Saturday, June 27, 2009

More from the trip to the Smokies

Since everything is dry and parched outside I decided to show more photos of the cool and green Smokies. As I mentioned we hiked several miles while there. One of our favorites was the hike to Mt. Leconte Lodge. There are a few trails to choose from to access it, but our favorite is the Alum Cave Bluffs Trail. You can only access this lodge by foot, sorry but no cars.As you can see by the sign, it was 5 miles to the lodge. When walking this trail before we always stopped at the bluff and never continued on to the lodge. So this was an exciting and new experience for us.I love seeing shrubs and flowers in their natural habitat. Rhododenron was blooming everywhere.There were beautiful sights everywhere and this interesting rock formation. It's called "Eye of the Needle". You can see the opening thru the rock.This is the bluff area. If you enlarge you can see my honey standing over there. Little squirrels greet you here with hopes of a nibble or two of a snack. Unfortunately for them, our snacks would be going with us on the rest of the hike.The hike from the bluff was pretty tough. Lots and lots of uphill. We ran across a couple of guys who pointed out to us where we were headed. See the little notch at the top of the mountain? That is where we were headed. Trust me, it looked like a long way off and it really, really was. You had to be very careful walking on this trail or take a wrong step and hello, you'd be seeing the trail from a completely different view.There was lots of rocky, wet and slippery edges. Thanks to the National park for putting up these cable guides to hang onto. We were oh so glad when we finally came upon the lodge. As you can see, it's a bunch of small cabins grouped together. The views up there were really incredible. You can see how high we were by the elevation posted on the dining room. There's several interesting tidbits about staying here. First off, you have to book a reservation 6-12 months in advance. They serve a wonderful dinner and breakfast to their guest. There is no electricity or running water. It is only open 9 months(I think) out of the year. Last year it never reached 80 degrees up there. When we left the lodge we decided to take a little jaunt out to Cliff Tops. I think it was the highlight of the whole day. I can't relay to you how peaceful and gorgeous this was.When I look at this photo, to me, the background looks like a backdrop. I could have sit there all day taking in God's glory. Whenever we find ourselves in the Smokies again we will definitely take this trail again.

Hope you enjoyed this segment of our trip.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Backyard Visitors

This a.m. while having my coffee I couldn't help but notice all the flurry of activity out back. The first two little visitors were these cuties.And then I spotted this Brown Thrasher having a big time in the bath. "Hey, how many of you kids are still in there?" Mr. or Mrs. Bluebird was trying to coax out another baby. It seems like they have been trying to leave the nest for a couple of days now. My hubbie caught these early this a.m. He looked like he was pretty comfy in there.But one had left the nest and sat perfectly still while hubbie took his photo."Don't mind me, I'm just sitting here waiting on mom/dad to show me how to fly."

On a sad note I came home from work today and hubbie had found a large pile of blue/gray feathers right below the nest. We think something got one of the babies. That makes me so sad that they lost one of their children.

Right now there are still two left in there. They are still being active so hopefully they will fly away soon.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Spread Your Tiny Wings and Fly Away!

I couldn't resist. We've been watching a second brood of bluebirds and I was really curious as to how many were in the box. So yesterday curiosity got the best of me. In the beginning my hubbie said he thought there were 5 eggs. In this picture it's hard to tell how many there are.

The last couple of days the momma/daddy have really cut out feeding as much so I figured it was time for them to vacate. I figured they would leave this a.m. while we were at church but....Not yet! If you enlarge the pic you can see two little birdies checking out the big world.

I think they are kind of like we humans. There's a big wonderful world out there waiting to be discovered if only we would take the first step.

While on our trip to Gatlinburg we came across a t-shirt with this wonderful quote that I really like. "We don't quit exploring because we get old, we get old because we quit exploring."

I hope everyone has a great week and finds/discovers little surprises along the way.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Some Flower Pictures

Since my blog is primarily about gardening I thought I would show what's blooming. With these high temps and no rain I'm sure my blooms are going to be pooping out soon.I'm really loving this Rudbeckia. Sorry I have no idea which variety but it's just like a ball of sunshine.These lilies are new for me this year. They smell divine. I really like coreopsis. This is Creme Brulee. It blooms all summer long for me.This is another new plant for me this year. It's the Rudbeckia maxima. They are taller than me. These three daylilies are new for me too! Sorry I don't know the names. And lastly as you can see my hardy hibiscus is starting to bloom. It's definitely a favorite of mine.

Hope you enjoyed my blooms. I'm hopeful I'll have more before they all burn up.

Happy gardening everyone!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

As Promised, Part II

Since rain was forecast for later in the week we decided to do our two big hikes first. So first day, off to see the view from Charlie's Bunion. Isn't that an interesting name for a look-out point? More on that in a minute.To go to Charlie's Bunion you follow the Appalachian trail. The AT goes from Springer Mtn, GA to Katahdin, Maine. Glad we weren't going to Katahdin, don't think we were up to 1972 miles.Since this trails follows the top of a ridge, it provided many beautiful vistas. You know the old saying, "it took my breath away". I felt like that alot. Of course I had to take photos of the wildflowers along the way. Beauty was everywhere.I reckon they don't call them the Smokies for nothing. Final destination point. After two miles we were glad to see this sign. Say hello to Charlie's Bunion. What a magnificent view. If you enlarge the picture you'll get a better feel for it.When we arrived here we climbed up on that ledge. Now I don't like heights so trust me, I didn't sit there but just a minute. Here's how it got named. Story has it in 1925(before the park was established) there was a fire and then in 1951 a flash flood occurred in the same area which left a rocky ledge. Well a group of men decided to go check it out. In the group was a man named Charlie Connor who was known to have a very large bunion. They thought with all the vegetation gone this outcropping reminded them of his bunion and hence the name Charlie's bunion stuck. No, I didn't make that up, true story.Even sitting at the base of the rocky ledge creeped me out. This is just a sampling of what the trail is like. Between the rocks and lots of roots you had to be very careful or you could find yourself kissing the ground.After we walked back down the trail a ways we turned back and could see the "bunion". See those people on top? That's where we had been sitting earlier. Yikes!!!Since this trail if part of the AT we decided to check out a backpacker's shelter.How would you like to sleep here? Total strangers just line up on those bunks. This is kind of scary to see!!! Don't think I'd be able to sleep a wink.

This was the first time we had taken this hike and it was worth every minute. Since we were still in the park we decided to go check out Clingman's Dome. We had never been there before either. It is one of the highest points in the park at an elevation of 6643 feet. We knew there was an observation tower there. We thought we would just drive to the parking lot and walk up the observation tower.Oh my were we ever wrong! We had another mile round trip to make. And this trail, even tho paved, seemed so difficult. If you enlarge you can see the parking lot.It was pretty much up hill all the way. The observation tower. Was it worth it? Oh yeah, definitely!

Hope you enjoyed our hike as much as we did.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

As Promised

While we were in the mountains we hiked over 38 miles of trails. And let me tell you, for us flatlanders it was pretty tough. Most of them were all uphill. But in the end they were all worth it. The views were spectacular.This view is in the park on New Found Gap road. It's a main thoroughfare to Gatlinburg from Cherokee, NC. We usually always stop here along with every other visitor to the park. If you enlarge the pic you can see the road we came in on.This is the first of 3 pics from Gatlinburg. The streets looked bare when we first arrived. One thing we like about this place is once we park the car seldom do we move it. It's definitely a walking town. In this picture though you can see one of the trolleys they operate. So walking is optional.This little shopping area is called "The Village". It houses The Donut Friar which has the best donuts in the world! It's such a nice sitting area for watching people. Plus look at all the New Guinea Impatiens. It was landscaped beautifully.Here's a picture of the fountain at night.(Enlarge for better viewing). Pretty huh?After we settled into our hotel we decided to hike from Gatlinburg to the visitor center. The trail is easy to walk and has beautiful views such as this.The sound of the rolling water was music to our ears. Sometimes you just have to stop and listen. Once we arrived at the visitor center we took another small walk to Cataract falls. (Betsy, I thought of you. I figure you have seen these falls before). This would be the first of 3 different falls for us this trip.Along the walk back I had to take a few pictures of some of the flora. Ferns dotted the path all the way. I loved the way the sun highlighted the white rhododendron. And the mountain laurel was blooming everywhere. Our first day in the mountains was wonderful. Hope you come back to see more.