Friday, June 19, 2015

hashtag The Summer Of Waterfalls: first installment

I've declared this the Summer Of Waterfalls.  

Humans gravitate toward water.  I realize there's a survival instinct related to the primal need we have for drinking water.  That's probably ingrained in our DNA so much that even when we have free water dripping from our faucets, we still spend money for gas to drive to lakes and rivers to see water.  Lakes are cool but give me a waterfall any day of the week.  It can drop a couple of feet or a couple of hundred feet.  It can free fall or cascade.  Doesn't matter, I'll take it.  Falling water mesmerizes two legged creatures the same way that fire does.  It's just rocks and water but when the two are combined in the right way, it's magnificent beauty.  

I love to hike and I can appreciate the beauty of the small things like roots, valleys, ferns, flowers and wildlife.  I've found, however, that I need some sort of reward for a long walk in the woods.  I need a panoramic view from the top or a waterfall.  And if we're honest, I have two small kids and if I'm going to talk them into putting down their electronics and leaving their air conditioned rooms, I need the promise of a waterfall.  I'd still make them go, but the waterfalls cut down on the amount of whining I have to hear.

 The Summer Of Waterfalls officially began in May when we drove up to Pisgah National Forest on a whim to see if we could find Looking Glass Falls.  The internet came through for us and gave us great directions.  

 The internet did not tell us exactly how cold this water was going to be.  The amount of chilly water rushing over the edge caused a stiff breeze in the gorge and that combined with the mist from the falls was more than a little exhilarating.  Violet was not happy about this cold surprise.

 This roadside waterfall is very popular and having the humans in the photos helps give scale to the falls.

 Violet got out quickly but Blue and I ventured across the stream through the foot numbing water.

 G stayed warm and dry with Timber and took photos of us getting cold and wet.

A few weeks later we decided to use our new waterfall guide books and find a couple more.  We found ourselves driving through Walhalla and we called up Stan and Robin to see if they wanted to go exploring.  Robin was out of town and Stan was in his studio looking for an excuse to not he decided to join us and be our guide.  Our first stop was waterfall number 2, Issaqueena Falls.

G got this cool photo of the kids and me coming back up from the base of the falls.

The Stumphouse Tunnel is right up the path from Issaqueena.  It's a tunnel that was started back in 18something and was carved through rock by hand.  It was never finished.

 So it's a deep dark hole in the rock that needs to be explored.

 The McAbees were prepared with flashlights and we made spooky sounds to creep out all the other visitors.

 The air shaft creates a cool breeze that was welcome relief from the 90 degree heat outside.

We checked in on the antique store in Walhalla, had a great pizza on Main Street and then decided to go in search of another waterfall Stan told us about.  This one is Whitewater Falls just in the edge of North Carolina and it was waterfall number 3.  This one drops 411 feet and is the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi River.

 Stan got this photo of us at the observation deck.  Sadly, this gorge is so steep and dangerous the kids didn't get to climb on rocks or get in the water.  

 But because Stan is awesome and knows awesome people, we did get to stop by this farm on the way back to his studio.  These were miniature horses and donkeys.

 And these were sheep.

 And we got to hold the baby.

 Today we had to deliver art to Greenville.  We stopped to critique Joel Shapiro's sculpture.  We approve.

We also had to walk by Reedy River Falls in Falls Park to check waterfall number 4 off our list.  It's a really pretty waterfall.

 And since it was sweltering outside, I let the kids kick off their shoes and play in the fountain.

 Then we drove out to Pickens County and found Twin Falls, waterfall number 5 for the summer.  This one is out there, but it's not a long walk and it's so beautiful.  This photo just shows one side.

 This was the side that was deemed safe enough for my crew.  We were able to get right up next to the falls.

In person this sight was inspiring.  In photo I can see how that would not translate.  Sorry I'm not a better photographer.

 This shows both sides of the falls.  A really great place.

 And the short walk provided plenty of time for rock climbing and adventuring.

With Twin Falls behind us, we thought we were headed to Cook Out for milkshakes but on the way we saw this one by the road and busted a U-turn.  This was the lower level of Wildcat Wayside Falls.  A perfect little place for wading and playing.

 This one shows the upper level falls, also great for getting wet.

 Then we were off to Cook Out, but not before we slowed down to see the two unicorns.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

to the sea!

It takes a lot of hard work to get to vacation.  I love my job and I love sculpting and drawing and all of these things require hard work but that's not what I mean.  When vacation approaches there's tons of extra things that have to be done before you can go.  In the summer I always have to make a certain number of new sculptures before I can be ready for vacation.  I have to find dogsitters or housesitters and make sure the house doesn't look like an episode of "Hoarders" before we leave.  There's also a ton of inside and outside homeowner related chores that have been put off until the end of the semester and those must be done.  And the grass has to be cut.  I own a lot of grass.  

This year the day to leave for vacation came up quickly and I wasn't quite ready.  Packing for the week looked a whole lot like throwing all my clothes in a bag and walking out the door.  Unsure if we'd done all the things we needed to do, we threw the stuff in the minivan and just said, "Screw it, let's go."

 And all the work and worry was worth it that afternoon when we saw this.

 We've found some ways to extend our beach trips so we went down a day early and made it a beach day.

 The first night we stayed in Myrtle Beach proper so we decided to roll down the windows of G's minivan and give the kids a good education by cruising down Ocean Boulevard.

 I've got a long history with Myrtle and many of my teenage memories were made within a mile or two of the Pavilion.  Slowly riding down this road made me very happy.  And watching the crazy people also made me very happy.  Since the windows were down we had to talk to the kids about how sound travels and how the crazy people outside the window could hear us call them crazy.

 And right on cue G pointed out a girl walking down the sidewalk in a bikini with cowboy boots.  The kids decided to call the strip "Crazytown" for the rest of the week.

 We hadn't been to Russell's since Thanksgiving.  We couldn't wait another day.  

 The next day was a beach day.  We had a really awesome place to stay that let us stick around until it was time to check in to our next place.  I attempted to make a sand octopus but the kids wanted to help.  I gave up pretty quickly.

 This year we brought a real shovel.  Those little plastic things just don't cut it when you're trying to make sand sculptures.  We found a small metal shovel and packed it for the trip.  When the octopus didn't work out I dug out a big hole big enough for the kids to get down in on their knees.  Then I covered them up to see if they could wiggle their way out.  They couldn't.  So G and I went out for a nice quiet lunch and dug them out when we got back.  I'm kidding, of course.  When Blue finally gave up I had to dig up one of his arms and give him a small shovel to dig himself out.  

 I love running on the beach.  Vacation running is great because you get to see new scenery and explore new places.  Apparently I'm old now and I wake up at 7:00 am on vacation so the running was nice and cool and the beach was deserted.  

 Blue was excited the first couple of days and wanted to run a mile with me after I got back.  This is one of my favorite photos.  G took it from our balcony.  There's a glare on my head.

 I sent the kids off to the water and made this big pelican.  It looked a little too cute so I put a severed human arm in his beak.  We left it there all day and we watched as people would walk up to it smiling until they realized that was an arm.  Some would laugh and some would walk away disgusted.  Hours of entertainment for me.

 The moon was full during our trip.  It makes everything more beautiful.

 I've got a family full of beach lovers.  The kids were on cloud nine all week.  Everyday was "the best day ever".  They played hard and fell asleep early each day.  

 The full moon made the tide higher and the timing of the high tide made it fun to look for treasures during and after my morning run.  This guy was hanging out one morning.

 We had a couple of days of cloudy weather.  It rained a little but we were wet anyway so we didn't care.  A rainy day at the beach is still a day at the beach.  When the clouds gave up and left each day it made for some great light and some great colors.  

 The kids started out the week being very timid.  They'd go out to their thighs and run away from the waves.  With each day they got more and more brave.  

 Eventually they were riding waves on their boards and didn't want us around.

 This was one of those rainy days.  The umbrella works for rain just like it does for sun.  The rain kept it from getting too hot.

 G bought us a little net and we spent the next few days catching fish and crabs in the shallow water.  Violet is such an animal lover.  I threw a couple of fish in the bucket and she was occupied for hours.  That's her face reflected in the water.  I think you can see the fish too.

 Later as the sun filtered in, everything got more beautiful again.

 That's Blue and Violet jumping around in the waves for no particular reason.

 Look how much fun they're having.  The beach is a magical place.

 This big, cool sun dog appeared after the rain.

 The kids want Nerf water guns or Super Soakers so they can have water fights this summer.  I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to water guns.  I guess you could pay $20 or more for a single water gun that drowns your opponent in a single trigger pull.  But not this guy.  I laid down $2.00 and got eight of these little guys.  The first all out war happened that night inside the room.  The others happened on the beach.  There was screaming and giggling and hysterical laughter.  That's money well spent right there.  

 7:00 am, Garden City Beach.  My happy place.  

 This rare land shark chased me and I had to put him down.  He was quick.

 I sent the kids to the water again and made the octopus I tried to make earlier in the week.  It turned out well.  I had the kids assume critique poses for the photo.

 Thanks to the new shovel, this guy was big.  That's him from the balcony.

 I have a goofy Charleston hat the family makes fun of me for wearing.  Violet found one her size and had to have it to match me.

It looks better on her.

We came back out as the tide came in to see what was left of the octopus.  

Happy beach people.

 There was a big country music event happening at the end of the week so Wednesday night we loaded everyone up for another drive through "Crazytown" at the request of the kids.  I drove them past the smaller pavilion that is still intact.  I spent so much time there as a kid.  

 This is when I realized we were the crazy people too.  We were cruising the boulevard in a white minivan with the windows down and with Taylor Swift pumping out of our speakers.  The bikini/cowboy boots girl and the dude with the long white dreads were pointing us out to their friends and shaking their heads.  We are ok with crazy.

 IPhones take crappy moon photos but that's the view we had every night when the moon would rise over the ocean right in front of us.  It lit up the entire surface of the water.

 We've done these silly photo booth things for a couple of years now.  Each time we go on vacation we're going to try to get one.

 Who buys a new car on vacation?  Apparently we do.  G was getting tired of the minivan.  There was whole zip code of space in there that we never used.  After dinner one night we drove by the Jeep place just to look.  The 4 door Wranglers were cool but so expensive.  G ended up driving one of the new Renegades and liking it.  The first offer they made us was good but not good enough and since we were on vacation we told them we were going back to the beach and they could call us when they really wanted to sell it.  They called for the next two days and after we made up our mind we went back to pick it up.  It's a shame the boulevard was too crowded to take the new one through.  

 Putt Putt is life to the kids at the beach.  As soon as we hit Hwy 17 they start planning which one they want to go to.  They scheme and plan all week, often suggesting that we go play putt putt every 20 seconds.  This time they chose Jurassic Golf and loved it.

 Running everyday you get to see the same few people out.  There were the three dog ladies.  There was the solo dog lady with the tennis ball throwing stick.  There were the fishing guys.  There was the older running guy.  One morning there was a group of people fully dressed congregated in one spot.  I decided it was worth the effort to run a little farther to see what was up.  It turned out to be the turtle team marking a new sea turtle nest.  Those are the mama turtle tracks in the sand.

 The same morning I found this beautiful crab claw and a Matchbox car from 1994.  Odd.

 By the last part of the week boogie boarding was the thing to do.  Violet was light and she could glide on the smallest wave.

 Blue got into the bigger waves.

The kids got Waffle House hats.  As we expected, the Waffle House tastes even better at the beach.

 On our last beach day I started piling up the sand and couldn't think of anything but a whale.  I needed a large rectangle form for the front and that was a challenge.  The sides kept falling down.  Blue and I did surgery on it several times before I gave up and put the goofy face on it.

 Then I let the other side collapse and turned him into a Terminator whale with a skull inside.

 With the extra day you'd think everyone would be tired and ready to go home at the end of the week.  Not this family.  No one wanted to leave the beach.  We asked if the kids were ready to go and Violet grabbed me and ran to the ocean.

 We don't have waves to jump out on the Plantation.  

 And before we left the sand they insisted on smashing the whale.  They made a couple of friends and let them get in on the destruction too.

 Friday was National Doughnut Day.  Krispy Kreme was less than a mile from our place.  We picked up a pizza and waited in the long line for free doughnuts.  God bless Krispy Kreme and their chocolate covered cream filled doughnuts!

 Saturday morning this is what we walked away from.  E. E. Cummings wrote:  

maggie and milly and molly and may 
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang 
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing 
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone 
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) 
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

 I think of that poem each time I see the ocean.  We found some shells that sang so sweetly too.  This was Violet's collection.

 And G and I are professional shark tooth hunters.  We have a small glass antique bottle we've been working to fill completely over the last 21 years.  On this trip we found 134 new ones and filled our bottle to the top.  Time for a new bottle.  Time for another trip to the beach.