Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Day in Cades Cove

Every year we try to go hiking on Christmas Day and this year's hike was in Cades Cove along Cooper Road Trail.

It was a nice day in the Cove, temps in the low 40's with cloudy morning skies that cleared in the afternoon. A little drizzle did not dampen our spirits but recent rains had water levels up and we did have minor difficulty crossing Arbutus Branch along the way.

Stopped by the pond to check out the water level.... not a lot, but for winter pretty good I guess.

I always enjoy visiting the little cemeteries in the open fields. Feels so good out under the sun when it's chilly.

There was a lot of traffic in the Cove on Christmas. Despite the fact that bear madness is done for the season we were still caught up in multiple deer-jams, especially on the notoriously clogged far end of the loop. Inevitable. Not sure what goes thru people's heads once they get on that side..... maybe they are desperate to see a bear before they leave the Cove (because you always hear "Cades Cove is THE place to see bears!!") and they are scanning the forest as they roll along at 0.2 miles per hour.

All in all, it was a very nice Christmas in Cades Cove!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Hike

Hope everyone had a great holiday :-)
We woke up to a foggy, cold morning.

We took a Thanksgiving hike on Brushy Mountain Trail. We had done the summit before from the other side, and have hiked the lower/mid portions multiple times but I've been wanting to complete Brushy Mtn to Trillum Gap for a while and finally had the chance yesterday.
Started out on Porters Creek Trail at 11:30am, quite a few others were out enjoying the Smokies on a holiday morning.

Always have to stop by the old hiking cabin when passing by.....

The hike was quiet and mostly uneventful. Recent rain and a bit of horse traffic had made some muddy spots in the trail. Coupled with deep leaves and slick rocks, constant alertness was vital. We kept a rapid pace so were alternately sweaty then cold as we wove in-and-out between shady hollows and sunny ridges, pushing ever upwards.

View of Greenbrier Pinnacle through trees and tangle of grapevines. I want to get back up there again sometime this season.

1st crossing of Trillium Branch. Heavy rain a couple days before had waters running higher than usual, but had subsided enough to allow a doable rock-hop. We did see a handful of kayakers running the Little Pigeon River as we drove in, river was still flowing pretty high down there.

This tree disapproves.

I think he may be related to Plankton.

Three hikers coming down from Mt. LeConte passed by. This is the only time we've ever seen anyone on this trail.

Second crossing of Trillium Branch, a nice little cascade here and a quick leap across the water.

Almost there...... relentless pace continues.....

Trillium Gap, at last, in 2 hours 40 minutes. From the Porter's Creek parking lot to Trillium Gap the elevation gain is around 2,700ft. Arrived at 2:10pm to complete silence. The lodge is closed for the season now, so way less foot traffic. It was boisterously loud when last we were at this gap via Trillium Gap Trail, lots of hikers were passing thru then.


We briefly debated continuing on to the Brushy Mtn summit (which btw is 0.4mi not 0.2mi) but decided against it. Safer not to push too close to sunset, especially since it was much colder up there and we had hoodies and not jackets plus were already tired. Back down we went.

Arrived at the parking lot at 4:15pm, still quite a few cars were there.

Back in Pigeon Forge, we saw this homemade 3-wheel-madmax-motorcycle-dunebuggy-2-seater-thingy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Yesterday I picked the 1st ear of the bucket sweet corn.
Last night I boiled it and we ate buttered corn on the cob, it was pretty tasty, can't believe I grew that in a 5-gallon bucket!

Sadly the watermelon that grew to the size of a junior football started to shrivel at one end, made an icky spot. We cut it open and it was mostly rind with a red star-shaped center and some tiny brownish seeds. Oh well.... since I picked it off the vine, a few more tiny melons have started to increase but the vine itself is dying off due to the season/weather, so I don't expect anything from them.
Also, the female flower has shriveled and dropped off the pumpkin vine before blooming, just like the last one.
I totally have to get an earlier start in the garden next year and hopefully it won't be so darn dry!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How does the garden grow?

The garden is growing very well now that the weather has cooled off a bit and it rains sometimes.

The bucket sweet corn is getting big and has a lot of ears.

I can't help but think this tuft of corn silk looks like Wembley Fraggle is hiding in the stalk.

The watermelon is slowly expanding and the vine has made two more attempts at melons - one appears to be shriveling and the other looks to be growing. I'll start monitoring that one more closely.

Beautiful watermelon flower.

A female pumpkin flower starting to form. I'll have to watch and when it opens I'll need to polinate it with one of the male flowers. This is only the second one I've seen on the vine and I didn't try to polinate the other one and it shriveled up.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Caterpillar season

It's caterpillar time again! I found the usual gulf fritillaries on my passion vines and have discovered some caterpillars that are new to me - tomato hornworms:

Three of them were working on decimating my scant bell pepper plants. I never got around to googling them until today and I only did that because, upon checking their status this morning, I discovered 2 were gone and the 3rd was forming a cocoon so I figured I better find out what is it.

At 11:30am, tomato hornworm was doing this. Kinda looks like in Men in Black II where the alien takes over the guy's body & the skin doesn't fit right, heheh.

I got all excited & thought I'd be in for a chance to watch the transformation up close, it's hard to time these things right so I usually miss them.
When I checked on the caterpillar at 1pm sadly the hornworm's typical enemy, the wasp, had found it and eaten most of it. Perhaps that is what happened to the other 2 caterpillars as well...... A shame, the hummingbird moths are so beautiful. Anyway, it is always interesting to witness part of the cycle of nature.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Blog

Not that I keep up with this one so great! But I started a new blog that is specifically for basic records of future hikes. If only I'd kept totals during our whole hiking career..... I know we have done over a thousand miles, it would be interesting to know just how much. Maybe I'll get a chance to look back through my pictures and add some more totals from past hikes.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Garden again

Seems like all I do is talk about the garden!
Here I go again :-)

I'm growing corn in 5-gallon buckets on the back patio. The tassels are emerging and I'm excited! I currently have 10 healthy stalks, been having to water them like crazy due to the small-ish containers and the super-dry weather. They're pretty happy so far.

This morning I picked the second cucumber to grow on the vine in the front flowerbed. It's a fatty!

I think one of the shadier vines has a cuke the size/shape of a golf ball, will have to crawl under the elephant ears to find out.

Behold: Baby watermelon.
It's about 3/4 inch (2cm) long.

Lastly, the mango tree growing by the patio door. It is thriving and periodically puts out a new segment of leaves.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Garden Update

I'm busy busy busy, so here's just a quick update on what's happening around the garden:
The new hydrangea is adjusting nicely, no longer drooping over terribly in the heat of the afternoon. Its blooms are so big and beautiful considering how small the shrub is yet. I think it is beginning to shift from blue to purple.

Ahhhh, the sunflowers.... so bright and cheerful :-)
There's about 8 of them and 3 have begun to bloom. They are getting about 4-5 feet tall now.

A nice, juicy cucumber in the front flowerbed. They sure are spiky when they're little! A few more tiny ones are under the leaves, but it looks like all the vine's energy is going into this particular cuke.

I've got corn sprouting in a couple 5-gallon buckets, and some watermelon vines and red peppers plants in the works, more pics later. Happy gardening!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Ok, not Mothra. But still....... a multitude of moths.
I see them around quite a lot and am amazed how many there are. It's pretty cool how they can blend in seamlessly to some surroundings but stand out radically in others.

I found a fat Spiny Oakworm Moth (Anisota stigma) hanging in the shrubs while I was pruning them. It did a very convincing job of looking like a dead leaf. But on a totally green, non-leafy plant.... yeah, that kinda stood out.

So fuzzy! I wanna rub rub rub that abdomen.

This Lesser Maple Spanworm Moth (Speranza pustularia) was on the side of the garage one morning. I love the delicate coloring, almost like inkblot stains of coffee on a piece of white paper.

This is a Large Lace- Border Moth (Scopula limboundata). It looked like an angel resting on the stonecrop in the front flowerbed.

The Clymene Moth (Haploa clymene), on the garage siding.
I see a sword, or an arrow, or a fleur de lis. Or maybe an ear of corn.

So, last night, while I was googling to id these moths, I lamented the fact that I had not yet seen one with (as I think of it) 'a curly butt'. This morning I was treated to one. Yay! On the side of the garage where there is usually one sort of moth or another, there it was - Spotted Apatelodes (Apatelodes torrefacta)

Love the wing structure and coloring, not to mention the curled-up tuchus!

Here's my very favorite view of this moth:

The legs!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In the Garden

I recently bought a lovely blue hydrangea shrub.
Hope it will stay blue, I know they are prone to changing based on soil pH. Over time I may have to try different stuff on it to adjust the color.

It was really difficult for me to plant because the location we agreed upon has the best grass in the lawn. It was literally paaaaainful for me to dig into that lush green carpet!
I separated and replanted plugs of the grass in some of the bare spots around the yard.

Then I had to prune back part of the Russian sage along the front walk. It was becoming huge, unruly, hanging into the pathway and is usually full of bees so that was sort of an obstacle course getting to the front door.

Shame to cut all these pretty little flowers, they smell nice, too. Still a lot left growing, though.
I'll have to try pruning it back earlier in the season next year to promote bushier growth as opposed to the current leggy state.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A death at the Townsend Wye

Monday morning we headed into Tremont for a hike. We finished the 8-mile-r/t to Indian Flats Falls and were back at the car by 11:45am. On the drive out, there was a mass of Search and Rescue vehicles, Fire Rescue, ambulances, Park Rangers, etc at the parking area of the Townsend Wye (a very popular swimming/tubing spot on the Little River).

Obviously a search was underway for a person in the water. We stopped and talked to a young couple sitting on the sidewalk in bathing suits, they'd been in the water when the event occurred but didn't see anything. They had heard from others that the search was on for a man who was tubing with a 2-year-old girl when the tube flipped and they both fell into the water. The child was said to have been recovered safely but the man was unaccounted for and reportedly could not swim. We heard this same story repeated a few times, including from one emergency responder guy (with fire?rescue?not sure) who said he'd heard the baby was ok.

All swimmers/tubers had been ordered from the river and a handful of swift-water rescue searchers were scouring the rocks, ledges and logs in the rushing waters downstream from the Wye (the intersection of Little River and Laurel Creek).

By now, scuba divers had suited up and entered this deeper pool upstream from the swift-water searchers, which was reportedly where the tube flipped and the last place the man was seen.

A swift-water searcher assists a weighted deep-water scuba diver to move back upstream in the Little River.

We left as the search appeared to be wrapping up, and as we drove into town we saw police had temporarily blocked southbound traffic heading into Cades Cove. A few minutes later an ambulance with lights, no sirens, passed us headed north toward Blount Memorial. Indeed, we checked the news via phone and saw the victim had been recovered and was being transported to the hospital. He was pronounced dead shortly after 1pm.

I've not read anything official mentioning the involvement of a child.

Here are some news links:

Such occurrences really underscore the uncertainty of life. One moment you can be having a wonderful time, and in the blink of an eye.... it's all gone.
Also important to think about is safety and preparedness. The man (reportedly) could not swim, yet participated in an activity that included both deep and rushing water. Tubes can be highly fickle and should not be considered life-safety devices. They tip over, they are easy to lose hold of or fall out from; they are heavy and awkward to move. River rocks are slippery, shift around and are difficult to walk on. It can be very hard to judge water depth. Please be very careful when tubing, especially with young children. If you can't swim, strongly consider wearing a life jacket or avoiding participation.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Abrams Falls, after "The Tornado"

We hiked out to Abrams Falls in Great Smoky Mtns on July 4th. Hadn't been out there since what we refer to as "the night of the tornadoes" on April 27, when over 50 tornadoes touched down in east Tennessee, including a confirmed EF4 tornado that ripped through the western half of the National Park, impacting (and closing) about 30 miles of trails west of Cades Cove.

Abrams Falls Trail was one of those closed trails (signage photo from our May 3 visit to the trailhead) and it was the first to be re-opened, as it is a massively popular summertime hike for tourists and locals.

If you hadn't hiked to the falls before the storm, the change might not look too impressive, but we could really tell the difference in a few places. Definitely a lot of trees were downed, but the workers did a great job shifting debris and filling in the trail beds.

Where some of the largest uprooted trees created hot tub-sized holes in the trail, log retaining walls were built for stabilization and prevention of erosion.

Looking to the opposite ridge from our trail, out across the river gorge, you can see a path of damage through the forest.

Despite the areas of damage, Abrams Falls Trail is still a fine hike with some pretty scenery.

The Falls were, as always, a beautiful sight.
We arrived at 8:30 am after the 2.5 mile-hike and were the second ones there. On the way back, between the Falls and the trailhead, we passed exactly 100 people.

Now, let me say this:

For the Love of All That is Holy, people..... Trash in, Trash OUT. Leave No Trace.
The amount (and kind) of garbage we found there was a disgrace. Litter seems to be getting worse in general around the park, but I was especially disgusted at the state of affairs on this holiday weekend. Just be glad I didn't pan down in that Falls photo.