Sunday, September 30, 2018

Today's black bear sightings in Asheville, North Carolina

Just past dawn I headed out on my usual bike ride - back roads up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's fairly common to see black bears along the way, especially as one rides through more densely forested areas above the Asheville basin. Today was a new record for bear sightings --- I saw six black bears (three adults and three cubs). The first group was a threesome - a momma bear and two large (second year) cubs splayed across road eating acorns off the pavement (photo below) and "horsing" around. While fun to observe, the bear "roadblock" stopped me in my tracks for about 20-30 minutes before they finally moved upslope. Another couple of miles up the road, I encountered more bears - this time, a momma bear with a single cub (see photo). Then, as I got closer to the Parkway, there was a large solitary bear ambling along the road. Why so many bears today? Hard to know for sure, but probably it being early on a Sunday morning had something to do with it (fewer cars, walkers, and cyclists).
A bit of background info on our local bears....Asheville's urban bears are used to encountering humans and are rarely aggressive, with very few reported incidents of people in this area being harmed by bears over the years. There was however a recent incident near Sylva, about 90 minutes away, of a woman walking her dog being attacked by a momma black bear with two cubs (apparently, the bear perceived the dog to be a threat to her cubs).

Momma bear and two cubs blocking the road
while eating acorns and frolicking around

One of the cubs and the momma bear

Momma bear with single cub

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Jack-in-the-Wood Irish Pub in Asheville

  1. Jack-in-the-Wood Irish Pub has been an icon in downtown Asheville for decades. We first visited in the early 1990s. They make great beer, including a Porter to die for, and serve Irish pub food. It's also a popular music venue featuring a variety of genres. I dropped by today (Sunday afternoon) to hear traditional Irish music, featuring a half-dozen or so local musicians.

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The band taking a break

Featured beers

Schedule of events for September

A visit to Madison, Georgia

Madison, Georgia, located located about an hour east of Atlanta and about the same distance south of Athens, Georgia. This small historic town in the Piedmont, is known for its many antebellum homes, which unlike many areas, were spared General Sherman's torch during the infamous March to the Sea at the end of the Civil War. I stayed in Madison the evening prior to giving a talk at a pollination symposium in nearby Conyers, Georgia.
County courthouse in Madison

Antebellum home

Unfortunately this museum was closed

Student workers painting building facade

I presume this refers to large trucks

Madison is not far from the U. of Georgia and most folks are bulldog fans

Produce at small grocery store

Sign in store front

Friday, September 14, 2018

Hiking in the Black Forest of southern Germany

The landscape here is beautiful with large patches of forest punctuated by grassland with grazing dairy cows. Scenic villages abound along with loosely scattered farmhouses which historically harbored humans, livestock, and farm equipment. Some of these farmhouses have been converted into guesthouses. 
The forests are largely managed for timber, with mostly densely planted spruce. Species diversity in these forests is generally low. We did however see a number of plants that are closely related (in the same genus) as plants that occur in the Appalachian Mountains of North America. 

Along the trail

Walking through a spruce forest plantation

Spruce (Picea)

Fir (Abies) were much less common than spruce

Alder (Alnus)

Maple (Acer)

Jewelweed (Impatiens)

Blueberries (Vaccinium)


An old mill house

Large stacks of wood was a common sight near houses 

Tiny chapel along the trail

Inside the chapel

Mural inside chapel

Second mural in chapel

Food and drink in Freiburg

Freiburg market

Wurst at the outdoor market

Lots of good deserts to tempt one

Our favorite bakery
Delicious breads


Lunch on the trail. even when just a
cheese sandwich,  tastes great

Stopping for lunch at a guest house

One of several breweries in Freiburg

My meatiest meal in years

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A second trip to the Alsace region of France

We have just a few more days left in our four week home exchange in Freiburg, southern Germany, Today, we drove the short distance to the Rhine River which we crossed and entered the Alsace region of France. The Alsace is bordered by the Rhine River on the east and the Vosges Mountains to the west. On a previous day trip we visited the beautiful medieval city of Colmar. Today, we drove north from Colmar on the famous wine route through vineyards and gorgeous medieval villages with colorful half-timbered houses, interesting shops, restaurants, and flowers galore.

Half-timbered houses
Drawing of restored half-timbered house


Colorful mural