Sunday, June 17, 2018

Balsam Mt. Meetup

I finally got to hike with the Great Smokies Hiking & Adventure Group. Dale organized the camping trip to Balsam Mountain campground located in a relatively remote part of the Great Smoky Mountain NP, at 5310 ft elevation. It never got above 73 degrees, and was in the 50's at night. I set up camp while the others were hiking Flat Creek Trail. I met some of the group as they came back to camp. Liz was camped next to me. I walked the pretty nature trail from the campground to the  Flat Creek trail and walked out to the overlook for the sunset. It was beautiful, turning the sky red. Made me think of the words to How Great Thou Art.
Back at camp Robert had a campfire going so I joined him and Liz till I started yawning. 

Saturday morning Mr Owl woke me bright and early, but we needed an early start for the Balsam Mountain Loop. Dale gave instructions for all left turns and the hikers started at a fast pace, NASCAR style.The trail was overgrown in a lot of places, especially along the fence line up Balsam Mountain. We rested for a few minutes and Dale gave instructions for slowing the pace from the 2.8 mph they had kept until then. We started downhill at a quick pace and stopped at campsite 41 for lunch. As we were packing up someone noticed an elk by the hitching posts, she had a newborn calf with her. We cautiously took pics and sidestepped around them, trying not to startle them. We started up Caldwell Fork and stopped to see the Big Poplar, took 5 of us to reach around it. Not the biggest one in the Smokies but huge! We climbed a tough section of Rough Fork taking time to see flowers. Found a lady as crazy about wildflowers as me, maybe more so. She spotted some that I would have missed. Finally the trail got easier, the last two miles were not too bad. We finished the trail at 2:30. Everyone seemed pleased at the record setting time...
Got back to camp and rested my sore knee. Kicked back then the boom of thunder and the sky opened up. Rain washed everything clean. The sunset was beautiful turning the sky red. Brought the words of How Great Thou Art to my head and heart again. At the campfire we had a few more people sharing hiking and travel stories as Robert made the fire blue and green with some cool packs of Funky Colored Flames, You will have to check that out if you want to impress your campfire friends. An elk was wondering around the bathroom area just a little ways from our campsites.

Sunday morning we were up early packing up and I was excited about a new trail, and a new road to drive. The Heintooga Round Bottom road is gravel and it's one way and 28 miles to Cherokee. Spruce Mountain trailhead is along this road along with a few others. We climbed Spruce Mt to campsite 42 which looks like it doesn't get a lot of use. Remote.The bear cables look rusty, but there are 5 of them. Lots of flowers and mushrooms to see. The next stop was Beech Gap 1 to Balsam Mt. That's a climb, but very pretty, more flowers and mushrooms and ferns, and beetles. I was lagging behind and taking time to look at everything. Dale had given everyone instructions how to drive out to Cherokee at the beginning of this trail, so I assumed when folks got off the trail they would go on. I wasn't expecting anyone to wait. I had a note on my car saying "they waited until one other came out and told them 3 of us were a little behind and still taking pictures, and have a safe trip." I sure didn't mean to be a problem child.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Chester Frost Park

Lora and I headed down to Chester Frost Park to do some canoeing. There were a lot of cars there and they had a fishing tournament going on, but we didn't have any problem putting in or taking out at the boat ramp.

We paddled about 3 miles clockwise around the lake. We saw 2 abandoned boats, one may have been Gilligan's. The other was a canoe left in the water now filled with water :(


Wednesday, June 6, 2018


Lora and I headed out to spend time in Massachusetts with our nephew Nick and his fiance Amy. This was our first long trip with our new camper.

We made it to West Virginia the first night and stayed at a campground that Lora picked out. Nahkeeta Campsite. We met Moses at the front of the campground by the Airstream office. With long gray hair and beard, Moses couldn't talk. He pointed to the Airstream and I went in looking for someone to help me. There was nobody inside. I came back out and Moses was pointing to the trailer window which had a list of rules on the window. You must have reservations to camp here. Luckily we had called ahead. When I told him this he pointed to the camping loop. We had site B so we went looking. Unfortunately they started with 1 and went up from there. After driving around the loop Moses was at the end in a golf cart calling me with his finger. He drove me to the office and then down a gravel road with three sites on it. A,B, and C. Home for the night.

The next day Lora counted down the states that she had been in. We got a little off track and took a side trip thru Bethleham. We saw places that we want to go back to in the future. We arrived in Springfield in time for dinner. We parked in Nick's driveway, ate dinner, and then set out to tour the town. Without any luck getting information from the information office, we returned to the house and hiked up to and explored Forest Park.

Early the next morning, early because it gets lighter earlier in the East, we headed to Boston. We were to meet Nick and Amy at 10 so we had a few hours to check things out. We walked to the Capital building and the Boston Common. From there we walked to Trinity Church and Public Library. We went by the Church of Science, reflection pool, and then headed back to meet Nick and Amy at the Boston Public Market.

After getting together, we had to get a snack before our tour. There were food vendors in the Commons and we found the Cookie Monstah, chocolate chunk with cookie dough ice cream. YUMM! Then we did a historic Freedom Trail walking tour covering Boston Common, Massachusetts State House, Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, King's Chapel, Old South Meeting House, Old Corner Bookstore, Old State House, Boston Massacre Site, and Faneuil Hall. We had the best guide, a tavern wench that knew her stuff. She must have overheard many a conversation in that tavern. After the tour we had some really good clam chowder, cannoli from Mikes Pastry and Moderns Pastry, and pizza at Rina's after we toured the Old North Church. We also toured Old Iron Side.

We drove back to Nick's and visited for the night, celebrating Amy's birthday. The next morning Lora and I headed back to tour Boston harbor, Bunker Hill, Paul Revere's house, St. Leonard's Church, Massachusetts State House, and a couple of other churches. We also took in the Best Burger in Boston at Cobblestone.

Monday we toured S. Prestley Blake Law Center and the campus of Western New England University where Nick goes to school. Then we headed towards home.

We stopped at Twin Bridge Campground that Craig picked, outside of Chambersburg PA. Wasn't really sure when we pulled up as the campers were all around a barn, but found out that they have a beautiful campground on the other side of the road from the office. We had the lower campsites all to ourselves, right beside a creek, and a huge tree that would be cool to climb. We tried our awning for the first time in the rain, grilling chicken on the picnic table. When the rain stopped we saw a beautiful rainbow.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Meriwether Lewis Campground

Memorial Day weekend we headed off to the Meriwether Lewis Campground on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee. Being a free campground we did not know what we were getting into and if there would be any room on a holiday weekend. I drove over early Friday and found a very nice, clean, and pretty much empty campground. Dad and Mom arrived around one o'clock and Lora shortly after. We hiked around the campground and visited until dinner.

I had to work the next day so the three amigos did some hiking and traveling to local towns. Mom crashed on one of the hikes trying to out do Dad. Minor sports injury. After lunch, sightseeing in the close by towns. Hohenwald and Summertown where they found the Amish wagons set up by the highway selling baskets and canned and baked goods. Hohenwald evidently closes at noon on Saturday. Restaurants were open, but nothing else was.

Sunday, I picked up Braedon and headed back. We all spent the afternoon at the creek chasing crawdads, snakes, and lizards. After lunch we played games which Braedon mastered quite quickly. We celebrated Braedon's birthday that night and then visited around the campfire.

Monday we visited the local waterfalls before we headed back home.

Nice campground and you can use the dumping station at the Fall Hollow campground on 412.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Calfkiller Creek

Lora and I put in at the Hwy 111 boat ramp on the Caney River. We saw all sorts of wildlife on this beautiful day. We turned and went up the Calfkiller Creek to the bend just before the E. Gooseneck Road bridge. About 3.7 miles one way.

We saw cows, turkeys, vultures, turtles, eagles, hawks, snake, fish, and wildflowers.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

Stringers Ridge, Salomon

Rock Creek held an event at Stringers Ridge in Chattanooga. Salomon shoe folks had hiking boots and running shoes to try out on the trail. I picked a pair of mid high boots, women foot shape specific they said-arch support and wide in the toe box; and handed over my ID. There were several folks on the Loop trail, families, couples, runners. Flowers were blooming. Saw the first Mountain Laurel of the season, Fire Pinks, Maple Leaf Vibernum, Little Brown Jug, lots of Solomons Seal, Beardtongue, Ipecac, Vinca, Spiderwort.

When I got back to the tent, there were two little girls picking the flags from the flagged off area, so cute, making a bouquet. I didn't like the boots enough to buy them, the arch support aggravated my right foot. Felt good on my left foot. Like my Keens better.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Salt Lick Creek Campground

We got invited by Jeremy to join him and his family at Salt Lick Creek Campground on Cordell Hull Lake. My parents joined us on this adventure. This is a beautiful campground with lots of water access. We enjoyed spending time with Jeremy's family and friends. We got some canoeing in when the wind wasn't blowing like crazy.