Sunday, October 28, 2012

Blue Ridge Parkway


Saturday started out as a pretty nice day, although we did have a few clouds moving in over the mountains.  After a hearty breakfast of bacon and waffles, we decided to take a short drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and check out some of the sites that were recommended to us.

Just west of Maggie Valley is a small, but very beautiful waterfall – Soco Falls.  There is just a small parking area on the side of the road, and a really small sign, but we managed to find it. 


The trail is short (only about 200 yards), but pretty steep,


and narrow . . . with no guardrail!  The trail ends at an observation platform, but there is a ropeline that will allow you to get all the way down to the bottom of the falls.


Tom even decided to try it!


I considered continuing, but Nicolas said it was pretty muddy and slippery, so I decided to stay and take pictures from above. 














The boys reached the bottom and posed for a picture for me.


The three of them made their way back up the ropeline,


and we got back in the car to continue our drive through the Smoky Mountains.  We stopped at a couple of overlooks,


to enjoy the view of the mountains,


and then continued up.  We reached the Waterrock Know Overlook,


and started up the trail.


The path is paved, but very steep, and it was slow going . . . we stopped to look back on the road we had driven up,


and to get some rest!


After our short break, it was time to continue our trek to the Pedestrian Overlook.




After this point, the trail changes from a paved surface to a more natural gravel and stone surface.  It wasn’t quite as steep, though, and actually a little easier on the knees.


I let the three of them go up ahead of me, and I followed at a slower pace, meeting up with them when they were on the way back down.

They found somebody at the top to take a picture of them – Bryce said it was pretty chilly up there, and they were really close to the clouds!


We decided to call it a day after that, and headed back into Maggie Valley.  Tom wanted to stop at “Crazy Bob’s” Biker Shop on the way back to the RV Park – where he picked up some stickers for his helmet, and we all got ice cream cones (not too cold for ice cream yet!!)

By the time we got home, the temperatures were dropping and we spent the afternoon and evening inside.  Bryce got to watch the MI State Spartans win, and I worked on their schedules and made lasagna for dinner.  Not a bad way to spend the day!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall Colors and Elk in the Smoky Mountains–North Carolina

fall colors

It was another beautiful day here in the Smoky Mountains, so once everybody was done with work/school, we got in the car and drove up into the mountains in search of fall colors and elk . . . neither were hard to find!

smoky mountains

The Cataloochee area is well-known for its elk herd, and it’s just a short drive up and over the mountain to find them.  Nicolas wanted to get some experience with mountain driving, so he took the wheel and headed up the mountain.

nick driving

The roads were steep and twisty-turny,

road sign


but he wasn’t worried at all, and handled the car just fine!  We stopped at an overlook to enjoy the view of the countryside,


and the boys got some use out of their new binoculars!


Tom did, too . . .


when he wasn’t trying to figure out how to open the bearproof garbage can!

bearproof can












A few more miles, and we came to a meadow where the elk were gathering.

elk herd

They were still pretty far back from the road, though, so we continued along to see if we would find more down the road.


There were a couple more meadows, but no elk in sight.  We did see lots of signs warning people to stay out of the fields, though!

elk warning

The road followed a creek,


and passed by an old homestead that belonged to one of the original settlers of the Cataloochee area.


The house wasn’t in too bad of shape, but the foundation was a little iffy!


We reached the end of the road, and met up with Bill – a volunteer in the Elk Bugle Corp.


He gave us a few suggestions for areas to check out before the cold weather moves in on Sunday.  We turned the car around, and headed back the way we had come from.  Arriving back to the meadow where we had seen the elk earlier, there were quite a few more cars parked along the side of the road!



The reason was that the elk had moved much closer to the road, and were a lot easier to see!

elk herd_2

We counted 23 elk, including the big guy,

bull elk

and a couple of babies!

baby elk

We stayed and watched the elk with everybody else for awhile, and then we got back in the car to continue the drive back to the RV.  We got to an area that looked like some elk were being contained,



but when we talked to the volunteer, she assured us that these guys are free to come and go – they just happen to like the grass in this area, so they spend a lot of time here!

Tom and the boys were drawn over by the volunteers’ little electric vehicle,


but soon were checking out the antlers that she had in the back!


Bryce decided he wanted to try them on, but he had to be careful not to aggravate the bull elk!

bryce elk

These guys weren’t too interested, though – they were too busy eating!

two bulls

After chatting with the volunteers for awhile, we were all pretty much starving, so we decided it was definitely time to get back for dinner! 

The fall colors on the drive back over the mountain were even prettier, in the setting sun!

fall colors_2

fall colors_3

Nicolas got us safely back to the RV Park, where we quickly grilled our Yoder steaks from Shipshewana – YUM! We should have bought more of those – they have the best steak!!

Tomorrow we’ll go out for another driving adventure, and then we’ll probably have a couple of indoor days as the temperature drops early in the week.  We’re not supposed to get any rain or snow, though . . . so that’s a good thing!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cumberland Falls and the Eagle Falls Trail


I was determined to get in one day of hiking/sightseeing before we leave here tomorrow, so regardless of the complaints of the kid who wanted to stay and play basketball all day, we took off after lunch to visit Cumberland Falls in the Daniel Boone National Forest.  It was just a 30 mile drive through the scenic countryside, and we arrived at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park.  We stopped in at the Visitor Center, and then walked along the observation platforms by the falls.










Nicolas was a willing model for me, and he enjoyed taking lots of pictures himself, too.



Bryce quickly got over his reluctance to come along with us, and started to enjoy himself, too!













So, after checking out the falls from all the easy access points, we picked up some sparkling clear Kentucky water ($6.00 for 4 bottles, but that was our only expense for the whole afternoon!),


changed into our sturdy hiking boots,


and got back in the car to cross the river to the Eagle Falls Trailhead.


The Eagle Falls trail is 1.5 miles round trip, plus a couple of spur trails to the Gorge Overlook and down to Eagle Falls, and as can be seen above, it was apparently voted the “Best Trail in Kentucky”! 

We started out climbing up, up up . . .


overlooking the river above the falls,


and then up some more, until we reached the Civilian Conservation Corps Shelter at the Gorge Overlook.




Back down to the main trail, it was downhill from this point until we reached Eagle Falls.  We walked through lots of really neat rock formations,


and saw some interesting plants, too!


We climbed over and under rocks, stopped to take a family portrait,


and the boys even found a little tunnel that they just HAD to see if they could squeeze through!


Nicolas managed to make it through, and Bryce followed right behind him – although didn’t have jeans to protect his legs!


I think he was having fun, and had forgotten all about basketball!


The final part of the trail involved some very narrow, steep stairs,


and then continued over rocks and logs,


until we reached our final destination . . . Eagle Falls.



Tom and I were ready for a rest, but the boys just never give up!  They continued to climb on the rocks and explore all the nooks and crannies surrounding the falls!



They even found a way to get behind the falls!


It was a quiet day on the trail, and in the 2 hours it took us to get to Eagle Falls, we only saw 4 other people!  It was after 5pm by then, and even though it would be cool to get a picture of a bear, we really didn’t care to run into one on the trail . . . so we decided it was time to head back to the car!


We put the camera away, and made quick work of the return trip . . . arriving back at the trailhead in just over an hour! 

It was a great day for hiking, and even though the falls are smaller in Autumn than they probably are in the Spring, they were still awesome to see . . . Niagara of the South!


On the way back to the campground, we stopped for Nick to do a little car window-shopping,


and then finished the day with dinner at the place Bryce has been dying to get to . . . and it was pretty good . . . for a buffet!


Tomorrow we pack up and continue south . . . next stop – North Carolina!