Saturday, July 25, 2015


You can't change who you are, but you can change what you have in your head, you can refresh what you're thinking about, you can put some fresh air in your brain. 
--Ernesto Bertarelli (b.1965) Swiss businessman and philanthropist.

Signs warning of aggressive bear activity in the Clark's Creek area of Unicoi County didn't deter us from seeing Sill Branch Falls today. We did see plenty of other hikers -- but fortunately no bears. The signs specifically warned against overnight camping, grilling out and picnicking. However, the area is  still open for day hikers. Camping in the area has been banned since late May and isn't expected to be allowed again until fall.  Click here for more information.

For directions to Sill Branch Falls, click here.

Monday, July 20, 2015

take a chance

Too many times we stand aside
And let the waters slip away
'Til what we put off 'til tomorrow
Has now become today
So don't you sit upon the shoreline
And say you're satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
And dare to dance the tide 

--Victoria Lynn Shaw (b. 1962) Country music artist. 

Above: Rocky Fork State Park, Unicoi Co., TN

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bays Mountain

Until one has loved an animal a part of one's soul remains unawakened. 
--Anatole France (1844-1924) French poet, journalist, and novelist. 

Summer is a great time to visit Bays Mountain in Kingsport, TN. Pictured here are some of the animals found in the nature habitat at Bays Mountain Park in Kingsport, TN. Featured at the top is a gray wolf named Tanasi. The wolf habitat is always popular to visit, especially with the addition of wolf pups this spring. In addition to wolves, the park also has bobcats, deer, otters, turtles, snakes, birds, raccoons, a bee hive, an aquarium, and numerous other exhibits. There are also 25 miles of hiking trails, a 40' dome planetarium, and barge rides on the 44 acre lake.

Click here to visit their website.  See my previous posts from the park by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Life is a mosaic of pleasure and pain - grief is an interval between two moments of joy. Peace is the interlude between two wars. You have no rose without a thorn; the diligent picker will avoid the pricks and gather the flower. There is no bee without the sting; cleverness consists in gathering the honey nevertheless.
--Sri Sathya Sai Baba (1926-2011) Indian Spiritual leader.

Monday, June 22, 2015

the hard work of happiness

Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best. 
--Theodore Isaac Rubin (b. 1923) American psychiatrist and author.

Above: Red Fork Falls near Unicoi, TN.

For a discussion of all the things to see and do on Unaka Mountain Road, click here.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

prayers for charleston

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. 
--Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) Minister and Civil-Rights Leader.

Prayers for Charleston and the families of the victims of last week's horrible tragedy. Peggy Noonan wrote a beautiful tribute and reflection that I recommend.

Above: St. Michael's Episcopal Church (1751), Charleston, SC

Saturday, June 20, 2015

historic homestead

To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.  
--Pope John Paul II (1920-2005).

The old Miller homestead on Roan Mountain offers a beautiful and fascinating glimpse into mountain living a century ago before the introduction of modern conveniences.  Built in 1907, the house sat on 200 or so acres originally owned by Union General John Thomas Wilder (who constructed the Cloudland Hotel atop Roan Mountain). The Miller family lived in the house until the 1960s, and never had it wired for electricity. It is currently operated by the Roan Mountain State Park and is open for tours.

Click here for my previous post with more photos and discussion.

The Johnson City Press had a nice article about the house with photos this week.
There is an abundance of information about the house and its history found within the application to the National Register of Historical Places.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Derive happiness in oneself from a good day's work, from illuminating the fog that surrounds us. 
- Henri Matisse (1869-1954) French artist.

'Twas a chilly, windy morn yesterday upon the Roan. With 90+ degree weather down below it did not dawn on me to prepare for 62 degree, windy weather on the mountain. Clear as a bell below, and foggy and misty above. I really should know this by now! Of course, as we drove off the mountain, the fog lifted and the sky became brilliant blue. :) The Rhododendron Festival this coming weekend is well-timed to catch the Catawba Rhododendrons on top of Roan at their peak.

Monday, June 15, 2015

peace and quiet

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.
--John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) 35th US President.

Above: Blue Hole Grotto outside of Elizabethton, TN. Not as much water flowing at Blue Hole as I was expecting to find. But still a beautiful place to explore. This narrow grotto was a great place to be on a hot, humid day - with the temperature significantly cooler than outside in the sun.

Monday, June 8, 2015

sail away

Well it's not far down to paradise, at least's not for me. 
If the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility. 
Oh the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see, believe me. 

Sailing, takes me away 
To where I've always heard it 
Just a dream and the wind to carry me 
Soon I will be free 

--Christopher Cross (b.1951) Singer-songwriter.

Above: Sailboats on Watauga Lake

Thursday, June 4, 2015

dream world

There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other. 
--Douglas H. Everett

At the last minute I thought I'd jump in the car and try to catch the sunset on Beauty Spot outside of Erwin, TN. Driving up the mountain, the fog was thick and I figured I was wasting my time. But I had come this far, so might was well see it through. I'm glad I did. Soon after I arrived, the fog lifted and the sunset was really spectacular, with rain clouds in the distance.

I met two thru-hikers setting up camp for the night, one from Florida, the other from Maine. Their trail names were NoMo (as in No More) and MoMo.  Although NoMo said that in reality they should both be called NoMo. They were very sweet and said that when people ask why they are walking 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine, it was for nights like this.

Heading back to my car I ran into another couple, they proudly announced they were just engaged on the mountain. So I took Sasha and Heath's photo and enjoyed the opportunity to talk with them and share in their excitement. What a fun, beautiful and dreamy night on the mountain!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

love your life

However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man's abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.
--Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American author and philosopher. 

Above: Sunset with Fog at Beauty Spot. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hampton Cove Creek

Hampton Cove Creek is a bit off the beaten path. Not often visited, but a gorgeous place to hike. Most everyone comes to Roan Mountain for the balds and the Rhododendren Gardens, but this gem, found outside the actual town of Roan Mountain, TN, is worth looking into. Click here for information and directions.

It's a unique place to hike because the lower part of the hike takes you through a working farm. So you open and close gates as you go and find yourself walking next to cows and horses.

I haven't ever gone all the way to Yellow Mountain Gap from this direction, but that's where this trail (part of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail) leads. Doing so would put you very close to the Overmountain Shelter (aka 'The Barn').  The trail is not really well marked, so I'd recommend studying the map found at the trailhead (or at the link above) before heading out. Depending on the season, the initial part of the trail can be muddy and weedy.

Click photos to enlarge.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

a daring adventure

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure. 
--Helen Keller (1880-1968) Blind & deaf author and educator.

I started to say that we ran into some interesting thru-hikers up at the Overmountain Shelter. But "Interesting Thru-Hiker" is an oxymoron. You never meet a boring person on the trail. Each has a story to tell and a reason for undertaking the arduous six-month-long 'walk in the woods.' Two of these hikers are from Minnesota (Crusty and Little B), one from Louisiana (Grahams), and the final hiker from Virginia (Cheerio). We decided to take some chocolate 'trail magic' with us to the shelter, expecting that we would run into some hikers in need of some sugar. We enjoyed hearing their about their backgrounds and experiences along the trail. 

The view from the shelter is fantastic - so remote and tranquil.  It's one of the most unique and loved shelters along the 2,200 mile trail. Click here for more photos of the shelter from a previous visit and for directions to "The Barn."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

never enough nature

We need the tonic of wildness -- to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. 
--Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American author and philosopher.

Here are two hazy views from Unaka Mountain both looking southeast toward Mt. Mitchell in NC.  The one above was taken from Beauty Spot, the one to the left from Unaka Mountain Overlook.  Spring is coming to the mountains. :)

They've done a great deal of work on the 12 mile road that goes up and over Unaka, digging trenches and installing culverts. I still recommend a higher clearance vehicle. They've also opened up some views at Beauty Spot looking out to the east.  Click here for directions and descriptions of all there is to see and do on Unaka.