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!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fire and Ice

Yesterday I finally emerged from the house, forcing myself out of the funk that grabs hold of me when winter descends upon southern Wisconsin every November.  After our snowfall the other day temps have risen to 40F and it probably won't get warmer until March so it's time to meet the challenges of outdoor exercise in the land of wind and ice.

I drove out to Lapham Peak to finish the small section of the IAT trail that I missed.  Passing through Mukwonago I was surprised by their mural and a quick search of the internet explains its significance.  The area was originally a Native American village and the tribal seat of the Bear Clan of the Potawatomi Indians. The name "Mukwonago" is derived from "mequanego" which translates to bear's den. The spelling "Mukwonago" was adopted in 1844 because of the similarity to nearby Mequon.

Turns out I didn't really miss much, the section of trail I walked was surprisingly flat and my focus had to be on making sure the packed down snow wasn't icy underneath.  But, it felt good to get some exercise and at least the sun was out and the wind was fairly mild.

Out of the ice and into the fire, I met Katrina at the Majestic movie theater in Waukesha to catch the final installment in "The Hunger Games".  The Girl on Fire didn't disappoint.  We need more female heroines, anyone have a book to recommend featuring one?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Clinton Post Office Mural and a Final Hike

On my way out of Tennessee I met Sharon near the town of Clinton which happened to have a U.S. Post Office mural.  The town had a newer facility but moved the mural from the old location.  I love it when they do that!

"Farm and Factory" was painted in 1940 by Horace Day.  The brick wall in the background represents the town's own Magnet Mills which opened its doors in 1906 operating as a hosiery mill. By 1930, the mill employed over 1000 people. At one point, the mill owners operated at a loss during the great depression just to keep people working. 

Of course "progress" was inevitable with more modern industry to come and the days of family farming were on their way out.

Nearby is Norris Dam State Park where I stayed a night on my way down to Tennessee.  While I wasn't crazy about their camping situation (no place to put a tent, sites not big enough for larger RVs) they do have an excellent hiking trail system and Sharon and I went for one last short hike above the dammed in lake.

I'll miss my hiking buddy!

I pretty much high tailed it home after that, but did make a detour in to Levi Jackson State Park in Kentucky for a quick look at the campground.  The camping facilities in Kentucky State Parks are generally more up to date than the ones in the Tennessee State Parks.  While not a huge hiking destination it did have some trails and as is common in Kentucky parks lots of family oriented things to do.

large sites at Levi Jackson

Temperatures barely cracking above freezing for the week ahead here in Wisconsin but I will force myself out of the house tomorrow and Wednesday for hikes because there is an 80% chance of rain on Thanksgiving.  Wayne will be working, Katrina will be heading up to the U.P. and Cory will be going to her place to babysit her cat.  Guess it will be a movie marathon day for me, which is much more appealing than all that cooking and cleaning anyway!

Linking up to Monday Mural again.  Click the New Deal art label below if you want to know more about the post office murals story and the ones I've seen.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Crossing the Pond?

I'm back from Tennessee and this morning I woke up to this happening.

We got almost a foot of snow here in Kenosha county today!  So what is a girl to do but lay around in her pajamas and start planning next year's trips?

My recent trip to Tennessee pointed out a few problems that could be ahead with my travel options.  It seems my allergies are getting tripped more easily, the house I rented back in February triggered problems this time, specifically the bed.  Probably dust mites combined with scented laundry detergent even though I stripped everything except the mattress cover off the bed.  So, what to do?  I was thinking I'd finally take a trip to London and perhaps even take the train on to France or the Netherlands.  Solution?  Pack my tent and sleeping bag!  Turns out there are nice campgrounds in Europe, even quite near the larger cities.  No worries about allergies, and money saving too!  And maybe I'll invest in a tent geared for colder temperatures and extend my camping season a little if I get cabin fever this winter.

Tomorrow's forecast?  Wind chill factors in the teens.  Guess I'm staying inside again but since I haven't exercised since Tuesday maybe I should get on the treadmill...after daydreaming about European campgrounds some more.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Seeing Holly, Being Jolly - Old Sugarlands Trail

This trip to the Smokies has been an unbeatable mix of alone time and companionship.  Used to being on my own I enjoy hiking in solitude, but having someone to share discoveries with is a welcome change.

On Monday Sharon and I met to do a shuttle hike of the Old Sugarlands Trail.  The trail is wide for the Smokies and is relatively flat with just a short section of uphill to tackle where we started after parking at the Rainbow Falls parking area on Cherokee Orchard Road.

We smelled skunk and were glad it was not a live one on the trail!  The Old Sugarlands Trail was the original first paved road to Newfound Gap and before the road was paved it was a wagon road through the center of the Sugarlands Community.

possibly stone wall created when land was cleared for farming

We spied a lot of old foundations, stone property line fences and stone retaining walls and some of them warranted further exploration off-trail.  Sharon even spotted a few she hasn't noticed before.  I brought up the fact that every time I saw holly on the trail side during this visit it was just little knee-high stragglers and no sooner had we started discussing whether holly was actually indigenous to this area or not we started seeing American holly trees everywhere.

Many thanks to Sharon for patience with repeated posing requests

While the tree above is quite a bit larger than what I'd been seeing, research tells me a more mature tree could be anywhere from 33-66 feet tall!  Maybe that's why I hadn't been seeing them, maybe the holly was all above my head!  American Holly is a slow grower, and most of what we were seeing was around old homesites so was probably planted purposely for ornamental reasons even though it is indigenous to the region.

The Sugarlands community was actually named for the abundance of maples that the settlers encountered when they arrived in the early 1800's, but most of those were cleared when building began. Residents typically lived in one-room cabins until the 1900's.  Here's a link showing a photo of what the area looked like before the forest started reclaiming it.

One of the things I wanted to see on the trail was a cemetery that can be reached by taking a side trail.  Round trip it added another 1.5 miles to our already 4 mile hike but it was worth the extra effort.

temperatures are rising here again for the rest of the week

After enjoying a quiet lunch at the cemetery we resumed our trek through the Sugarlands, and it wasn't long before we came upon the CCC ruins which included some stairs in the middle of the forest floor, the clock tower remains and a large flag pole circle.  See this link for a picture of the clock tower when it was built and how quickly the landscape will fill in with trees when mother nature is left to her own devices.

Clock Tower

Soon we met up with the Little Pigeon River, making its way toward Gatlinburg. The gradual downhill slope of the trail leveled out as we enjoyed its soothing sounds.

The trail ends at Newfound Gap Road just down the road from the Sugarlands Visitor Center.  The mild, damp fall that the region has been having is confusing the rhododendren and I got my first glimpse of what its blossoms will look like if I ever get here during bloom time outside of Park Headquarters.

We also saw a rather large and extremely healthy American holly bursting with berries.

Don't miss this hike, lots to discover no matter what time of year you visit!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Short Walk in the Woods - Bud Ogle Place

I dragged my parents over to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to take a look at Noah "Bud" Ogle's Place, one of the first stops from Cherokee Orchard Road.  From the parking lot the road is still two way, so we planned that Dad and I would continue along to the one way motor trail and Mom would turn back to go check out some shops.

Big hunks of quartz on the site

There is an interpretive pamphlet available to purchase that will guide the visitor through the numbered 3/4 mile nature trail through the Ogle property.

I call this one "How Long Until We Can Gracefully Leave?"

My parents checked out the main house, then Mom went back to town and Dad went back to the car while I struck out to get have a short walk in the woods.  I had the trail to myself, which I was thankful for since the reason I've never explored this site is that it is usually full of people when I drive past.

This is the type of Smokies environment I enjoy the most, lots of rhododendren, a moist habitat that supports fungal growth and ferns.

It didn't take long before I heard the stream where I knew the tubmill would be located.

I took a few pictures, but made a plan to come back here again with Wayne in the spring when the greens will really pop and get right into that stream with my rubber boots and tripod in tow.

This spot also had rocks everywhere, in the streams and along the trail, so be sure to wear sturdy shoes when you visit even though it is relatively flat.

Back on the Motor Nature Trail we scanned the landscape out the open car windows, keeping our eyes open for bears and other wildlife but had no success.  All we saw was views of the Roaring Fork itself as we crossed over it again and again.

I could live with that.

Today I'm on the last leg of my trip home again, trying to make it back in time to see my Wayne on our 26th wedding anniversary!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mom and Dad Pay A Visit

I had a surprise visit from my parents while staying at my little camping cabin in Townsend.  They left for Massachusetts a few weeks ago to visit relatives and then did some more visiting in Georgia so they decided to swing my way before heading home.  I guess they couldn't wait to see me again even though I just took my dad shopping a few weeks ago for the outfit he is wearing!

Meigs Falls

They stayed at the Best Western for a great price, but in the morning I suggested we all move to Gatlinburg since that was where all the things that were more their speed were located.  We took the Little River Road and stopped at Meigs Falls and The Sinks, easy stops without much walking for my dad who suffers from COPD.

Mom and I took the stone steps up above The Sinks and I got a nice picture of her in the trees, even with the graffiti.

I took a chance that the same house that Cory and I rented in February would be available on short notice on a Sunday and contacted Lynn about the 3 bedroom Grandview on Innsbruck.

Mom and Dad getting a reminder of what it's like to live with their only child....I'm no walk in the park!

Lynn knows how to treat her guests right, and so does the housekeeper, Sabrina.  They accommodated my allergy concerns and made special trips out to get the cabin ready last minute on a Sunday.  The cabin has 3 bedrooms, a hot tub, wifi and a fully stocked kitchen, but best of all it boasts a view of Gatlinburg, the tram and sometimes even frolicking bears.

watching the tram and checking the hillside for bears from the deck

It's less than five minutes from N.O.C. and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance.  And there is more color left on the Gatlinburg side of the Smokies than the Townsend side by far!

One of the trees plentiful in this area is the American Basswood whose leaves are so large that the ones that are still on the trees look more like lily pads than leaves!

Basswood dwarfs all the rest of the leaves on the walkway

I didn't plan on coming to Gatlinburg this trip, but I'm surprised that I'm glad I did.  It's the most popular section of the park for a reason!

Enjoying the views at Mahoney Point

I missed the bear sighting when we joined the "bear jam" on the side of the road, being so busy grabbing my zoom lens that I didn't have the opportunity to use it!

We're heading home today, but I have a few more posts about my time in the Smokies to come later this week so stay tuned.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Things Will be Great When You're Downtown

I did a little exploring in Maryville on this trip down to the Smokies.  Some of it was practical, like finding a Jiffy Lube to get my oil changed and discovering the new super-duper Krogers, but I made time for seeking out a few little treasures too.

A little folk music sets the mood

Since it was Saturday I checked to see if Maryville had a farmer's market and they do hold one at Founder's Lot on Broadway Avenue so I stopped in.  Not much produce this time of year but lots of baked goods, some jewelry and a couple of booths selling honey and bee related items.

I bought a jar of jam (peach vanilla) and some pumpkin loaf before turning my eyes toward the surrounding downtown area.  Across the street was the old public library which has been re-purposed and is now a cute gift shop called Dandy Lions.

And the lions were quite "dandy" dressed in Christmas bows.

I wandered in to a few boutiques and found out there are many ways to make patio furniture out of unwanted items, don't limit yourselves!

I really like the Royal Crown Cola advertisement on one of the buildings and it led me down to a little park on Pistol Creek.  The other photos I found online of this spot show the sign faded so maybe it has been updated but I could find no info about it.  I haven't had an RC Cola in too many years to count!

But the real taste treat was a blackberry BBQ "hand pie" which was like a popover pie from Lambert's Southern Pies.  Everything else looked delicious there also so if in Maryville again I know where I need to go to get fed.  And that BBQ sauce was to die for, I've been checking out recipes online.

Also spotted was this great mural paying tribute to the Smoky Mountain area's music history.

Sharon knows a thing or two about music and the area so perhaps she'll chime in with some insights into what is going on in this very detailed mural.  Contributing to Monday Mural.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Trees of Ace Gap

Yesterday I waited out the cold in the morning with a trip in to Maryville and then in the afternoon I drove down Old Cades Cove Road to get to Ace Gap trailhead.

The directions in the "Hiking in the Smokies" book are pretty good.  From Townsend turn on Old Tuckaleechee Road then bear right JUST BEFORE the Methodist Church onto Old Cades Cove Road.  Make sure to bear right again JUST BEFORE Davy Crockett Stables and when you get to the confusing looking intersection continue straight which will take you on to a narrow section that is a series of switchbacks up the mountain.

Go slow, especially at the curves, the switchback curves are completely blind and there is not room for two cars.  That being said both times I have used this road I was the only on it.  However, most people will be coming down as this is how you would exit from the one way Rich Mountain Road trip from Cades Cove.

At the trailhead the road becomes one way so do not go up the mountain any further!  The trail itself is "mostly level" with most of the very gradual ascent happening at the beginning.  Also at the beginning were some cool rocks which I haven't seen a lot of on the trails this trip so I set up to take a picture.  I call this one "Oh No the Monopod is Falling Over!"

That's my panicked face as the camera heads for the ground

Now, isn't this much nicer?  Poor Rue, she was alternately stuffed in pockets and clutched in my hand on this journey.

I wanted to use this trail as an opportunity to examine some of the leaves and identify the trees and I got some good shots as I scoured the ground looking for specimens.

Chestnut?  Beech?
As you can see I might need some help here, feel free to chime in on the comment section!

Tulip Poplar?

Swamp White Oak?

Pin Oak?

I've got a bunch in the next photo.
Top row: NOTACLUE and Red Maple??
Middle Row: Sourwood and Hickory maybe?
Bottom: Norway Maple and Red Oak?

Here's another I think might be Mountain Laurel?  Like some Rhododendrens I've seen here it's confused by the mild fall they've been having and has some new buds sprouting.

Rue liked the trees too.

I went in about 2.5 miles, sometimes a little up and sometimes a little down at a rather quick pace just enjoying following the path carved along the side of the mountain.

Back at my cabin I dried my tent out.  A word about my stay at Tremont Outdoor Resort.  Nice place.  High prices.  Since it was $40 to tent camp (gulp) I paid $75 and got a basic camping cabin. RV sites run $40-70 depending upon amenities and season.  Reported heat was barely warmer than cold air so luckily I had brought my own heater.  Bathroom building is clean and water is hot though.  My parents showed up a day later and paid for a lovely room down the road at the Best Western for $90 that included a bathroom and hot breakfast.  Having allergies sucks. Hotel rooms usually don't work for me due to dust mites (carpet and beds), chemical laden cleaning products and windows that don't open to air out said products.

On the bright side the house Cory and I rented last February is available and today we're all moving to Gatlinburg to do the last 2 days in style!