Eastern Utah
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Monday, September 30, 2013

Paducah, KY

I am enjoying my visit here so much.  Haven't gone out much at all but just have had a wonderful time yakking away with my aunt and uncle.  Also, my genealogist cousin came by and drove me around Paducah some, but he was having trouble with his Jeep so we didn't go far.

Celeste and cousin Andrew:

Aunt Celeste and Uncle Joe: 

A real treat was having a visit from Caryn, who blogs as "Night Sky", and who drove up from Tennessee and met me for lunch at the Flamingo Restaurant:

 I couldn't resist taking a photo of this little darling at the restaurant.  I was told it was a "she":
 She responded to all the servers who came up next to her aquarium and tapped on it and seemed to enjoy the attention.

I wanted to catch up a bit, and will try to make another post tomorrow to bring you up to where I am tonight.  I'll no doubt be back in Paducah for another couple of nights before moving on towards California.

Friday, September 27, 2013

In Paducah

I arrived yesterday about mid-day and just visited with my aunt and uncle all day, with a drop-in visit from my cousin Robert, one of their 4 children.  We've reminisced, looked at old pictures, read old letters, and tried to catch up on the 10 years since we've seen each other.  Today I'm waiting to hear from my partner in geneaology research, cousin Andrew, whom I've never met in person.  We're going to spend some time today or tomorrow driving around all the old family sites.

I'll have more to say but when I leave here sometime Sunday.  Right now, I'm enjoying being with my wonderful aunt and childhood role model, Celeste.  She is 8 years older than I am and when I visited the farm she always involved me in her teen activities - basketball games, all her high school friends, etc.  I felt so grown up back then and everyone treated me so special.  Now we are both in our 70's and she's still treating me like I'm someone special!  I'm loving it.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cumberland Gap to Western Kentucky

Leaving the Smokies I saw this beam of sunlight and wasn't sure if I could get a picture of it, but I did.
The following are some random shots from the walk up to the Pinnacles at Cumberland Gap.


I took a picture of my tent site at Cumberland.  It started out to be a comfortable night until the rain began.  For several hours it just sprinkled, but it came down in earnest at about 5 am.  I put everything away wet, and am drying out a few things at the motel I'm staying in tonight.

Cumberland Gap is a very beautiful park although the way it is situated makes it difficult to get back and forth to the campground.  Well, not exactly difficult, but ... not easy either.  

The old road through the Gap was known locally as Massacre Hill because of the high accident and mortality rate there.  The Park service demolished the old road and have made the actual gap more like it would have been when the settlers were coming through.  A tunnel and new road up to the Visitors Center separates the campground from the rest of the park, and the only way you can see the original Gap is to hike a trail that goes around the saddle of the gap.  In fact seeing anything seems to require a hike!

A word about the bison that once roamed in the southeast, I was told by the ranger that the bison were plentiful, although they usually lived in solitude rather than in herds as do the Plains buffalo.  Eventually the settlers killed all of them in the eastern U.S., and the only remaining few are in one of Canada's provincial parks.  The ranger didn't know which province nor which park, but maybe a reader from Canada could give us some better info. 

Today I stopped at Perryville Civil War Battlefield and took a look around.  I was here with the kids about 35-40 years ago and it was just the battlefield and the monument; complete silence and the beautiful rolling fields that once saw battle and carnage.  Now it is fixed up with signs and roads and interpretive programs, and even a visitors Center!  It's not the same for me.  That was the first time I ever stood in the silence and listened and heard the battle all around me.  (A few posts ago I think I was complaining about what has been done to Gettysburg.  Sorry, but I prefer the original uncomplicated version.

Tomorrow I will be in Paducah with my aunt and uncle, and may or may not post while I'm there.  I will no doubt see first cousins that I haven't seen in ages, and meet 1st cousins once removed (their kids).  I'm looking forward to it.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Monday, 9/23, Asheville

I checked my email before I left the motel this morning and found a msg from Pat, who said she and her husband, Jim, were having breakfast at the Huddle House this morning.  We arranged to meet, and I was delighted to get to know a little about this delightful couple who are now living in Black Mountain, and who have recently bought a 5th wheel.  They plan a trip soon to visit relatives in Colorado, and I wish them all the luck and happiness in their travels.

 I urged Pat to start writing a blog to chronicle their RVing preparations and travels, and I will pass the link along if I get it.

So with such a great start to the morning - meeting new friends and eating a fine down-home breakfast as well - I was off to a good start on the BRP from Asheville to the Great Smoky Mountains NP.  The sun was too bright to get many good pictures on the eastern side of the Parkway.  My photography leaves a lot to be desired, and I know that.  When photographing nature, which I love to do, I find the pictures I store to memory are the best ones.  There is no film or artist's rendition that can match the glory of Mother Nature!  I'm glad to take pictures though (and to look at others' photos) as they sometimes enable me to recall a similar scene that is stored in my memory album.

This section of the Parkway is a lot different than the section I traveled from north to Asheville.  The scenery is a bit more rugged and there are many tunnels.  The tunnels are not lighted but have reflectors on the side walls and the roadway.  If you are in a curved tunnel and at the point where you cannot see daylight from either end, it can be a little nerve wracking.

The mountains are spectacular though.  The sunlight washes everything with a haze and I'm sure there are filters to help with that.

I took this picture because of the name "Licklog Gap".

I decided to stop at a campground just inside the Smoky Mountains Park, (Smokemont) and after setting up I walked a short nature trail.  "Short" doesn't mean no steep climbs and descents however.  I took lots of pictures of the creek but few of the trail.  That's because I was huffing and puffing!  I've stayed in this campground before as they allow you to park your vehicle at one end and spend as much time as you like in the backcountry.

Because rain was expected in the next day or so I decided to move on to Cumberland Gap National Park.  Rain is predicted for tomorrow, and if it rains then I will head west.  I don't have the time or the money to wait around for the rain to stop.  

I could have easily spent a week or two in the Smokies.  I love that place more than anywhere else I can think of.  But it brings back bittersweet memories of a decade or so ago when I had a great hiking partner and spent many great weeks backpacking in the Smokies as well as other beautiful locations in Virginia, TN/NC, West Virginia, Maryland, etc.  

In every campground so far I've been lucky to meet nearby tenters and have some great conversations.  I'm not sure what will happen here at Cumberland Gap, but I will enjoy my stay nonetheless.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Skyline Dr. & te Blue Ridge Pkwy

When I left Lewis Mtn CG on Skyline Drive there was still some decent visibility.  I drove directly from Skyline onto the Blue Ridge.  Here are some photos I took while the taking was good, including several of Mabry's Mill.

I try to find a picnic area of which there are many, to brew a pot of coffee and eat whatever I can scrounge up for breakfast.

I keep a watchful eye out for bears who might smell the coffee!  I did see a young bear scamper across the road somewhere on the way, and have seen lots of female turkeys.  Even at 35 mph you go by them pretty fast.

When I got on the BRP which has a 45 mph limit it seems like I am speeding.  Actually you can't maintain anything over 25 because of the constant curves.  Good thing I don't get carsick!

So I arrived in Asheville last night and found a motel in Black Mountain where I paid for two nights.  I love this area and it seems more like home to me than anywhere I've ever lived.  The people here are unlike any others, incredibly friendly and polite, and their accents just thrill me - soft and sweet as butter, smooth and lovely as silk.  I made a trip to the store where I always bought my beer, and had to tell the guy at least three times I wanted ice!  It isn't pronounced eye-ss, but a-sss!  They still have the sign outside that says "Proud to be American Hillbilly Owned".  I love it.

I also checked that the Huddle House is still in Black Mountain as I will have my breakfast there tomorrow - they have the best grits and gravy on the planet!

I drove back on the BRP about 20 miles or so to Craggy Gardens, and I actually climbed to the overlook on top, which is .7 mile one way.  Thanks to Judy I had her walking stick or I would never have made it.  Make it I did, though I was definitely the only old person on the trail.  I stood aside and let people pass me on the uphill as well as downhill climb.  I did that trail only a few years ago, kept up an actual pace and even made conversation with my companion.  Those days have slipped away for sure.

I believe this first pic was taken at Bull Creek Valley.  A sign says that the last buffalo seen in this locality was killed nearby in 1799 by Joseph Rice, an early settler.  I didn't even know there were buffalo in this area at one time. 

The road from whence I climbed:

If you click on the pictures they enlarge.  This picture shows the Swannanoa Valley in the distance, with all its buildings and civilization.  I used to live "up the mountain" from Swannanoa which is barely visible in the photo.

I returned to Black Mountain and drove over to Tomahawk Lake to eat my lunch, then walked around the lake for old time's sake.  Here are my old friends, the "Seven Sisters".  (Kind of confusing because there are many more peaks than seven.)

I'm not sure what happened to the hundreds of waterfowl that used to be in this little lake.  There were even Mandarin ducks as well as other uusual kinds, but now there are just a few.  It is certainly a lot easier to walk around the lake and there aren't hordes of birds rushing up to demand food.

I apologize for the number of photos.  I even left out some narrative because I wanted to keep it within reasonable size, but I do want to catch up so that I don't need to cover so much time and territory in future posts.  Tomorrow if the weather looks decent I will continue with the remaining 50 or so miles of the BRP; otherwise I will just go on to Cumberland Gap.  Stay tuned!