Memphis to Farragut (Knoxville) via Hatchie NWR

February 25, 2016 23:15 – 23:15

I’m at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Knoxville, TN. It’s a new property, and it’s very nice. Everything except for the internet speed, that is. I don’t know how fast the free connection is, but the paid connection is less than 3Mbps.

I drove from east Memphis to here today, stopping at the Hatchie NWR. I wasn’t very optimistic about Hatchie because the best parts of the refuge are closed between November 15th and March 15th. But, as it turns out, it wasn’t a total bust. When I mounted the observation tower, all I saw was dead trees in the middle of Oneal Lake. It was about 40°F and very windy, which made me even more convinced that I wasn’t going to see anything.

But, as I began to drive around the lake, I immediately saw a hawk. I was driving and didn’t get a picture, but that piqued my optimism a little. I drove around about a third of the lake, and decided to walk the 5k around the lake. I found a pull-off, and immediately saw a herd of American coots!

Here’s one who decided to demonstrate how to walk on water.

And, here’s the lake around which I was walking.

Continuing around the lake, I saw what at first I thought was a black vulture or a crow. Through the camera’s 400mm zoom, however, I saw my error! It was a bald eagle, and eventually, it flew almost directly above me!

The next surprise was a pair of cormorants flying in the distance.

Their beaks are orange, but they were so far away, that you can barely tell. I recognized them from their flying profile.

Next, I passed by a heavily wooded area. I heard a number of hawks, robins, and woodpeckers, but they were hard to see. I did manage to see part of a downy woodpecker. It was upside-downy.

At about the 3k point, I past a flooded section. There were some hooded mergansers, but they were way too far away to get a clear shot. I did see a tree sparrow playing in the branches, though. I saw him coming…

And I also caught him going… Actually, that’s s different one, but I found the back and rear plumage intricate and beautiful.

My timing sucks, sometimes. The best parts of the refuge are closed until March 16th.

Continuing my hike, at about the 4 k point, I saw something I didn’t expect—a beaver! I didn’t see any of the usual beaver signs—no downed/gnawed trees, no lodges, and no dams.

While I was following the beaver, I spotted these gnarly knobs sticking up from the lake. I love the color contrast and the reflected blue of the sky.

And, finally, as I was getting back to my car, I saw an interesting optical illusion. It looked like a tree was floating above its stump… until I zoomed in with the telephoto lens.

I finished up at the refuge at about noon. By that point, I was getting a little hungry, and decided to finally try Arby’s new fish sandwich. It’s actually very very good! The fish/breading ratio is high, and the fish actually tasted like fish! I understand that they have these fish sandwiches only from Ash Wednesday until Easter. Thank you, Lent.

I got to the hotel at about 6:30. I’d already decided to get something from a grocery store instead of heading to a restaurant tonight. I visited a Kroger Marketplace. It rivals Wegmans in size and content, although their deli, soup, and salad bars close too early. I was able to nab a rotisserie chicken, however, along with some lacy Swiss cheese and a wheat roll, and had myself a nice hot chicken sandwich for dinner.

Tomorrow, I hit the road for home. My Garmin says that it’s 507 miles and 7.5 hours of driving time. Although… I really hate I-81, so I’m thinking about going through Charlottesville instead of taking I-81 all the way up to I-66… unless the GPS devices tell me that traffic is worse on I-66.

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