Saturday, February 28, 2015

go forward

It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal. 
--Helen Keller (1880-1968) American Author who was blind and deaf.

Above: A tree stretches out over the Watauga River at Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, TN.

Friday, February 27, 2015

winter cheer

In winter we lead a more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose chimneys the smoke cheerfully ascends... 
--Henry David Thoreau, 1842.

Stopped by Wilbur Dam yesterday and found Little Laurel Branch Falls (left) nearly frozen over. The hills and trees are beautiful covered in snow. The road to Watauga Dam is gated in case anybody was wondering.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit. And the habit hardens into character. 

Above: Limestone Cove Recreation Area, Unicoi, TN, earlier this week. Directions here

Sunday, February 22, 2015

the highest fence

Fear is the highest fence.
--Dudley Nichols (1895-1960) American screenwriter.

Above: Fort Watauga at the Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, TN.

Monday, February 16, 2015

idle time

It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do.
--Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927) English writer and humorist.

The Covered Bridge at the Farmhouse Gallery and Gardens in Unicoi, TN (taken last February).

Sunday, February 15, 2015

bitter blessings

What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.   --Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish Author.

Above: Sill Branch Falls in the bitter cold. Directions here.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Angel Tree

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. 
--Michelangelo (1475-1564) Italian sculptor, painter, architect and engineer.

[click photo to enlarge]. The oft photographed 'Angel Tree' is a live oak located on John's Island outside of Charleston, SC. I happened to visit on New Year's Day and the gate was closed, so I took a series of photos through the fence and stitched them together in Photoshop. What you see here is really just a portion of one side of the tree - this thing is massive. What stands out to visitors is not necessarily its height (it stands 67 feet tall), but its trunk which measures 28 feet in circumference. Most astounding of all, however, are the branches that stretch out so incredibly far from the trunk. Its longest branch is 89 feet long and its widest diameter (tip to tip) is 187 feet. In all, the tree's canopy covers an amazing 17,200 square feet. Estimates of the tree's age vary greatly, from 400 to 1,400 years old. If it were 1,400 years old, it would be among the oldest living things east of the Mississippi.

See more photos here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


“I know you have been critically looking at the mores and customs of the past and questioning their value. Every generation does that. But don't discard the time-tested values upon which civilization has been built just because they are old.” --Ronald Reagan

This old railroad bridge spans the Nolichucky River in Unicoi County, TN just south of Erwin. It replaced the original wood bridge in 1908. Here's the view from the Appalachian Trail high above.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Nolichucky River Views

Re-discovered a wonderful section of the AT for those wanting a quick out-and-back hike. The section heading north from the Nolichucky River is lovely this time of year, with impressive views of the river and beautiful hemlock stands. You park across the river and kitty-corner from Uncle Johnny's Hostel. The first part takes you over the CSX tracks and then, as you climb, the trail parallels the river and becomes narrow and rocky. Far below, you can hear the river thundering.  I'm not sure my photos do it justice, but the views this time of year are wonderful. Click on the top two photos and you'll get a better look of the river. After following the river, the trail then enters the woods -- this section is rock-lined and nicely maintained -- and also much more level and easy going.  We crossed over two footbridges and went out a total of 2+ miles before heading back.

For those interested, the entire section from the Nolichucky to Indian Grave Gap is 8.3 miles.

If you want even greater views and a shorter, steeper hike, then head south on the AT from Uncle Johnny's. More info here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


When you're safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you're having an adventure you wish you were safe at home.  
--Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) American writer.

A photo from last fall of my friend Peter taking photos of a misty morn on Round Bald. That day our adventure involved an early morning hike out to Grassy Ridge.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Lone Oak Trail

This is a steep hike up the west side of Buffalo Mountain to the mountain's summit (3,300 feet) (view pictured above).  It's 3.6 miles round trip, with a 1,475 foot elevation gain. Expect a cardio workout with lots of switchbacks! This is the perfect time of year for this hike -- with the leaves down you'll find beautiful views all the way up. Once you endure the switchbacks, you'll walk the ridge line and have great views in both directions. As you climb you will see the continued recovery of the trees and vegetation from the devastating 2008 forest fire.

The trail is very narrow in places, almost like a goat path winding around the mountain. I wouldn't want to try this trail on an icy day or in spring when the trail is muddy -- the higher it gets, the narrower it becomes. Hiking poles are probably a good idea.

The photo above and to the left shows the first knob that you climb and the ridge you walk. You get a real sense of accomplishment when you see just how far you've climbed. :)  This trail gives you lots of excuses to stop and enjoy the views.

For directions and more information click here.
For an overview of Buffalo Mtn trails, click here.
To read about the man who developed the trail, click here.

Here's to eight years of blogging Appalachia! :)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Charleston, SC

Just got back from a New Year's vacation to Charleston and Savannah. Above is the Ravenel Bridge crossing the Cooper River in Charleston. This impressive cable-stayed bridge opened in 2005, a year ahead of schedule and under budget. The top of the diamond-shaped towers are 575 feet high.

Above and to the left is St. Philip's Episcopal Church, built in 1836 (spire completed in 1850). Look closely at the photo and you'll notice another church to the right, it is the French Huguenot Church, built in 1844.

We didn't have the best weather on our trip, with more misty days than sunny days, but we still had a great time taking in the amazing architecture and history of these beautiful cities.

Both cities are full of elegant, old churches and elaborate, well-maintained homes. For those who love homes, history, photography and southern culture (and food), it's heaven. :) Today's photos are all from Charleston, I'll have more to share this week from the rest of our trip.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
-- Calvin Coolidge

Above: An annual sight in Unicoi, TN - this brightly decorated VW Bug, complete with Santa. :)

Friday, December 19, 2014

departing sun

Sweet is the memory of distant friends! Like the mellow rays of the departing sun, it falls tenderly, yet sadly, on the heart. 

--Washington Irving (1783-1859) American Writer.

Arrived at Little Rock Knob on Iron Mountain just in time to see the sun rays gleaming down on the distant mountains -- a little out of the way, but worth the trek. It's one of my favorite overlooks in our region. I wasn't sure which version I liked best, so I posted them both. The black and white seems to be less distracting to me -- and I was able to push the adjustments a little more. But I like the color one too.  :)  We had to hustle down the mountain to get back to the car before dark!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Colorado Springs

I visited Colorado Springs over Thanksgiving and thought I'd share some photos from my trip. This was my second visit to the Springs and once again I was in awe of the scenery. Click here for summer pics from my 2012 trip. The photo above is of Pikes Peak -- as seen from the Garden of the Gods.  Didn't venture up to the peak this time out. Though the weather was nice below, I didn't want to find out how cold and windy it was up there! But the Garden of the Gods is very easy to get to and such a beautiful place to explore.

We also ventured up Gold Camp Road which is a narrow dirt road (following the path of an old railroad line) that takes visitors up the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain.  Along the way we drove through two tunnels and had great overlooks of the city far below and surrounding peaks. The snowy conditions on the road made for an interesting mountain ride!  I found this quote while searching for information: "When President Theodore Roosevelt traveled this route, he described its beauty as 'bankrupting the English language.'"

We next visited Mueller State Park about 30 miles west of the city. It was a gorgeous day and we were able to get out and explore. This would be a fantastic place to rent a cabin and do some hiking. But our time there was limited to a couple short, 'out and back' hikes.  I'd love to return to see more of the park.

Finally, we drove out to Canon City. The hour long drive itself along Highways 115 and 50 was amazing. This area of the state is dry and rugged, with stunning mountain ranges to be seen around every turn. There are many things to see and do in this part of the state, but we were focused on visiting the Royal Gorge Bridge. Those from Appalachia might compare it to Grandfather Mountain. It too is a suspension bridge, but the two are quite different in scale. This bridge is huge. So large they drive buses and cars over it. Feeling the bridge move and shake as a bus drives along its wooden planks is an experience. What the two bridges do have in common is extreme weather. Cold winds whipped through the gorge, making our journey quite frigid. Far below is the Arkansas River and a railroad line which still operates, giving visitors a very close up glimpse of this canyon and river.   

Thanks for letting me share with you some non-Appalachian images. I hope to get back to sharing more local images soon. But... here's the bad news... Blue hurt his knee playing frisbee and just had knee surgery! It's going to be a long healing process for him. But while his frisbee playing days might be over, I hope he'll have lots more hiking adventures to come! Until then, I might not be getting out as much without my hiking buddy.