Friday, July 24, 2015

Tennessee Jones?

"I'm the brains. You're the brawn." "Say, whattttt?"

If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones.

Ijams was honored to have Indy and his Raiders "girlfriend" Marion Ravenwood visit the camp kids during Tall Tale Week wasn't exactly Indiana himself, but rather his older brother Tennessee Jones, who has quite a large chip on his shoulder because his kid brother gets all the attention. After all, who was first? Tennessee became a state in 1796, and Indiana in 1816. And, Tennessee Jones taught his younger sibling Indiana everything he knows. (And his strong-minded, sassy girlfriend Mary Eaglewood taught TN Jones everything he knows.)

As she says, "I'm the brains. You're the brawn."

As the tall tale goes, Indiana pursues "new junk"—crystal skulls, golden goblets, chests full of ghosts, all man-made trinkets—while Tennessee Jones searches for the truly old, old Mesozoic things, namely dinosaur fossils.

Word had gotten to TN Jones that a possible paleo-site had been discovered at Ijams and the camp kids went on a dino dig just like true paleontologists.

And you'll never guess what they found. 

Thanks, Jenny! Great job in the role of a sassy girlfriend. 

Tennessee Jones shows the camp kids a true Mosasaurus fossil while Eaglewood straightens him out on the details.

Ijams staffer Augusta imitates how a T-Rex used its front legs.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

thank you Missy

Missy Kane (Far right) with her hiking group at Ijams

A robust thank you to Covenant Health fitness expert Missy Kane for bringing her 2015 Get on Local Trails hiking group to Ijams Nature Center recently for a guided nature walk.

We explored the natural history of the original Ijams' Homesite, plus the River Trail and Toll Creek. 

2015 Get on Local Trails is sponsored by Legacy Parks, Parkwest Medical Center and Thompson Survival Center.

Thank you also to April Tomlin Senior Services Manager with the Office of the County Mayor and to our friends at the Knoxville News-Sentinel and photographer Paul Efird.

For more information about the hiking program call (865) 541-4500.

Photo by News Sentinel: Paul Efird
Photo by News Sentinel: Paul Efird
Photo by News Sentinel: Paul Efird
Photo by News Sentinel: Paul Efird
Photo by News Sentinel: Paul Efird

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Mary Helen Bales

Has put away her labor and leisure too.

“Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me.” The key word in this line by poet Emily Dickinson is “kindly,” the key phrase is “could not stop,” because Mary Helen Bales was indeed kindly, she always thought of others. She also rarely stopped moving, a hard worker, always in motion, always walking somewhere. Even when her 86 years forced her movements to be confined a therapeutic walker, she took the decline with good grace. She slowed, but never stopped. Sitting still was not in her répertoire.

Mom and I both loved to walk or hike or scurry, as long as it was fast. She saw my first steps, I saw her last. A large part of who I am is rooted in her

She taught me to walk and talk and my love of birds. And in the end, what more did I need?
Born a Latham at home on Panther Creek off Chapman Highway on March 21, 1929, Mary Helen Bales of Gatlinburg passed away at UT Hospital, Tuesday, July 7 after a brief unexpected illness.

Mary Helen Bales • Circa 1973

Growing up on a Sevier County farm, she became a tomboy. As a young mother, she was athletic, could run like a deer, play baseball with the kids and mastered the newly invented skateboard with ease. A devoted mother, Mary Helen insisted her two children complete college, an opportunity she never had.

With husband Russell, Mary Helen was a long-time co-owner of Bales Cabins on Baskins Creek in Gatlinburg. Just 11 cabins built by granddad Homer. She loved the tourist trade because she enjoyed people and serving their needs while they vacationed in the Smokies. Once she knew you liked something, she always provided it.

In her later years, after putting away her labor, her favorite leisure became TV game shows. She liked the fast-paced repartee, the mental quizzes where everyday people like herself could earn big money. Her favorites were the perennial “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy.”

Her beloved husband Russell Bales preceded Mary Helen in death. Those left behind to grieve her loss are daughter Darlene and son-in-law David Brett, three grandkids: Leighanna, Michael and Logan Brett, her son, that would be me, and extended family Rachael Eliot and Karen Sue Webster, and “Sis” Shirley Patterson.

A member of Laurel Grove Primitive Baptist Church of Gatlinburg, her simple graveside service will be held Sunday, July 12 at 2 p.m. at Shiloh Cemetery in Pigeon Forge. Elder Ralph Smith will conduct the service with Atchley’s Funeral Home handling the arrangements.

Once one of the fourteen children born to Rev. Michael and Mary Jane Latham of Sevierville, the sole survivor Mary Helen has gone home to join her siblings: Clarence, Lela, Kate, Marion, Harris, Edmond, Elizabeth, Joe, Ruth, Marie, Faye, Albert and Alvin.

May they all now, rest in peace together once again.

In lieu of flowers, send your mother a bouquet and hug her.  

Still walking until the very end, 
especially when the stroll could be outside.
Somehow I know there will be miles and miles and miles 
of new walking trails in heaven.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

sad vlad

Goosebumps with Sad Vlad

 Sad Vlad, so sad. A vegetarian vampire for 400 years, so boring. A life of pale skin darkness, so pallid.  And because Vlad is a vegetarian, he doesn't consume human blood but rather the blood of trees, the sap that flows through the phloem and xylem of woody vascular plants. Yes, trees. He's a sapsucker, so anemic.

With candles aglow, the camp kids of Monster! Monster! Day Camp went to visit him in his crypt (Ijams basement) laid out on his cold slab (storage shelf) and took him a present, a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth's, the champagne of artificial tree blood, which he promptly slurped, so so sweet. 

Vlad asked the camp kids to learn how to identify his four favorite sappy trees: sweetgum, sassafras, tuliptree and, of course, sugar maple. Yum! And yes, Sad Vlad does enjoy a good stack of pancakes, even Eggos. He's not a vegan.

Not everything in nature that seems like a monster, be it spider, snake, wolf, bat, hawk, crawdad, vulture or creepy, crawly millipede, is a monster.
Some things just live quietly in the dark and sip sap, so like a cicada.

Photos by Jill Sublett and Sammi Stoklosa. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

welcome outdoor writers

Early bird writers in front of a giant Rubik's Cube, one of the few remaining symbols of the 1982 Knoxville World's Fair.

The early bird gets the worm, i.e. a fresh start to the new day.

A warm welcome to the Outdoor Writers Association of America attending a conference in Knoxville this weekend.

I met a group of early birds for a guided 7 a.m. nature walk from the Holiday Inn at World's Fair Park to Second Creek just before it flows into the Tennessee River at the University of Tennessee, or from a well-manicured cityscape to a more natural lush riparian habitat.

The early bird writers were from a mix of states. 

Thanks goes to member and past president Rich Patterson for arranging the walkabout, and to the weatherman who arranged a cooler, damper morning.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Osprey brunch

Oh, did I mention how much I love osprey?

The second annual Ijams Osprey Brunch was held a week ago and the osprey did not disappoint. There was a lot of activity at the nest and around the area. 

The brunch is timed for late in the nesting when the nestlings are almost grown but yet to fledge. This year's clutch of three are almost as big as their parents. 

Historically, this fish-eating bird of prey only had a limited presence in the Tennessee Valley and the widespread usage of DDT curtailed even that. Today, with the banning of the pesticide in 1973, the species is making a robust comeback and expansion of their range. In modern times, osprey have only been in East Tennessee since the early 1980s. Now there are multiple nests up and down the chain of TVA lakes.  

Thanks to all who joined me. And thanks to Kodie for the brunch and Jim McCormick for the osprey photos!

Click the below links for a look back at other 
Birding & Brunch outings

Monday, June 22, 2015

Martian seeks audience with Earth elders

Rumor has it that Lord Roch Vole-Téck, supreme ruler of Mars, visited Ijams' summer Monster! Monster! Nature Day Camp earlier this month. He wanted to speak to the Earth Elders, the really old, old ancient ones.

And just who are these elders? 

They are the unassuming, slow-moving millipedes who have roamed this planet for over 420 million years.  These "thousand legged" creatures (none actually have 1,000 legs, but they do have hundreds) are lowly detritivores. They consume detritius, the organic material — dead leaves and plants — that fall to the forest floor, helping to convert it into soil. 

The campers learned the difference between millipedes, harmless vegetarians, and centipedes, carnivores that can sting, sworn enemy of all millipedes.
FYI: The scientific study of millipedes is known as diplopodology, and a scientist who studies them is called a diplopodologist. Just so you know.

The future diplopodologists — that would be the camp kids — were able to find several handsome Tootsie Roll-sized millipedes, docile creatures to converse with and study. 

And the Earth was saved once again for the thousand-legged meek to inherit.

Not everything in nature that seems like a monster, be it spider, snake, wolf, bat, hawk, crawdad, vulture or creepy, crawly millipede, is a monster. Monster! Monster! Nature Day Camp is designed to separate the fact from the fiction.

Vole-Téck's young apprentice holds tub full of millipedes.

Future supreme rulers of Mars

Monday, June 15, 2015

don't let me be misunderstood

Dr. Frankenstein and his monster were created by young Mary Shelley on a dark and stormy night in 1816. (She was still a teenager.) 

Born in lightning, the creature was switched together from various stolen body parts. An inanimate body brought to life. A good example of science overextending its reach.

But as we know from the story, the cobbled together creature was no monster. He became an outcast, the village pariah. Too ugly, too much a freak to be around polite society. 

Ijams' very own Frankenstein stopped by Monster! Monster! Nature Day Camp last week. And as it turned out, was only looking for a friend and, of course, acceptance of who he was, the big green-faced lug, fully formed yet new to all around him.

"The world to me was a secret, which I desired to discover," wrote Mary Shelley.

The day-campers decided to befriend him and gave the poor thing a more user-friendly sobriquet than "Frankenstein's monster." They called him "Bob," and promptly took him exploring on a nature walk, showing him some of the things they had learned about...dragonflies, milkweed, metamorphosis.

Bob was pleased.

Not everything in nature that seems like a monster, be it spider, snake, wolf, bat, hawk, crawdad, vulture or creepy, crawly millipede, is a monster.


FYI: The original movie Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff was the number one box office hit of 1931.