Monday, October 20, 2014

Pisgah National Forest: Graveyard Fields Loop

Sierra was in the backpack and we were on the trail hiking along when out of nowhere Sierra said "This is a happy day!" Was she ever right on the mark with that statement. She's a smart girl!

The day started in Greeneville looking gray with the threat of rain. We decided to go to Asheville anyway. I loaded up our recyclables, we packed Sierra's backpack and diaper bag and hit the road. The ride was uneventful and by the time we had crossed into North Carolina the sky was blue. The best part of all was the fact that Sierra did not get car sick! We dropped off our recyclables and then headed into downtown Asheville to eat lunch at Wicked Weed. We arrived before the noon opening and checked out some of the pumpkins outside
cutie with pumpkin
before heading in for a delicious lunch and really good ales.
eating pretzels

After lunch we headed over to the Blue Ridge Parkway for our longer-than-expected drive to Graveyard Fields. The colors around 3,500-4,000 feet were peak. Lower there were still a lot of green leaves and at 5,000 to 6,000 feet there were lots of bare trees. I think that windy storm about a week ago prematurely blew a lot of the foliage down. When we arrived at the Graveyard Fields parking lot we found it packed. We parked at a legal spot along the side of the road and then hit the trail.
graveyard fields TH
Although the color was past peak, the weather was excellent. It was the type of weather that you wait for all year long. Not too hot and no humidity.

We hiked through a tunnel of rhododendron,
noelle in rhododendron
crossed Yellowstone Prong on a bridge,
noelle at creek
and headed over to the Second or Lower Falls
On to Lower Falls
first which was a short downhill walk (with lots of stairs)
Noelle on stairs
from the parking area. There were lots of other people out enjoying the fine weather and fall scenery.
Lower Falls
We did not spend too much time at the falls before we turned around
noelle on boardwalk
and headed over to the Graveyard Fields Loop.
Noelle on the trail
The loop started off with some really nice scenery. It would have been especially nice had we caught the foliage in peak color. There were great views of Graveyard Ridge and the surrounding mountains. We then hiked along on a boardwalk
Sierra and Eric on boardwalk
before heading back into the woods.
Noelle and mountain

We left the loop and hiked a spur to the Upper Falls. At the Upper Falls (or at least the bottom part of the Upper Falls)
upper Falls
Sierra insisted on dipping her piggies in the water. I did not want to let her do it at first, but I eventually gave in as I realized it was not too cold and this would likely be her last chance to dip her toes in the water in a while.
piggies in water
After toe dipping, Sierra ate a snack
snack time
before we put her back in the backpack for the hike back to the car. We crossed over Yellowstone Prong one more time
creek and mountain
and were treated to some wonderful views of the mountains from the parking lot.
distant mountain view
We headed back to Greeneville via I-40 and US-321, essentially making our drive one big loop.                 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ijams Nature Center: Ross Marble Quarry

I was one of the lucky few to have off today for Columbus Day. Noelle, Sierra and I took advantage of my day off (and a rare dry day) to do some hiking aver at Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville again. This time we wanted to see the Ross Marble Quarry where the workers stacked spoils rock to form a bridge and tunnel.

The drive into Knoxville was uneventful. We stopped by the nature center to use the restroom and look at the animals. We then drove a little further down Island Home Pike to the trailhead for Mead's Quarry and the Ross Marble Quarry. We headed off on some abandoned railroad tracks and then on Imerys Trail. The autumn color has not yet peaked here, but there was some color in the leaves to make the hike interesting. Soon we found ourselves at a trail intersection with a sign for the Ross Marble Quarry.
Ross Marble Quarry sign
We opted to head over to the rockbridge and keyhole. The rock bridge was cool from the top.
noelle on bridge
It offered a nice view out and over the quarry. Once we had crossed over the trail descended on wet, slippery leaf-covered rocks to the keyhole.
Noelle Heads Towards the Light
It was much as it looked in the photos I had seen of it.

We passed through the keyhole
Noelle Through the Keyhole
and as we made our way into the quarry we found we were not alone. We saw a box turtle making his way across the floor of the quarry through the vegetation.
box turtle
We watched the turtle for a bit and then explored the floor of the quarry a bit.
in quarry
We went as far as a fenced off cave in which we could hear flowing water, then we turned around and headed back through the keyhole. Once on the other side of the keyhole we completed a short loop by taking a different trail from the one that had crossed the rockbridge.

We arrived back at the trail intersection we had stopped at earlier and then proceeded to head into the quarry again, this time via the Hayworth Hollow Trail.
Noelle on trail
The Hayworth Hollow Trail was like a trip down into a sheer walled canyon. Cut stone lie scattered everywhere, most of it covered with thick green moss. We made it to the end of the trail
end of trail
and turned around to head back to the car. Just before reaching the parking lot we stopped to inspect the site of the old limekilns.
lime kiln
site of stacks
Besides the industrial relics, we saw a monarch butterfly on the blooms of some butterfly bush.
Then we walked the old railroad tracks
on train tracks
back to the car for our drive over to the zoo.             

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Buffalo Mountain Park: Hike to White Rock Overlook

Another beautiful day in East Tennessee! The whole family set out to enjoy the weather and get some fresh air. We decided to head up to Johnson City to eat at the relatively new Tupelo Honey Cafe there, go for a hike at Buffalo Mountain Park and get ourselves a pumpkin on the way home. The food at THC was delicious like last time we ate there in Knoxville. A bonus to the Johnson City restaurant is the fact that it is in an old train station with lots of train memorabilia on the walls and a model train display to look at. Sierra loved the train display!

After our lunch we were ready to burn off some calories. We drove into Buffalo Mountain Park and parked at the alternate trailhead for our hike up to White Rock.
Mommy hiding
The hike started off pretty steep.
blaze and hiker
We climbed until we reached a ridge and then things leveled off a little bit. There was a bit of color.
hiking in fall color
Mostly the red of some sourwood trees.
red leaves
We kept making our way up the trail and stopped to take a short break for some photos.
Daddy and Sierra
Shortly after resuming our march, we found ourselves at the first overlook where we stopped to admire the view and take some photos.
Noelle at 1st overlook

From the first overlook the trail climbed gradually, arriving at the White Rock Overlook after a short distance. Again we admired the view and took some photos.
White Rocks Overlook
Sierra in backpack
This overlook we shared with lots of others including a guy resting in a hammock he had secured between two trees. From the summit we decided to take the service road down instead of retracing our steps down the trail.
noelle and Sierra on road
Taking the road gave me a bit of a break as it allowed Sierra to walk for a bit instead of me carrying her in the backpack. She made it about half way down the mountain before she got tired and we put her in the backpack. Before we knew it we were back at the car
Noelle walks road
for our drive to the farm stand to get a pumpkin and some apple butter.           

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Boogerman Loop

After parking at the empty trailhead parking lot, I crossed a high log bridge over Cataloochee Creek. I then hiked along a pleasant, relatively-flat Caldwell Fork Trail
Caldwell ForkTrail
for a bit which, not surprisingly, closely followed and crossed Caldwell Fork.
Caldwell Fork
After .8 mile and a ford of Caldwell Fork I was at the junction with the Boogerman Trail which I would follow for the next 3.8 miles.
Trail junction

Almost immediately I found myself gazing at a very large tree: a big tulip poplar. I took a photo of myself standing next to it and then moved on.
1st big tree
As I walked I realized there were lots of other big trees in the area but that most of them were dead.
big dead tree
I'm guessing these dead trees are hemlocks that have succumbed to the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. From this first big tree I continued on up the trail which climbed a bit more than I had anticipated.
Eric on Trail
I followed a short but steep trail up to a mossy flat area that I assume is a cemetery. There were no headstones, but the flat cleared area covered with moss seems to be pretty typical of Smokies cemeteries.

Eventually I found another large tree, another tulip poplar, off to the side of the trail. Again I photographed myself standing in next to it.
looking up
This particular tree has one of the largest girths of any tree I have ever seen! I followed a user trail around the tree and found that the other side was hollowed out and so I took another photograph. This time I stood just inside the hollow tree.
inside big tree

The trail continued on into some signs of habitation. First there was a stone wall.
Then I found another hollow tree.
inside another tree
Soon after there was another wall with a trail leading up hill to a small, two grave cemetery.
small cemetery
I contemplated the solitude of the spot with its two anonymous, lonely graves and then headed back to the main trail where I continued on and soon found an old home site. There was a rusted piece of metal tool or old machinery
metal equipment
there which I guessed the purpose of for a bit, before giving up and heading over to the Caldwell Fork Trail.

The Caldwell Fork Trail crossed the fork several times. I knew there were some bridges out and had brought my sandals for the crossings. There only ended up being 3 wet crossings and 2 of them were actually the same crossing the I made two times.
fording creek
Still, I didn't mind getting my feet wet on this chilly fall morning.