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!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

From Midnight Moonbow to Malicious Mischief

I stayed up even later than usual last night to catch the moonbow at Cumberland Falls.  Midnight found me bundled up in my winter clothes since it was only about 40F and I drove down and joined all the folks out to see it in all its ghostly white glory.

Tripod a must, and a long exposure time too

Now, photography in the dark is a tricky business, and one I have not mastered.  I did some research online and figured out what camera settings to use ahead of time but I still wasn't very successful. The more I tried the less I got, so the picture above was actually my first attempt and the only one I had any results with at all.  The picture shows some of the colors of the rainbow, but to the naked eye it was only white.  By the time I was done my coat and my camera were soaked and my fingers were frozen as stiff as popsicle sticks!

At 10:00 this morning the sun was in the same position that the moon was the night before and I got an easy-peasy shot of a rainbow and a nice view of the Cumberland River below the falls.  It was still chilly when I hit the Moonbow Trail but clear skies and sunshine had it up above 75F in no time and I was peeling layers like some kind of woodsy stripper.

One jacket, smartwool gloves, and fleece pants stowed safely away

The Moonbow Trail follows the river, and at the beginning I even got a chance to climb out on some boulders and get a last look at the falls.

But first you have to climb down the set of 30-something stairs.  I held the rail and put my right foot down and then my left for each one.  They were pretty steep!  On the way back up I clutched the rail in one hand and bore down on my hiking stick with other, quads quivering after 5 miles of hiking.

Just past those stairs you can get a view of Eagle Falls across the river.  I'm guessing once the trees leaf out that view will be obstructed.

I was entertained for a short while by a family with two grade school age children ahead of me.  The boy was full of energy, running back and forth and then shouting, "I'll be in the front since I'm the fastest!"  It was a nice reminder of my own kids when they were that age.  Now I know why all those people used to say to enjoy them because the time goes so fast.

The trail meandered up and down, quite rocky and rough in some spots, level and spongy in others. It was one of the most diverse trails I've been on.  Even though the habitat didn't change there was lots to see including rhododendron, hemlock, boulders, the river and gigantic rock shelters.

I didn't see any wildlife today, unless you count this snail.

But I did find evidence that a beaver was probably in the area.

It would be a lot of work for a beaver to try to change the route of the mighty Cumberland River!

There is more than beavers and sun seekers along the river's edge, in spots some unsightly piles of garbage wash up with the tree limbs.

But my eyes were healed from the trauma of seeing man's impact on the river when I came upon a sunny hillside covered in early spring wildflowers!

With so much to look at I had to stop a mile short of the intersection with the Dog Slaughter Falls trail.  I'm considering going back to it anyway to see if those otters are around and if I do I'll hike the last 2/10 mile that Sharon and I missed and the mile along the river I missed today too.

After my hike I had a quick shower and went to the DuPont Lodge to work on my photos.  An hour later I went back out to my car to discover this:

Honestly, what is wrong with some people?  Little slivers of glass were on the ground below the mirror so I went back in the Lodge to report the vandalism.  As I told the ranger who assisted me, luckily I had hiked over 5 miles so I was too tired and mellow to get angry.  He guessed the damage at easily under $200 so we wrote up a quick report to help them track crime in the park and I went on my way.  As usual I looked at the bright side and figured it could have been the window or a tire that took the brunt of someone's mischief.  Maybe my "I Stand with Planned Parenthood" window cling in my back window is a little too provocative and I should take it down when I travel in the south?

Friday, March 25, 2016

I Found my Thrill at Dog Slaughter Falls

I know I've been away from the blog for the last 2 weeks (those I follow have probably noticed a lack of comments on their blogs on my part as well!) but sometimes life gets in the way of my hobbies.

flowering pear trees?

But I don't let life get in the way for too long, travel and photography are my stress-relieving activities after all!  I wanted to skedaddle on Tuesday morning but stuck around to work on Wednesday. However, I had the car packed and ready to go for that 3 hour head start to Prophetstown State Park in Indiana that I like to do on my way south.  So yesterday found me driving through Kentucky, and even the interstate was a joy with flowering trees and horses everywhere.  Bonus points for getting out of Wisconsin before winter storm Selene struck!

I didn't have much hope that my buddy Sharon would be able to meet me on such short notice but since Cumberland Falls State Park is just over an hour and a half from Knoxville she zipped on up and got herself a cabin for one night about an hour before I arrived.  Thunderstorms were in the forecast so I got the adjoining room in the Woodland cottage. (click link for virtual tour of rooms)  Sharon had noticed the "Deals" link on the website so had a heads-up that there was a spring weeknight special running for $20 off.  For less than $70 (each) it was a great deal and we opened up the door between our connecting rooms though there are cottages available that are singles I believe.  We each had our own mini fridge and microwave not to mention the luxury of our own bathrooms and I was thrilled that there were no air fresheners or heavy cleaners used and no carpet full of dust and mildew.  I would gladly rent one of these again if meeting someone here or bringing my mother along.

Redbud blossoms at the overlook

The reason why I came to Cumberland Falls even though I've been here twice before was that my days off coincided with the Moonbow schedule.  No moonbow viewing with storms rolling through last night, but I'm here for a few more days so hopefully I'll get to see it.

Of course immediately after check-in we drove down to Cumberland Falls.  The rain was starting so just a quick look and an iPhone selfie to prove we were there was all we were able to get.

flowering plum?

 This morning we packed up and headed down to Fire Road 195 to hike to Dog Slaughter Falls.  No dogs were harmed in the making of these photographs, I promise.

parking at the second trailhead

The first trailhead was pretty easy to see but a little over 2 miles farther down is another trailhead so we parked there in order to shave off some time since Sharon had to leave in the early afternoon for another engagement.

At the trailhead we crossed Dog Slaughter Creek on a footbridge and then began the mile and half (approximately) hike to the falls.  Most of the trail was fairly easy, any spots with "climbing" involved were short (those hills on the Ice Age Trail are much tougher) but the trail was a bit rugged in spots and you had to watch your footing though never for very long.  We enjoyed the almost constant views of the surprisingly wide creek and the exposed bedrock.  The rhododendron and hemlock forest made for a green and lush view which was a treat this early in the spring.

The falls and the trail are in the Daniel Boone National Forest and well worth the hike.  Sharon enjoyed her lunch while I performed my rock hopping, camera-toting antics for her enjoyment.

Only a few others were at the falls when we were, and a nice young Amish couple told Sharon they had seen otters in the creek on their way to the falls.  After my photography session I was poking around a little farther from the falls and out of the corner of my eye saw something moving.

Wisconsin proud! (Well, most of the time)

For a minute I couldn't figure out what I was seeing as an otter hopped along the top of a boulder and then plunged into the creek.  I looked at Sharon and shouted "otter!" but of course had no time to get a shot.  I tried to find a way to look further down the creek to see if I could spy on him, but after going in over my boot tops behind some boulders I decided perhaps sneaking up on the creek on a return trip might be a smarter option. At the end of the hike I was still thrilled just to have seen the otter and to have had another wonderful afternoon on the trail with Sharon.  We're talking about a possible trip to South Dakota in June...or a trip to Michigan in July...perhaps meeting up overseas...we dream big and that's what makes this such a great friendship!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Wife Without Chocolate Socks

Okay, now that you're done scratching your head over the post title I will explain.  I was sending a text using the talk feature to my daughter and it was supposed to say "life without chocolate sucks".

Now that you're done laughing, let me emphasize life without chocolate sucks!  Though there are worse things to not have in my life such as food, air, water, sunshine, sleep, good vision... you get the idea here, chocolate is my vice of choice and I've been deep in the throes of full-out sugar addiction for the past year now so I've got my fingernails dug into my palms and I'm riding the cold-turkey-sugar-withdrawal dragon today.

Phase 1 of ridding myself of those extra pounds was forcing myself off the couch, Phase 2 is taming the sugar dragon.  We'll get to the calorie counting of Phase 3 when the first two are not such a bumpy ride anymore.  In the meantime I have kittens and shopping to keep me distracted.

New Smartwool non-chocolate socks courtesy of Sierra Trading Post
New Keens courtesy of Nordstrom Rack

Shopping for the kitties has included their new leashes and kitty jackets.  They have not been converted to loving the outdoors as much as I do yet.  They like hiding under the bushes and slinking back to the front door on their bellies mostly.

We'll keep our fingers crossed that they'll be ready for a roadtrip to North Carolina by the middle of May, but if they're not I'm sure we'll find someone who would love to be entertained by them while we are gone!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Chicago's Carbide and Carbon Building

This post is part of a continuing series about the architecture of Chicago 
which I took photographs of earlier this winter.

Now home to the Hard Rock Hotel, the Carbide and Carbon building.  It's not like the other Art Deco skyscrapers in the area, the dark beauty's base is polished black granite and the tower is a lovely green terra cotta.

It's 500 feet up to try to see the to the top of its 40 stories, so bring your zoom lens or your binoculars.  According to the hotel's website: Popular legend connects the design of the building to a champagne bottle, with the terra cotta exterior corresponding to the green glass bottle and the golden tower alluding to the shiny foil top.  Can't get any more rock n' roll than that, I guess!

The gold spire at the top of the building is literally gold but I had a hard time seeing it from so far down as you might imagine. The 24-karat gold leaf is 1/5000 of an inch thick.  Designed by the Burnham Brothers and finished in 1929 there was obviously still time for a little extravagance before the Great Depression landed.  Imagine the dancing and champagne flowing in this building at the end of the Roaring 20's!

My favorite part is all the bronze work on the exterior above the entrance.

It carries into the interior, giving a feeling of lightness that is a surprising contrast after the exterior's darkness.  The Union Carbide and Carbon Company is a chemical company with a long history including the development of the first dry cell battery.  In 1939 they acquired Bakelite and the dizzying array of other chemical developments and acquisitions can be found here.

I like the interlocking "C"s found throughout the bronze. I wonder what the ballroom looks like?

I found a website that focuses on photographing Chicago architecture.  I'm also going to buy "The Photographer's Guide to Chicago" on Amazon.  Can't wait to see what tips I can pick up!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Campground and Trails at Mammoth Cave National Park

I'm probably the only person staying at Mammoth Cave to hike and not even inquiring about taking a cave tour.  I'm leaving that for if Wayne and I decide to come back this way someday.  After a quick stop in the visitor center I chose two days worth of hiking, starting with the trail system up behind the visitor center.  I pretty much walked everything in the map below over the course of a couple of hours.

Most of it was fairly easy meandering, but there were a few spots that got a little steep and after a winter of couch riding I had to rest a bit

The nice thing about these trails were the occasional views of the Green River.

Mostly it was just about the exercise, but of course I kept my eyes peeled for spring wildflowers, just in case...

It was the only one I saw, but I'll take it!!

Yesterday morning I woke up after a restful night of temps just under 50F and headed to the Big Hollow North trail on the other side of the Green River.  This sign on the road was a little alarming.

Oh, a ferry, that makes a little more sense.

I parked at the research center to cut half a mile each way off my planned trip.  Even with that and the "shortcut" on the loop I still put in about five miles.

The trail was mostly level, and completely uneventful.  Since my main goal for the day was to break my body back in to regular exercise it worked out okay but it wasn't a trail I would revisit.  It looked really good for mountain biking though.

I didn't see any wildlife, not even a squirrel or any birds, and the only water was a tiny stream heading down the hillside.

Daffodils are everywhere in the park though, and their cheerful color was appreciated amid all the brown and gray of winter.

The campsites at the park are pretty nice, but there are no hookups.  The bathrooms are heated and have running water (yay for flushing!) but showers are in a separate building at the camp store and are TEENY TINY PAY SHOWERS that take tokens only and both times I was in the mood for a shower the camp store was closed to I couldn't buy the tokens.  Not so much yay there.  I made due by boiling water in my electric kettle and doing a "birdbath" in the bathroom by my campsite.

Listening to the coyotes after darkness falls?  Two big thumbs up!

Lincoln's Birthplace - Kentucky Born

I'll start with letting my readers know that their wonderful comments on my previous post about Cory touched me deeply.  Thank you so much for your supportive words, and I'm glad to know that my words are reaching other people and perhaps making a difference as we all work towards improvement in the field of mental health treatment!

Since I spent most of my school years living in Illinois the phrase "Land of Lincoln" pops about as naturally into my head as "Give a Hoot, don't pollute" or "Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids!" so I was a bit surprised to see a sign on the highway for the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.  Never one to pass up a National Park of any kind if I can help it I took the exit and even though it was a little bit out of my way I ended up being really glad that I did.  On my way there I passed through the town of Hodgenville where a bronze statue erected for the Lincoln Centennial in 1909 stands.  It was carved by the same sculptor who created the Lincoln statue I viewed not long ago in Kentucky's Capitol.

A few miles outside of the small square in Hodgenville is where his birthplace is located.  First off let me say that upon entering the visitor center I was directed to go in and see the movie which had just started.  While I don't always enjoy the movies, this one was a winner.  It was so good, in fact, that I'm including  the link here for you to watch!  I wish it was available on YouTube to make all our lives easier and embed it directly in the post, but alas it is not.

Thomas and Nancy with baby Abraham
and his older sister, Sarah

If you don't watch the video some of the interesting things I learned was that while Lincoln was "born in a one-room log cabin" this was not the devastating humble beginning that it has been overdramatized to be.  They lived on the frontier, after all, mansions and McDonald's were not to be found at the edge of civilization!  Tax records show that Abe's father Thomas was doing well for himself as a farmer in those Kentucky years and their life might have been filled with hard work and humble lodgings, but they were well respected and probably considered middle-class. Pieces of that log cabin survived and a replica was constructed and ensconced inside the memorial that I visited.

The Lincoln family story is one of migration, which was fascinating too.  His pioneer grandfather came from Massachusetts through the Cumberland Pass to Virginia where he settled in what is now Kentucky.  When Lincoln was 7 years old his family moved from Kentucky to Indiana to farm there due to land rights battles and apparently it did not go as well.   And when he was 21 he moved with his father and stepmother to Illinois... Land of Adult Lincoln, apparently!

How dare Illinois lay claim to Lincoln, right?  But we won't talk about those later years here, we'll talk about that young Kentucky boy.

another bronze in the square of Hodgenville

Another interesting fact was that Abe received very little formal schooling in Kentucky due to that same frontier environment.  School was a two mile walk each way in the second farm they had a few miles down the road, and he and his sister attended very irregularly.  I wonder how much more "formal" schooling he got in Indiana?  Lincoln himself admitted that the total amount of schooling he received in his very rural childhood was no more than twelve months; nevertheless, he became an excellent reader, learned to write, measure, and make division and multiplication calculations during his childhood.  I've always loved stories like this that demonstrate that pursuit of knowledge is the best teacher!

He wasn't called "Honest Abe" for nothing, and while as a boy he was a bit of a prankster he had a big heart and did not enjoy killing animals for sport.  And of course, his anti-slavery views evolved and became the stuff of legend.  The young president cut down in his prime was so revered that this Memorial's cornerstone was laid 44 years after his death on what would have been his 100th birthday.

It's a beautiful building, constructed over the spring that made this spot so valuable to his father and the 56 stairs leading up to it signify the 56 years of his life.

So my final thought here is a reminder for us all to encourage those youth from humble beginnings with little education.  Who knows where they could go if they put their minds to it?