A New Chapter

The posts that I have been writing on this blog since last December served as a means of keeping friends and family informed of our location and adventures as we traveled the US.  As we now begin preparations for relocating ourselves and our belongings to a new home (one more permanent than the Subaru Forester that has served us so well these past months) a new chapter begins.

We have a lot of work ahead of us and a whole new focus for planning our activities in the coming days.  For us it continues to be an adventure, but one of a different sort.  It will not be the type of adventure where we visit exciting new places, ride our bikes, hike up mountains and/or take “tourist” photos.  For those of you who have been faithful followers of this blog, these new trials and tribulations of our upcoming relocation adventures will not be very interesting.

For this reason, as we start our new chapter, I am officially bringing this one to a close.  I will not be posting any new entries to this blog.  We will do our best to individually keep each of you posted on our progress of relocating.  Phone calls and emails are always welcome if you haven’t heard from us.

May our Lord Jesus richly bless each of you who know Him as your Lord and Savior.  For those who don’t yet know Him we pray that you will soon reach that blessed truth.

The Waterfalls Will be Beautiful Tomorrow

We had saved our hike in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains for today, our last day in Greenville before leaving the Carolinas.  Unfortunately, the weather made other plans for us.  We could see the rain in the forecast this morning when we left Greenville for the drive to the Blue Ridge.  But we had hoped that it would be like yesterday’s rain that cleared out before lunchtime.  Brevard, North Carolina, was the first stop and we dashed out in the soaking rain to go into the Visitor’s Center for a map.  The Visitor’s Center had an overhead TV displaying Doppler radar and it was evident that the rain was not going to let up anytime soon.  The comment that the lady at the desk made in the discussion of our failed hopes for hiking today summarized this visit to North Carolina: “With all of this rain, the waterfalls will be beautiful tomorrow!”

For us, the beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina are going to have to wait for another time. There didn’t seem to be any point in sticking around so we drove back to Greenville.  At times, the rain was so heavy that we could barely see the road. Although it stopped raining once we got down from the mountains, I think it’s probably still raining up there.

We missed our day of hiking today but we enjoyed other activities this week in the Greenville area.  This part of South Carolina is known as the “Upcountry”, a land of forested mountains, scenic lakes, rocky outcroppings and rushing whitewater rapids.  A hike we took one day climbed steeply for 3.5 miles to the top of the rock formation at Table Rock State Park.  3.5 miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but with 2000-foot elevation gain and a very rocky trail, we got a good workout.  The views were well worth it.

Table Rock.
View of Table Rock as seen from the road on the way to the park.
Rest break.
A rest break about halfway up.
Closer to top.
Getting closer to the top.
Made it to the top!

The one day of bike riding that we did during our time in Greenville was on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 17-mile rail-to-trail path that runs along the Reedy River and connects Greenville with the town of Travelers Rest.  About 7 miles north of Greenville the trail passes next to Furman University and we took some time to ride around the Furman campus.

Furman University.
Furman University lunch stop along Swamp Rabbit Trail.
Falls Park
Falls Park on the Reedy, downtown Greenville, from Swamp Rabbit Trail.

A day’s excursion that took us further afield from Greenville was a visit to Columbia, the capital of South Carolina.  After some time spent walking in the downtown area, we took a 15-mile drive southeast of the city to see Congaree National Park.  Here we battled the humidity and mosquito swarms to gape at the towering trees surrounding us in the forest as we strolled along a 2.5-mile boardwalk trail.  The Congaree National Park is a 22,000 acre tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest, the largest of its kind in the US.  One of the park signs states: “No place in North America has a larger contiguous area of 130-foot to over 160-foot tall trees”.  Despite the mosquitos, we absorbed the awe-inspiring beauty and peacefulness of these giant trees.

Capitol building
State Capitol building in Columbia, South Carolina.
Plaque displayed at Congaree National Park Visitor Center–they weren’t joking, either!
Boardwalk Trail
Boardwalk Trail at Congaree National Park.  Tree on Lee’s right is Bald Cypress and on left is Tupelo.
Loblolly Pine
Loblolly Pine, once common in the US, but now rare to see one this ancient.

Tomorrow we bid farewell to the southern states and turn northward, our goal being northern Virginia on Friday to take care of some personal business.  It doesn’t seem the right time of year to be heading north.  But all good things must come to an end and we have many wonderful memories to take with us into whatever next state we find ourselves.

Tennessee to Georgia to South Carolina

After our weeklong stay in Knoxville we spent several days camping and sightseeing in Georgia.  We then circled back northward yesterday to end up in Greenville, South Carolina, where we have again rented a weeklong extended stay.  We have been in the Greenville area before but would like to spend more time this visit so that we can take advantage of the nice weather and the proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The last 2 days of our week in Knoxville were spent visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Our first visit was to the area called Cades Cove.  Besides the historic farms and cabins that are a popular attraction, this valley also offers some of the best opportunities in the park for viewing wildlife. An 11-mile loop road winds through the valley and we decided to ride our bikes, instead of driving the car.  We were surprised at how many cars were on the road, considering it was after Labor Day and not a weekend.  At one point, as were pedaling along, up ahead of us we saw a large group of cars that were stopped and people were getting out to look along the roadside.  As we approached, we realized the attraction stopping the traffic was a small black bear ambling across the road and through the adjacent meadow.  I’ve seen black bears in the wild before but the unique behavior we observed from this guy was that he proceeded to climb up into a nearby tree and skillfully balanced himself on a couple of shaky limbs that didn’t look nearly strong enough to support his weight.  But, apparently, he knew what he was doing and seemed to be enjoying his perch oblivious to us gawking tourists below.

Near the halfway point of the Cades Cove loop road we made a diversion down a side road that led to the trailhead of a hike to a waterfall on Abrams Creek.  It was a five-mile round trip hike to get to the falls and back, but well worth it for the views at the falls and along the trail.  There was a bit more climbing up and down of ridges on the trail than what we had expected.  Not to mention that the Cades Cove loop road presented some uphill challenges on the bike ride portion of our tour.  Needless to say, we were pretty tired after our first day in the Smokies.

Our second day in the Smokies was no less exhausting and exhilarating, but for different reasons.  We mapped out a circuit hike using a park map and combining portions of trails that looked interesting to us.  Once again we had no way to judge how much elevation climb to expect.  As we hiked this day it wasn’t just the elevation that was a challenge but there were several stretches of trail that were filled with fallen trees requiring ups, overs, unders, roundabouts, and whatever other means we could devise to negotiate the piles of brushy tangles.  It was only at the end of the day when we finally made it back to the car that we stopped to read a notice on a kiosk warning hikers of trail closures due to spring storm damages that had not yet been cleared out.  Wouldn’t you know it, several of the trails mentioned were ones that we had been hiking on.  But, difficult as it was, it was all part of the fun and adventure.

Biking on Cades Cove Loop Trail in Great Smoky Mountains.
Abrams Falls hike at Cades Cove.
View from Look Rock along road in Great Smoky Mountains
Stream crossing of Rabbit Creek Trail on hike in Great Smoky Mountains
Descending Little Bottoms Trail on hike in Great Smoky Mountains.

Georgia does not have the mountains like the Smokies and the Blue Ridge that we love to explore, but we were pleasantly surprised at the many opportunities we did find there for enjoying the great outdoors.  One day we rode our bikes on a portion of the Silver Comet Trail, a 60-mile rail trail that starts in Smyrna, Georgia, passes close to Atlanta and ends in the northwestern part of the state at the Georgia-Alabama border.  We did a short out-and-back ride near the center of the trail, starting at the Rockmart trailhead.  We were told by a fellow bicyclist at the end of our ride that we had selected the best portion of the trail because it passes through less-populated areas and is more scenic.  We agreed that it was a scenic ride and even had some elevation that is usually not part of a rail trail ride.

Brushy Mountain tunnel on Silver Comet Trail.
Riding the Silver Comet Trail.

Other things that we enjoyed in Georgia were 2 nights at a couple of different state parks.  The first was Sloppy Floyd State Park, near Summerville, Georgia.  What kind of name is that, you might well ask?  This park was named for James H. (Sloppy) Floyd, who served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1953 to 1974 and was from the area.  We loved the quiet, beauty of this small park, surrounded by rural countryside and the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Sloppy Floyd State Park, Georgia.

Another night of camping in Georgia was again at a small rural park, Hamburg State Park, along the edge of quiet Hamburg Lake fed by the Little Ogeechee River.

Campsite at Hamburg State Park, Georgia.

A trip through central Georgia wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Ocmulgee National Monument, a place of interest to students of American Indian history; hence, something on Lee’s bucket list.  I enjoyed it, too, because, to see the Indian Mounds that are there, it requires walking outdoors on a circuit path and it was a beautiful day to be outside.

Ocmulgee National Monument path to Indian Mounds; Earthlodge (underground ceremonial meeting house) in background.

And last, but not least, before leaving Georgia to cross over into South Carolina, we stopped in Augusta, Georgia, visited the downtown area and walked for a bit along the Riverwalk path that parallels the Savannah River.

Riverwalk along Savannah River in Augusta, Georgia.  South Carolina visible across the river.

After last week’s hiking, driving, and bike riding we look forward to being planted in one place again for a full week.  The weather promises to be gorgeous September days so we won’t be sitting around indoors for very long here in Greenville.  As we study maps and brochures of the area, I’m sure we will find the right balance between rest, relaxation and recreation during our time here.

Tons to See in Tennessee

We have been enjoying our weeklong stay in Knoxville, Tennessee, as we explore the sights of eastern Tennessee.  When we arrived here on Labor Day weekend we didn’t know that Knoxville is famous for the annual Labor Day fireworks display called Boomsday.  Crowds began gathering downtown early in the day on Sunday to visit vendor booths, listen to live bands and find the best places to set up chairs in preparation for the start of the fireworks at dark.  We made sure to get there early enough to find parking and then had plenty of time to walk around and enjoy the festivities.

We could see that the fireworks were going to be set off from an unused railroad bridge that spans the Tennessee River in the downtown area.  Our chairs were set up for prime viewing. We had our umbrellas with us and had to use them before the fireworks started as a couple of thundershowers passed overhead.

Promptly at 9:30 the display began and I have to say that it was the most impressive fireworks display I have ever seen.  For 30 minutes the sky was filled with multiple bursts, there was an accompanying soundtrack over the loudspeakers and twice there was also this awesome effect where a waterfall of cascading lighted fireworks flowed down from the railroad bridge to the river below. The last 5 minutes of the grand finale came just as the heavens opened up with a huge downpour of rain that sent people running in every direction.  Even with our umbrellas we got wet but it all added to the excitement and fun of the event.  A Labor Day weekend I won’t forget, that’s for sure.

Besides being famous for the annual Boomsday event, Knoxville also has the distinction that in 1982 it hosted the World’s Fair.  There is a World’s Fair Park downtown that commemorates the event.  The Sunsphere is a steel truss tower topped with a gold-colored glass sphere that was set up as the symbol of the fair.  From the observation deck of the Sunsphere we were able to get a bird’s eye view of the city.

World’s Fair Park and Sunsphere.
Another downtown Knoxville landmark.

There is also a lot of Civil War history that one can learn by visiting Knoxville.  Tennessee was on the side of the Confederacy but the majority of Eastern Tennessee favored the Union side.  Earthen forts built by Union armies on the bluffs of the Tennessee River overlooking Knoxville were important in defending the city in several battles that took place as the Confederacy tried to take the city.  We visited one of those forts, Fort Dickerson.

A lifelong learner, hard at work taking notes about the Civil War and battles at Fort Dickerson.
An afternoon visit at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens.

Today we wandered further afield and drove to Cookesville, Tennessee.  We had heard that it was a good place for relocating retirees and wanted to check it out.  I can’t say much about Cookesville, but I was awestruck by the waterfalls we saw at nearby Burgess Falls State Park Natural Area.  The sign at the trailhead explained that there were a series of 3 falls, the largest being the third one.  The first 2 were worth seeing, but the 3rd one really was something special.  The 3rd one had a trail that you could hike down to get to the base.  It warned hikers that it would be a strenuous climb and Lee wasn’t sure he wanted to do it.  But we made our way down there and were more than glad that we had done it.

Burgess Falls State Park.
Burgess Falls State Park.

Tomorrow our plan is to do a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is not too far from Knoxville.  Several years ago we visited a different part of the park but tomorrow we will see what other trails we can find there to explore.

A Warm Welcome In Frost, WV

Our welcome to Frost, WV, was by no means frosty.  It’s not an easy drive to get there, especially if you’re like me and tend to get car sick on winding mountain roads.  And if you are looking for any stores, gas stations or rest stops in Frost you won’t find them.  We were looking, however, for Mort and Kelly’s house and found a very warm greeting when we got there.

The driveway to the house is immediately after the “Frost Unincorporated” sign.  The edge of the property is apparently the eastern boundary of Frost.  The western boundary of Frost is probably less than a mile further down the road.  The only buildings in between are the volunteer fire department, a Methodist church and a couple of other houses.  It’s really small town living in Frost.

Mort and Kelly’s house in Frost with Pearce greeting us at the front door.
View from Mort and Kelly’s back yard.
Playing ball
Pearce playing ball with Grandpa.
Pearce playing cards with Grandpa.
Guy is an expert pogo jumper–he can do over 100 continuous jumps.
Bike riding on the Greenbriar Trail.

Not only were we warmly welcomed by family in Frost, but the weather was also warm and sunny the days that we were there.  The northern terminus of the Greenbriar River Trail is very close to Frost, as is Seneca State Forest.  We enjoyed biking a few miles on the trail and driving through some back mountain roads in the state forest.

Also very close to Frost, in fact, so close that we walked to it one morning, is the interesting facility called Mountain Quest.  It is an inn and conference center, which didn’t happen to have any guests the day that we were there.  The innkeeper allowed us look around the inn, library (very extensive) and guest rooms.

The closest town of any size to Frost is the county seat, Marlinton.  We took the opportunity one morning to drive into Marlinton and enjoyed a delicious sandwich at the Dirtbean, a combination cafe, bike shop and wellness facility.  In spite of being the county seat, Marlinton is also a small town, less than 2,000 population.

After biding farewell this morning to our hosts in Frost we wound our way through the West Virginia mountains again, this time heading towards the Tennessee border.  Before stopping for the night we made it as far as Knoxville, TN, where we are relaxing in a motel.  Tomorrow brings new adventures in eastern Tennessee.

Hellos and Goodbyes

Hello again to our storage container and goodbye (for now) to the faithful bicycle that carried me for so many miles this summer in Iowa.

One of the tasks we accomplished in our 5-day day stopover in Virginia was to gain access to our storage container so that we could offload one of 3 bicycles we have been carrying on the back of the car ever since we left Iowa.  It was a strange feeling to look inside the container and see the household goods we had put there way back in December.  One file cabinet drawer had come loose, but, other than that, everything was just as we had left it.  And when we resettle somewhere and call for the container to be delivered I expect that we will find everything just as we left it.  Closing the door and saying goodbye to “stuff” is not a big deal.

It was much more difficult to say hello and goodbye to the many friends that we reconnected with this week.  When you are wandering around the country it’s easy to get distracted and not pay as much attention as you should to keeping in touch with friends.  With a limited number of days here we didn’t see everyone, but we were blessed tremendously by each and every one of the friends we did see.

We are especially grateful to Brian and Darlene for having us over for a cookout, to Greg and Wayne for keeping our mail for us, to Eva for letting us crash at her place and to Matt and Veronica for putting us up at their beautiful country home in Culpeper.  And then our friends at church and Liz and Alex and the group at their home were so welcoming and made us feel that we hadn’t left here at all.

But now there are other places yet to visit and it’s time to say goodbye once again to Virginia.  Tomorrow’s travels will take us to West Virginia where we will see our 2 grandsons and check out the family’s new digs in Marlinton.

Weekend at Great Sacandaga Lake

We enjoyed our weekend with the Regans at the cabin they rent every summer on New York’s Great Sacandaga Lake. The cabin is one of 12 located on the north shore of the lake at a family-owned property, Kathan Kamps. The Kathan family owned farmland that was flooded in 1930 when Sacandaga Lake came into being at the completion of the Conklingville Dam. Dr. Dudley Kathan moved the farmhouse and several buildings to higher ground and those buildings became the start of Kathan Kamps.

The Regan family history has deep roots at Kathan Kamps. Brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, all have great memories of fun times at the gatherings here over the years. Time passes and children grow up and buildings age and in 2012 we no longer saw games being played or children digging in the sand at the lake shore. But it is a beautiful, peaceful location and we appreciated the hospitality of our host and hostess.

Scott in a typical director’s chair pose.
Sun barely visible through morning mist above the trees.
sun on peak
Morning sun touches the peak across the lake.

When we left New York yesterday our plan was to camp last night at a state park in Pennsylvania.  The weather, however, had other plans.  We encountered some very heavy rains driving from Binghamton to Scranton.  By the time we got to Scranton the worst of the rainstorm was over, but it was in the 60’s and gray and drizzly.  We opted for a motel stay and spent a comfortable night.  Today we make the drive to Virginia where we will spend several days at our old home territory visiting friends and taking care of a few items of business.