Sunday, October 16, 2011

{Hawk Watch}

The sermon at church this morning was about following God where He leads us. During the service many photos of gorgeous nature paths were shown on the big screens and it got me thinking: I want to go on a nature walk with my family. Fortunately, it was a gorgeous sunny day - perfect for being outdoors. Cory just happened to have the exact same thing in mind when I asked him if he wanted to go exploring. One of his clients had actually just told him about a place you could hike to to watch hawks migrate south. Apparantly, October 15th to November 15th is the prime time to see the hawks, so this was perfect timing. We headed home, changed into more appropriate clothes, and headed north.
Before we left home we decided we would grab a quick lunch in Carslisle before heading to the mountains. Well . . . we only passed one fast food joint - a Wendy's - and Cory didn't want to stop there. He thought there would surely be other places to eat, but we found out the hard way that he was wrong. It was about 11:30 and none of us had eaten since breakfast (except for the kids who each had a sugar cookie at church), so we were all hungry. But it quickly became clear that we would have to wait until after our hawk adventure to eat because there was nothing between where we were and where we were going. Yikes.
We anticipated a lot of whining from the kids, but there were GREAT! They were just so excited to explore in the mountains and they forgot about their hunger. I am so proud of them for that! We started our adventure with a photo on a big fallen tree. My three munchinkins. So darn cute.

The path up to the actual hawk watch area was very rocky, so much so that Cory had to carry Dixon most of the way. But it was also very beautiful, just like the photos we saw in church. We made it to the top of the mountain and saw a gorgeous lookout spot to the valley below. There were a number of bird watchers camped out of the rocky cliff already, waiting to see the birds as they migrated south. These were serious bird watchers; many of them had HUGE cameras, binoculars, coolers of food, rugs and cushions to sit on, and books to read while they waited. I almost felt like we were intruding on their National Geographic moment.
And then my true idiocy began to shine with a great force. On to top of the cliff is a piece of wood jutting up from the rocks. Clearly it was put there for "birdy" purposes as it's totally not natural amongst all the rocks. And perched on top of the big stick was this:
I could hardly believe that a big bird was actually sitting there, so close to all the bird watchers! I started snapping away like mad, trying to get the best shot possible of this beautiful bird and thinking, "Wow, this IS a great spot to see birds!" But I also kind of wondered why none of the "serious" people were making a fuss over this winged creature. Had it been sitting there so long that they all had gotten their fill of photos? I continued to snap away as we got closer and finally sat down with all the other people on the rocks. Then I told Cory that I was going to try to make my way around to the other side so I could get a photo of the bird's front side. That's when he looked at me and said, "You know that bird is fake, right?"
Ummmm . . . .
What? Fake? Huh? No way.
Oh. Crap.
A true bird watcher I am not. I can only imagine the chuckles I gave the other folks as they watched this blonde idiot ooh and ahh over a fake bird, furiously snapping photos with my telephoto lens and angling for the best shot. What a dork.
But every now and then a REAL hawk would fly by and everyone would get excited.
Eight types of hawks are reported to fly by on their path to the south, eventually ending up in South America for the winter. Even this novice bird watcher could appreciate the beauty of the birds in flight and the miracle of migration. And we all marveled over the spectacular view of the valley below:

It was a wee bit nervewracking to watch my kids walking about on the steep rocks, but Cory kept Dixon safely in his arms until he started making a fuss and we knew we had to leave.

We went back down the mountain and then started up the second path which is called the Songbird Path - the rocks are marked with yellow birds so you know you are going the right way. These are some of my favorite shots from day.
Cory and Dixon being silly together:

The girls found neat spots for photo ops:

Check out this awe-inspiring path:

Cory teaching Dixon about nature's carpet:

Father and son exploring together:
My gorgeous first-born, Sasha, looking so grown up:

Cutie-pie Clara giving me a sweet smile:

And Dixon, the boy who refuses to smile when he sees the camera directed at him:

One of the signs marking the trail paths:

We all had such a fun time hiking and exploring that we almost forgot about our hunger. Almost. Once we were finished with our hawk experience we hopped back in the van in search of food. To make a long story short, it was 4:00 before we ate. Cory decided we should contine folling 74 towards Perry County instead of going back to Carlisle so we could enjoy a Sunday drive. But there was nowhere to eat along the way. We drove and drove and drove with one boy who thankfully fell asleep and two girls who had numerous bouts of fit-throwing because they were starving. It actually became pretty funny - hey, if you can't do anything about the situation you may as well laugh at it, right? Cory eventually found two packs of caramel from McDonald's in the van and gave them to the girls. Caramel. How fulfilling. But we made it to Ft. Loudon and Milky Way (Cory had wanted to eat there all along which is why he made us pass a pizza shop and an ice cream stand) and we filled our shriveled-up tummies with food.
What a great day, totally inspired by God's path for us. If you want to check out the Hawk Watch, I highly recommend it! It's a great way to spend a sunny afternoon with your family.

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