Dutchware Chameleon Revisited…And A Few Additions

Last October I posted my first impressions with Dutchware’s new Chameleon Hammock. At the time I’d spent only two nights in my Chameleon. Now I’ve spent over a dozen and we’re well on the way to becoming fast friends. That’s not to say that we haven’t had disagreements as friends sometimes do and I’ve had to make a few changes to my former netless hammocking ways to solidify that friendship. On the flip-side, I’ve also added a few accessories for my own enjoyment. Call it compromise.

In my previous entry I mentioned that I liked to get in my hammock on one side and out on the other. I quickly found out that getting in and out the same side works much better with the asymmetrical bugnet. And, since I’ve added a ground cloth to stand on when I kick off my shoes, getting in and out on the same side is much more convenient. I’m not sure that getting in and out gracefully will ever happen but I’ll be happy to take any improvements, even if they come just a little at a time.

So what have I added? For starters Santa brought me a vented top cover.

It’s probably safe to say every hammocker likes to add any little bit of warmth they can get to their set-up in the colder months. I’ve read that top covers and winter socks create a microclimate inside. It didn’t take me long to discover that my microclimate is called ‘rain forest’. Apparently my breath is quite moist. As we all should know, when warm moist air encounters a cool or cold surface, condensation is going to occur. I was expecting some condensation but wasn’t prepared for the amount that actually accumulated on the inside of my top cover. The first night I noticed the condensation, the temperature was below freezing. The next morning when I turned on my head lamp and started to get out of my hammock to go mark my territory, I bumped the top cover and had a small snowstorm inside my hammock. My next condensation encounter was in above freezing temperatures and I got rained on.

After those two incidents I wasn’t completely sure whether I wanted to keep the top cover but, as many of my friends and family know, I’m not one to give up on an idea easily. I traded emails with Thom Ressler, aka ‘Dutch’ of Dutchware and he gave me a few suggestions to try to help reduce the amount of condensation in my top cover. Little did I know at the time that the wheels in Dutch’s head were turning to come up with something that could be done to help vent moisture out but keep the bit of additional warmth in.

Enter the Dutchware Breathalizer.

It wasn’t too long after our ‘conversation’ that I noticed a new video by Dutch on YouTube for the Breathalizer. I was intrigued and fired off an email to Dutch asking if he’s had a chance to field test it and what the results might be. What I didn’t expect was for Dutch to reply saying that I would be a good test asking me what color Breathalizer that I would like. A few days later it arrived and, of course, I couldn’t wait to give it a try. Only catch…overnight lows were in the 50s and 60s instead of the 20s and 30s. No problem, with the temperature of my breath being around 98 degrees and the outside air 30 to 40 degrees cooler, there should still be some condensation. I hooked in the Breathalizer per Dutch’s video and opened the head end of the top cover per his suggestions and…

No condensation! Fast forward a week to cooler weather. Overnight lows back down in the mid 30s. Better conditions for a good Breathalizer test…or two. With no changes in set-up but much lower temperatures I ended up with just a tiny amount of condensation on the Breathalyzer and none in the foot end of my hammock. That my thermometers told me that there was a 5-degree difference in the temperature inside the top cover versus outside was just icing on the cake. I should get a few more nights to test the Breathalyzer and top cover before its time to switch it out for the bugnet but as first impressions go, I’m quite pleased.

So what else did I add? ConnieLou ordered a peak shelf for me for my birthday. Installation per Dutch’s YouTube video was a piece of cake and now I have a place to put my pillow so it doesn’t end up under the middle of my back when I get in my hammock and a place to toss my cell phone and headlamp overnight. Definitely like this addition. For those that might be interested, Dutch has come out with a version that can be used with any netless hammock that has a ridgeline.

One last addition… Those that read my previous entry about my first impressions about the Chameleon may recall that I was considering adding a piece or cord to one of the zipper pulls at the foot end of the top cover/bugnet to allow me to pull it closed without the late-night aerobics required to reach down and grab the pull itself. I did…and it worked beautifully. It’s amazing how happy a 5-foot long piece of braded mason’s twine with a loop at one end can make a person.

Thank you everybody…

Posted in Backpack Pillow, Backpacking, bug net, bugnet, Camping, Dutchware, Dutchware Chameleon, Hammock, Hammock Camping, Peak Shelf, Therm-a-Rest Down Pillow, Top Cover, Vented Top Cover | 2 Comments

Yer a Wizard Daddy!

Back in October ConnieLou informed me that I needed to plan on taking off work after Christmas.  The conversation went something like this:

ConnieLou:  Hey, you need to plan on taking off work Christmas week and clear your calendar.

Me:  OK.  Why?  What’s up?

ConnieLou:  Jenna wants us all to go somewhere…but I can’t tell you where.

Me:  Ummmm, OK…

ConnieLou:  We might fly but we will probably drive.  That’s all I can tell you.  It’s a surprise.

I knew better than to try to ask any more questions but my mind had kicked into high gear.  Now where could we go that Jenna would be suggesting that would be within a reasonable day’s drive?  Hmmmmmm.  Of course I had my ideas about where our destination might be but I kept them to myself because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise.

Christmas morning finally rolled around and we all headed downstairs to see what Santa had left.  ConnieLou and I usually let the girls open their presents first then we open ours.  This year was no exception.  As the girls handed me and ConnieLou our presents, Jenna told me that I would have to find mine.  I noticed Jenna do something with her phone and thought she had started playing Hedwig’s Theme by accident on one of her apps…but then I noticed that the music wasn’t coming from her phone but from somewhere over near our Christmas tree.  I looked at her funny and she said “Follow the music.”  Safer than following spiders, I guess.  I started to look in the branches of the tree but quickly realized that the music wasn’t coming from the tree.  It didn’t take long to find a package behind the curtains in the front window in our den.

I opened the package to find an owl with an envelope tucked into a bed of red and yellow tissue paper.  Of course the tissue paper was red and yellow, I’m a Gryffindor after all!  It was at this point that I began to realize just how much effort she had put into her Christmas plans for all of us.  The paper and envelope had been stained to look like parchment, the Hogwarts crest was hand-drawn, the text written in green ink and it was addressed to me in “The Largest Bedroom”.

My Hogwarts letter had finally come!  I guess the owl had gotten lost somewhere but somehow made its way to Jenna.  It was forty-one years late but it finally made it and I finally knew where we were going…to Universal Studios in Orlando for a visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

OK, I’ll admit it, in addition to being an outdoor nut I’m a bit of a geek.  I’m happy to say that Ashley and Jenna have grown up to be geeks like their dad.  Over the years they’ve learned to enjoy my fandoms including Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Pirates of the Caribbean and they’ve introduced me to some of theirs, namely The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.  ConnieLou claims not to be a geek and says she has no interest in the most of those movies but we catch her peeking up and watching every now and then while we’re watching one of them on TV.  As one might expect, conversations around our house are often peppered with quips and quotes from one or more of the books or movies.

We packed up Christmas evening and the next morning we loaded up the car.  Unfortunately we had luggage and had to take the dogs to the kennel so traveling by broom was a bit impractical and no one had arranged a portkey so we were traveling by car…a non-flying car at that.  With the pups dropped off, we finally got on the road to Orlando.


Long road trips always mean a couple of potty stops, a stop to eat, and a stop for gas and if there happens to be a convenient geocache nearby…

We were up bright and early Wednesday morning to head to the parks. We made a quick stop at the Will Call booth to pick up our tickets and headed on in…

Once in Diagon Alley, we looked around a bit then stopped in Ollivanders to get our wands…

(OK, so that was a photo of Ollivanders’ Hogsmeade location, don’t critique, just go with it.)

Of course we had to try casting spells with our wands at the ‘interactive locations’ scattered around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade…

We saw Gringotts’ dragon. By the expressions on the faces of many of the folks in Diagon Alley, one would think they had never seen a dragon before…

And then we visited Gringotts…

Lunch was at the Leaky Cauldron.  Fish and chips for ConnieLou and the girls, bangers and mash for me…

Of course there was butterbeer…

By late afternoon it was time to head to King’s Cross Station to take the Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmeade to visit Hogwarts and see the light show…


ConnieLou and I took a break while the girls waited in line to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  Anyone missing an owl?

As darkness fell, Hogwarts castle lit up…

We wrapped up the day watching the muggle parade…

Thursday morning we returned to the Wizarding World for a little while then explored some of the rest of the parks.  As we were walking in I discovered that I had been doodled by my buddy John Trotter, aka The Paintmonkey, who claimed that I caused a bit of a scene…

Strangely, none of us seemed quite as energetic as we were the day before.  The girls rode a couple more rides and we met a velociraptor before taking one last trip on the Hogwarts Express back over to Diagon Alley then leaving to go pick up a pizza and call it a night.

Friday morning found us heading back home with a stop to pick the pups up from the kennel.  I think they were happy to be home…

(Photo Creds: Jenna Davenport)

Posted in Butterbeer, Harry Potter, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando | 4 Comments

Phoenix Rises from the Ashes

I haven’t found a cache in a while. I had a few minutes before dark after finishing up some work at a new jobsite the other day so I popped on the Geocaching.com app on my phone and discovered that there was a cache (Phoenix, GC578RB) at another of my recent jobsites, the Atlanta BeltLine’s Westside Trail at its Allene Avenue crossing just a short distance away. I really don’t know how I haven’t noticed this cache before. Oh well, better late than never, right?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

First Impressions – DutchWare Chameleon

Time for another ‘First Impressions’ entry. I’ve found that I like doing these types of entries because they give me a reference point I can look back on to see how my thoughts and opinions about a piece of gear might have changed over time.

Mine and ConnieLou’s anniversary was coming up and she had been asking for suggestions for something that I might want for an anniversary present. I’ve been thinking about getting a hammock with an integrated bug net for a while now but since the hammocks and bottom-entry ‘Fronkey style’ bugnet that I already have worked just fine, I haven’t pulled the trigger. Still, the thought of a hammock with an integrated bugnet was pretty appealing so I set about doing my usual online research to see what’s available. Ultimately I settled on a hammock which made ConnieLou happier than buying me something to support some of my other hobbies/vices.

There are several different hammock brands available with an integrated bugnet but the three brands that really grabbed my interest were Warbonnet, Dream Hammock, and DutchWare Gear. As I compared the features of the various models from the three brands, I began to realize that only the DutchWare Chameleon had all of the features that I wanted without having to sacrifice one feature to get another. So what would those features be? I wanted:

• An 11-foot hammock;
• An integrated but removable bugnet;
• An optional top cover; and
• Bugnet/top cover zippers that meet in the middle rather than zip all the way around the hammock or to an end.

We placed the order on Thursday, it shipped Friday and the package arrived in our mailbox on Tuesday. Now keep in mind that our anniversary wasn’t until the following Sunday so the package sat unopened in our den until the weekend. To be truthful, ConnieLou told me that I could go ahead and open it on several occasions during the week but I decided to at least wait until Saturday. Of course, when I did open the package it was just for a quick check of the contents and then a mad dash to the woods behind our house to hang it up and give it a test drive.

To date, I’ve spent a grand total of two nights in the chameleon. So what are my first impressions? Check ‘em out:

• The workmanship is top quality, as is the case of practically everything that’s made in the
DutchWare shop (American made too, BTW);
• Attaching the bugnet wasn’t overly difficult and was a bit less aggravating to attach than inserting a hammock into a bottom or side-entry bugnet;
• The 1.6 oz Hexon fabric didn’t seem to be overly stretchy and felt good against the skin;
• The bugnet material seemed a bit more breathable than my DIY bottom-entry bugnet;
• The hammock with the integrated bugnet seemed a little more confining than a hammock with a bottom or side-entry bugnet but not enough to be uncomfortable; and
• Getting in and (especially) out efficiently and somewhat gracefully is going to take some practice. I tend to get in the hammock on one side and out on the other and leave my Crocs on the side I got in on. It’s a bit of a pain to have to unzip one side, reach out to get my Crocs, bring them in the hammock to put them on then unzip the other side to swing my feet out and actually get out of the hammock. Putting a small piece of Tyvek or some other sort of ground cloth under my hammock to step out on should solve that problem.

Is there anything that I would change? The only thing that I can think of that I would actually change would be to make one of the continuous loops at the end of the hammock a different color to make differentiating between the head and foot end easier while hanging it up. Of course, I can take care of that little issue by wrapping a small piece of colored duct tape around one side of one of the continuous loops.

Is there anything that I would like to add? OK, this is where things get fun. I definitely want to pick a vented top cover and the optional Peak Shelf that DutchWare offers (Hello? Santa? You listening?). I’ll also be adding a short piece of cord to the two interior zipper pulls on the foot end of the hammock to reduce the amount of nighttime aerobics required to sit up and grab the foot-end zipper pulls. Maybe I’ll also add a piece of cord that attaches to the continuous loop at the foot end of the hammock to give myself something to pull up on instead of the hammock fabric when sitting up to get out of the hammock.

In general, I think that the Chameleon and I are going to get along well over time, especially after I make a few tweaks to ‘make it mine’.

Posted in Backpacking, bug net, bugnet, DutchWare Gear, DutchWare Gear Chameleon, Hammock, Hammock Camping, Integrated Bugnet | 5 Comments

True Grit

Labor Day Weekend, 2017…Ashley decided to head down to Hollywood, Florida to visit with Austin so Cooper the grandpup was spending the weekend with us. Flagler College doesn’t take Labor Day off so Jenna didn’t come home for the weekend.

What to do, what to do?

ConnieLou has had a bum knee lately so I was a bit surprised when she said let’s take the dogs hiking somewhere. I knew we’d need a relatively flat trail, a trail that would be fairly easy to navigate with the dogs, and one that’s not too far from home. Fortunately I knew the perfect trail. We threw a couple of bottles of water in my daypack, loaded up the pups, and headed for Chattahoochee Bend State Park to take a walk the Riverside Trail.

Once in the park we got the pups leashed up and headed up the trail toward the observation tower about a mile upriver…

I try to walk the Riverside Trail from the day use area to the observation tower at least a couple of times a year and I can always pick out some change since the previous trip. This time around a creek that winds its way through the park had claimed a large tree…

As we walked along I was happy to see lots of stick tracks…

What’s a stick track? Simple, a stick track is the line in the trail surface left by a little kid dragging the end of his or her walking stick in the dirt. Sometimes that walking stick may be polished walking stick purchased in a park’s campground store but more often than not it’s simply an unrefined stick found trailside and repurposed as a walking stick. Why am I happy to see stick tracks? Because it tells me that someone thought it would be a better idea to take their little one outside for a walk in the woods instead of staying inside to watch TV or play video games.

We made it to the tower, gave the pups some water and took a few minutes to look around before heading to the car…

I’ve got to give ConnieLou a lot of credit, there were a few times that I could tell that her knee was not very happy but when I would suggest turning back she would say no through gritted teeth and push on. Tough one she is…

Posted in Chattahoochee Bend, Chattahoochee Bend State Park, Day Hike, Day Trip, Georgia State Parks, Hiking | 1 Comment

Jimmy’s Ultimate Guide to the Great American Eclipse

Did y’all really think that I wouldn’t make a post of some sort about the upcoming total solar eclipse?

Surely not, and don’t call me Shirley.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or hiding in the bottom of a deep dark cave, wearing a gold ring and waiting for wayward orcs to wander by to eat, you’ve heard about the total solar eclipse that will be visible across this country in just a few weeks.

For this entry I turned to the guy I know that’s not only an eclipse expert but a bit of an eclipse fanatic, my Young Harris College Astronomy prof, Jimmy Westlake, a.k.a James R. Westlake, Jr.   When asked if he’d be willing to help me out, Jimmy said that he’d be glad to and since he was working on an article for the local newspaper in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, near where he currently lives, he could modify it a bit for the North Georgia area and here we are.

So, without further elaboration, read on for:

Jimmy’s Ultimate Guide to the Great American Eclipse

It’s being called the Great American Eclipse. The BIG one. The one that astronomy enthusiasts in the USA have been waiting to see for 38 years. It’s been a long eclipse drought.

On Monday August 21, the shadow of the Moon will sweep across the 48 contiguous states, from coast to coast, putting millions of people within a short drive of one of nature’s most breathtaking celestial events – a total eclipse of the Sun.

Total eclipses of the Sun are not rare. There’s usually one somewhere on the Earth almost every year. The problem is that the area of visibility is exceedingly small — one-third of one percent of the Earth’s surface — so you either have to be lucky enough that the eclipse happens close to where you live, or you have to travel a great distance to put yourself in the right spot.

It is one of nature’s most marvelous coincidences that the Sun is 400 times larger than the Moon, but it is also 400 times further from Earth. Consequently, the Sun and Moon appear to us to be the same size in our sky. But, because the orbits of Earth and Moon are ellipses rather than perfect circles, there are slight variations in the apparent sizes of the Sun and Moon over the course of the month and year. Sometimes the Sun appears slightly larger than the Moon and sometimes it appears slightly smaller than the Moon. If the Sun and Moon cross paths at a time when the Moon appears slightly larger than the Sun, a miraculous total eclipse occurs. Under the very best of circumstances, the Moon can cover the Sun for only seven and a half minutes. Most of the time, it is much less than that.

If you were floating in the vacuum of space, all you would have to do to see a total eclipse of the Sun is to hold your thumb up to cover it. You could then view the Sun’s corona and stars at the same time against the blackness of space.

The same trick does not work from the surface of Earth because the atmosphere scatters the sunlight and creates a bright, blue sky. The sky itself is brighter than the faint corona and feeble starlight, so a thumb eclipse will not work. Only when the sunlight is blocked from above the atmosphere can the wonders of a total eclipse be observed. That’s where the Moon comes in handy.

The most recent total eclipse of the Sun visible from the 48 contiguous states was way back on February 26, 1979. That one was visible only from the northwestern tier of states and then up across central Canada.

As a young man, I traveled from Young Harris, Georgia to Riverton, Manitoba, Canada to witness that eclipse. The sky was crystal clear and cold. The Moon’s shadow swept over me for 2 minutes and 49 seconds. The Sun turned black and its silvery corona flashed into view. The stars came out at midday. My heart was pounding and my knees were wobbling as I shot frame after frame through my homemade 6-inch telescope and the seconds ticked by. In 169 seconds, it was over, and daylight returned. It was a sweet success. Two years earlier, I had traveled to Columbia, South America for a total solar eclipse but was clouded out at the last minute. C’est la vie.

On August 21, the Moon’s shadow will once again sweep across the USA, this time from sea to shining sea, casting parts of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina into midday darkness. The shadow path is very narrow – only 70 miles wide – so, unless you happen to be living within that path, you get the “close but no cigar” award. From Atlanta, Georgia, the Sun will be 97% eclipsed. That’s not enough to see all of the wonderful features of a 100% total eclipse.

I’ve chased total solar eclipses on three continents over nearly five decades and spent a total of 31.4 minutes within the shadow of the Moon. Total solar eclipses are hypnotic, if not addictive. They are much more than mere astronomical phenomena — they are awesome and emotional events that touch something primal in each of us. This alignment of worlds reveals mysteries of the cosmos that are normally hidden from the human senses. It is my experience that total solar eclipses connect me viscerally to the cosmic forces at work in the universe – and I like it.

A detailed map showing the path of the total eclipse across the USA can be found on the website GreatAmericanEclipse.com. Assuming that you make the effort to plant yourself in that path of the Moon’s shadow, here is a description of some of the things you will want to watch for.

First Contact – The Partial Eclipse Begins 

This is the term used to describe the moment that the dark disk of the Moon first takes a bite out of the edge of the Sun. Shouts of “First contact — there it is!” invariably rise up from the adrenalized crowd of eclipse watchers. For the next hour, the Moon covers up more and more of the bright face of the Sun during the partial phases of the eclipse.

WARNING: As long as any part of the bright photosphere of the Sun is in view, it is unsafe to look at without a proper solar filter, so don’t do it. Regular sunglasses are useless. Permanent eye damage can occur. The lens in your eye will focus that dazzling sunlight into a laser-like point on your retina and scorch it. Purchase a pair of CE and ISO certified safe solar eclipse glasses online for a couple of bucks. Then, you can watch the progress of the eclipse safely with your glasses on.

Maximum eclipse for north Georgia happens between 2:35pm and 2:40pm, local time. From the Atlanta metro area, the eclipse will never be total, so you’ll need to wear those eclipse glasses for the entire event.

One cool way to watch the partial phases of the eclipse indirectly is to place a sheet of white poster board underneath a leafy tree where the sunlight filters through. The overlapping leaves in the tree create hundreds of little pinholes that project shimmering images of the eclipsed sun all over the ground. This is one of my favorite ways to watch an eclipse.

Shadow Bands and the Approach of Totality

If you are within the path of totality, you get to see some very special things that are not visible from outside the path. In the fleeting moments just before and just after totality, sunlight from the vanishingly thin crescent of the Sun peeking around the edge of the Moon diffracts through the Earth’s atmosphere and creates rapidly moving, flickering shadows across the ground.

I saw them best while watching the solar eclipse of June 30, 1973 from the deck of the MS Massalia, off of the west coast of Africa. While frantically shooting photos at my telescope, I became aware of flickering shadows moving across my arms. Looking down at the wooden deck, I watched the shadow bands racing at an angle across the deck planks. They remind me of the ripples of sunlight dancing on the bottom of a swimming pool. A white piece of poster board on the ground in full sunlight makes a perfect backdrop for viewing the shadow bands.

Baily’s Beads 

As totality approaches, amazing things begin to happen rapidly, so try to keep your wits about you. One of these is the appearance of Baily’s Beads along the leading edge of the Moon, named for Francis Baily, who first explained this phenomenon in 1836.

The Moon is not a slick cue ball. On the contrary, there are towering mountains and deep crater valleys all along the edge of the Moon. In the last few seconds before totality, the crescent of sunlight will be broken into a string of beads where high mountain peaks break the crescent and allow the last rays of sunlight to stream through the deep valleys. From the centerline of the total eclipse, Baily’s Beads will be fleeting. The closer you are to the edge of the eclipse path, where the Moon just grazes the edge of the Sun, the longer Baily’s Beads will remain in view.

The Diamond Ring

One by one, Baily’s Beads will wink out as the Moon continues its march across the face of the Sun. When one final bead remains and darkness descends rapidly across the landscape, the last ray of sunlight creates a brilliant point of light, as if from a sparkling diamond. Pop off those eclipse glasses and watch one of Nature’s most breathtaking sights – the Diamond Ring effect. It is ever so delicate and fleeting and will last for only a split second. Try to be aware of the shouts of amazement and glee from those around you at the sight of the Diamond Ring. Chances are, you, too, will be unable to contain your amazement quietly and will join into the chorus of cheers and howls.

Second Contact – Totality and the Solar Corona

When the leading edge of the Moon reaches the opposite edge of the Sun, the Diamond Ring disappears and totality begins with what is called second contact. It is now completely safe and appropriate to remove all eclipse glasses and filters and stare at the Sun. Believe me; you won’t be able to stop yourself. Where once hung a glowing ball of life-giving light is now a jet-black orb, surrounded by an opalescent halo of fantastic arcs and streamers. This is the Sun’s ten million degree hot outer atmosphere called the corona. My experience is that the loud shouts and cheers of the eclipse watchers around you will turn, at this point, into wordless sounds of disbelief at the sight before them. The corona is always there, surrounding the Sun, but the blinding light of the photosphere renders it invisible to Earthlings – except during these precious moments of totality. Enjoy the view, because in mere seconds, the Sun will return.


During totality, you might notice one or more hot pink protrusions along the edge of the eclipsed Sun. These are solar prominences, Earth-sized flames of hot hydrogen gas leaping off of the Sun’s photosphere. I have seen no other color in nature to compare with the fluorescent pink color of these prominences visible during a total eclipse of the Sun.

The most spectacular prominences I’ve ever seen came during the total eclipse of July 11, 1991. I had taken my two young sons, Jason and Michael, to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to see their first total solar eclipse. During both the first and second Diamond Rings, there appeared gigantic prominences, one completely disconnected from the Sun and the other in the shape of a colossal seahorse, ten times as tall as the Earth! Both were visible to the naked eye.

There is no guarantee that there will be any prominences visible at the time of the eclipse, but keep your eyes peeled for them just the same.

Stars and Planets at Midday

It will be hard, ever so hard, to take your eyes off of that totally eclipsed Sun and the solar corona, but take a few of those priceless seconds to do so because darkness will have fallen over the Earth at midday. This means that bright stars and planets will come into view.

Brightest of all will be the planet Venus, about two full hand spans at arm’s length to the lower right of the eclipsed Sun, near the four o’clock position.

The sky’s brightest star, Sirius, will be twinkling about 4 full hand spans to the lower right of the Sun, near the five o’clock position.

Look for planet Mars just one clenched fist at arm’s length to the right the Sun at the three o’clock position.

Bright planet Jupiter will appear nearly four full hand spans to the left of the Sun near the nine o’clock position.

Most challenging of all will be the bright star Regulus, Leo the Lion’s brightest star. Regulus will be shining right through the solar corona only one degree, that’s about two Moon diameters, from the edge of the Sun at about the ten o’clock position. I’ve never seen a star shining through the corona so close to the Sun, so I am particularly excited about this opportunity.

Animal Behavior and Other Stuff

Total eclipses are not just for the eyes. Open your ears and listen for sounds that are normally heard only at night – frogs and crickets chirping, mosquitoes humming, night birds singing and winging their way to their nests.

During the total eclipse of March 7, 1970, I was set up observing in the Okeefenokee Swamp Park in southeast Georgia, when night feeding alligators crawled up around me and my compadres, giving us quite a start. Animals and insects are confused by the sudden and unexpected onset of nightfall.

Also, watch for other dusk phenomena, such as streetlights coming on. During the total eclipse of July 10, 1972 from Prince Edward Island, Canada, a lighthouse right beside my observing spot flashed on unexpectedly. It might behoove you to make sure that your observing site is not under any streetlights — or lighthouses.

You will probably spy one or more high-flying airplanes, full of scientists and spectators, flying along and chasing the shadow of the Moon across the Earth. This will help extend the duration of totality for those passengers, but at the expense of being in a moving vehicle, making observations challenging.

Once you’ve taken a moment to observe the things going on around you, return your gaze to that heavenly sight of the corona for a final view. The total eclipse is almost over.

Third Contact – The End of Totality 

Faster than you can sing George Harrison’s song, “Here Comes the Sun,” the 2 minutes and 20 seconds of totality for this eclipse will be over and the dark Moon will withdraw from the Sun. Daylight returns instantly at third contact. But, don’t forget to watch for all of the same spectacular phenomena that accompanied the onset of totality, only in reverse: the Diamond Ring, Baily’s Beads, and the shadow bands again.

At this point, put back on those safe solar eclipse glasses to watch the final partial phases of the eclipse. It ain’t over ‘till it’s over – you have a whole hour of partial phases remaining before the eclipse ends at fourth contact. Chances are, the folks around you will start heading for their cars as soon as totality ends, but stick around and enjoy the final phases of the Great American Eclipse while reflecting on the spectacular things that you just experienced.

After watching this total solar eclipse, you might be hooked and want to see another one.  The next total solar eclipse across the continental USA happens on April 8, 2024, less than seven years from now, but that one won’t come as close to the Atlanta area. The Moon’s shadow will cut a swath from Texas to Maine and treat folks living in the path to 4 minutes and 28 seconds of totality – nearly TWICE the duration of this month’s eclipse.

This ain’t horseshoes, folks. Close doesn’t count. If you want to see the mysterious shadow bands, the eerie darkness with stars shining at midday, Baily’s Beads and the Diamond Ring, the stunning solar corona and prominences, then do whatever it takes to put yourself in that path of totality! It’s a short drive up to the north Georgia mountains for the most stunning and breathtaking two and a half minutes you’ve ever experienced.

This is your big chance. Don’t blow it. ***

Georgia Eclipse Path – This map from http://www.greatamericaneclipse.com shows the path of the total eclipse over the state of Georgia. Clayton, Sky Valley, and Young Harris, Georgia would all make excellent destinations to experience the eclipse. From Atlanta, the eclipse is only about 97%, not enough to see all of the cool features that totality offers.  (Courtesy http://www.greatamericaneclipse.com)

Baily’s Beads and Prominences – Sunlight streaming through deep crater valleys on the edge of the Moon creates bright beads of light, Baily’s Beads, seconds before and seconds after totality. This image, from the total eclipse in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on July 11, 1991, Baily’s Beads and several hot pink prominences are visible. (Photo by Jimmy Westlake, 1991)

Solar Corona – It is only during the brief moments of a total solar eclipse that Earthlings can see the Sun’s ten-million degree hot outer atmosphere — the corona. This image was taken during the total eclipse of February 26, 1979 from Riverton, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jimmy Westlake, 1979)

Diamond Ring and Seahorse Prominence – A spectacular Diamond Ring signaled the end of totality during the eclipse of July 11, 1991 from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. In addition, a towering seahorse shaped prominence, 10 times as tall as the Earth, was leaping off of the Sun. (Photo by Jimmy Westlake, 1991)

Jimmy Westlake 1979 Canada Eclipse – The last total solar eclipse visible from the continental USA happened on February 26, 1979, nearly four decades ago. A much younger Jimmy Westlake was in Riverton, Manitoba, Canada to study and photograph the eclipse with his homemade 6-inch telescope. At that time, the next total eclipse across the USA, in August 2017, seemed a lifetime away. (Photo by Jimmy Westlake, 1979)


Posted in Great American Eclipse, Solar Eclipse, Solar Eclipse North Georgia, Total Eclipse, Total Solar Eclipse, Young Harris, Young Harris College | 2 Comments

The Adventurous Adventures of Lil Henz II – Appalachian Trail Edition

Jenna has been wanting to go hiking on the Appalachian Trail but finding an open weekend has been a bit of a challenge until earlier last week when ConnieLou said “Hey, Jenna has been wanting to go hiking on the Appalachian Trail, Ashley is going to be out of town for the weekend and I’m going to lunch and shopping with the YHC girls on Saturday, why don’t y’all go this weekend?” Now I’m no dummy, when ConnieLou tells me to go play in the woods, I go play in the woods, no questions asked.  Of course, when I asked Jenna if she wanted to go, she had no objections so I began making plans and arrangements. I wasn’t a bit surprised when Jenna told me that Lil Henz II, aka Henry, wanted to go too.

In order to avoid taking two cars or arranging a shuttle we decided on a day hike. After consulting with friends Dr.s Paul Arnold and Rob Dussler, both professors at Young Harris College and avid hikers themselves, we decided on hiking from the Deep Gap trailhead in North Carolina up to the top of Standing Indian Mountain and back down. I also made arrangements for us to ‘camp’ at my super-secret camping spot in Young Harris Friday night so we could avoid a four-hour drive to the trailhead Saturday morning.

With plans and arrangements made all we had left to go was pack up and watch the weather forecast which called for a 20 to 30 percent chance scattered afternoon and evening showers and thunderstorms from Friday through the weekend. In my book that’s a 70 to 80 percent chance that the weather will be just fine. We packed up Thursday night and Jenna and Henry went to work with me Friday so we could hit the road and head north as soon as I could escape, errrrr, leave a few minutes early from the office.

By about 2:30 Friday afternoon I was finished with what I needed to accomplish for the day so we jumped in the car and headed up GA 400. We weren’t in any hurry so we decided to make a couple of stops along the way.

Our first stop was at a local ‘outdoor outfitter’ up the highway near Dawsonville. We didn’t have any real needs but it’s pretty unusual for me to walk into an outfitter shop and not have something beg to go home with me, even if it’s just a map or maybe a t-shirt. Since we were completely ignored from the time we walked into the shop to the time we left ten or fifteen minutes later, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t have any intentions of dropping a lot of coin. I was going to go into a vent/rant about being ignored at outdoor outfitter shops if you don’t fit the image of the stereotypical rail-thin hiker/climber/paddler/cyclist dude or dudette (it’s happened more than a few times at several different shops) but this turned into such a good trip I’m going to let it slide…but it’s fairly unlikely that I’ll be visiting this particular outfitter again anytime soon.

We headed on up toward Helen where we stopped at an antique shop in Nacoochee Village.

We puttered around the antique shop for a little while. Still nothing called out to us so we continued our drive north. We stopped at the Ingles in Hiawassee for supplies then detoured to Chevelle’s near Hayesville, North Carolina for some supper before finally arriving in Young Harris.

Once settled in, we headed up to Cupids Falls to find a new cache that had been recently placed. While we were there we noticed a new boardwalk and walk paths through a nearby wetland…

We spent some time wandering the YHC campus and then some time chillin’ on the Appleby Center patio while watching the sky go dark and the lightening in a couple of distant storms.

Even Henry, the namesake of YHC’s Peach Belt Conference opponent and Jenna’s Alma Mater, Flagler College, enjoyed his time on the YHC campus…

By 11:00 we were finally hanging up our hammocks and turning in for the night.

Saturday morning rolled around and we were up and moving early. We grabbed a quick bit of breakfast in Hayesville then headed toward the Deep Gap trailhead. The drive was largely uneventful until we began to encounter sunbeams along the Forest Service road…

Beautiful to look at but they made driving quite tricky when they hit the car windshield just right.

Once at the trailhead we shouldered our packs and headed north up the trail…

There were constant reminders of last year’s wildfires along the trail…


At the same time, there was plenty of new green undergrowth and flowers throughout the woods, especially in the lower elevations…

The trail wasn’t terribly strenuous but we took plenty of stops to rest, take a drink of water and take in the views…

As we neared the summit we ran into a couple of hammock campers so we stopped and talked for a few minutes…

Henry was glad to see the spur trail sign pointing the way to the summit of Standing Indian…

Once on the summit we all checked out the views…

After spending a little time at the summit we decided to head back down the mountain. It was a slow process but quite fun seeing things that we hadn’t noticed on the way up…like a random pair of boots left on a rock…

We also learned that we were in a Bear Sanctuary. Unfortunately no bears were seen…

Once we’d made it back down to the Standing Indian shelter Henry convinced us to make a quick detour to the shelter to have a look around and sit down a few minutes.

Finally back at the car, we headed back to YHC to pack up and make the long drive home. But not before we stopped for peanut butter milkshakes at Gibsons in Young Harris.

Posted in Appalachian Trail, AT, Backpacking, Day Hike, Day Trip, Flagler, Hiking, Standing Indian, Young Harris College | Leave a comment

The Adventurous Adventures of Lil Henz II: Chattahoochee Bend Edition

I got a wild hair to take the day off from work. I don’t typically just take a random day off but we were looking at a long weekend for the Memorial Day holiday so I decided to stretch it an extra day. I guess I’ve sort of been needing a sanity day, a day to forget about work and stressful stuff and to recharge a little. Over time I’ve learned that there are two sorts of places that I can get the most bang for my buck, so to speak, when it comes to recharging my batteries. I can spend time on the water and time in the woods. After our little walk on the Pine Mountain Trail last weekend, Little Henz (aka Henry) convinced me that we should go down to Chattahoochee Bend State Park and go for a walk in the woods and he suggested that we take Jenna with us.

We got an early start so we could get started before it got hot and steamy. We grabbed breakfast and a couple of bottles of water on the way down. Once in the parking lot at the Day Use Area near the trailhead, I ate my biscuit while Jenna took Henry to see the river…

With breakfast finished we hit the trail…

We got to check out a new bridge that was built last fall to replace another bridge over a creek that flows fairly deep ravine…

We followed the Riverside Trail to the observation tower where we stopped for a few minutes to let Henry check out the view…

As we walked along I heard the sound of Jenna’s camera shutter clicking away behind me. I wondered what she was taking pictures of…

Well, at least she got my good side…

We hiked on about half a mile or so past the tower to find a couple of caches hidden along the trail then doubled back and headed uphill along the Tower Trail toward the Wild Turkey Trail. Once on the Wild Turkey Trail we had to take a short road walk to cross a creek then headed back into the woods and down toward the beaver pond along a stretch of relatively new trail.

The Bend beavers have been pretty busy and have backed up a fairly sizable pond…

Beyond the pond we made it back to the trailhead where we started. Me and Jenna were still good to go for a bit but I think Henry was pooped and pretty much done for the day…

Little did he know that we had one more cache to find before we headed home…

Posted in Chattahoochee Bend, Chattahoochee Bend State Park, Day Hike, Day Trip, Flagler College, Geocaching, Georgia State Parks, Hiking, Newnan | 1 Comment

On Markland Pond

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Originally posted on What Lies Within:
I’m done with college! Well, sort of… I am done with my freshman year of college. It was a whirlwind of a year filled with new experiences, good and bad. However, I am not…

Gallery | Leave a comment

The Adventurous Adventures of Lil Henz II and Cooper the Pup: Pine Mountain Trail Edition

(Title and Photo Creds: Jenna Davenport)

I’ve been trying to plan a spring backpacking trip on the Pine Mountain Trail for me and Jenna for a couple of months now. Ideally we’d try to go when the weather is cool but that’s become a bit more difficult now that she’s off in college and more than a couple of hours from home. She’s finally out of school for the summer and this weekend was looking promising on our calendars. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t looking quite so promising. Saturday wasn’t looking too bad but Sunday was shaping up to be a washout. Rather than bailing altogether we decided to forego camping overnight and take our chances on a day hike on Saturday and see if Ashley and Cooper the Pup wanted to join us. Turns out we made a pretty good call.

Wait, what? You want to know who is Lil Henz II? Allow me to explain…

See the little guy poking his head up out of Jenna’s pack in the picture above? That’s Lil Henz II, a.k.a. Henry Flagler. He has a distant relative, Lil Henz I. Lil Henz I is distant in that he lives in Cocoa Beach, Florida with Jenna’s friend Hannah who is also her roommate at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. The college is named for Henry Flagler, an oil and railroad tycoon who built the Hotel Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine in the late 1800s, which is now utilized by Flagler College. To say that Flagler was influential in the northeast Florida area in the late 1800s and early 1900s is a bit of an understatement.

Now back to our story…

We got an early start to our journey with the usual admonitions to drink plenty of water and watch out for snakes. There are only six types of poisonous snakes here in Georgia and fortunately we never encountered the dreaded coralheaded waterrattler. Actually we didn’t see a snake the entire day. We made a quick stop to grab some bottled water and Gatoraid and then a pit stop at the FDR State Park office before hitting the trail. The cloud cover was low at the park office, which gave us hopes of a cool hike…

We finally got to our starting point at the beginning of the Pine Mountain Trail at the 0-mile marker…

The first 1.3 miles of the trail were relatively flat to gently rolling and we found a few of the caches hidden along the trail…

The trail runs along the southeast side of Pine Mountain just below the ridgeline for a little over a mile until the trail crosses the road at the Gardens Overlook. Lil Henz II seemed to be enjoying his adventure…

We walked on to the 2-mile marker, noticing a lightening-struck tree along the way. Was it a sign of things to come?

We doubled back at the 2-mile marker to head back up to the Chestnut Oak Trail to finish out our hike…and felt the first drops of rain as we did. Afternoon pop-up showers were building and it rained on and off for the next hour or so. We managed to dodge the heaviest downpours under the tree canopy but all in all, the rain felt pretty good so we hiked on and enjoyed it.

The Chestnut Oak Trail was pretty much the opposite of the first two miles of the Pine Mountain Trail. From its intersection with the Pine Mountain Trail, the Chestnut Oak Trail was switchback after switchback down to the Little Bridges campsite at the bottom of the ridge and then a long gradual climb back out to the trailhead on the opposite side of the road as the Pine Mountain Trail trailhead.

Once back at the trailhead we checked the tracked mileage on my phone and found we’d walked just shy of five miles.

Then we took one last look from the parking lot overlook in front of the Callaway Gardens Country Store before heading home…

Posted in Day Hike, Day Trip, FDR State Park, Flagler College, Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park, Geocaching, Georgia State Parks, Hiking, Pine Mountain, Pine Mountain Trail | Leave a comment