Monday, November 23, 2015

Oxon Hill Farm

After waking up in a really nice hotel in Arlington, Virginia; we quickly crossed the Potomac River into Maryland for a visit to Oxon Hill Farm. Just a word of warning, the entrance to the park is a little bit tricky to find. After finding the park entrance we parked the car and bundled up for the brisk and breezy morning. We were greeted by some cows at the farm entrance
two cows
and walked an old farm road past a barn
Sierra and Mommy walking to barn
to the visitor center were Sierra played with some farm-themed toys while the whole family warmed up a bit. There was a nice mural inside featuring different farm animals, including a sheep.
Sierra and sheep
Sierra really appreciated the sheep!

After having sufficiently warmed ourselves, we headed back outside and walked through a few barns
brick barn
including one that contained goats.
We then headed down to the dairy barn for the cow milking demonstration. We admired a few of the cows in their pasture before the demonstration.
looking at cow
The ranger giving the demonstration offered us an opportunity to milk the cow and I took it. It was my first time milking a cow! After the milking demonstration we wandered around the farm a bit more,
farm overlook
checking out the various buildings
and admiring the animals.
The old farmhouse on the property dated back to the War of 1812.
farm house
The occupants even saw rockets crash down in their fields during the war.

Once we had toured the grounds, it was time to hit the road. We headed north through surprisingly light traffic and into New Jersey to see Pop Pop and Ta Ta's new house near the beach. I even got to see the sun set over Delaware Bay.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Petersburg National Battlefield

Yesterday the Grunwalds started our Thanksgiving road trip. This will be our first Thanksgiving with family since 2 months after Sierra was born in 2012 when we drove from New Mexico all the way to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving. What a crazy idea that was! Here we are 3 years later doing it all over again. So far this trip has been much easier.

This morning we woke up, ate breakfast and headed over to the Eastern Front Visitor Center at Petersburg National Battlefield. We arrived in a light drizzle before the visitor center had even opened for the day and so we took the time to check out the small, but interesting, Jordan Cemetery near the parking lot.
Jordan Cemetery
When the visitor center had opened for the day we went inside and watched the park film. After the film had ended, Sierra found a place to color
colring in visitor center
and so Noelle and I took turns checking out the exhibits. After a trip to the restrooms we were off to walk the nearby Dictator Trail.
walking trail
Dictator Trail
We followed the trail through Confederate Battery 5,
down to some railroad tracks, and then over to the Dictator,
the Dictator
a mortar used by Union troops to shell the Confederates.

After returning to the parking lot, we embarked on a drive of the Eastern Front Battlefield. One of the more interesting stops was #3, the site of Confederate Battery 9 and examples of siege fortifications. The fortifications consisted of wooden stakes called fraise, trenches, and cheveaux-de-frise.
fort 2
There was also a soldier's winter hut
soldiers hut
and the sutler's store.
We then moved on to Fort Stedman
Fort Stedman cannons
and the site of Fort Morton which featured the remains of Taylor Farm.
The highlight of the Eastern Front was a trip to the infamous Crater. We walked the trail there
walking girls
past the tunnel entrance
tunnel entrance
and up to the edge of the location of the mine explosion on July 30, 1864.
monument (2)

After touring the Eastern Front we moved on to City Point and Grant's headquarters at the Appomattox Plantation.
We started by watching a film about City Point in the plantation home, toured the exhibits and then moved out into the wind and cold to tour the grounds. We walked the crepe myrtle allee
walking allee
and checked out the headquarters building itself.
Grant's headquarters
This is supposedly the only headquarters cabin in existence that dates to the war. It was moved back to the site from Philadelphia in 1981. I wonder if it had been to Philly after the war for the Centennial Exposition of 1876? We concluded our visit by heading into town for lunch before making the drive up I-95 and into Northern Virginia.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Seven Islands State Birding Park

It was forecast to be a beautiful, warm day today, so Noelle, Sierra and I headed out for a hike. Our destination was the Seven Islands State Birding Park which is just outside of Sevierville. We had planned on doing this hike for my day off on Veteran's Day. However, we ended up getting a flat tire on Wednesday, and so by the time we had gotten it plugged it was too late to make the drive.

After a quick lunch in Kodak, we hopped back on the interstate and then into the new state park. It was dedicated just over a year ago. We parked, got Sierra into her backpack,
Sierra is ready to hike
and walked through the "bluebird barn" to begin our hike. We opted to hike the 1.33 mile Seven Islands Loop. It made its way through a field of goldenrods which had gone to seed
goldenrod seed
and then down to a wooded edge. There were a few Osage orange trees in the edge
osage orange
and Sierra enjoyed playing with the fragrant fruit. She played a round of Osage orange bowling
osage bowling
and then kicked and carried the weird looking green fruit around.

The best area for birds on this overcast late fall day, was in an area where the woods, field and small wetland converged.
Noelle birding
We saw American robins, cedar waxwings, tufted titmice, a ruby-crowned kinglet, and an Eastern phoebe in the short time we stopped to look for birds. Sierra is a bit impatient though, so after a quick stop, she insisted we move on.
two hikers
We passed the small wetland pond
and headed over to the French Broad River. The water was high and swift-moving.
French Broad River

The trail followed the river closely for a bit
Noelle and Sierra
and then veered away into some fields.
field and hills
We reached the paved Greenway trail and followed it to what is called the Green House.
farm house
Like the old homes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park it is open to the public to walk around inside and explore and so we did just that.
looking out
rocking chair
After checked out the old farmhouse we started to make our way back to the car. By this time Sierra was tired and so we put her back in the backpack for the walk back to the car.
Sierra in backpack

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Roundtop Trail

I made it to the trailhead at Wear Cove Gap by about 8:30 this morning and immediately hiked a short portion of the road to the Roundtop Trail.
It was a cold and frosty morning and the thick, downed leaves coated with ice crystals were a bit slippery.
frosty leaves
I started the hike with lots of views towards the summit of the trail's namesake: Roundtop.
This early portion of the trail closely followed the park boundary,
and I found myself with lots of view of large rustic-style homes. The trail even veered practically into someone's backyard living area.
outdoor living area

It was an exceedingly pleasant day for a hike.
Eric on trail
The trail was never really that steep (except for one short extremely steep section) and there were still a few trees with leaves clinging to their branches.
colorful leaves
With most of the leaves down, there were lots of nice views through the tree branches of the surrounding mountains.
view through the trees
While I didn't see any flowers in bloom, there were lots of seeds clinging onto the stems, including these milkweed seeds.
milkweed seeds

The trail ascended to Joint Ridge and then started a long, but gentle descent down to the Little River at the Townsend Wye. The lower portions of trail traversed some sections where rock had been blasted away to form a ledge for the trail.
hiking along cliff
Soon I found myself at the river,
Little River 2
the junction of Middle Prong, West Prong and the Little River.
Townsend Wye
I explored the area a bit and found an old metal ring.
Was there a bridge here at one time? Then I found a nice rock to sit on and eat a snack. There were lots of people out along the river on the other side. I had my side of the river all to myself. After my snack I packed up my stuff and started to make my way back to the trailhead. The return trip featured lots of great views of Cove Mountain
Cove Mountain
which I had hiked about a year ago in the snow.