Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Brew Beers Eve 2013

We've never really been big on celebrating New Year's Eve, but now that we have Sierra we have an added excuse to not go out. Instead we've elected to stay in and instead of drinking mass quantities of alcoholic beverages, we brewed mass quantities of alcoholic beverages.
yeast and instructions
This could become a New Year's Eve tradition. Tonight's brew is a Dry Stout in the style of Guinness.
fermenting beer
The new plastic carboy fermenter

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

Thomas Wolfe Memorial

Noelle really wanted to get out of the house and I really wanted to go to Asheville. We had not been to Asheville since before Thanksgiving and were in need of an Asheville beer fix, plus I wanted to sell a pair of mitten shells at Second Gear. We made the drive into the city and ate lunch at the downtown location of Asheville Brewing and Pizza. The 828 Pale Ale was excellent!

Thomas Wolfe House
After lunch we made the walk over to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial to check out the house and learn more about the author who grew up in this boarding home in Asheville.
National Register marker
We bought our tickets and headed into the house for our tour. This was the first tour we've been on since Sierra learned to walk and it did not go so well. She, being the toddler she is, wanted to walk around and play and touch things. All of these actions were prohibited and so Sierra was not a happy girl.

We did make it through the full tour, but I must apologize to our guide and the other two visitors who were there to see the home. After guiding countless families (some with cranky toddlers) on cave and home tours, I now know how it feels to be on the other side of the equation. Needless to say, we will not be going on any house tours again anytime soon.  
front porch rocking chair

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Grunwalds

Santa was good to us all this year. Here are some photos of our family Christmas celebration.
Family Ornament 2013
Christmas Tree
Christmas Cookies
I Love my new Doggie
Opening Gift
New Puzzle
Sierra's Sleeping Bag
Sierra in her new sleeping bag! I predict there will be some camping trips in 2014.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Pisgah National Forest: Roundtop Ridge Trail to Rich Mountain Fire Tower

I finally got out of the house for some real adventure. I ate breakfast and packed up my stuff for the drive into Hot Springs for my hike up the Roundtop Ridge Trail to the Rich Mountain Fire Tower. As I approached Hot Springs, I turned off onto River Road. After just a short drive on River Road I turned right onto Reservoir and followed this dirt road until it dead-ended at a water tower.
Trailhead Water Tower
I guess the tower is the reservoir that Reservoir Road is named for.

The trail was unmarked at its lowest reaches, but it was easy to follow as it lay in the bed of an old road. The old road closely paralleled a small creek with stone walls to protect the road from getting washed out in times of flood.
old wall
It then switchbacked away from the creek as it ascended. A short while later the road veered to the right where it ended at a cul-de-sac. The trail went straight however, and continued to ascend up to the top of the ridge.
hiking up
This trail is appearantly an old section of the Appalachian Trail before it was rerouted some time ago. I didn't see a whole lot of evidence of the trail being the former AT, except for a few extremely faint white blazes barely showing a a couple trees.
faded blaze
At one point I saw an opossum laying in the leaf litter on the forest floor. It looked dead, but I figured it could just be "playing 'possum".
Not Playin' Possum
I decided if it was still here on my descent that I would officially declare it deceased.

Not much stands out from this trail. It was a mostly gentle ascent up the ridge to the Appalachian Trail. Once I reached the AT, I followed it north for a bit, before taking a spur trail to my destination for the hike: the Rich Mountain Fire Tower.
trail junction
Rich Mountain Fire Tower
The fire tower is not as isolated as one might guess as there is a road that leads right to it. Due to the easy access the tower is covered in graffiti and a bit vandalized. I enjoyed the view from the cab of the tower for a bit
In Rich Mountain Fire Tower
View From Rich Mountain Fire Tower
and then started my descent, passing a concrete foundation that I'm guessing was the location of the fire lookout's privy.
old privy foundation

The descent went faster than the ascent.
trail sign
The only difficulty was the slippery dead leaves that littered the trail. When I had returned to the site of the opossum, it was sadly still there. From the opossum it was a quick walk on the old road back to my car.             

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Bottling Day!

After Sierra went to bed Noelle and I bottled the Pale Ale I brewed with my father about 3 weeks ago. Last time we tried bottling Sierra woke up and Noelle had to go take care of her. Luckily that did not happen this time and so the bottling went much smoother with two of us!
Preparing to Bottle
Beer Guardian

Doak House Museum: Christmas Open House

Doak House sign
This morning Noelle, Sierra and I made the short drive over to Tusculum to check out the Christmas Open House at the Doak House Museum. We arrived just as a storyteller was finishing up her story. For the short portion of the story that we caught Sierra seemed very interested. After the story we went on a short tour of the home which was decorated in the typical fashion of the 1800s. 
Doak House
Old College Building

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Grunwald Family Christmas Tree 2013

The Grunwald's loaded up the old Family Truckster today and headed into the mountains of North Carolina to find the Griswold Grunwald Family Christmas tree 2013 edition. Since we now live back east, the $5 forest service permit is not an option. Instead, we would do our tree harvesting at a commercial establishment: Frosty Mountain Christmas Tree Farm which is in the Shelton Laurel area of North Carolina right on the Tennessee border. Yes it would be a good old fashioned family bonding experience right our of the movies!

We arrived with our saw and tie downs, but found out we would not need them. Due to insurance issues they do not allow customers to cut down their own tree. Instead they have a fancy chainsaw that they use to do it for you. They do give you a big tall PVC stick to measure your tree
and after acquiring our plastic stick we walked a short section of trail
on trail to trees
to the forest of 6 foot tall Fraser Firs.
tree tag
view from our tree
It didn't take long to find some really nice trees and we decided on a fine specimen after about 15 minutes.
Noelle Sierra in tree farm
After waving our plastic stick in the air and waiting for a bit,
Eric with tree stick
a sawyer cam by and lopped the tree off its foundation. We then walked back to the headquarters where they delivered the tree by pickup truck and then baled it and tied it to the roof of the truckster. It was $30 for our beautiful specimen. More expensive than our previous trees in 2011 and 2012, but a much fuller tree.   

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pisgah National Forest: Green Ridge Trail

There was a 50/50 chance of rain today, but I decided to take a chance and head out for a hike anyway. Actually, my drive into the Shelton Laurel area had a dual purpose. Not only would I be hiking the Green Ridge Trail, but I would also be scoping out the Frosty Mountain Christmas Tree Farm.

I headed into North Carolina after dropping off the recyclables at the dump/recycling center. The drive was pleasant and before I knew it I was in the Big Creek section of Shelton Laurel. I had a little bit of trouble finding the trailhead for the Green Ridge Trail, but after backtracking and crossing a shallow creek I turned past an old sawmill and found the start of the trail. There was an old stragely outfitted truck there.
trailhead truck
Was it used to drill wells? At first the trail was really just a gated road.
The road gently ascended along Dry Creek.
Dry Creek
At the point where the old road made a nearly 180 degree turn, I saw a faint path continuing straight ahead. This was the yellow-blazed Green Ridge Trail.
leafy trail
blaze and fungi

I have to admit that the Green Ridge Trail  is not the most interesting trail I've ever hiked. I did see a small waterfall that is currently almost completely dry.
water trickle
I'll bet that after a good heavy rain it flows pretty nicely though. Once past the dry waterfall the trail starts switchbacking steeply up the mountain to the top of a ridge. The combination of a steep trail and lots of dead, downed leaves made for some slippery hiking conditions. The fact that all the leaves were down did have a benefit though, it allowed for lots of distant views through the bare trees.
view through trees
I even caught a glimpse of the Christmas Tree Farm.

Once the trail reached the ridge it leveled out a bit. The trail did, however, become less distinct. I saw a pair of hunters out with their three dogs. I'm not sure what season it is in North Carolina right now. Once I reached the Appalachian Trail I headed north for a bit. I was worried about the lack of daylight though, as I had gotten a late start. I had originally intended to hike to the Flint Mountain Shelter, but decided against it as I did not want to hike in the dark.

Green Ridge AT Junction
The return hike was easy, but a bit treacherous due to the slippery leaves.
On the Trail
It got a bit dark and threatened to rain, but the worst I encountered was a few minutes of light drizzle. On the way I passed a possible cave.
Possible Cave
It was difficult to tell if went very far. I'm guessing it does not as I don't think there is a whole lot of limestone in the area. Once I got back to the road section
road walk
I was able to really move and soon found myself back at my car.               

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights 2013

Bristol Infield
With Mom and Dad in town, we decided to celebrate Christmas a little bit early by heading up to Bristol for the annual Speedway in Lights display. While none of us are NASCAR fans, we all enjoyed the display and were amazed by the size of the track. It just seems too small for racing cars on!

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Brewed some pale ale with my dad this afternoon. The wort is fermenting in the closet. It should be ready to bottle in 3 weeks. Looking forward to trying this Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone!