Thursday, July 18, 2013

Photography from Bear Rocks on Brown Mountain

July 16-17, 2013 Observation

On Tuesday, July 16, 2013, Cato Holler and I hiked to Brown Mountain and camped in the Rock City boulders (Devil’s Hole) area on the uppermost part of the north slope of the mountain.  Our purpose for the trip was to check for bioluminescent fireflies and glow worms.  Unfortunately only a few fireflies and no glow worms were seen.  Otherwise, we did get some neat photography!

We parked in Chestnut Gap along FS Rd 982 (Mortimer Road) and hiked south the 3 miles along FS Rd 4099 (Little Chestnut Mountain Road), then ½ mile up the connector trail to the summit of Brown Mountain.  We arrived about dark and set up camp within the large boulders of Rock City.  Afterwards, we hiked to Bear Rocks (approximately 1 mile by trail) where we photographed runnels, distant lights, skylines and planes.  For proper orientation, Bear Rocks is an area of very large exposed rocks on the northwest side of Brown Mountain at coordinates 35.91654O N and 81.76766O west.  Bear Rocks also includes Bear Cave, an approximately 50 ft X 100 ft maze of covered passages including a through going passage that some ATV enthusiasts ride their motorcycles through.

A careful search of Bear Cave failed to find any glow worms, and only a few fireflies were seen during our time on the mountain.  The lack of fireflies was particularly puzzling given our recent find of multiple fireflies at Wiseman’s View.  More investigation is planned.

Weather and Moon
The weather was typical mid-summer hot and muggy with afternoon temperatures up to 90OF and nighttime lows approximately 68OF.  Recent heavy thunder storms had every stream and drainage flowing with water.  Although yet another storm blew past to the north just as we started our hike, we were spared any rain and enjoyed a partly cloudy sky.

The 53% Waxing Crescent moon rose about 2:30 pm and by sunset was nearly overhead.  After dark, the moon was only occasionally blocked by clouds. 

Equipment used
A tripod-mounted Canon EOS REBEL T3i DSLR camera with an 18-55mm zoom lens was used.


Big Foot Found on Brown Mountain!

OK, maybe not! 
Image 4007 shows typical erosion runnels on the exposed granite at Bear Rocks. 
The 3 individual channels join down slope to form a single channel. 
Although at a vastly different scale, the runnels are somewhat reminiscent of the headwater drainages of a mountain stream, with all runoff flowing into a single channel. 
For the proper scale perspective, the small dark circular spot between the ends of the two closest runnels is a US quarter.
Jonas Ridge House Lights from Bear Rocks
Here the tripod-mounted camera is set atop Bear Rocks looking west-northwest toward Jonas Ridge. 
Gingercake Mountain is the high point of the skyline ridge on the left side of the image. 
Our BMLCam1 is located at one of the houses within the row of lights just to the left of center of the image. 
Careful inspection of the image shows a dim light illuminating the NC Highway 181 BML Overlook on Rip Skin Ridge to the right of the center of the image and between the two rightmost bright lights. 
Moon light reflecting off leaves on trees less than 100 feet in front of the camera can be seen in the foreground. 
The moon is located beyond the upper left corner of the image.
f/5.6, ISO-400
Airplane over Brown Mountain
Image 4018 is a half-minute time exposure taken from Bear Rocks of a particularly bright light from an airplane approaching high over head from the north. 
The camera is facing north and the airplane traveled from the bottom to the top of the image during the exposure. 
The stars are those in the basin of the ‘Big Dipper’ constellation. 
Apparently the plane’s landing light was on and produced the lighted flight path. 
To the naked eye, no flashing navigation lights were visible. 
However, careful inspection of the photograph clearly shows the flashing navigation lights on either side of the bright streak.
No sound was heard until the airplane was nearly overhead, at which time the typical rumble of a distant airplane was heard.
f/5.6, ISO-400
View Toward Linville Gorge from Bear Rocks
Image 4017 is a 2-minute time exposure looking west from Bear Rocks. 
Table Rock is the prominent flat top peak on the skyline to the left while Hawksbill Mountain is the prominent skyline peak to the right. 
Laurel Knob is the dark skyline high point near the center of the image. 
Wiseman’s View is located near the base of Laurel Knob and near the center of the image. 
Table Rock and Hawksbill are on the east rim of Linville Gorge, while Laurel Knob and Wiseman’s View are on the west rim. 
Star trails are visible in the sky above the mountains, while moon light can be seen reflecting off of leaves on trees about 100 feet in front of the camera. 
The 50% Waxing Crescent moon is just beyond the upper left corner of the image.
f/5.6, ISO-400
Marion, NC from Bear Rocks on Brown Mountain!
Image 4024 is a two-minute time exposure looking southwest from Bear Rocks. 
The prominent single white light above a dark peak on the skyline left of center of the image is the flashing light on a communication tower atop Mount Ida on the south side of Marion, NC. 
The measured azimuth to this light is 220 degrees, which matches the line-of-sight plotted on the appropriate USGS topographic map. 
The brighter cluster of lights in the center of the image may be from the Wal-Mart/Lowes shopping center near the junction of US Highways 70 and 221, and NC Highway 226 on the northwest side of Marion.
f/5.6, ISO-400


  1. wow that's a big foot. amazing photo.

  2. The erosional runnels in the crystalline gneiss on Brown Mountain are somewhat unique. In spite of the highly resistant nature of the gneiss, surface solution features include runnels,channels, solution pans, pits, basins, potholes, etc. Apparently these are due to long-acting subsoil biological dissolution. Most occur on horizontal to near-horizontal surfaces, but some are seen on the vertical sides of very large residual boulders. Although uncommon, such features are also found on crystalline rocks else where in the world.