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Old Jul 20, 2011, 6:56 PM   #1
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Had a great time leading a number of high country hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last week. Not a lot of photo opportunities - as hike leader, I'm supposed to pay attention to the needs and interests of the group, and not stop every 10 seconds for another snapshot! But did have some moments for a variety of photos in this wonderfully rich & diverse park.

Here are a few views from the hike up to Charlie's Bunion on a rather foggy morning...
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Old Jul 20, 2011, 7:00 PM   #2
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The Juncoes at Charlies Bunion have learned that hikers usually stop here for a snack, and often leave tasty crumbs behind. One of the Juncoes was carrying caterpillars - must have been feeding young somewhere nearby, and yet didn't want to miss out on the picnic!
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Old Jul 20, 2011, 7:02 PM   #3
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Plenty of Turk's Cap Lilies blooming up in the high country...
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Old Jul 20, 2011, 7:03 PM   #4
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And Bee Balm in the lower, soggier places...
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Old Jul 20, 2011, 7:05 PM   #5
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We had plenty of opportunities to be impressed by the tree life. Here's a Yellow Birch that sprouted in a rotting stump. When the stump is completely rotted away, the birch will be left "hanging in mid air," but still thriving in the rich compost.
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Old Jul 20, 2011, 7:06 PM   #6
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And here's one of the many ENORMOUS trees in the old-growth forest at Albright Grove. This is the largest Red Maple I've ever seen!
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Old Jul 20, 2011, 7:07 PM   #7
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We found plenty of blooming Pink Turtlehead at Icewater Springs (notice the little friend hiding among the blooms...)
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Old Jul 20, 2011, 7:12 PM   #8
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These high-country springs are excellent Salamander habitat. We found several Red-Cheeked Salamanders (also called Jordan's Salamander). This species is only found in the Smokies, nowhere else in the world!
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Old Jul 20, 2011, 7:15 PM   #9
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We found a rather tame little rabbit at Icewater Springs shelter. This appears to be an Appalachian Cottontail - not the same species as our common cottontail rabbits. It's hard (for me) to tell the two species apart, but notice the rounded ears and more uniform dark color.
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Old Jul 20, 2011, 7:17 PM   #10
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The entire hiking week was headquartered at Great Smoky Mts Institute at Tremont. We found a Blue-Tailed Skink at Tremont - guarding its eggs and enjoying a wood roach snack!
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