Thursday, January 22, 2015


I know you have been critically looking at the mores and customs of the past and questioning their value. Every generation does that. But don't discard the time-tested values upon which civilization has been built just because they are old.
--Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) 40th US President.

This old railroad bridge spans the Nolichucky River in Unicoi County, TN just south of Erwin. It replaced the original wood bridge in 1908. Here's the view from the Appalachian Trail high above.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Nolichucky River Views

Re-discovered a wonderful section of the AT for those wanting a quick out-and-back hike. The section heading north from the Nolichucky River is lovely this time of year, with impressive views of the river and beautiful hemlock stands. You park across the river and kitty-corner from Uncle Johnny's Hostel. The first part takes you over the CSX tracks and then, as you climb, the trail parallels the river and becomes narrow and rocky. Far below, you can hear the river thundering.  I'm not sure my photos do it justice, but the views this time of year are wonderful. Click on the top two photos and you'll get a better look of the river. After following the river, the trail then enters the woods -- this section is rock-lined and nicely maintained -- and also much more level and easy going.  We crossed over two footbridges and went out a total of 2+ miles before heading back.

For those interested, the entire section from the Nolichucky to Indian Grave Gap is 8.3 miles.

If you want even greater views and a shorter, steeper hike, then head south on the AT from Uncle Johnny's. More info here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


When you're safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you're having an adventure you wish you were safe at home.  
--Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) American writer.

A photo from last fall of my friend Peter taking photos of a misty morn on Round Bald. That day our adventure involved an early morning hike out to Grassy Ridge.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Lone Oak Trail

This is a steep hike up the west side of Buffalo Mountain to the mountain's summit (3,300 feet) (view pictured above).  It's 3.6 miles round trip, with a 1,475 foot elevation gain. Expect a cardio workout with lots of switchbacks! This is the perfect time of year for this hike -- with the leaves down you'll find beautiful views all the way up. Once you endure the switchbacks, you'll walk the ridge line and have great views in both directions. As you climb you will see the continued recovery of the trees and vegetation from the devastating 2008 forest fire.

The trail is very narrow in places, almost like a goat path winding around the mountain. I wouldn't want to try this trail on an icy day or in spring when the trail is muddy -- the higher it gets, the narrower it becomes. Hiking poles are probably a good idea.

The photo above and to the left shows the first knob that you climb and the ridge you walk. You get a real sense of accomplishment when you see just how far you've climbed. :)  This trail gives you lots of excuses to stop and enjoy the views.

For directions and more information click here.
For an overview of Buffalo Mtn trails, click here.
To read about the man who developed the trail, click here.

Here's to eight years of blogging Appalachia! :)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Charleston, SC

Just got back from a New Year's vacation to Charleston and Savannah. Above is the Ravenel Bridge crossing the Cooper River in Charleston. This impressive cable-stayed bridge opened in 2005, a year ahead of schedule and under budget. The top of the diamond-shaped towers are 575 feet high.

Above and to the left is St. Philip's Episcopal Church, built in 1836 (spire completed in 1850). Look closely at the photo and you'll notice another church to the right, it is the French Huguenot Church, built in 1844.

We didn't have the best weather on our trip, with more misty days than sunny days, but we still had a great time taking in the amazing architecture and history of these beautiful cities.

Both cities are full of elegant, old churches and elaborate, well-maintained homes. For those who love homes, history, photography and southern culture (and food), it's heaven. :) Today's photos are all from Charleston, I'll have more to share this week from the rest of our trip.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
-- Calvin Coolidge

Above: An annual sight in Unicoi, TN - this brightly decorated VW Bug, complete with Santa. :)

Friday, December 19, 2014

departing sun

Sweet is the memory of distant friends! Like the mellow rays of the departing sun, it falls tenderly, yet sadly, on the heart. 

--Washington Irving (1783-1859) American Writer.

Arrived at Little Rock Knob on Iron Mountain just in time to see the sun rays gleaming down on the distant mountains -- a little out of the way, but worth the trek. It's one of my favorite overlooks in our region. I wasn't sure which version I liked best, so I posted them both. The black and white seems to be less distracting to me -- and I was able to push the adjustments a little more. But I like the color one too.  :)  We had to hustle down the mountain to get back to the car before dark!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Colorado Springs

I visited Colorado Springs over Thanksgiving and thought I'd share some photos from my trip. This was my second visit to the Springs and once again I was in awe of the scenery. Click here for summer pics from my 2012 trip. The photo above is of Pikes Peak -- as seen from the Garden of the Gods.  Didn't venture up to the peak this time out. Though the weather was nice below, I didn't want to find out how cold and windy it was up there! But the Garden of the Gods is very easy to get to and such a beautiful place to explore.

We also ventured up Gold Camp Road which is a narrow dirt road (following the path of an old railroad line) that takes visitors up the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain.  Along the way we drove through two tunnels and had great overlooks of the city far below and surrounding peaks. The snowy conditions on the road made for an interesting mountain ride!  I found this quote while searching for information: "When President Theodore Roosevelt traveled this route, he described its beauty as 'bankrupting the English language.'"

We next visited Mueller State Park about 30 miles west of the city. It was a gorgeous day and we were able to get out and explore. This would be a fantastic place to rent a cabin and do some hiking. But our time there was limited to a couple short, 'out and back' hikes.  I'd love to return to see more of the park.

Finally, we drove out to Canon City. The hour long drive itself along Highways 115 and 50 was amazing. This area of the state is dry and rugged, with stunning mountain ranges to be seen around every turn. There are many things to see and do in this part of the state, but we were focused on visiting the Royal Gorge Bridge. Those from Appalachia might compare it to Grandfather Mountain. It too is a suspension bridge, but the two are quite different in scale. This bridge is huge. So large they drive buses and cars over it. Feeling the bridge move and shake as a bus drives along its wooden planks is an experience. What the two bridges do have in common is extreme weather. Cold winds whipped through the gorge, making our journey quite frigid. Far below is the Arkansas River and a railroad line which still operates, giving visitors a very close up glimpse of this canyon and river.   

Thanks for letting me share with you some non-Appalachian images. I hope to get back to sharing more local images soon. But... here's the bad news... Blue hurt his knee playing frisbee and just had knee surgery! It's going to be a long healing process for him. But while his frisbee playing days might be over, I hope he'll have lots more hiking adventures to come! Until then, I might not be getting out as much without my hiking buddy. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

ol' blue eyes

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself. 
--Josh Billings (1815-1885) American humorist and lecturer.

Hard to believe it's been four years... This was taken the day Blue arrived home from the shelter. From the very start he's loved playing fetch. :)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

give thanks

When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself. 

--Tecumseh (1768-1813) Native American leader of the Shawnee.

Above: Roan Highlands Morning (taken this past September).

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

why we climb

Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.
--Greg Child (b.1957) Australian-born rock climber, mountaineer, author and filmmaker.

I continue to comb through my autumn excursions for photos to share. These are from a rainy trip to Grayson Highlands State Park in Southwest Virginia in October. The clouds and rain got worse the longer I hiked, so by time I made it to the wild ponies, whatever good light I had was gone.

Seems I always pick extreme days to visit Grayson. I've been there when it's pouring rain, freezing cold and blazing hot. But whatever the weather, I'm always in awe of this place. With so many trails to hike, jagged peaks to climb and magnificent vistas to enjoy, there's beauty and wonder in every direction.  It's one of the most memorable places found along the 2,180 mile Appalachian Trail. While it's off the beaten path for most of us, it's well worth the journey.

Admission to the park is now $4 on weekdays, $5 on weekends, per vehicle. Such a deal. I still have a lot to explore at the park. Click here to visit the website, which includes driving directions and a detailed trail map. The Friends of Grayson Highlands webpage includes current weather information and a webcam. Another helpful resource is the Sherpa Guide.

Click here to see my previous Grayson photos and posts.

Monday, November 24, 2014

healing path

We do not heal the past by dwelling there; we heal the past by living fully in the present. 
--Marianne Williamson (b.1952) author.

Above: The Appalachian Trail on a rainy, autumn day.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

stormy weather

Faith is not a delicate flower which would wither away under the slightest stormy weather. 
--Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian Philosopher.

I haven't gotten out much to shoot lately, so I'm looking through my autumn shots from this fall for photos to share. Two of the prime weekends for fall color this October were stormy. So I have a lot of rainy, misty shots this autumn. At the time I took the shot above, there was a steady drizzle of rain, and I had had it. Hiking in the rain, keeping the camera dry and the lens free of rain drops (while holding a dog on a leash) ... not much fun! But shooting in these conditions can often make for some interesting shots in spite of the frustrations.

The photo on the left shows an old boat ramp entering the western end of lake near Hampton, TN. It makes me wonder where the roads used to be before the lake was completed by the TVA in 1948. Who knows, maybe this was an old road bed that led to the old town of Butler?  I haven't seen any old, 'pre-Watauga Lake' road maps of the area. There is a nice Butler museum in the new town of Butler, TN which is worth checking out if you're ever out that way (open seasonally). It tells the interesting history of the town and the people displaced by the lake.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Red Fork Falls

I ventured out to Red Fork Falls a couple weeks back and climbed down this series of beautiful waterfalls on Unaka Mountain further than I usually do.  Thought I'd share images of the six distinctive waterfalls to be found at Red Fork.  

1. This is the first waterfall you'll find at Red Fork. It's small, probably only 5 feet tall. Often I have found swirling watering in this area -- didn't quite work this time around, but under the right conditions, this creates a unique effect.

2. The main waterfall you see in the photo at the top of this post is actually the second one you'll encounter. At 60' this is quite impressive and powerful. In times of high water flow, you'll find the water forming a 'rooster tail' as it rushes out over the cascade.  

3. This cascading corkscrew is such an amazing feature. It's found immediately below the main waterfall. Like a water slide, the water rushes through a narrow, twisting formation on its way to the next small waterfall.

4. Continue climbing down the path and you next come to this stunning waterfall.  After the main waterfall, I consider this to be the next most beautiful one. It's worth climbing down to see!

5. Further down you come to this small split waterfall.

6. Finally I reached the end point of my adventure. This is another smallish waterfall, but a beauty. Some websites say there are eight waterfalls at Red Fork. I suppose it depends how you count them, but it's likely that there are others below what you see here. I have always stopped here at this point because opposite this waterfall is a sharply angled, slippery rock that usually keeps me from moving on! And plus, by this point, I'm pretty well exhausted from all the climbing. :)

For directions and a description of this short, but difficult (and dangerous) hike, click here. This isn't a hike for the kids or to take the dog on. There's a lot of climbing. It's also extremely slippery at the top of the main falls, so don't approach the edge. People have been seriously injured here. Below the main fall is also crazy slippery. But watch your step, take your time and you'll enjoy exploring Red Fork.

Before venturing out, please read my warnings, safety tips and disclaimers.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Glory Glory

A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.  
--C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) author and theologian.

A gorgeous weekend...great to see the colors staying around so long this fall. :)