NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What We've Been Up To - A Smokies Sampler

First off thanks to the Furry Gnome for helping me out with the Frostweed identification the other day.  Turns out my first guess of ice was technically correct!

Cory's first Smokies waterfall

No ice Saturday behind the Sugarlands VisitorCenter on the nature trail to Cataract Falls though.  It was a short, level walk with a few interesting features including signs labeling a variety of trees.  I'll have to walk it again when I'm here at a time of year that the leaves are still hanging on.  Tree identification just doesn't seem to want to stick in my head.

Rue gets out for some fresh air too

Cory got introduced to the "plunge into the stream" concept of waterproof hiking boots.  Why try to balance on slippery stones or loose logs?  Just plant your foot down and cross that rivulet!

I'm pretty sure this isn't a plant and is in my lichen book...which I left at home!

He wasn't thrilled when I made him walk uphill on the Cove Mountain Trail for a few minutes.  I told him the best way to work out those sore muscles was to use them, and that as much as he didn't want to hear it they say "no pain, no gain" for a reason.  Just push through for a couple of days and the pain will be gone and won't return unless you overdo.

Back at the bottom we opted to cross over the road instead of going back under it and because we did we got to see a small graveyard on our way back to the Sugarlands Visitor Center.  When we got back to the car it was still early enough that I thought we'd take the Little River Road down to The Sinks for a quick look, no walking required.  It was also an opportunity to teach him about polarizers since he is trying to learn more about how work a DSLR.

Cory using extreme caution

Signs are everywhere telling you to use extreme caution at The Sinks, and we did, but we also got out onto the ledge to fully appreciate the view.  It wasn't the roaring madness that Wayne and I saw back in October, but those rocks are still deadly I'm sure.

I already showed you my solo hike up the Bull Head trail on Sunday, but in the afternoon Cory and I strolled around downtown Gatlinburg.  We passed on the Ripley's Aquarium when I heard the price, and when we got back home I did some research and found out we could get $5 off admission by going after 5:00 p.m. so that's what we did today.

shark alert

Even with the $5 off admission was $22.99 each and while we had a good time it was still overpriced due to its small size and limited variety of exhibits. The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago is $37.95 (gulp!) but if you're going to spend big it is the real deal and worth the money.

Even though photography was allowed it was incredibly difficult to get any kind of shot worth having due to their really bad lighting.  Not only was the lighting bad for photography, in a lot of instances it discolored the natural look of the marine animal in question.  For the jellyfish they had a changing "light show" where the color changed constantly.  If those jellyfish can sense that at all they must be driven insane.

Giant Japanese Crab

Cory's two favorite exhibits were the Giant Japanese Crabs and the Horseshoe Crabs.  The Horseshoe Crabs were in a "touch" pool and an attendant even took one out and held it upside down for us to see its underside.  As we approached the pool it dawned on me that I was carrying an underwater camera and I got permission to stick it under the water and take the picture below.

Horseshoe Crab

Lighting wise definitely the best shot I got at the aquarium since the light was fairly close to natural though I did have to adjust the light setting to get rid of a yellowish cast.  I think I had the ISO set too high on the pictures too because they came out too grainy, but with the movement and the low light what other choice did I have?  (If there is a good answer to that question, by all means let me know!)  Cory got to learn about ISO and how to set it on his camera though so a teaching experience was had.  I don't know if I'll make a hiker out of him, but I have a willing photography student!

While southern Wisconsin got a foot of snow on Sunday Gatlinburg was forecasted to get some yesterday so I was a little leery about driving down the twisty mountain road in the morning.  But since I couldn't imagine being trapped inside all day I slipped out the back door of our cabin and started scrambling down the hillside.

our cabin above

There were lots of branches, roots and blowdowns to keep me anchored but after awhile I made my way out to the road and came back up that way.  I was gone for half an hour, perfect for a little cardio and the road didn't get icy after all.

Innsbruck Drive, steeper than most of the trails!

Today's search of waterfalls!


  1. Nice that your son is taking an interest in your photography hobby. Wish my kids would - they vanish every time I get out the camera!

  2. Wish I had a teacher to go round with me when taking photo's. What type of cemetery is it, I can see the graves & large memorial. Very nice trip I will say

  3. Wow that's the least amount of water I've ever seen in Cataract Falls. Hopefully, the one we are headed to today will have a better flow!

  4. Pretty cool that Cory is following in your photography footsteps. He is Lucky to have such a good mentor.

  5. Love the picture of Roo. He seems appropriately dressed. Nice pictures of Cory photographing the beautiful scenes. He did a great job on that excellent picture of you looking out. Wonderful that you have a hobby the two of you can share.