Sunday, April 27, 2014

Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour 2013-14

After my sister's wedding last evening, we were all pretty tired. Still, Noelle and I headed up to Bethlehem on some old familiar roads to attend the 2013-14 version of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. Seeing as we usually attend the one of the first stops on the tour (Duluth or Eau Claire) this would be a late viewing of the films for us.

The venue was decent, though our seats were not the best as they were too close to the screen. The films were very good, though I was not as excited about them as some of the films we have seen in the past.
These are the films we saw in the order in which we viewed them: 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

So today Noelle, Sierra and I spent a good part of our day in Delaware. The experience was a bit like this:

Actually, we had fun on the beach even though it was a bit cold and windy.
We also enjoyed some ales at Dogfish Head's brewpub.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thomas Stone National Historic Site

Last night we stayed with family in beautiful Woodford, Virginia. This morning we hung out for a bit before hitting the road on our way north to Pennsylvania. Our first stop would be across the Potomac River at Thomas Stone National Historic Site. (Stone was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.) Sierra was not in the most cheerful of moods and so we did not go on a ranger guided tour of the home Haberdeventure. Instead we walked a short trail that led from the visitor center,
past the Stone Family Cemetery
and over to the home.
We walked around the old home
and over to some of the outbuildings, including a tobacco barn.
Then we returned to the visitor center to get ready for the rest of the day's drive into Delaware.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Gatlinburg Trail

Mom and Dad T are in town for Easter. With beautiful weather we decided to head over to the Smokies (again) for a nice family hike on the Gatlinburg Trail. We parked at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, checked out some of the exhibits inside and then started out on the trail which initially was more of a road walk. We checked out an interesting cemetery
behind the administrative offices and closely followed a stream.
We saw some dwarf crested iris in bloom,
along with lots of yellow trillium.
Sierra seemed to enjoy riding in her backpack as usual.
As we made our way closer to Gatlinburg, we saw a few signs of former habitations in the form of stairs
and chimneys.
We crossed the stream on a bridge
and took a short side trip to the official park entrance sign where we posed for a family photo.
We then hiked to the park boundary
where Sierra ate a snack on a rock.
After Sierra's snack we retraced our steps on the trail back to the visitor center.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Twin Creeks and Noah "Bud" Ogle Nature Trails

Another trip to the Smokies for Sierra, Noelle and I. This time we cut through the monstrosity that is Gatlinburg and headed up the Cherokee Orchard Road to the Ogle Nature Trail. I paid 50 cents for a trail guide and we started on our way. It was quite warm this morning, so shortly after starting our hike we stopped to take Sierra's sweatshirt off and to apply some sunscreen. There was lots of yellow trillium in bloom
on the nature trail and the fiddleheads were getting ready to unfurl their fronds.
Before we knew it we were at the intersection with the Twin Creeks Trail.

We made a right onto the Twin Creeks Trail and started a long, gentle descent. We saw a few traces of old walls and two badly crumbled chimneys. However, this trail was not the most interesting trail I've ever hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The best part of the hike was just being out with my family enjoying the wonderful weather. Even though the trail is called the "Twin Creeks" Trail, we did not spend a whole lot of time hiking with either of the two creeks within sight. Just a few glimpses here and there
and an unbridged crossing of one of them.
We hiked all the way down to the outskirts of Gatlinburg and then it was time to turn around and head back up to the nature trail.

Noelle took a photo of Sierra and I at the lower trailhead
and shortly after turning around we found a nice rock to sit on and take a break.
We ate some snacks and played a little bit. Then Sierra got some time to stretch her legs and walk a short distance.
Eventually we put her back into the backpack. It was a long, hot ascent back to the nature trail.

Once back on the nature trail
we visited the site of the "honeymoon" cabin, an old tub mill,
and then the Ogle barn
and Ogle House.
We explored the inside of the home a bit
and then sat on the shady porch of the house for another snack
before we made the short walk back to the car. We drove into Gatlinburg for a late lunch at the Smoky Mountain Brewery. After our meal we hit the road for our drive back to Greeneville.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Blue Ridge Parkway: Rattlesnake Lodge

After yesterday's hike over in Great Smoky Mountains National Park we were itching to get out and do some more hiking. It turned out to be a warm day and so we decided to head over to Asheville to go for a stroll. Our destination would be Rattlesnake Lodge which lies just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Weaverville.

Th hike to the lodge ruins was relatively easy and, after a few switchbacks in the beginning and then a relatively flat trail, we found ourselves at the ruins of the lodge.The lodge was built by Dr. P. Chase Ambler as a summer retreat for his family. The lodge burned in 1926 and what remains are mainly just old walls and piles of stone.There are the remains of the pool,
the old springhouse,
and a rectangular flat area that was obviously the old tennis court. We spent some time exploring the ruins of the buildings
and the outflow of the spring for a bit.
There were a few early wildflowers in bloom, mostly bloodroot.
After exploring we retraced our steps back to the car.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Porters Creek Trail

This morning, Noelle, Sierra and I packed up and headed out for a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While I've paid a few visits to the most-visited national park in the US in the past few weeks, today would be Noelle's first visit in quite a while, and Sierra's first visit ever! We made the drive on US-321 through Cosby and parked at the end of the Greenbrier Road, where we got our stuff ready
and hit the trail.

The start of the trail is actually an old road. We followed the gently ascending gravel road along the cascading Porters Creek. 
The Porters Creek Trail is reputed to display some great wildflowers in late March and early April, but at first it seemed we might be a little bit too early for a good showing. We did find some purple phlox
and a few white trillium along the first mile of trail.
If wildflowers weren't exactly in abundance at first, signs of past habitation were. There were lots of stone walls lining the trail and even an interesting set of stairs that probably led into someone's yard at one time.

Soon we found a cemetery.  What I later learned is the Ownby-Longbranch Cemetery. It was a lot like many of the other cemeteries in the park, only this one saw a much higher number of visitors. So many visitors in fact, that there was a well-defined trail that made a loop through the cemetery. I took photos of a few of the headstones, including one that belonged to a soldier.
Soon after visiting the cemetery, our gravel road ended at a cul-de-sac and we continued on a narrow, but well-worn trail. We crossed Porters Creek on a long, narrow, log bridge
and soon entered a section of trail whose sides were just carpeted with wildflowers and greenery.
There were Dutchman's breeches
and lots of white fringed phacelia.
We took some time to enjoy the flower and take off some layers as it was growing warmer.

Shortly after the flower-carpeted section of trail, we came to Fern Branch Falls.
Sierra enjoyed getting out of the backpack and stretching her legs on a rock.
Then it was time for a snack!
After our snack (and a diaper change for Sierra) we hit the trail again. I had originally wanted to try to hike the entire length of the trail, but it was a wise decision to turn around and head back to the car. Besides, we still had plenty to see on our hike back.

Of course we saw more wildflowers.
We crossed the long footbridge over Porters Creek
and followed the trail back to the gravel road section. Here we took a side trip to the Messer Barn,
a cantilever style barn built in the 1870s, and the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin which had been built in the 1930s.
Apparently, the NPS allowed members of the club to use the cabin up until 1981. It must have been quite the experience to stay in the old cabin. Besides the cabin there was a springhouse
and some old millstones scattered around the grounds.
Our last stop on the hike was  side trail that we had passed up earlier. It turns out that it led to the very rusty remains of an old Ford Model-T.
Noelle took her for a short spin and then we hiked back to the car. We even let Sierra do some hiking on her own out of the backpack. On the way home we stopped for a delicious late lunch at Carver's Apple House Restaurant. Then it was a long drive back to Greeneville. I was glad to get home. It had been a great day, but I was very tired!