Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Our Walks & Drives

Spotted Mandarin blooms aka Fairy Bells 

Our Walks & Drives

  Lately we've been sticking around home more and getting out for short walks and drives.
Kenny's back is recovering and he is building up his strength.  We're busy trying to show Gabriel the beauty of the world. We're also trying to help him come to tolerate longer travel
in the confines of a vehicle.   He has his Nanny's disposition. Springs in his butt and can't sit still.   He comes by it honest. I do not like car trips.  Hyper hypo!

    I can't write up individual trip reports for things that may last 30 minutes or so.
I figured I'd roll them into one and make an entry to include these mini trips in my blog.
While they are short they are usually lovely and some are funny.

Cades Cove to Rich Mountain 

Today we drove to Cades Cove, did not go fully around the loop, but turned off onto Rich Mountain Road.  We came out in Townsend.  We pretty much had it to ourselves! 
 A glimpse of Little River on the way.
Above a pair of yellow lady slippers we ran across in out travels.

 Above and below... we were heading to Cades Cove to drive out Rich Mountain Road. We saw this bear up walking on a stone wall. By the time we pulled alongside it.. he had jumped down and was shuffling along browsing.  It was a nice fat bear!

Below is a view of Dry Valley viewed from Rich Mountain Road.  

 Large clusters of Mountain bellwort see along Rich Mountain Road

We found a profusion of Sweet White trillium blooming on the slopes along Rich Mtn Road.

 Canada violet

 Large flowered bellwort
Catesbys trillium blooming beside a stream

 We picked enough morels to fry up a mess this year!
 Huge patch of dwarf crested iris along the sides of Rich Mtn. Road
 Gabe got a kick out of getting to sit on Papaw's lap and "drive" for a little bit.
 Gabriel out for a leg stretching break from the car seat with us.
Pretty stream on Rich Mountain
 Another pretty stream with a small cascade. We got out and walked up here.
 Yellow trillium
 Fire pink 
 I stopped near this meadow in Dry Valley. There is a spot where these yellow trilliums, blue phlox, and two shades of dwarf larkspur all bloom together!  

Mayapple blossom in Dry Valley

Schoolhouse Gap Evening Stroller Disaster! 

 We took Gabriel and the stroller and decided to take an evening walk on Schoolhouse Gap Trail.  We have one of those nice big wheeled strollers for rough terrain.  Kenny pushed Gabe and I took photos.   Every little bit I'd hear Gabriel holler out.  He was angry. Now he's ok. Now he's angry again.  I got closer to see what the deal was?  Every time they hit a bump.. which was often... it made Gabe hit his head on the side of the stroller. He was pissed off.
We kept the walk short on account of his aggravation level. We made it to the top of the hill and turned around to head back. I was pushing now and trying to be more careful.
 Gabe and Papaw. He is not impressed so far.

 Stream beside Schoolhouse Gap Trail

 Maiden hair ferns on the banks. 

Stream lined with ferns and mountain laurel. The photo shows how misty the evening was getting.   Thunder started to rumble so we knew we'd best hurry up.  Now Gabriel was hacked off again at the bumping his head and rattling him around in that stroller.  This was a bad idea.    We made it back to the jeep just in time!  We put Gabriel in the vehicle before the rain began pouring down.  Kenny and I were trying our best to get that stroller collapsed and back in the jeep.  It was not collapsing. We had forgotten how to make it fold up.  It is awful being old and dumb about baby stuff.  We have forgotten everything we ever knew about raising kids and the paraphernalia it takes to wrangle them.   Kenny was really getting ticked off. We are getting drenched to the skin trying to figure this out.  Finally he gave up in frustration and got in the jeep.  I took over and tried a different attack.  It folded right up.  If I had to collapse that stroller right this minute... (It was six weeks ago that I last folded it up) I couldn't remember how to do it if my life depended upon it!  Once we got in the car we burst out laughing at ourselves.  This is why you have kids when you are YOUNG!    Poor Gabriel.   We won't be repeating that stunt anyways soon.  

Wildcat Falls 2018

Some variety of buttercup blooming 

Wildcat Falls 2018

Dana Koogler & Wally Storey

Friday June 8, 2018

Pictures are here:  Wildcat Falls Pix 2018

and more detailed photos of the area and the whole hike from a 
previous trip in Autumn are here: Autumn Hike to Wildcat Falls

  I got a call from my friend Wally Storey wanting to get up for a hike.  I was keen to say yes.
He tossed out several ideas for places he wanted to try. We hit on Wildcat Falls in Slickrock
Wilderness. It is not a good place to hike solo and neither of us would feel comfortable doing so.
It is a very pretty hike and though I'd done it several times before no one needed to  twist my arm
to talk me into going again.  He has already completed the Carolina Mountain Club's Waterfall 100
Challenge. He is currently working on Kevin Adam's lists.  He lacked only five or so on that list!
Wildcat Falls was one of them.   We planned to meet up at the Big Fat Gap trailhead Friday morning.

    Wally is a fine friend with lots in common.  He has also experienced being tied down with family 
obligations recently and knows what that is like for me.   It was great to get out.   I had a bad sinking
spell in my mood just prior to this planned trip.   I was down in the dumps over the struggles with
Jared & Lydia and their drug problems.  Although Jared is doing well our daughter in law appears to be still struggling.  It has been tough and it grieves me to see what Gabriel is being subjected to 
on account of it.   I try to maintain a positive outlook, but sometimes I don't succeed.  

    We met up at the trailhead and exchanged greetings and got going. We did not want to goof off
too much since the afternoon forecast was for a thunder storm.    It was good seeing Wally again.
We enjoyed a nice day in the woods. I did not talk as much or take as many photos as usual. Mostly
because I was in a funk, but partly because I had been a couple times before.   

   We had no problems finding our way, but could see the trails and creek fords were showing some signs of damage from previous storms.  Lots of downed trees.  I would have had a much harder time 
finding out which way to go had I not been a couple times already.   It is a wilderness and while
I think it is in pretty good shape it is not maintained to National Park or State Park standards.

    It was a hot day and the high temperature for the day was ninety-five back home.
I am sure it wasn't that hot here, but it was still nice to ford the cold mountain creeks and 
splash around and swim today.    I felt blessed to have a good friend who doesn't give up on me
even when I am not the best company. By days end Wally had me in a much better mood and 
my outlook for the future far more positive. Thanks my friend.  :-)  Thank the Good Lord for
sending us people in our lives to care for us when we are not at our best.  

   Wildcat Falls rides the state line as does the Slickrock trail between North Carolina and Tennessee.
We got there without incident.   A massive tree was down and lapped over the area where you climb down the bank to reach the falls.   Another spot where it would have been easy to miss an important land mark.   We made it down to the creek.  I could not wait. I waded right in to that icy water.
Even I thought this water was very cold.  I managed to jump in briefly to cool off, but it was the kind of cold that turns you bright red at once.   You don't stay in long!  Wally got in also.   After we cooled off we ate some lunch and rested.   The day was beautiful.  The only bad thing today was the gnats were thick.  Kenny and I had the same problem hiking here in Summer the first time! 
Above and below.. Wildcat Falls. I love the pebbles in the shoal in front of it.   

 Above and below... closer views of the shimmery, clear water and colorful pebbles.
 Below: Looking downstream on Slickrock Creek at the falls.

The hike back out was not eventful.  No falls or slips or trouble.  We only encountered a few other hikers all day.  The hike back out isn't bad until you get to a point where the uphill starts. Even that is not bad if you just take your time and pace yourself.  It is tough in the heat though.   One crazy thing that happened was near the top of the trail.  Just before our last big push to the top I was going super slow because it was so hot.  I was just in front of Wally.  I heard a steady buzzing, but did not see any bees yet.  I looked round to see a yellow jacket nest in and around a tree ahead of us.   We just eased on past quickly and carefully and neither of us got stung!  That is a great accomplishment far as I am concerned.  I have been stung wading up into the middle of yellow jackets before!  Very thankful we were able to avoid getting stung!

   Thanks Wally for including me in your day and for being a wonderful friend. I look forward to our next adventure. I also look forward to meeting Kathy.   You guys gotta be great. Anyone who has the same sense of humor as me is awright!  

Below is a short video of the falls.

Florida Vacation 2018

Great egret sitting on the fence at our condo. 

Florida Vacation 2018

Dana, Kenny & Gabriel Koogler
Adam, Crystal, Michael and Tessa Lindsey

Sunday May 27 through Sunday June 3, 2018

   We planned way back in January to take a vacation together as a family.   It was the first time we'd been to the beach in ten years!  It was also the first time in a long time we'd been on a trip like this with our extended family.   It was Gabriel's first trip ever to the beach and his first flight on an airplane.   First time ever booking a condo on the beach.   It turned out to be a good  decision.   The company we used was super and I'd go with them again in a second. 
We had been to the Gulf Coast of Florida once before, but that time we stayed in Destin.  
We were eager to see what the area further down the coast was like.
Nanny and Tessa swimming.  Michael in the background. 
I gotta say... I always loved the water as a kid and have never stopped loving it.
I love the ocean AND the pool or the river or whatever.... I can out swim the kids or grandkids most times.  It is a real triumph when you're a grandmother and are the last one out of the water. 
Tessa is probably the most like me for not thinking water is cold.  
   Adam, Crystal and the kids went down a week earlier than us.  They went to Disney World to celebrate Adam's return from a military deployment.  It was also a celebration of school being out for the kids and Crystal.   She got teacher of the month the last month of the year!
Way to go!   Gabriel does not travel well in a car for long distances so we'd booked a flight on 
Allegiant air.   It was a package deal.   It is far more affordable and it is nice to be able to go to Florida and have it only take one hour and 20 minutes as opposed to a twelve hour drive.
We had packed and planned for all sorts of contingencies.   Our luggage was sent ahead with 
Crystal and Adam in the back of the truck.   A hurricane came up the coast the evening we were to fly out. We called the kids in Clearwater and they said not to worry that it was missing them and it would be ok.   We headed to the airport on schedule.  Long story short it turned into a fiasco that just couldn't be helped.   The flight was delayed due to weather and flooding.
We had a five hour wait at the airport instead of a two hour wait.   
Papaw Michael and Gabe. Adam in the corner of the frame.
     We finally made it to Clearwater and the condo and got to bed at four in the morning.
Monday we were groggy, but did get out and enjoy the beach.  The condo was everything we'd hoped and more.   It was spacious and beautiful. It was like having vacation in a Better Homes & Gardens magazine house!  Three bedrooms. Three bathrooms. Spacious kitchen and living area. Balcony with bikes for the beach. Ocean kayaks for the water.  Cart to tote all your stuff to the beach.  Private beach. Private pool and lounge area.  Very family oriented place.  Redington Shores is lovely.   We soaked up the sun. We dug in the sand. We swam in the pool. We swam in the ocean.  We picked up shells.  We ate too much. We slept late and took naps.
We shopped on Monday... the one day it rained.  We hit up lots of thrift stores in Clearwater.
It was great fun.   We enjoyed some fantastic seafood.   It was great spending time with my kids and grandkids.   We checked out Anna Maria island which was beautiful. 
Adam being funny imitating a whale for us with a pool noodle.
       We didn't want to leave when it was time to go.  We are already looking forward to the next Florida vacation.   One hilarious moment was when my sweet daughter Crystal said she liked the bedspreads on the childrens beds so much she was tempted to leave the condo owners a $100 bill on the counter with a note saying I took one of your bedspreads. Gitchyall another un.
I figured out who made the spreads. Adam found it online.  We were able to order us brand new Bealls of Florida bedspread sets for 40% off and free shipping!  No tee shirts or snow globes for mementos of this trip. We got something better! New bedrooms with a light airy motiff of Florida. Crystal's was sea horses and fish and it is lovely. Mine is floral and named Evangeline after the Acadian legend.   Doesn't get more Southern than that.  
Shop Bealls OUTLET... not so much Bealls of Florida.. The outlet stores are where you save big.   Great quality stuff at discount prices.  My final souvenir of the trip was making a wreath for my bedroom out of the shells I collected.  I had to buy one, but the rest I picked up. I was only finding broken shells, but I decided it didn't matter.  They were pretty anyhow.


    Papaw Gabe and Tessa in the surf. 

    The Long Pier was closed for renovations so we did not get to enjoy it.  It was taken over by brown pelicans who were using it as their base for fishing! 


Crystal and Michael on the boogie boards in the surf.
Gabe and the toy wheel barrow.

Gabriel liked the beach a lot. First time to the ocean!
Adam, Tessa and Michael. Michael was like a fish. He was in constant motion.
This was Anna Maria Island.  It is nice, but it was not as good a beach as Redington Shores.  There is a large drop off to the water not shown here.

Our family photo. We planned this from the beginning. It is pretty good, but we got a beam of light on Gabe's face.  but watch this.....


You can see the gradual deterioration of the family photo. Gabe has no beam of light on his face, but he has begun the schlump that says let me go! I'm over it.  Oh it gets worse...


And now Gabe is in full blown toddler melt down.  You better get it right the first time cause with toddlers you don't get do overs. Ah well... that's reality.  You learn not to take yourselves so seriously.

Our new Beall's of Florida bedspread. I love it!

And my new seashell wreath I made.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Look Rock and Goldmine Road Exploring

Daisy Fleabane blooming at the Look Rock Campground

Look Rock Campground and Goldmine Road Exploring

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Saturday May 5, 2018

   We decided to stick around close to home to do some snooping and get some exercise.
We'd taken Gabriel up to the Look Rock Campground which sits closed and un-used. 
We went through the week and it was the perfect place to push him in Carsie.   We had us
a little picnic lunch.  We liked it so much we went back Saturday. It was so hot down where
we live, and up in the Foothills it was much cooler.    We were intrigued by the campground 
sitting there. Such a nice facility.  Someone told us they are considering reopening it. 
It would be good if they could, but if they don't we can still enjoy using it for quiet walks.

     We have discovered several neat things off Foothills Parkway in recent years. 
There are a couple waterfalls that seldom get visited because they are so out of the way.
We have also found some pretty wildflowers.  One never knows what you'll find prowling around.  It's like the lottery... you have to play to win!  You just never know!

          We pulled down to Goldmine Trail and walked down as far as the junction with 
Cooper Road Trail.  We rested then turned around and climbed back up the hill.  Kenny wanted some uphill to challenge him a tad more and strengthen his foot and leg.   
We always like this trail in Spring. It is pretty and quiet.  It also has nice Spring wildflowers along the way.  We saw lots of pink lady slipper orchids.   We also saw lots of Catesby's Trilliums.  
 Catesbys trillium

 Old shed and a lone pink lady slipper on the way down to the park boundary.

Cluster of three pink ladies. One is deformed!  

Goldmine Road Trail 
Wild columbine was blooming right where we parked! 
Pair of white form Catesbys trilliums. They like the same sort of piney woods that lady slippers prefer.  
Dogwoods were in peak bloom today! 
We saw some pinxter azalea blooming in the woods.
Kenny ahead of me on the Goldmine Trail. Great to see him back up and about.
   Once we got back to the jeep after Goldmine Trail we pondered what to get into next?  
I had been studying the topo map of the area.  I wanted to drive up to Lake in the Sky and Top of the World Estates.    We pulled up there to the chapel.  It is a quaint structure and really fits the area.   The lake looked very pretty today.  We noticed a group of people in the distance having some sort of gathering.  They were laughing and having fun.   
 Above: Top of the World Chapel with the Lake in the Sky behind it.

This is a fully functioning church with regular services.  

Large cluster of Cinnamon Ferns blooming outside Top of the World Chapel.

We walked around and took in the scenery.  We then got in the jeep and headed back the way we'd come.  We saw some flame azalea in the forest.  

  On the drive to the chapel I just KNEW we'd passed a road sign for Tower view Road.   We went back slowly but did not see it.  We turned round and gave it one more try.  This time we found it.  We turned and followed it out. It went through a residential area.   What an oddity this place is.   You see just anything and everything.   One house will be neat as a pin and you can tell it is being lived in day to day or kept up.  The next will be standing empty and abandoned.  We finally saw the "tower" and it was an old water tank that sits out of commission high on the mountain top.   We saw empty homes in all sorts of condition.  Rotting down. Burned down.   New but unfinished. New and unlived in.   
Some real professional work and some jack legg rigged up structures.   The views from the mountain side were astonishing. 
 This view from the top of the world estates is nice.  Look at the red oak buds!
Above is a closer view of the fuzzy new red oak leaves budding out.

Here is the most unobstructed view we got from that side of the mountain.  

In the woods near the mountain top I saw lots of American lily of the valley. It is not the first time seeing it for me, but the first time finding it blooming in my own county!

 Abandoned camper
 Ramshackle A frame left to rot.  

    We drove slowly along and were amazed at the empty homes and structures.  A pattern began to appear.    The houses that were being lived in daily had wells!   The ones that were empty did not seem to.  It seems these folks had water at one time, but now they don't. It was clear that the water tower supply system had gone belly up.  I learned later that the Look Rock Campground had a septic system problem and water problem.   It would be expensive to repair so who knows what will happen.   Today we saw a whole lot of "It seemed like a good idea at the time" sitting decaying on the slopes of that mountain.     

    We headed back toward Look Rock Campground to continue our walk.  We parked and strolled the A loop.  We then walked out toward the picnic area which I had never clapped eyes on in my life before today.  It was really pretty and quiet. I sincerely hope they are able to get this open again. It seems a little sad sitting there not being used at all.   The air was cool and fresh. It was great weather for walking.  We had partial views of the mountains through the trees.   There is a trail that runs all the way from the campground to the Look Rock Tower.   
This view was from the Look Rock Picnic area 

We did not see a lot of types of flowers near the picnic area, but we did see one massive cluster of
purple wild geraniums!  

   Back at the jeep we were preparing to go.  Another fellow pulled up in a jeep.  He got out and we greeted him.  He was very nice.  He lived in Townsend and was named Terry. He uses the campground and picnic area to walk. He was also having back problems. Kenny commiserated with him, but told him how well he'd gotten along with surgery. He urged him not to mess around with it long. Don't let yourself suffer.  Now days back surgery is more often a cure and complete recovery.

   We parted ways with Terry and went on to see what else we could get up to.  I had seen a photo of Gods Office in the vicinity of Butterfly Gap.  I believed it was a place folks could go and visit. You know like a chapel in the woods or something?   We went down off the mountain via Butterfly Gap Road.   It was a lifetime ago since we'd driven that route.   It is very, very pretty.  The forest was mostly just green, but a little bit of flame azalea could be spotted.    We did find God's Office, but 
God is exclusive. He had a no trespassing sign up.   So I had to get a photo from the road.  
God's Office viewed from Butterfly Gap Road.

  We continued down the mountain through some of the most remote parts of our county.   It is rural in the extreme.   We finally came down to Butterfly Gap Creek and the little roadside cascade.   Across the creek sits another example of someone's big idea.   It is a crumbling old house sitting amidst the river cane.   
 Very pretty small cascade on Butterfly Gap Creek
 Above and below is a rotting down shack across the stream situated by butterfly gap falls.  The foot bridge used to cross over to it is missing the first several slats.  I joked I wanted to make it my new Bigfoot Investigator office since the rent would be low and if anyone came to file a report they'd have to turn around or wade the creek.

 At one time this place had to be pretty.  Look at all that intricate rock work.

Butterfly Gap Creek flowing every onward.  

 Above and below.. leaves and the bloom of Shuttleworth's ginger on Goldmine Road Trail

We continued on our way home satisfied with our days easy explorations.  Kenny is getting stronger.
We were grateful to have a day out together.