Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cades Cove

We got away from Montgomery Bell about 9 AM Friday morning.  We were pleased with that.  It was late enough to miss most of the morning traffic.  We had a fine ride on I-40 across Tennessee with no major construction zones.  We just sailed right along in light traffic. It was a beautiful drive, too, with the flowering dogwood and redbud blooming.

There were a couple glitches in our trip, however.  The rain started just after we got back on the road from our lunch break.  We had rain, heavy at times, off and on for the rest of the drive, off and on throughout the evening, and over night.  All in all, a lot of rain fell.  Another thing that slowed us down was an incrediably long wait for gas at a Pilot Truck Stop.  Everybody had the same idea we did, I guess--get gas in between rain showers.  The last hold up was near Townsend on the last leg of our trip before entering the National Park.  A recent land slide resulted in only one lane of the road begin open for about a quarter mile stretch.  Everybody got their turn in due time, but the waiting was difficult at that point, begin so close to our destination.
Fungus on a log
We are camped in Cades Cove Campground, one of several campgrounds in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  This is the first time we’ve camped here since we moved from tents to RVs.  Our 5th wheels were both too large for this park.  This is a typical campground for National Park Service.  The sites are large and wooded.  There are no hook-ups at the sites. There is a central water spigot and a dump station.  Generators may be used, but the hours are restricted.  There are some portions of the campground where generator use is prohibited.  There are no showers in the bath house, not even hot water.

Cades Cove is a large campground with about 150 sites.  Reservations are recommended for summer months.  It’s all about the location.  The campground is at the beginning of the 11-mile loop road which leads into historic Cades Cove.  This is a popular tourist destination partly because of the historical significance of Cades Coves, partly because of the tranquil setting, and partly because it is a great place for spotting wildlife, especially black bears.
A heron we saw as we started our hike this morning
Before the European settlers came to the cove the Cherokee Indians lived here.  Archeologists have not been able to find evidence of a large permanent settlement, so it may have only been a hunting camp.  During the early 1800s Europeans began to settle in the cove and many of the descendants of these original settlers lived here when the National Park was formed.  The Park Service has restored many of the historical buildings in the cove to the way they were in the 1800s and these buildings are open to the public.  There are also three churches (including their cemeteries) and a grist mill in the cove.

We came to hike, of course, and there are several trailheads in the Cades Cove area.  Today’s hike was along the Abrams Falls Trail to Abrams Falls.  Access to the trailhead is near the back of the cove almost to the Visitor Center.  As we drove through the cove, we saw several tom turkeys strutting their stuff.  That was exciting.  We also saw several deer, but no bear.

I am happy to report that Cades Cove Loop Road has been resurfaced.  Boy, did it need repairing last time we were here.  During the summer months, the loop road is closed to motorized vehicles on Saturday and Wednesday mornings until 10 AM to allow joggers and bicyclists to enjoy that 11-mile loop.  Since the summer season hasn’t started yet, we were able to get an early start to the trail.

I think I’m going to stop here and save the hike description for the next post.

So, I guess that’s all for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Today has been a very relaxing day.  We’ve had several chores to do--just the regular stuff in preparation to move, but we didn’t get in a hurry to get anything done.  Work a while; rest a while.
Pawpaw tree in bloom.  Never seen this before.

One of our chores took us to Wal-mart.  While there, I looked at the Kindles and Nooks.  I’m pretty old fashioned and not taking to the latest and greatest technologies very quickly.  However, a girl could go broke buying books, so the readers are appealing.  I’m fond of recycling books and frequent used book stores, flea markets, and especially the small libraries we find at some of the campgrounds to search for my reading material.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to find more recent releases.  I suspect it’s because so many folks have gone to e-books.

I’ve been thinking about a reader since Christmas, but haven’t really delved into the research.  I have spoken with several people who have one or the other, I’ve looked at them at Target and Wal-Mart, and Ansley has shared the information she has gleaned from her extensive research for her own choice in a reader.

For me, I just want to read a book.  I don’t want a computer. I don’t want a phone.  So, the IPad and Kindle Fire that will do everything including practically fix dinner for you I don’t want. (Well, if they actually cook, maybe I’ll reconsider.)  I want to be able to borrow books from the library, primarily.  I’m getting pretty serious about it now, so the search, and research, is on.

Mike and Peggy came over for a few minutes this afternoon.  It is so nice having them in the campground.  Even though we wanted to hog all their time, we let them do their own thing this morning and get their chores done.  They invited us over for dinner this evening.  Muffulettas--yum, yum.

Tomorrow morning we’re heading east to Cades Cove campground in Smoky Mountain National Park.  It occurred to me today that we may not have cell service there.  That means, not only no phone, but no MiFi service either.  We’re gonna be totally disconnected--no electricity, no water, no sewer, no TV, no phone, no internet.  This may be the last time you hear from me until Sunday when we leave the Park to meet friends for lunch.  We’ll see what happens.

‘Til then, thanks for tagging along.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

So What's Next

We’ve been here for almost two weeks.  We’ve seen most of the family and a few friends.  The big, bad jury duty is over.  Must be time to hit the road again.  So, where to next?

That little trip to Alaska ate a big chunk out of the budget, so no big trips this year.  We’re sticking close to Tennessee.  In fact, we may be in Tennessee most of the summer.  Tennessee can get pretty hot during the summer so we need to head for the mountains of East Tennessee.  There is some good hiking in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  Might as well start there.

For the past several days we’ve had my well-worn trail map of the Smokies spread out on the table.  To accompany the map, I got out my favorite guidebook for the hiking trails.  We’ve thumbed through the book and traced trail with our fingers.  Looks like Cades Cove on the northwest side of the park will be our first stop.

Mike and Peggy rolled in about mid-afternoon today.  After they got all squared away we enjoyed the evening with them.  Got to hear a few more of the details of their adventures in Texas with Darrell and Judy.

They need a day off the road tomorrow to relax interspersed with a few chores.  We’ll see them off and on tomorrow, then on Friday morning we’ll all be pulling up stakes and heading east.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cheekwood Garden and Art Center

The most important news of the day is that jury duty is over.  Gene had to be back at the courthouse at 8:30 this morning.  We got up and scurried around and were on the road a couple minutes before 7 AM.  I went along today to drop him off downtown and then spend the day with my mother.

Gene was never selected for a jury.  He was picked today, like yesterday, to be interviewed, and sat around in the courtroom for most of the day, but in the end was dismissed.  He had done his duty and we are now free to carry on with our lives.  Sure glad that’s over.
Cheek mansion

I got over to my folks’ about 9 AM after dropping him off.  Mother had a day planned for us.  She wanted to go over to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art to view the tulips.

Eskimo Viburnum
Cheekwood, the estate of the Cheek family, is located on a hillside in West Nashville adjacent to Percy Warner Park.  Christopher Cheek started out in the grocery business when he and his family first moved to the Nashville area in the late 1800s.  Along about that time a cousin developed a blend of coffee which was served at the Maxwell House Hotel in downtown Nashville.  Eventually, what is now General Foods bought the Maxwell House coffee company.  With that money the Cheeks purchased the land and built the mansion that would be called Cheekwood.  Cheeks lived in the mansion from 1932 until the 1950s.  It was then given to the city for development as a Botanical Garden and Art Center.

That red thing is made from recycled materials.  Up close, it looks like
a patchwork quilt of various red fabrics.
The mansion houses a small permanent art collection and secures traveling exhibits from time to time.  The grounds are beautifully manicured and each season is different depending on what’s blooming.  There is a very small Japanese Garden which we walked through today.  There are also other small gardens--herb garden, water garden, rose garden, and others depending on the season.

Mother tires easily, so we concentrated on the tulips today.  Of course, we couldn’t miss the dogwood which are in full bloom right now.  After our walk around, we had us a cup of coffee in the Pineapple Room and fingered the merchandise in the gift shop.  By the time we got all that done it was well past our lunch time and Mother was pretty pooped out.

Gene called for his pick up just as I was finishing my late lunch.  By some miracle, I got back downtown to grab Gene and got back out again before the worst of the afternoon traffic set in.  On the way home we stopped to get gas, stopped to pick up a few groceries, and stopped to pick up some Whitt’s BBQ to feed to my friends, Mike and Peggy.  We had a very long day and now we’re both pooped, as well.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Duty Calls

Today’s the day we’ve been waiting for--jury duty.  Nashville seems like a long way away when you have to be there by 8:30.  Gene crawled, grumbling, out of bed before daylight, scraped a razor across his face, swallowed a bite of breakfast, and dashed out the door before 7 AM.  The drive was only 35 miles, but with a good portion on a 2-lane, curvy road which has more than its fair share of rush hour traffic, getting into downtown, finding a place to park, and being at the courthouse on time was a challenge.  But, he met the challenge and was there with 5 minutes to spare.
Fire Pink
He was chosen as a possible juror right away, but after spending all day in the courtroom and being asked numerous questions, he was finally dismissed from that trial.  He gets to go back tomorrow, same time, same place for another opportunity to serve.  We’re actually very glad he wasn’t selected today because that trial was expected to last for a couple weeks.

While he was doing his duty, I had the run of Montgomery Bell State Park.  We’ve mentioned Montgomery Bell and his success in the iron industry making him one of the richest men in Tennessee during the early 1800s.  The site of an old iron forge and the ore pits are not the only thing of historical significance that took place at what is now Montgomery Bell State Park.

The “birthplace” of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church is just over the hill from the campground.  It seems that three of the church clergy were unhappy with official church policy and wanted to work out some way in which to resolve their differences of opinions.  These three guys met at the home of Rev. McAdow on February 4, 1810 and ended up reviving the Cumberland Church which had been dissolved several years earlier by the Kentucky Synod.   A replica of Rev McAdow’s home stands on the site where these men gathered.

Near this cabin is a small chapel built in 1960.  Services are held here each Sunday during the summer months and it’s a popular place for weddings.
This evening we spoke with those Maineiacs.  Mike and Peggy are motoring their way north on the Natchez Trace Parkway and expect to be in our neck of the woods on Wednesday.  Certainly anxious to see them and hear all about their trip around Texas.

That does it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Packs and Things

Today was another great day with family.  This time we invited my folks to come down to have lunch with us and while away the afternoon relaxing by the creek.  We grilled out hamburgers and served potato salad and baked beans.  It was a fine lunch and we spent the afternoon reading and talking while we watched almost all the campground occupants pack up, hitch up, and pull out.  It was a pleasant afternoon.
Port for water bladder tube (blue water drop)
Teri asked for a few more details about my new pack.  I’m always excited to talk hiking gear.  But before I get into the specifics of this new pack, a little background information might be helpful in understanding my choice in packs.
I can carry my camera bag inside the main compartment
First and foremost--I’m not an ultralighter. Especially not on a day hike.  There are some things I like to have and I don’t care how much they weigh. Secondly, I’m a firm believer in being prepared for an emergency and so I carry what is commonly referred to as the “ten essentials” which includes an emergency shelter.  Thirdly, we like to hike to enjoy the beauty of nature.  We don’t want to be the fastest hikers or the ones who can go the farthest.  Fourth, I’m a type A personality and I thrive on being organized.  Last, but not least, I live in a motorhome.  I can’t have an array of packs for every occasion like I did when I lived in a stick house.
Mesh water bottle pockets on each side
That being said, what about this new pack?  I selected the REI Lookout 40.  If you want an ultralight pack this ain’t it.  It weighs 3 pounds and has a capacity of 40 liters which for a day pack is huge.  I don’t always carry a lot of stuff; more often than not the pack is half empty.  But, on those cold days when I want to carry a thermos of soup for lunch and my bulky winter jacket, there’s room.  If we want to hike up to the waterfall, sip coffee, eat danish, and read a book, there’s room to carry all that stuff plus a small blanket.  If it’s hot and I want chicken salad and a glass of wine for lunch, there’s room for the cooler.  If I anticipate extraordinary wildflowers or, in the words of Tom Mangan over at Two Heel Drive, “charismatic megavistas”, I have room to carry the SLR along with a 300 mm lens all tucked safely away in its own bag inside my pack.
A large zippered pocket behind each
water bottle pocket
This pack has some nice features which I really like.  It has lots of pockets to help me stay organized.  There is a mesh water bottle pocket on each side.  They’re actually large enough and deep enough to hold a water bottle.  Since I normally carry a water bladder inside my pack, I probably won’t use those mesh pockets for water.  However, I can think of a zillion things that I might put there.  On the inside of the pack against the back wall there is a water bladder pocket and there are tube ports on each side of the pack.  I’ve never used those ports on any of my other packs, so probably won’t on this one.  Behind the mesh pockets are large zippered pockets.  I was so excited to see those pockets.  That’s where I like to carry my lunch and snacks and most packs only have the mesh water bottle pockets on the sides.  There is a large outside pocket in front of the main compartment.  That pocket has mesh dividers to keep things organized.  I have a place for pen and paper, headlamp, fire starter, extra boot laces, and a zippered mesh pocket for the first aid kit.  In the very top of the main compartment is a small waterproof pocket with a zipper on the outside--a perfect place for my wallet, car keys and phone.  The waist belt is padded with a small zippered mesh pocket on each side.  I’ve never had these pockets and am excited to have a handy place to carry lip balm, sunscreen, and tissue.  Gene uses his little pockets for snacks.

The back of the pack is covered in egg crate foam stuff which is then covered in mesh.    On my old packs, this was the part that got so stinky from sweat.  This foam will not absorb the moisture so I guess it’ll dry faster since only the surface is wet and be easy to clean.  The label claims this material is cooler.  It does seem to be better ventilated and it is very comfortable against my back.
Small mesh pockets on each side of the waist belt.
This pack is rated to be comfortable for loads up to 40 pounds.  I don’t even carry that much on a backpack.  However, I do often carry 15-20 pounds on day hikes.  With all the pockets it’d be easy to distribute the weight evenly and the waist belt is sturdy enough to carry the load so I guess I believe 40 pounds might not be an exaggeration.  I might give it a try for an overnight backpack some time.  It has straps on the bottom to carry a sleeping pad.  I’ll have to take Gene along, though, to carry the tent.
Small waterproof pocket at the top of the pack

There are a lot of packs out there from which to choose.  What you select really depends on your hiking style.  Just like buying a pair of shoes or an RV--decide what you want to use it for then shop for something that will accommodate that use.  For hiking gear, good outfitters or REI have salespeople that know their products and can really help answer your questions.  They also carry quality (and usually more expensive) products.  You don’t usually get the knowledgeable sales personnel or the quality products at the big box stores.
Egg crate foam for extra ventilation against my back.
Hope this helps, Teri.  Have fun shopping.  I just love this stuff.  Hope it wasn't too boring for those readers who don't hike.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Creech Hollow Trail

This is the weekend and that means family stuff.  This afternoon we drove up to Joelton to visit with Jack, Ansley, and Kayley and then went out to dinner.  Yesterday was a big day for little Miss Kayley--she got her first haircut.

This morning we had time for a short hike.  Creech Hollow Trail is easily accessed from the campground so that’s the one we chose.  Creech Hollow trail is listed as 1.7 miles in length and we figured we added another half mile or so for the access trail.  We often hike Creech Hollow, but I don’t think I’ve ever hiked this trail without also doing one side or the other of Montgomery Bell Trail.
Canoe on Creech Hollow Lake
The Montgomery Bell Trail is a 10.5 mile loop.  Creech Hollow Trail serves as a connector between two sides of the Montgomery Bell Trail forming a figure eight.  Because there is parking at various places along the Montgomery Bell Trail, Creech Hollow actually creates two 6-mile loops out of the Montgomery Bell Trail.
I'm lovin' my new pack
It was a cool, overcast morning, but still pleasant to be outside.  Again, we were thrilled with the display of wildflowers.  We continue to see anemone and continue to be puzzled as to which it is--rue or false rue.  We also came across a vine today that we haven’t been able to identify yet.  We’re almost positive it’s some sort of pea, probably a vetch, but which one we have not a clue.
Vetch, maybe? 

Anemone--rue or false rue
We’ve had a busy day and now it’s time for bed.  Tomorrow--more family stuff.

That’s it for now.  Thanks for tagging along.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Narrows of the Harpeth

This afternoon, after a morning of chores, we went for a little leg stretcher to Narrows of the Harpeth State Park.  We don’t go there often.  In fact, it’s probably been 10 years since we were there last.  All together there is about a mile of hiking trail over there, but it always has some of the nicest displays of wildflowers anywhere around.  I’ll include a few of the many photos I took today, but Narrows of the Harpeth didn’t get to be included in the State Park system because of the wildflowers.  The narrows have played an important part in local history.

Perfoliate Bellwort

We got home later than planned and I was busy fixing dinner so I asked Gene to write up the history of the Narrows.  Here’s his take on the whole thing.
View from the bluff overlook high above the Harpeth River

Prof Curp here to tell you of the history of the narrows of the Harpeth River.

The river isn’t narrow.  But the land at the neck of a loop in the river is very narrow.  Let me guess 30 yards.
My favorite for today--shooting star.

Montgomery Bell, originally of Pennsylvania apprenticed to a tanner as a boy.  As a teenager he apprenticed to a hat maker and liked that pretty well.  He moved to Lexington Kentucky and took to hat making something fierce.  And, he was also making money something fierce.  Remember, this was about 1800 AD and men in these parts all wore hats whenever they were awake.  Montgomery thought middle Tennessee had lots of potential due to the many rivers available for power.  (Energy sources have always been important.)

Montgomery saved up $16,000 which is astounding for that time. Especially for a hat maker, in my opinion.   He bought the Cumberland Furnace village and iron works in middle TN near the Harpeth River (currently Dickson County) about 1810 for that princely sum. [ I say about cause I don’t remember what the sign said.]  See, in 1793 James Robertson (a founder of Nashville and a Methodist who lost his “ticket” to meetings due to persistent backsliding as a drinker) and a partner established the iron works (hematite was the ore available).

Montgomery went on to be the biggest iron producer in the South prior to the War of Northern Aggression.  Bell had a reputation of never paying a debt without being sued.
That didn’t stop him from buying slaves to run the furnaces, dig the ore pits and do other backbreaking work for nothing.  He owned at several points in his life up to 400 slaves.  It’s easier to make money when you pay the workers nothing.  His reputation also included forcing his intentions on some of his female slaves (I am not making this up).
But his biggest reputation was as the Iron Master of Tennessee.  He even made cannon shot for Gen. Andrew Jackson to use at New Orleans in the War of 1812.  In fact, it was the profits of that gouge of the Government of the USA that provided the capital to allow him to become Iron Master of Tennessee and a Big Time Industrialist.  (Reading between the lines here).
I always think of this as the entrance to the tunnel.

The river comes in here
Remember the Narrows.  Bell, being all into water power, and flush with war money and having a bunch of slaves, had them dig a tunnel through the limestone bluff 15 to 20 feet wide and 8 feet tall between 1818 and 1820.  Hand tools.  Wow. The power harnessed from the river ran the iron forge.
And flows out here

With that little history lesson, we’re gonna call it a day.  More pictures of the wildflowers to come in later posts.  Thanks for tagging along.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Room, Lots of Room

The most important news of the day is that we got our slide fixed.  We were up and at it this morning to pull into our dealership at 8 AM.  There aren’t really appointments for service.  They tell you the day to come in.  For everybody coming in on that day, it’s first come, first served.  We fully expected it to take the better part of the day so we had plenty on our list to do.

Our first stop was at Camping World for new light covers.  All of the 12 volt lights in our motorhome have those plastic covers.  We noticed a few days ago that one of them had a hole in it where the heat from the bulb had, over time, damaged the plastic.  I decided it was a fire hazard, so took those plastic covers off the three lights we use often.  We decided to go with the LED lights instead of those hot bulbs.  They didn’t have our size plastic covers, so we still have one with a hole in it.  May have to order that online.

Our next stop was REI, but we had to pass right by Krispy Kreme Donuts before getting to REI.  No sense in letting that opportunity go to waste.    We haven’t had a Krispy Kreme since Christmas; might not have even had a donut since then.  We were way overdue.

At REI I finally bought a new pack.  I’ve been carrying a Kelty Redwing day pack for about 15 years.  I love Kelty packs and own both a day pack and a backpack.  At one time, I had three Kelty packs.  But, their new day packs I don’t like as well.  I went with an REI Lookout 40.  It’s on the large size for a day pack at 40 liters, but I like a large pack for winter hiking when I take a bulky jacket and also for those times when I want to take my SLR.  I can put the whole camera bag inside my pack.  There are also lash points on the pack to attach my tripod.  I’ve also been known to take a soft sided cooler on a hike.  The Lookout is rated to carry up to 40 pounds comfortably.  That’s way more than I want to carry on a day hike, but at least I know the camera, a heavy jacket, or a lot of water shouldn’t be a problem.  I transferred all my stuff this afternoon and walked around some.  It feels really good.  The real test will be a hike.  We’ve got rain in the forecast for the next 3 days so it may not happen until next week.  I left all the tags on just in case it turns out I don’t like it.

REI is not too far from my parents’ home so we drove over there to visit with them and spend the rest of the day.  We were really surprised when our dealer called after we’d been there only about an hour.  We rushed off to get our home and make the trip back to Montgomery Bell State Park.  The site we left was still open, so we’re right back where we started from.

It’s great to have the slide out again.  Even though we can get to everything with it in, and it’s only 2 feet deep, it makes a tremendous difference in living space.  I feel like I’m living in a mansion.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Me Day

Well, I guess I need to catch up with what’s happening with us.  For this visit in Nashville we are staying at Montgomery Bell State Park.  As you might suspect, since we rolled into town we have been very busy with family.  Saturday morning we spent with Jack, Ansley, and Kayley.  Sunday afternoon and evening we were over at my parents’ home.  In between times, we were rushing to get laundry done and groceries bought.  After a busy traveling and hiking week last week and family over the weekend, I needed a day to myself.
False Rue Anemone

I had a very enjoyable day.  It was a gorgeous spring day and I sat outside with my coffee and a book for much of the morning.  Gene had invited one of our hiking buddies to join him for a hike here in the park.  I bugged out of that adventure so had most of the morning and early afternoon to myself.
One of the things I enjoy doing, but don’t do very often is go out with my camera.  A couple years ago I purchased a small point and shoot camera to take on the trail.  I love that little camera and it’s the one I usually grab every morning whether we’re hiking or not.  The abundant wildflowers around our campsite piqued my interest in taking my SLR on a trail today.  All the photos in this post are from my short walk along the Bailey Nature Trail, a three-quarter mile loop behind the Visitor Center.
Lots of trillium almost ready to bloom.
Montgomery Bell State Park has a nice campground.  Several years ago they upgraded to accommodate larger RVs.  They now have many sites with full hook-ups. Most are back-ins, but there are a few pull-thrus.  We are parked in a large level site right by the creek.  This is spring break season and schools in several nearby counties were on vacation last week.  The campground was nearly full over the weekend, but nearly empty today.  If you don’t like the smell of woodsmoke, this was not the place to be this weekend or any weekend for that matter.
But I only saw these three that were in bloom.

White trillium
The down side to staying here is the two-week limit.  Since we only expect to be here a couple weeks this time, it’ll work out fine.  However, in the fall when we come to town and plan to stay for a couple months, it’s just not worth the hassle of moving all the time.
Can't find this in our book.  Still trying to figure out what it is.
The up side to staying here is the hiking.  There are 20 miles of trail within the park and we can jump on an access trail right in the campground and not have to drive to a trailhead.
I just love the spring beauty.
Now that we’re all settled in and enjoying life creekside, tomorrow we get to move.  Remember that slide out that wouldn’t come in when we were in Perry?  We have a service appointment to have that repaired on Wednesday morning, 8 AM, on the other side of downtown Nashville.  In order to avoid the morning rush hour, we’re gonna move ourselves up to Music Valley Drive almost next door to our dealership.  After the repair, we’ll come back here.

I think that about wraps up the day.  Thanks for tagging along.