Thursday, June 5, 2008

Panther Tracks

Here we go again....

I swear we must be emit panther attractant or something! Today it was my son and my nephew who sighted the panther.

I was going to be helping Holly put some finishing touches on letterboxes today and the boys asked if they could fish in the river while we were working. So at 6:30 this morning the three of us headed over. When we arrived Holly and I drove the boys down to the river access at the campsites and dropped them off with a walkie-talkie and their fishing poles. We told them to fish their hearts out and left to get our work done. Not much after that my walkie-talkie went crazy.

I called to the boys, “What's going on? Talk to me!!”

“Mom” my son whispered, “We think we see that panther you were telling us about. What should we do?”

“Hold on, stay where you are unless you can quietly walk back. We're on our way.”

This time Holly grabbed the gun and we sped across the hayfield to the campsite. When we got down there the boys met us white as sheets. The panther was gone, just as quickly and as quietly as he had come.

Holly said, “Show me where you saw him.” We followed their pointing hands to the river. Was he across the river, in the river...where?

They said “In the tree...”

Holly and I slipped down to the riverbank and looked all around. We didn't see the panther, but we did see the tree hanging over the river. It was just the kind of tree you would expect a panther to be in. And on the other side of the river we saw some fresh tracks and a tuft of black fur. Yep, there had definitely been something here. Maybe even still was. We didn't hang around to find out.

The boys are over their scare. Although they did say they aren't camping with me this weekend.

Anyways, we thought we'd let you know, The Troll will be on standby with ammunition, if needed. Heck the Troll could probably scare a panther away without ammunition!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Adventures of 't' at the Valley

Last night after leaving work, I headed over to visit Holly on the farm. I had a few treats I was dropping by and I wanted to check out the camping area. Who knew it would be such an exciting night?

I pulled in her drive to be greeted by two grubby boys, a few cats and a chicken. I was promptly embraced in a hug from one little buckaroo, while the other boy looked at me like I was crazy...and maybe he's right. But the buckaroo is used to crazy women, so he loves me anyways: )

After a quick change, a delicious farm burger and a small glass of wine, Holly took me on the grand tour. There is nothing like being on a farm on a cool spring evening. The animals were beginning to settle down, the crickets were chirping and the fireflies were getting ready to go out looking for their special someones. Of course, there were lots of other critters rustling about too, but I was blissfully unaware at this point.

We visited with the farm dogs...let's see all together I counted 7 dogs. I'm not sure which dogs went with the farm and which were just dogs of the Valley, but when you live out there in the wild, you can never have too many dogs. Two dogs (Hobo and Sadie) tagged along with me on my tour, something I would be glad of later on.

We walked across a hayfield or two and headed to the camping area. It is beautiful! I could hear the sound of a spring feeding into the river. The river was chilly, but not too cold. As Holly and I surveyed the boxing and tent arrangement possibilities, we kept our feet in the river. After being on mine all day at work, this was pure bliss! Holly pointed across the river to a horse riding trail that she likes to go on. Should she plant some boxes across the river? Sure, everyone needs to get their feet wet on a farm. We were both laughing at the thought of Mama Fox holding her pack above her head and crossing a river AGAIN, when suddenly Hobo stiffened and began barking. Sadie followed his lead. I followed his glance just in time to see a black streak through the forest across the river. I've heard tales of black panthers in this area. Last fall I actually saw one while I was taking care of a friend's animals. Ever since then, I must admit, I have been a bit paranoid about them.

“Come on, let's get out of here, “ Holly immediately directed. My heart was pounding as we raced away. Once we were back in the hayfield, Holly seemed fine.

“What was that back there?” I asked her.
“Probably nothing, these dogs will bark at anything. Let's go see the orchard.”

So I followed her down the mown grass trail to the orchard, the whole time thinking about what that could've been. One strand of assurance I was holding onto was that at least it was across the river.

We arrived at the orchard. There are peaches, apples blueberries and even a bee hive. Wow, if I was a bear, this would be a great place to hang out in the fall! Holly tells me that they often do find black bears here. I begin thinking that maybe that is what we saw. And now I am not scared. I can handle seeing a bear in these parts. Hollerin' Holly is pretty loud, her holler could definitely scare it away! I still was a little startled when I hear a rustle in the nearby woods.

We headed over to the horse pasture after this where Holly introduced me to her jack ass. No I don't mean the Troll either! I've already met him and his bark is worse than Holly's bite; ) Markie, the donkey says hello to us and then Glennda the mule introduces herself. Before I know it I am standing in the pasture surrounded by beautiful horses. But wait one of these horses has horns...what!?! That is the biggest goat I have ever seen in my life! Be sure and gawk and take lots of pictures of Weston the mutant goat when you come to Holly's farm. I have never met a goat that is almost as big as a horse and thinks he is a horse.

Holly wanted to show me the fishing dock down behind the horse pasture before it got too dark. So we said goodbye to her horses. Jr. kept nudging Holly, almost pushing her. Then suddenly all of the horses ran towards the barn. Holly thought maybe Glenn had called them in.

The sunset was absolutely gorgeous. The night air was getting damp. The whipoorwills began calling back and forth. We headed down to the dock.

Looking back now, there are lots of things I should've noticed, like the huge tracks, the dark shadow in the tree, the tentativeness of Hobo and Sadie, but I was so wrapped up in the beautiful moment that I was completely unaware. Even so, as soon as we got to the dock, I had a funny feeling. The river was deep and black here. Holly, though, just kept chattering on about the big flood and the fish they've caught here and swimming in the summer. I didn't want her to know I was spooked. I knew she loved this place and if she wasn't scared than there was nothing to be scared of was there?

At the moment I reasoned this out, everything changed!

A low purring growl pierced the darkness. The whipoorwills stopped calling. The dogs started whining. I looked at Holly and for the first time saw real fear in her eyes. For a paralyzing moment we waited. The night was silent, there was just the sound of the river quietly slipping past. Standing here on this dock, it occurred to me that we were cornered. And whatever it was that was out there was not going to let us go without a fight. Where was Charlie of seekers1108 when we needed him?

Holly and I moved close together and tried to figure out the direction the sound came from. Looking out into the semi-darkness, it seemed that the sound was a little to the left of us. There was a tree there. If this was what I feared, there was a good chance it was on that tree. Black panthers often hide their prey in a tree and then return to eat it later. Had we interrupted a feast...or were we about to be the feast? Had we even been stalked all evening?

The dogs now started barking. Holly and I looked at each other. Holly pointed down towards the river. While the dogs were making lots of noise we quietly climbed down the side of the dock onto the river bank. Faster and quieter than either of us have ever moved in our lives, we headed down stream. We finally came out at the campground. We were panting and we could hear the dogs still barking back at the dock. We kept running, across the hayfield and into the house.

We slammed the screen door behind us and who was standing there with a gun but the Troll.

“Holly! Where were you? I told you not to go down to the fishing dock at dark, you promised you wouldn't. You didn't go down there did you?”

“I just wanted to show 't'...”

“Holly, YOU LIED!”

I think the panther is still out there. The troll went out this morning and found the tracks and the head of a goat at the base of the tree. Be careful at the gathering...and don't ask me to go anywhere near that dock!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Snow Day in SC

WARNING: this is not a letterboxing blog! This is just pics of the fun we South Carolinians have with a couple of inches of snow!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mountain Mysteries Pictures

We Aint Chicken!!

Warm pancakes sizzled on her griddle. REAL maple syrup stood at the ready. A simple country woman sat down and tried to satisfy herself with a simple country breakfast. However, this was the 2000s and technology was just a room away.
“Hmmm, wonder what's going on over at AQ?”
Simple questions don't always lead to simple answers.
She turns on her computer and found a partner in crime. (That's where I come in.)
You see, I had spent the weekend working hard. I had a fun time with my nieces who spent the night. I had cleaned up some 'piles' in desperate need of being sorted through. And I REALLY wanted to go boxing. And I REALLY thought I deserved to go boxing. So when I saw Holly was making pancakes and sensed she was dreaming of a day spent boxing, I jumped on the chance. It just so turned out Holly wasn't the only Farm Maiden in need of rescue. Mama Fox joined us for our adventures of the day.
Three very well behaved women, some fox kits and a buckaroo were off to spend an afternoon in the park. We found ourselves communing with river spirits, searching for the three sisters and hunting Little People. We were having a great time when we noticed a dark cloud looming on the horizon...literally. But we could just hear the voice of Straw Man Pete haunting us...we had to go on until we found him. About the time we found him big drops of rain began falling. We quickly covered up with a bright yellow poncho from Holly. Talk about discreet! But the logbooks must remain dry at all costs! We stamped in and headed back to our cars (a good ¼ mile away). We found a few little folks peeking out along the way, so we visited politely with them and went on. By the time we got to our cars we were all wet and cold. So what did we do? We followed Frank's example and went for coffee! Nothing like a nice hot drink when you are damp and chilly, mmmm.
Something about being warm again made us very brave. It was time to prove that we weren't chicken. Of course, we had Mama Fox to lead the way. We crossed the crosswalks with only seconds to spare. We passed by men in black. Punks winked at us as they strutted by, as if they knew where we were headed and why. In this way we entered Chicken Alley. We got the grand tour. We were glad to find that nerds are loved and respected there. I thought I saw the headless chicken peering out from under a stairwell, but I'm not sure. In any case, this is one of those treasures not found in your tourist guidebooks! My favorite part of this experience was the photo I captured on my cell phone of Mama Fox looking like a true punk, herself. That graffiti is a great backdrop for photos!
I reached my 400th find today. Exciting stuff, but not nearly as exciting as the AWESOME friends that I have come to know and the adventures these finds represent.

Mountain Mysteries

Our very first gathering ever was Twelfth Night in Asheville, NC. It was January 2007 and we were nervous about meeting REAL letterboxers. We were excited about finding some fun boxes in our old hometown, though. We visited haunted bridges, old castles and a real mountain farm. It turns out that real letterboxers were nice and fun. Dixie was a legend in our minds at the time. As we have gotten to know her over the last year, she is still a legend! But she is one of the nicest legends we've ever met. And I don't care how many finds she gets. I just hope she keeps planting because she has some of the neatest boxes around.
When I saw the Mountain Mysteries gathering slated for this January I knew I had to be there. It was all I remembered from last year and more. This time there was the haunted prison, a valiant cemetery visit and fishing in the French Broad. Old friends were there, as well as new ones.
My favorite moments of the day:
*Happening upon hopeinnc and CDQ as we had an epiphanous moment. It was wonderful to see familiar faces before our day even began. And thanks goodness for small children who run into bushes!
*Being in the right place at the right time to be the very first to visit with Frank and Alpha! Yes, Frank was there...if you knew where to look.
*Finding Darth Wolf's stamp in my logbook.
*Seeing Firefighter Daddy find his special box. It was a moving moment. It was very kind of him to share it with so many of us!
*Watching Mojo and the kids with the cemetery kitty.
*Running down the LONG stairwell of a haunted prison after hearing noises!
*Eating pizza and visiting a bookstore with letterboxers. Journals were on sale and we all scoured them for books with no lines!
*Visiting Helen's haunt with Holly. Yelling for Helen to come forth. Then yelling for her to go away. Watching the teenagers who were scared silly. Seeing an SUV full of clowns or scouts tumble out of their vehicle in search of Zealandia. Later finding out they were letterboxers!
*Driving home with ARK asleep beside me, satisfied and full of new memories.
Thanks Dixie (and all who helped plant and prepare) for another great gathering!