Monday, May 23, 2011

A.S.S.E.S, Arches, a Rattlesnake, and Keith

This weekend we (Merkin, Victor, and I) went to the Red River Gorge for the ASSES annual arch weekend. ASSES stands for Arch Seekers of the South-Eastern States.

Day 1: We hiked to several arches around the gorge. One of the arches was shaped like an eagle turning its head to touch its outstretched wing. Later that day we hiked up to Cloudsplitter Arch which is located on the side of Cloudsplitter Rock. To get to the arch we had to climb up a steep rock face with a handline, then walk through a tight crack in the rock, climb up a ledge (on a leaning log), down the other side of the ledge, and into an open area which was the arch. The arch opened out to a straight drop of over a hundred feet. We sat near the edge to take in the beautiful view. After that we went back through what I just described and climbed up a very steep and slippery rock with nothing but Merkin, Uncle Victor and Keith to protect me from falling from the top of Cloudsplitter Rock! Then when we got back from hiking that day, we went to the campsite where I read some Poe stories in a hammock and ate a feast prepared by Keith.

Dudeboy and Uncle Vic atop Cloudsplitter Rock

Three amigos . . .

Rock Art . . .

Day 2: We hiked to various arches around Frenchburg. One of the larger arches we went to was Barn Cave Arch which has two openings. On the way back from the arch, Vic pointed out a rattlesnake which was slithering just three feet in front of us. It didn't rattle, but we stayed clear! That was my first rattler.


Day 3: This was an exciting hike because the arch is hard to get to. After hiking a big elevation change, climbing over boulders and jumping over two-foot wide cracks which appeared to lead to the bottom of the cliff, we finally got to the edge of the rock exposure right above where the arch was situated. We set up a ladder which was comprised of solid metal rungs and a chain to hold it all together. Then each of the party climbed down in a harness and got to the arch which was full of very strange stuff: a sinister altar with a fake skull with hair, above which hung two cups made out of a coconut. There were also handmade bows, rocket-like arrows with firecrackers attached, chairs made from rocks, a fire pit, and half-empty whiskey bottles.

This trip was the best arching trip that I have been on, and now I am an ASS.

The rockface off in the distance is our destination

The arrows shows our route down the cliffline and over to the arch

Halfway down . . .

Thumbs up!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Middle East & Africa retake results

Dropping like flies . . . our fellow geo-quizzers are dropping like flies. We are now down to 10 participants from the 17 who originally took the pretests. However, we still see great improvements. For those who took the retest for Africa there was an average increase of just over 44 percentage points! And there was an average increase of just over 30 percentage points for the Middle East retake. As there are only two more retakes . . . Asia (May 27th) and Oceania (June 7th), surely this select few can survive to the end.

Backyard Bugs . . . Oak Timberworm

Arrhenodes minutus, fem., otherwise known as an Oak Timberworm. Apparently these guys are fairly destructive to red and white oak trees. Dr. J found this one at Mane and Pa's this weekend.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Backyard Bugs . . . Tumbling Flower Beetle

I believe this little guy (about 5 mm) is a Tumbling Flower Beetle, or more specifically Mordellistena cervicalis. The name Tumbling Flower Beetle refers to the "jumping and tumbling about in [a] grotesque manner in their efforts to escape." Alas, I did not get to see these feats of acrobatics.