Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cedar Sink Trail

Finally, a night without a rain storm! We headed out this morning for the guided Cedar Sink Trail hike.

Ranger Jerry was very interesting. He told us he was from the area as were his ancestors all the way back to his great, great, great grandfather. His GGG Grandfather was a slave as were several of his GGG uncles. The government took his Grandfather’s land (for a fair price) to be part of the National Park, along with 600 other families. His grandfather got about $23 per acre for the land in the 1930’s.

Ranger Jerry

After the hike with Ranger Jerry, we went around on the hiking trail again by ourselves.

Hiking the Cedar Sink Trail

Spicebush Swallowtail

Pearl Crescent

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Kentucky Warbler

Ranger Jerry told us about a diner in the little town of Pig (just down the road) so we went there for lunch. It was good.

Porkey Pig Diner
Pig, Kentucky

After lunch we drove back to the park. We wanted to see where the Green River Ferry crossed. We thought it was still closed due to high water but they had it up and running.

Green River Ferry

Friday, April 29, 2011


We're in Kentucky!

We went on the Historic Tour in Mammoth Cave this morning. It's a dry cave so no stalactites or formations. It was interesting but not as pretty as most of the caves we have been in. There were about 120 people on the tour! Way too big of a group but that's how they get everyone through. We mostly just walked and at a couple of places the guide would stop everybody and tell us what we had seen. We made our way to the front of the group and were able to talk to the guide while walking so it made it a lot more enjoyable.

Entrance to the cave

Going down into the cave

Our guide. Walking out of the cave.

Our guide told us that over 10,000 years ago Paleo-Indians hunted animals in the Green River valley near Mammoth Cave. Some artifacts found in the cave have been carbon-dated back 4000 years!

Around 1816 people started to visit the cave. The price of a ticket at that time would be equivalent to about $200 now. Only the very wealthy visited the cave. For an extra fee, they were allowed to write on the walls with soot from a candle. Stephen Bishop was a slave who was owned and leased by the cave’s owners. In 1838, at the age of 17, he started guiding visitors into the cave. He was the first person to explore many miles of the cave.

It's hard to tell from this picture but one of the signatures is dated 1839.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Natchez Trace State Park, Tennessee

The state reptile of Tennessee is the Eastern Box Turtle.

Natchez Trace State Park is named for the famous "Natchez to Nashville" highway, an important wilderness road during the early 18th century. The park was built as part of President Roosevelt's "New Deal" program. The land was bought from residents who could no longer make a living farming the land because of extensive erosion problems.

We have really enjoyed driving around the park and doing a little hiking. We've seen a few people fishing but other than that, the park is almost empty.

We've run into some nice little groups of birds.

Baltimore Oriole

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Broad-winged Hawk

Chipping Sparrow

Eastern Kingbird

Palm Warbler

Swainson's Thrush

American Goldfinch

The end

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The One and Only

Most Woodpeckers have some red on their head so many people report that they’ve seen a Red-headed Woodpecker. However, there is really only one true Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus).

The entire head, neck, and throat are bright red (in adults) with a blue-black back and snowy white under-parts.

There are several Red-headed Woodpeckers here in the park. We’re seeing four or five at a time right outside the RV. When they fly their white inner wing patches and white rump are highly visible.

Rain Rain Go Away

We went through another night of thunderstorms and tornado warnings. Luckily, it never got as bad as predicted. There is a lot of flooding in the area but our campsite is way above the lake that we’re beside so we don’t have to worry about it. Yesterday we drove around the park and noticed several areas where trees had fallen across the road. The park staff must have been up awfully early to get the roads cleared. We were told the northern half of the park is closed due to trees blown down across the roads. That part of the park is kept up by the forest service and has no facilities.

Bird count so far: 67

Monday, April 25, 2011

We have been issued a challenge!

One of the volunteers from Santa Ana (Carolyn) recommended Natchez Trace State Park to us as a stop on our way to Maine. She also indicated that when she was here, a couple of weeks ago, she saw over 50 bird species and challenged us to find more than that. As of the end of our first full day here we’ve gotten exactly 51 species.

We had a little rain shower during the night and when we got up this morning there were birds singing all around us. We had over 20 species right around the RV including Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-headed Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, Indigo Bunting, and Blue Grosbeak.

American Robin

American Robin - on nest
Usually 4 eggs. Pale blue or "robin's-egg blue"

Eastern Phoebe - on nest
Usually 4-5 eggs. White, sometimes with a few dots of reddish brown.

Barn Swallow - on nest
3-4 eggs. White, finely spotted with brown and purple.

Eastern Kingbird
The only widespread kingbird in the east.

Spotted Sandpiper
Breeds near the edge of fresh water.

Orchard Oriole
Eggs are pale bluish white, blotched with brown, gray, and purple (Usually 4-5)

Canada Goose
Parents lead young from the nest 1-2 days after hatching.

Brown Thrasher
Will crack open acorns by pounding them with its bill.


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Sunday, April 24, 2011


Crossing the Mississippi River

We're staying at the Natchez Trace State Park, Tennessee. It took us about 4 hours to get here. It was a easy drive with not much traffic.

The Visitor Center wasn’t open when we got here so we just drove on in. It was a long way in here. 12 miles back to the RV sights!

From the State Park website: With the many acres of scenic woodlands, the park includes four lakes, a swimming beach, a 47 room resort inn and restaurant complex, cabins, group lodge, camping areas, picnicking sites, playgrounds, a ball field, a regulation pistol firing range, picturesque hiking trails, a wrangler camp, 250 miles of horse riding trails, a park store, and archery range. This area is composed of a State Park, State Forest and a WMA with a total of 48,000 acres.

Sounds like a big place with a lot of stuff going on doesn’t it?
Well, we’re about the only people here!

We're the only RV in our loop. After we got set up we walked around one of the other RV loops and noticed that the few people there were leaving tomorrow.

Our campsite

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Village Creek State Park, Arkansas

Additional photos from Village Creek State Park:

This Prothonotary Warbler was extremely interested in the hole in the end cap of our bumper.
Although we didn't find any nesting material, the males place small amounts of moss into the nest cavity, building dummy nests, but only the female builds the real nest.

Prothonotary Warbler (Protontaria citrea)
Male displays intensively to the female during courtship by fluffing plumage and spreading wings and tail.

Prothonotary Warbler
He kept hanging around and singing so Mark kept taking pictures of him.

Blue-winged Warbler

White-throated Sparrow

Zebra Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

Butterflies Puddling (mostly Eastern Tiger Swallowtails)
Males of some butterflies are strongly attracted to damp soil. They are apparently taking in salts and other chemicals from the mud. This is called "puddling".

Friday, April 22, 2011

Trail of Tears

This morning we went on the guided nature walk with Tara, the Interpretive Ranger here at the park. We walked the Trail of Tears.

In 1829 the Memphis to Little Rock Road (Trail of Tears) was completed. It became a major route of Indian removal for Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw and Cherokee.

The Trail of Tears was the route taken by Indians in the late 1830s, when the federal government forcibly removed members of the Indian nations from their lands in the Southeastern United States. In being relocated to Oklahoma, families were separated, and thousands died in the migrations through Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Tara, Interpretive Ranger

Excerpts from kiosk on the Trail of Tears:

At least 21,000 Choctaw passed through Arkansas during the 1830s. They suffered greatly from the weather as they crossed Arkansas losing 7000 lives along the way.

In 1832, the Chickasaw signed the Treaty of Pontotoc ceding all lands east of the Mississippi River to the US government. The Treaty of Pontotoc was the most favorable of all the removal treaties because it allowed the Chickasaw to bring personal property with them.

Between 1836 and 1837 the US Army forced the removal of more than 20,000 Muscogee (Creeks) to Indian Territory.

The final removal treaty between the US government and the Cherokee Nation was the illegally negotiated Treaty of New Echota in 1835. The Treaty Party was a minority group without authority to negotiate for the Cherokee Nation.

Trail of Tears

Thursday, April 21, 2011


We headed for Arkansas at 9:00 this morning. There wasn’t any hurry to get to Village Creek State Park because check-in is at 4:00 pm. It was a fairly easy drive (6 1/2 hours).

We got into a heavy rain once we crossed into Arkansas that lasted about 20 miles. The ditches and fields are flooded and we have been hearing weather reports the last couple of days about heaving rains and tornadoes in the area. We saw several large highway signs that were on the ground, probably blown over by strong winds.

Village Creek State Park is beautiful! The park staff are very nice. We got a long back-in spot that backs up to a little creek where we have heard some very interesting sounding frogs. Mark recorded them and we will try to get them identified. We never did see any of them. They sounded like they were in the trees. We also have seen an amazing number of birds in the first hour we were here!

Our site

There are programs every evening and some during the day. We plan on going to as many as we can. The first one this evening (4:00 pm) was about red and gray foxes. It only lasted about 30 minutes but the park interpreter had pelts that she passed around.

Tulip Tree (Yellow Poplar)
A member of the magnolia family, it is called "tulip tree" for the waxy, yellow tulip-like blossoms which appear in April and May. The seeds are in an unusual woody pod. In the fall, the leaves turn a rich golden-yellow. Crowley's Ridge is the only place in Arkansas where tulip trees grow naturally.