NTG Camping/Hiking at Cloudland Canyon state park: Sanjeev Dwivedi

Abhishek picked me from my home and we started for the camping site at around 2:50pm. When on the highway, I wondered why people drive motorcycles almost as wide as a car.

We stopped at a small shop for refuelling.

Once off the interstate, the route to the cloudland state park was very beautiful.
There were some nice kids at the information center and they posed for a picture.

No one else had arrived by the time we reached there, so I shot abhishek :)

This tree seemed fit for a catapult.

Then Abhishek and I started on the tent.

After everyone had arrived, we collected some firewood and Matt being the expert, started a fire.

The fire burned bright.

There was a scorpion, look at the agitated look on Richard's face when he heard about the scorpion. Sleeping in a tent on the ground did not seem all that good at this point.

Chase was sad for some reason.

All night, the wind blew. Trees swayed and as the wind rushed past our tents, it made whooshing sounds. It seemed like we had seen in daytime, clouds must have been passing overhead. Thunderstorms were predicted and I was expecting it. The forecast never materialized.

When I heard the birds chirping and opened my eyes, the side of the tent was lit by morning light. Abhishek was still sleeping so I decided to take an early morning stroll (and some pictures too).

I got up and came out of the tent. Richard was sleeping in his cocoon shaped (and colored) tent nearby and his head was shining through the tent mesh like moon on cloudy night. It was an appealing sight. I carefully set my camera up on the tripod (you know it is not polite to use flash when one is sleeping, it might wake them up). I took a couple of pictures.

Richard was sleeping in this tent.
Richard's and our (Abhishek and my) tents were next to each other.
The nature nearby was moving in tandem with the wind and sun was just beginning to come up. It was really pretty seeing the sunrise. I don't often see a sunrise since I turned into a vampire (grad student). Well, I decided to take a couple more pictures. Walking towards Matt's tent, I trode on some dry sticks and hearing the creaking, Matt came out of the tent and challenged me to a duel! (hehe, well not a duel, but he did say howdy.) Matt was still trying to get the hang of where or why he was when I decided to move on.
Sunrise was beautiful
So was the jungle
I was trying to picture the morning sun when I came across a log that was covered with fungus. I was fumbling around trying to take a picture of it when Matt and Shannon decided to take a stroll. Richard soon followed suit. Hao and Zongtang came lazing out later.
I had to go poke Abhishek

After a lazy and unhurried breakfast, we decided to start on the hike. Matt and Shannon decided to stay back because Chase (one of their dogs, the other is Cosmo) has difficulty climbing steep heights. So off we went, venturing into the Rim trail at Cloudland.

A short while after we started (Richard was leading), Richard spotted a branch with bug marks (the bugs had eaten away the surface of the wood and left maze like markings). After listening to the effect and cause of this nice wood carving, we proceeded again.
Just a couple of yards later Richard stalled again. This time it was a patch of moss. This was no ordinary patch of moss however because it was blooming. You could clearly make out the nice little red flowers.

Soon we came across a broken tree that was blocking our path. We ducked and passed below it.

Then we came across a mushroom

There was a tree fallen across another tree. They made a cross.

Then there was a difference of opinion as to what the correct path was. Everyone tried to be logical and tell their opinion. I did not have an opinion. So, instead I decided to take a picture.

Seems like bugs in this forest will eat away anything.

I stood at the edge of a cliff and tried taking a picture of the depth. Believe me, it was much deeper than it looks.

The forest was green. Richard did not expect me to take his photo.

I started wondering, what was this single leaf doing on this huge trunk.

We kept walking and came across a place where we could look down into the valley.

The rangers did not want anyone to fall into the chasm. See, how deep the canyon goes!

Then Abhishek got a little insight into nature and wildlife.

These were interesting fruits. But I could not eat them.

These huge rocks tried to intimidate us, but we kept on going bravely.

I got first hand experience with a pine cone. Duh, they look like pineapples. Guess that is why they share that "pine" in their names.

We started descending into the valley. There was a bridge across a small stream. We were all really hot. I wanted to take a dip in the river. Richard encouraged the thought. He said, I could take a dive. The river was very shallow and the bridge somewhat high. I made a few calculations and decided that jumping from the bridge into the river would render me unwalkable. I decided against taking the dip.

A huge rock tried to stop us. I pushed it up and everybody passed under it ;)

Then we reached the first waterfall. The rock from which the waterfall fell, was shaped like an amphitheatre.

I took Abhishek's picture with the fall.
Then he took my picture with the fall. Now we can tell our Moms what nice places we have been to.

Accidently, Hao dropped his bottle in water. It was not allowed to enter the water so he decided to fetch his bottle with a stick. First he used a small stick. The bottle was just out of reach of that stick. He tried a longer stick but the bottle had floated just out of the reach of this stick, he tried ... Well, as you can see, eventually, he tried this stick. He was unsuccessful in retrieving his bottle.
Hao and Zhongtang had a brother-to-brother talk about the fate of the now lost bottle.

This small pillar was trying to support the heavy rock above. As can be seen, it was pretty successful.

After sitting there for a while, during which Richard attempted to take a group photo, we started walking towards the second waterfall. We went down, down and under the mountain. Finally we came across the second waterfall. I thought the first waterfall was nicer. We could not get near the water. There was a high observation deck. We sat down and had our lunch. It was here that Richard let the secret delicacy called peanut butter and apples/bananas, out.

After a little rest and a good deal of climbing, we reached to the top of the mountain on the other side. Richard was getting really hot and so he missed noticing this centipede. When we showed it to him, he got really excited.

From the top, you could see the canyon in its entirety. Note that it was not allowed to throw rocks in the canyon, so I did not push that boulder you see in the picture towards the bottom.

Richard decided that he would not go beyond that fence.

Abhishek on the other hand different ideas. I had to stop him!

We started towards the camp and ended up on a big flat rock, belly up (literally!). Actually it was getting very hot and we decided to take some rest. At this juncture, the trail was somewhat not so obvious to follow. There was a clear cut track ending in bushes and a not so clear track leading to the correct way. At least two couples decided to take the wrong path before finding out the correct path. We lay down and looked at the sky.

When we were approaching the campground, we were so hot, we were steaming. The steam coming out of our ears kept the insects away. However, it attracted this snake to come out and have fun in the sauna. When he saw us however, he decided to change his mind and quietly slipped away.

At this point my battery died!! Lesson: When out on a hike, keep at least 2-3 batteries and a charger at hand. You can probably charge the batteries at the restrooms in the night, else the other set of batteries is really helpful.