Monday, January 22, 2018

Fontana Village Birthday Trip

Yellow Fringed Orchid growing at Tulula bog

Fontana Village Birthday Trip 

Aug. 12, 2017 weekend

Dana Koogler & Kenny Koogler 

 It seems like every year for my birthday it sucks worse than the last year.   I watch the family make
plans and carry them out for other folks birthdays and mine kinda gets ignored.  I guess part of it is the fact I don't like to be made too much of a fuss over, but a little bit would be nice now and then.
I spend lots of time doing nice things for other folks birthdays, but mine is not important.   I decided
since I had sense enough to see the pattern I'd do something about it. I told Kenny what I wanted for
my birthday was a trip to get away with him.   I'd blow everyone off and do what made me happy
for a change.    

        We have stayed at Fontana Village in the past for wedding anniversary trips and lived there
briefly for Kenny's work.   It was always pleasant and relaxing.  The campground at Fontana is not
great so we decided to rent a cabin.  We had also eaten at the restaurant before and really enjoyed it.
I saw that the dining areas had been refurbished and management changed. I was looking forward to
trying it out.     We headed over and stayed a long weekend.   We would do some more exploring and cleaning up those lists of places we wondered about.  We'd also be knocking out one of those wishes
from the wish list by simply staying there again.    

      I will say that while the trip itself was fun and relaxing parts of it did not live up to expectations.
The dining services are so so.  Lunch at the grill is nice.  Would definitely recommend that and would do it again.   The restaurant is still beautiful and has a nice view, but the atmosphere has changed as has the food.   You now must have a reservation.   The food and atmosphere are pretentious and expensive while the food is lack luster.  Very limited menu. Most of the food is emptied out of containers and zapped in a microwave. They've forgotten the history of the area and where they came from.   Good ole country cooking  would be a better way to go.   I have spoken with a number of persons who have also found it disappointing.

           We took the canoe over to the lake with us, but ended up not using it. 
On the drive down we stopped at Twentymile and hiked to the cascades and on past them to a place called Hamilton Hollow. It was very pretty. 
 Lots of cranefly orchids present along the Twentymile Loop Trail
 Twentymile Cascade

Small cascade and pretty water hole at Hamilton Hollow. 

Looking down the chute.. a narrow gorge at the mouth of Hamilton Hollow.

      We continued on to the cabin and checked in and got situated.  It was nice.  I'd stay there again
with no hesitation. I'd prefer to just bring plenty of grocery items and supplies and cook all our meals though.  Either that or go some place down the road toward Murphy or Andrews out to eat.
Fontana Village has a peaceful feeling to it all the time.  It is like going back in time in many ways.

       Tulula Bog Wetlands

  One of the places I wanted to get it off my list was Tulula Bog Wetlands.  I had been before and seen lots of nice orchids.  We stopped just short of seeing the entire place.  I planned on going back and hiking that last bit.  Supposed to be some neat carnivorous plants there.   We pulled up to the trailhead. We were aghast at what we found.  The entire road bed was now grown up in weeds and kudzu that were nearly impenetrable.   Waist high weeds and kudzu.  I looked around for an alternative path.  I saw none.  We pulled down the road a bit and I noticed the woods were pretty open by comparison.   I figured I'd just go in that way and make my way past the bad patch of trail.
Kenny refused to go.  He told me to knock myself out, but he was not getting involved.   I told him ok and off I went to try it.   I did manage to get down to part of the bog. I saw yellow fringed orchids and a few pretty plants. I did find the creek and some of the work done to restore the wetland.  Someone in the past tried to turn it into a golf course.   WCU was doing a restoration/mitigation project there.  I soon found that it was not just the beginning of the path consumed by weeds. The entire logging road was now overgrown with thick kudzu and small saplings.   Since the college had moved on to other things the place is not being maintained.  I tried many different things to approach.
I finally gave up.  You either struggle with the overgrown logging road getting chiggers and possibly snake bit OR you take your chances with the boggy terrain that may suck you in.   I did not like either choice.   It was not in the cards. I have tried it. Failed and I'm moving on to other things.
It was still satisfying to know I've tried and given it my best.

 The only vista I had of the entire wetlands area
 One of many yellow fringed orchids
    Forest gloom and ferns.
 Little terrapin was the only creature I saw thankfully. No snakes!
The wetlands. I dared not try to cross that muck.  

A Few Un-named Cascades

 Tulula bog was something of a let down, but  the trip back yielded a few nice surprises.   
We couldn't believe we hadn't seen these cascades before.   They are both roadside falls.   
Recent rain had them flowing nicely. 

 Cheoah Lake covered in advection fog
 Pretty un-named cascade near the lake.

Another un-named cascade.  

           The Next Day Was Weird

  Sometimes I can just feel when something is wrong.   It doesn't have to have happened yet. Sometimes I can feel it before the fact.   Got up Saturday August 12... my birthday.  The plan was to take the canoe and go across the lake. We would hike up to the Brown Hole.  Not brown because of the color but a hole on Hazel Creek where the brown trout go to spawn in November.   I had been looking forward to it.  I woke up and was not sure what was wrong, but I did not have any interest in going.  I just felt sad.   Something was not right and I couldn't say what.   I told Kenny and he was completely understanding about my change of heart.  Instead we used the time to explore some roads we'd wondered about.   We found Rainbow Falls that I'd learned of.  It was pitiful! It is just a collection of dripping rocks.   Since we were there this Summer they've had a landslide right near this.  It is going to shut the road down for months.   

Rainbow Falls could use some water!

 Sun coming up over the lake. 
 Lone boat in the distance
Rain clouds were parting.  

Pretty cascade at Cable Cove.  
 bold red cardinal flower in Cable Cove
Bright orange jewel weed at Cable Cove.

  We checked out the marina.  We explored some side streams and saw lots of pretty Summer wildflowers and small cascades.   

     We went back to the village and had ice cream at the store.  We went to the swimming pole which is marvelous and swam for a couple hours.  It was very relaxing.   We finally went back to the cabin and saw on the news that evening about the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia.  We are from Virginia.
We both sat and cried. So sad. I couldn't help wonder if that was the negative vibe I was picking up 
earlier in the day?   I later learned that all the persons protesting and rioting were from out of the area. They are not Virginians!  The chief of police, city manager and mayor of Charlottesville did a nice job.  The assortment of black, white and mixed race persons represented made me realize that no matter what anyone says Virginia has come a long way from its ugly past.  

         I had a quiet birthday, but at least it was better than some other ones.   

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