Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pisgah National Forest: Moore Cove Trail

After our delicious meal at Sierra Nevada we were ready to burn off some calories. We headed over towards Brevard to do a short hike to Moore Cove Falls. We parked in the lot, just off the highway and hit the trail, immediately crossing a stream on a footbridge. The trail was wide and a bit muddy in places. We crossed a stream several times on bridges
Noelle crosses bridge
and passed some large boulders. Soon we were at the falls.
Moore Cove Falls
The waterfall did not feature a large volume of water, but was still scenic. We walked to the back of the falls,
behind falls
and I narrowly avoided disaster when I slipped in the mud while holding Sierra. There was a group of Germans who stripped down to their skivvies and showered in the cold water.
German shower

After a few minutes, we started to make a our way back to the car.
walking back
We stopped at a convenient stream crossing to play in the water. Sierra demanded to take her sandals off.
piggies in water
She threw some rocks in the water
rock in hand
and Noelle picked up some rocks to look for salamanders. We found a few, mostly small ones. We also found a little crayfish.
After about 20 minutes of playing in the water we started to make our way back to the car again. We crossed the bridges
on bridge
and made our way past the large boulders
big rock
before we found ourselves back at the car for our trip to REI and the long drive back to Greeneville.          

Sierra Nevada Brewery Complex at Mills River, North Carolina

We finally made it to Mecca!
Sierra Nevada
I've been wanting to visit the Sierra Nevada Brewery for a long time now. Long before a North Carolina brewery was even the seed of an idea in Ken Grossman's head, I had wanted to head out to Chico, California and see where one of my favorite beers of all time was brewed. We made the drive down from Greeneville and arrived just as the taproom and gift shop were opening. We parked in the shade of a panel of photovoltaic cells and headed inside the taproom.
Noelle outside taproom
We had a delicious lunch. It was the cauliflower steak sandwich for Noelle and the shirt steak sandwich for me. I drank two pints: Torpedo IPA
and a Kolsch. Both were delicious. After our lunch and beer we bought a pint glass in the gift shop and then did a self guided tour of the brewery operation.
brew kettles
Then we headed back to the car, past some cool keg bike racks and Bigfoot tracks. 
Sierra on bigfoot

Sunday, May 24, 2015

House Mountain State Natural Area

With Mom and Dad G in town, Noelle and I were afforded the luxury of time alone together. For our date we opted to go hiking and our destination on this fine Sunday was House Mountain State Natural Area in Knox County. It was an hour drive to the natural area. We parked the car, changed into our hiking boots and then hit the trail.
noelle on trail
The lower stretches of trail featured some wildflowers,
flower and fly
including lots of spiderwort,
and some large boulders scattered here and there along the side of the trail.
big boulder
We ascended to the ridge of House Mountain on the Mountain Trail. For the most part it was a pretty gradual ascent, except it got a bit steeper as we approached the ridge.
hiker Noelle

At the intersection with the Crest Trail we made a right and headed over to the East Overlook.
noelle at overlook
It was a beautiful spot with distant views to the high mountains of the east. We ate a snack there and then moved on heading west on the Crest Trail. We took a short detour up to the site of a communication tower and what appeared to be the former site of a fire tower, we then backtracked down to the main trail, past more large boulders,
on top of boulder
and over to the West Overlook.
other overlook
The West Overlook was not nearly as open as the East Overlook had been. We did not stay there for long, but started our descent on the West Overlook Trail.

The West Overlook Trail was very steep at times. Luckily we had no major problems on the descent. The trail passed alongside an interesting cliff line
hiking along cliff
and past bunches of Indian Pink in bloom.
Indian Pink
Soon we were back at the trailhead and the car for our drive back to Greeneville.          

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Botanical Gardens at Asheville

We finally had a weekend to get out together as a family and enjoy the late spring weather. Our previous two weekends our plans were thwarted, due to Sierra being sick. Today she seems well on the way to recovery and so we headed over the mountains (luckily without any instances of car-sickness) into North Carolina to explore Asheville a little bit. Our destination would be the Botanical Gardens which we had never before explored.

The Botanical Gardens were very pleasant. We stopped at the gift shop to use the restroom and then headed over to an interesting bird feeder that was suspended by a cable and had small tree branches attached to it that birds could perch on.
looking at bird feeder
We then headed over to the main trail, a half-mile loop that passes some of the most interesting attractions in the gardens. We immediately crossed an interesting wooden arch bridge
bridge over creek
crossing bridge
and then made a right at the trail junction. There were lots of wildflowers in bloom. Some we could identify, like Carolina allspice,
Carolina allspice
Jack in the pulpit,
jack in the ;ulpit
flame azalea,
flame azalea
fire pink,
red flowers
and mountain laurel.
mountain laurel
Sierra even found a tulip poplar flower lying on a rock wall.
Sierra and tulip tree flower
 Other flowers we were not successful in identifying. 
pink flowers
white flowers

The trail passed under a rustic looking shelter.
walking under shelter
Then, at about the half way point of the hike, we found the Hayes Cabin.
Sierra and Noelle at hayes Cabin
Just past the Hayes Cabin we took a detour into a field
hiking through field
which Sierra enjoyed running in.
Sierra runs through field
We then found ourselves close to a small creek. There was a set of stone stairs that led down to the water. We took advantage of them and looked for small fish in the stream.
standing near water
We also enjoyed the ambiance of the location for a bit before moving on.
We passed a small rock shelter that Sierra said "looks like a cave". There was some interesting stratification in the rock here.
cool rock
Soon we found ourselves back at the start of our hike. We would continue into downtown Asheville to eat lunch and walk around a bit. Then it started to rain on us and so we headed back to the car for the drive back to Greeneville. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Appalachian Trail: Allen Gap to Spring Mountain Shelter

The original plan for the day was a family trip to Asheville to check out the new Sierra Nevada brewery and do some hiking. However, Sierra woke up sick. Instead of our original plan, I built Noelle a raised-bed garden for Mother's Day. I had finished my project by about noon and so I had the whole afternoon to go for a hike.

Since I would be getting a late start, I opted to stay close to home. I headed to Allen Gap
Allen Gap sign
and hiked south on the Appalachian Trail.
blaze and path
I would be headed to the Spring Mountain Shelter which I had camped at just over 15 years ago during my AT thru hike. It was pretty incredible how warm it was, even up in the mountains, for an early May day. As I hiked, sweat poured off my brow. The tree canopy had largely leafed out, but the shade did not seem to offer much relief from the heat. There were lots of wildflowers still in bloom alongside the trail.
At and trillium
The usual suspects were included: trillium,
white trillium
pink trillium
wild geranium,
and dwarf crested iris.
square iris
three iris
There were some other in bloom though including squawroot
and a plant with clusters of white flowers that I could not identify.
square white flowers

I passed a sign indicating the upper terminus of the Little Paint Creek Trail.
Little Paint Creek Trail
I had been curious as to if the trail actually exists since the Paint Creek Trail is largely obliterated due to a flood some years back. Soon after I found attached to a tree a sign that stated there was a prescribed burn in progress,
fire sign
but it seems to late in the spring to do a burn at this point. Everything is too green. It must be left from a burn done earlier in the spring. Interestingly, I never did see any evidence of a burn. I soon found myself at Spring Mountain Shelter.
Spring Mountain Shelter
It's a small and rather old looking structure. There were some other hikers there already. They talked like aspiring thru hikers. Their conversations took me back in time 15 years, and concerns about water and shelters. One confident hiker stated that he is going to get an AT tattoo when he finishes the trail. Okay, but I wouldn't count my chickens before they've hatched. I got some water and signed the register and then retraced my steps on the mostly downhill section of trail back to Allen Gap. I didn't see much wildlife on the hike. Just some birds, a centipede,
curled centipede
and some thru hikers.