Park and a wilderness hike up Pine Creek

(click on pics for larger view)

The old classic Sea Ray is running like new thanks to Ed at Ed's Marine. I've been wanting to get back to the spectacular falls at Rock Is. since my trip there in June. I finally made it back during the last week in Aug on Mon and Tues. I had the place to myself. Traveling down from Sligo Marina, the most isolated part of Center Hill Lake is south of Pates Ford Marina. Some sections of the lake were mirror still. I stopped occasionally to swim, and once to photograph a large swimming rodent, not sure if it was an otter or muskrat.

I invited friends John and Nancy to hike up Pine Creek the next day. Pine Creek is a canyon with steep walls and grandiose rock formations. The creek goes underground less than a mile before a nice waterfall with a swimming hole. I have never seen anyone there on several hikes, it's a very isolated spot.

Both of these locations are absolutely perfect places to be during hot weather. They always seem cooler than the open lake area and certainly much cooler than in town.

Enjoy the pics. It was a great trip.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Flowers, Fire, and cool evening weather

Flowers are looking nice by the pool here at Bill's TN Paradise.

What an amazingly cool night for mid-July. It's expected to get in the mid 50's tonight. Glad the pool is heated.

It's a nice night to light the patio fireplace.

Also a nice night to run. I pounded out 2 miles at 6:40 pace tonight. Fastest I've run in a while.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pine Creek hike from Center Hill Lake

It's one of those secret places. A place that's shady, cool, beautiful.... an undeveloped wilderness where I have never seen another person in the several times I've hike here.

It was about 95 degrees in Nashville that day, but in the deep canyon of Pine Creek, probably in the low 80's.

Iska and I arrived by boat from Center Hill Lake and started the nearly 2 hour hike to the falls. Much of the hike was actually walking in the creek. There is no trail. After a few miles, the creek is bordered on both sides by huge walls. Eventually, the creek runs dry and who would imagine there would be a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole up ahead? For about a half mile or so before the falls, the creek is dry.

Note the interesting rock formations and the mist illuminated by the sunshine near the falls.

Unfortunately, these photos are not too sharp because they were taken with a cell phone. (click on photos to enlarge)

We also visited Great Falls at Rock Island State Park. The falls were incredible. I wish I had brought my camera, but I didn't.

Stay tuned, I hope to go back next week to get some pictures of Great Falls. What a stunning place.

MTSU Guitar Student wins First Prize in Houston Guitar Competition

BJ Golden wins First Prize in the collegiate division of the Classical Minds Guitar Competition in Houston on July 2, '09. The Classical Minds Competition is part of the Texas Music Festival at the University of Houston.

BJ, who will be a senior at MTSU next year, won the $500 First Prize. He played music of Mertz, Regondi, Bellinati, Morel, and his own jazz transcription of Earl Klugh's Autumn Leaves. BJ played great.

I performed at the festival and enjoyed seeing my colleagues, Doug James, Elliot Frank, Jon Akers, and festival director, Valerie Hartzell.

(photo: Doug, BJ, and I)

I also taught some very talented students. I was particularly amazed and inspired by the level of performance of the high school level students. Texas has emerged as the major 'guitar state' in America - largely through the efforts of Adam Holzman students, particularly Matt Hinsley - director of the Austin Classical Guitar Society, the largest classical guitar society in America that has developed valuable guitar education outreach programs.

I'm happy to say MTSU guitar student BJ Golden is a great example of a guitar student making a living as a performer. Just 2 days after winning this classical guitar competition, BJ took the stage on July 4th as a sideman for the country group Carolina Rain in a performance for several thousand people in Salt Lake City.

Houston was quite warm, 102 everyday and very little rain. I was amazed that it stayed so warm at night, only 'cooling down' to only about 88 degrees by the wee hours. Sooo happy to be back. See my next post.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fontana trip - June '09

Fontana Lake was beautiful as always. The best way to visit the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

click on pictures to enlarge (I forgot my camera on this trip so all of these photos were taken with my cell phone. Not bad for cell phone pics!)

I'm always amazed at the length of the days up in the Smoky Mountains this time of year. This first photo was taken after 9 pm, shortly after sunset with plenty of day light remaining.

The first day, it was foggy and drizzly, so we waited until the next day to hike up out of Eagle Creek via the steep Lost Cove Trail to the Appalachian Trail and the Shuckstack firetower - the best view in the park.

Iska proved to be quite a great hiker, leading me up the steep trail at a relentless pace. Skipping over water crossings and balancing on logs over the creeks. She's also a nice subject to photograph as well!

On the Appalachian Trail, mountain laurel and flaming azaleas were blooming. We saw one bear on the way up and it was running away from us.

It was warm enough to swim and I waterskied after I gave Iska a brief tutorial on how to drive the boat. The water was like glass one morning and I couldn't resist.

We also visited some old family cemeteries, the visitor's center at the dam, and did a hike up the beautiful Forney Creek. I got into a brief debate with a retired TVA worker at the desk at the visitor's center about the North Shore Road controversy. I said, "I'm so glad they didn't build that road! I can't believe anyone would actually consider that a viable option." The old lady said "why not?" That set me off. Iska would say I was being pugilistic. (heh...look that one up)

Awesome trip.

Friday, May 15, 2009

NY concert with John Covelli

May 10, at the Firehouse Stage in Johnson City, NY. In concert with pianist, John Covelli. Performing the Rodrigo Concerto: Fantasia para un gentilhombre.

It was a great concert. Maestro Covelli performed Beethoven, Chopin, Ginestera, and List. I performed Piazzolla, Brouwer and the Rodrigo concerto with John Covelli accompanying. I played Roger Hudson's "Delta" for an encore.

Despite the less than great piano, John Covelli made the music sound great, as usual. He received a standing ovation. I particularly liked the Ginestera. The rather pointed sounding Baldwin piano lacked the lushness and warmth that I'm used to hearing in the second movement of the Ginestera Argentinian Dances, but in the final virtuosic dance of the set, the rather percussive sounding piano seemed to actually enhance the performance. Covelli was great. I was surprised to hear that he had just learned these pieces.

John Covelli is quite a musical illuminary in the Binghamton, NY area where he conduted the Binghamton Symphony for 2 decades. He is a true virtuoso pianist, having won both the Queen Elizabeth of Brussels, and Busoni International Piano Competitions.

It was a pleasure to perform with John and a nice visit with my mom and dad on Mother's Day weekend. I may be returning to do a concert at the same venue in Oct. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 4, 2009

MTSU School of Music Faculty Tornado Victims Benefit Concert

MTSU Music Faculty Tornado Victims Benefit Concert
Wednesday May 6, 7:30 pm
Hinton Music Hall, Wright Music Building, Faulkinberry Dr, MTSU Campus

Suggested donation- $10 to benefit the Heart of TN American Red Cross

We have a great concert lined up for Wednesday night. Hope you can make it for a good cause. The concert will be about an hour.

I'll be playing the Rodrigo 'Fantasia para un gentilhombre' guitar concerto with Titus Bartos on piano, and the Piazzolla History of the Tango with Andrea Dawson, violin. Also, MTSU Jazz Studies Director, Don Aliquo will be performing on tenor sax, pianist Leopoldo Erice will play Bach, and tenor Stephen Smith will perform the beloved aria, Nessun dorma.

Hope you can make it to this great benefit concert - our last concert of the season.

The April 10 Murfreesboro EF4 tornado destroyed over 100 homes and caused over $40 million in damage.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

MTSU Guitar grad wins Rosario Guitar Competition

Erol Ozsever wins First Prize at the Rosario Guitar Competition in Columbia, South Carolina.

In the finals, Erol performed Aquarelle by Sergi Assad, and Muerte del Angel Tango by Piazzolla.

Judges for the competition held during the weekend of April 25, '09, included Steve Aron, Christopher Berg, and Valerie Hartzell.

Erol graduated from MTSU with a degree in Guitar Performance and now is finishing his Masters as a Graduate Assistant at Indiana University under Ernesto Bitetti.

Congrats Erol!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Murfreesboro tornado damage

The bad news

Many people lost a lot in the 4-10-09 Murfreesboro tornado. The map shows the path of the tornado (click to enlarge).

It was worse than I thought.

The NWS tornado survey said at it's max, the tornado was EF3, 1/2 mile wide, on the ground for 23 miles and caused total destruction of well built houses.

My brother jokingly urged me to 'sneak in and loot.' A dark sense of humor.

Murfreesboro tornado reached EF-4 intensity

From the NWS:



Friday, April 10, 2009

Storm chasing in Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Storm Chasing in Murfreesboro

It was an exceptionally fine and productive day of storm chasing. I intercepted this tornado near Osborne Lane in Murfreesboro, TN yesterday. This tornado was near the end of it's life and was beginning to "rope-out" by the time it crossed rt. 96 near Lascasas. I actually entered the debris cloud at one point and came within a quarter mile. It was a very impressive tornado at one point, causing localized devastation, dozens of injuries, and 2 deaths. It missed my house by at least 3 miles.

The second picture was taken by my friend Titus Bartos from Murfreesboro Rd. when the tornado was much stronger.

I really love to witness the power of nature. It was a rare opportunity. Some part of me likes the eerie sound of that tornado siren at MTSU.

Here is a short video I took as the tornado was moving away from me after I passed through the debris cloud off Osborne Lane.

Watch the initial touchdown that was captured on a webcam live on WKRN. Listen to the broadcasters, they were obviously impressed, nearly freakin' out over the seriousness of the situation. (youtube video below)