Friday, August 29, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Old Sugarlands Trail

After my week of training in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I figured I owed it to myself to get out and go for a hike. I opted for the Old Sugarlands Trail since it is close to Gatlinburg and a relatively easy, and not too long hike. I parked at the small parking area off of the Newfound Gap Road
and immediately hit the trail.

The trail closely paralleled the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River
and soon followed the obvious roadbed of an old road.
old road
Much of what I've now read refer to this road as old Tennessee Highway 71. The road bed made for some fast hiking and I soon found myself at an area where I found lots of evidence of former habitation. I guessed that this might be the site of an old CCC camp and my internet research seems to bear this out. There was an old stone structure referred to as the old CCC Camp incinerator,
old structure
the old CCC clock "tower"
old sign
and an old garbage dump site.
metao pieces

Soon after leaving the old CCC site the trail actually became a well maintained gravel road.
gravel road
I'm guessing it is maintained to provide access to a cemetery that I did not visit. The gravel road got a bit steep, but not too bad. I saw lots of cardinal flower
cardinal flower
growing along the side of the road as well as some possible primrose and other assorted wildflowers.
I saw a few deer,
but not any bears. I did see plenty of evidence of bears though.
bear scat
When I reached the intersection with the Bullhead Trail I drank some water and turned around to retrace my steps back to my vehicle. Due to the day's humidity and heat, I was drenched with sweat by the time I returned to the car and cranked up the air conditioner.           

Monday, August 25, 2014

Twin Falls Resort State Park

On our drive home from Ohio we decided that southern West Virginia would make a good stop to split things up a bit. Twin Falls State park seemed to fit the bill perfectly, although we underestimated just how far off of Interstate 77 it is. We pulled into the campground last night after driving on some really curvy roads that induced vomiting in poor Sierra.

This morning we were all eager to explore our surroundings a bit, including the small cemetery right near our campsite.
Jenkins Cemetery
After packing up camp we drove to the Twin Falls Trailhead for our hike to the two "twin" falls. Almost immediately we found ourselves at the first of the waterfalls: Marsh Fork Falls.
Marsh Fork falls
The waterfall was nice, but not the most spectacular we have ever seen. From the first waterfall the trail continued heading first downstream
Noelle hiking
and then later and to our surprise upstream along a different stream.

We climbed steeply at times past lots of mushrooms
tall mushroom
and soon found ourselves at Black Fork Falls.
Black Fork Falls
It was a steep descent down to the falls, but the tricky descent was worth it because we could go behind the falls.
behind falls
Sierra was excited by this and said something about rabbits going behind waterfalls. I believe this was a reference to Disney's Robin Hood which she likes to watch and in which some of the characters live in a secret protected cove in the woods that they access by going behind a waterfall. She is a smart girl! From Black Fork Falls it was a short hike back to the car and then a long drive back to Greeneville.      

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve

We had a wonderful time at our friends' wedding celebration last night. We woke up this morning wanting to explore a little bit of Cleveland. Actually we decided that a swim in Lake Erie might be the best way for us to explore the city a bit. We headed over to the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve thinking it might allow us the opportunity to go for a swim. While it did not offer swimming access we  had an interesting visit nonetheless.

After getting ready to go by a huge beech tree near the parking area,
Big Tree
we passed through a turnstile and hit the trail.
hiking trail
We proposed to hike a portion of the Perimeter Trail to what was marked on the map that Sierra carried
Sierra the map reader
as an overlook. As we started we saw lots of wildflowers in bloom along the trail.
flower closeup
We came to an open area with a view out onto the lake and saw some interesting birds as well.
Noelle birding
There were cormorants, gulls, green herons,
green heron
and belted kingfishers amongst other avian visitors. We passed through a restored prairie area
Noelle in prairie
and soon after found ourselves at the overlook looking out on Lake Erie and the Cleveland skyline.

We returned to the car by using the Monarch Trail. We enjoyed the preserve but could tell that Sierra was a bit upset at not being able to dip her piggies in the water. We decided to head over to Edgewater Beach where we enjoyed feeling the sand between our toes and dipping our feet in the water.
piggies in Lake Erie
After relaxing on the beach for a bit, it was time to hit the road and start to make our way south back to Tennessee. I have to admit, we had a very good time exploring the Buckeye State.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Blue Hen Falls

After our short hike at Brandywine Falls, we were ready to see a little bit more. The short walk to Blue Hen Falls seemed to fit the bill. The hike started with a steep downhill walk on an old paved road.
on trail to Blue hen falls
Finally we found ourselves at the bottom of our descent where we crossed a creek on a footbridge
crossing boardwalk
and soon found the spur trail that led to the falls. The falls were small, but still pleasant.
Blue hen Falls
We enjoyed the view for a short time before heading back up the steep old road to the car. Along the way we saw a few wildflowers in bloom. We drove into Independence, Ohio to eat lunch at the wonderful MELT before getting ready for our friends' wedding celebration.
blue flower

Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Brandywine Falls and Gorge

Noelle and I had both visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park before and Brandywine Falls was the only section of the park we had seen before. Still, the falls are spectacular enough that we decided a return visit to the falls was in order. We drove to the trailhead parking area and hit the trail with Sierra in the backpack. Because she knew we would be hiking to a waterfall Sierra kept talking about "piggies in the water", she would eventually get her wish, but first it was a short hike on a boardwalk
Noelle walking boardwalk
to an overlook of the falls.
Brandywine falls vertical

After viewing the falls we hiked the loop trail that passes through the Brandywine Gorge. We saw a few wildflowers in bloom like sneezeweed
and Sierra even got to dip her toes in the creek for a short time
piggies in water
before we concluded our hike with a return to the car.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Ledges Trail

The Ledges Trail is the one trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park that seems to be talked about pretty regularly. I was pretty excited to explore the area a bit and I have to say that our hike did not disappoint. We drove to the trailhead and hiked a short distance on an old road to a shelter
Ledges Shelter
where we stopped to use the restroom and then we continued on.
on the trail
The trail soon left the road and started to descend down to an area where we were afforded a view down into some passageways between high moss-covered sandstone walls.
looking down into passage
As we finished our descent we reached the loop portion of the hike. We opted to make a right onto the loop and save Ice Box Cave for last.

The trail closely followed rock walls. Every now and then there was a side trail that  led into one of the tight mossy passageways that often dead-ended a short distance after they started.
Noelle in Ledges
Still, they were interesting and reminded me of little slot canyons. It was interesting to see how the trees were able to grow seemingly out of rock.
cool tree
tree in passage
Besides the trees, we saw some wildflowers like wingstem in bloom
and saw a few curious deer watching us.
Soon we ascended a bit and came to a nice overlook
noelle at overlook
where we admired the view for a short time before continuing our hike along the rock cliffs.

The scenery was spectacular throughout the remainder of the hike. We walked along many interesting moss-covered sandstone cliff walls.
big rocks
Eric and rocks
Noelle again
trees and rocks
We passed by some really interesting looking stone stairs.
cool stairs
We checked out a few of the side passageways
in tight spot
and even went into one of the really tight passageways.
in squeeze

The child-carrier backpack barely fit through the crack! After our exploration of the Ledges we headed over to the Boston Store Visitor Center to check it out.
boston Store VC
Things were a bit chaotic there due to a search for a missing woman whose car was found in the parking lot there. Law enforcement form many different agencies was everywhere and we even saw some of the forensics experts searching through the woman's car in a search for clues.  Despite the chaos, we were able to find a nice picnic table in the shade for Sierra to eat a snack at and a place to play too!
cutie by tree