Monday was another beautiful day here at Vogel. Though the evenings are getting pretty chilly, we are still having some warm a sunny days, yesterday included. We went for a wander around the park in the morning with Devon.
Junior has discovered the fun of walking Devon. He happily takes the leash and follows Devon wherever he leads. It is incredibly cute to watch.
Being thoroughly worn out by lunch, he went down for a nap pretty easily. We took this opportunity to explore the woods behind our camp. Armed with the baby monitor and an axe in case we should come across some good fat lighter, we set out.
Fat lighter – for those who are unfamiliar – is an essential for winter camping. It forms at the base of a dead pine tree before it falls. All the sap from the tree drains into the trunk and the wood becomes saturated. After the tree falls it leaves a gnarled and twisted stump that ignites easily, even when wet, and burns well for some time. This means that you can start a campfire relatively easily even after a good rain.
After a few minutes of trekking through the woods, the dry leaves crunching under our feet, I noticed that there was a bird following us. Every time we took a few steps this sweet little fella would flutter to the next branch and remain within 4-5 feet of us, sometimes getting even closer.
At first I thought that maybe we were near his nest and that he was trying to shoo us away, but after getting another 15 feet further I realized that he was just a curious chap looking for some companionship.
I pointed him out to Chris and we remarked at how unusual it was and decided to see how close he would let us get. Chris slowly stretched his arm out towards the little guy and he didn’t seem to mind. He pecked at Chris’ hand a couple of times before taking flight right for my face. He seemed to be toying with us. Though I shrieked with surprise at this move, it still didn’t seem to frighten him away and he landed on a close by branch to survey us further.
He continued to follow us down to the creek where we abandoned our search for fat lighter and decided instead to look for arrowheads.
Vogel sits at the base of Blood Mountain, near slaughter mountain, and is in the heart of Cherokee country. Blood and Slaughter mountains are fabled to be the sites of some big battles between the Cherokee and Creek tribes that once inhabited this land before their slaughter and removal in the Trail of Tears era of the early 1800s. Blood mountain earned its name following one particularly gruesome and brutal battle between the tribes that reportedly turned the mountain red with blood. Arrowheads and other Indian tools can be found by lucky hikers and explorers of this area littering creek beds and the forest floor in these mountains. This became our goal for the day.
We split up at the creek and began sifting through rock and examining the erosion at the side of the creek in hopes of finding something cool. As I crouched by the creek bed I noticed that our feathery friend was still sticking close by to me. He flew down to my side and landed just 2 feet from me. He fluffed up his plume and gave me a look as if to say “what are we doing?”
I called Chris over and he came to marvel at our new tagalong. I dug around by the creek and found a worm. “Let’s see if he’s hungry” I said. I handed the worm to Chris who held it out for the bird. He fluttered to a branch near Chris and examined the contents of his hand before lunging forward and snatching the tasty treat right from Chris’ open palm. Incredible!
“He’s hungry!” I exclaimed. “Let’s find him some more snacks.”
So I dug around for another minute or two searching for a worm. As I did so, our little friend flew down and landed on my head, which startled me and I jumped up, causing him to fly to a nearby branch. I laughed and told him to stay close, but not too close, and continued my search for his snack.
After another minute or two I found another worm. It was my turn to feed the little guy this time. I held it in my hand and stretched it out toward the little guy. He picked it up and tried to toss it back into his beak but missed, dropping it into the leaves below. I picked it up and held it out to him again, holding my hand flat beneath him to catch the worm should he drop it again. Totally unfazed by me, he gently pecked the worm from my hand, tossed it, and dropped it back in my hand. He repeated this 2 or 3 times before finally gobbling it up. Then he gave me a look as if to say “delicious, what else is on the menu?”
We were thoroughly tickled by this. We’ve each spent a fair amount of time in the woods in our lives and neither of us have encountered a creature so curious and uncharacteristically friendly as this wee lad. He stuck by for about an hour, hopping from branch to branch, just checking us out and being friendly.
After some more digging around in the creek, Chris was lucky enough to come across an almost completely intact arrowhead. While part of it is chipped off, it is still easily identifiable as an Indian relic. We took some pictures of our finds and sent them to a close friend, Ron. Ron is an expert in Indian tools and artifacts and has an extensive and very impressive collection which is fully catalogued and labeled neatly in pristine display cases. He was able to confirm that Chris had indeed found an arrowhead, and that I had found some oddly shaped rocks, but no arrowheads or tools.
Chris spent the rest of the day gloating about his find so I decided to take another trip down to the creek in a desperate effort to not be outdone. But alas, my efforts were fruitless and I eventually retired to the camper to face Chris’ tactless gloating with dread.
It was a lazy Monday for us. We didn’t feel up for a long hike and with the morning being filled with our hosting duties and the evening promising grim winter weather it didn’t leave much opportunity for big, planned adventures. But it seems that even lazy days in our new life can be little adventures full of little surprises, lasting memories, and valuable moments of togetherness.
When we lived in the city these kind of days would be wiled away watching endless TV shows on Netflix or doing endless projects around the house. We rarely had time, money or the energy it took to venture out and find excitement. Even if we did, it wouldn’t compare to that which we can accidentally stumble upon in our new backyard.
It seems so effortless now to find new and exciting ways to entertain ourselves. We spend almost no time in front of screens anymore and have become much closer as a family. We spend more time outside, talking, exploring and learning. We have been making friends with other hosts, park staff, guests, and even with the wildlife in the area. I look back just a couple of months to when we started this adventure I wondered then if it would be a lonely existence or if we might be lucky enough to meet a friend or two along the way. A couple of months in and we have already made great friends with hosts that we are trying to host with again, hung out with park guests sharing a glass of wine and a laugh by the fire, and been invited to thanksgiving dinner with guests that said we are “like family” to them already.
As for our newest friend, Chris’ Mom – a fellow nature lover who is forever taking pictures and adoring the butterflies and the birds – tells us that he is an Eastern Phoebe. We hope to see him again and have even considered getting some worms from the bait shop to keep him coming around for snacks. But even if we don’t encounter him again then, just like all the people we meet and experiences we have, we are grateful for the moment – however long it may last.