Early Fall 2010

September means fall, but here in Knoxville it certainly still felt like summer.

K&E went to Massachusetts to visit family and took our "good" digital camera. Our previous moderately OK camera was somehow lost in the move. So all that's left for me to use is the awesome Agfa CL30 camera that takes only grainy 640x480 pictures! I kept that camera around because when I got it 10 years ago I had to write the Linux driver for it by hand, reverse-engineering how windows talked to it.

I spent most of the week at the CCGSC workshop which was held at the Highland Lake Inn near Asheville NC.

Here's my room, it had a fish theme (better than when we stayed in Chattanooga and the room had a Washington DC theme):

The workshop was about scientific grid computing. I spent most of it trying to get a very specific kind of virtualized Linux running to do some tests for a co-workers's talk. I succeded with literally minutes to spare, and I had to boot a borrowed laptop with a repurposed conference-proceedings USB key to do it.

Each day there was a break from 2-4pm so you could relax. I typically took a walk around the grounds. There was an old mill with a dam and waterfall:

There was livestock:

And a peacock in a tree:

There was a pretty lake. You probably can't read it but the bottom line of the sign says something about Trespassers being fed to the fishes. The lake did have a lot of aggressive fish; one of the other post-docs stuck his hand in the water and the fish came up and nibbled at his fingers.

Every night after supper (which wasn't until 8pm) there was a fire down by the lake. The four least senior people there (it wasn't worded like that, it was worded as "strong young men") got to carry heavy coolers full of ice and drinks down a long hill in the dark, then carry them back up again. So I had to work for my fancy conference meals:

It was clear most nights; I saw a few shooting stars and a few satelites.

And since it is me, here's a GPS track of my walking around. Oddly, as you can see on the map, this place used to be a Catholic camp of some sort. That would explain the random statues of Mary you'd see when wandering around:

I came home Friday; my German co-worker who I had driven with wasn't feeling well so she had me drive her car the 2 1/2 hours back to Knoxville. It was weird being back to a quiet house!

The watermelon in our garden had split while we were gone. It still looked OK (though very small) so I ate it. It's a shame E wasn't here, she loves watermelon:

I went for a walk around the neighborhood (don't worry, no GPS this time) and there are some pretty stunning views of the mountains from the top of the hill behind our house. Unfortunately the mountains never come out in pictures, they just look like tiny green blobs, not the cool looming prescence they have in real life:

K&E went to MD then to MA, then back to MD again, having adventures all along the way. Lots of time at the beach, plus multiple early birthday celebrations.
After they got back, we went apple picking one last time. It was a sad year for the TN apple crop. On the way back we stopped by Fountain City. "Artapalooza" was going on, and some sort of chili contest. We also went to the nearby duck pond.

In late September the weather has briefly turned Fall-like. You know we've been living here too long when the high is 57° and we want to break out the winter coats.

I spent many evenings trying to re-wire the power connector on K's laptop. I'm applying my ECE skills to a useful purpose for once. This task is a pain as PowerPC Apple laptops need to to be completely disassembled into tiny pieces to get to anything useful, and my soldering skills are borderline at best and the parts needing fixed are very tiny.

On Saturday we went to the 2010 Pellissippi State Hot Air Balloon Festival. We got there around 1pm... and there was not a single balloon in sight.

Apparently adverse wind conditions meant the afternoon balloon launch was canceled. We would have thought they despite that, they might have had at least a few balloons up on display, or maybe spread out on the ground (or event better, told us there were no balloons before charging us admission).

There was an elaborate craft section for children, so we found things to do while waiting for balloons. The rumor was there might be balloons by 5pm so we decided to stick it out even if it meant spending the whole day there. The weather was certainly pretty enough (though I got a bit sunburned as I wasn't expecting to stay that long).

Finally by 5pm they set up two balloons to give tethered rides.

We decided to run home and give E a brief nap before coming back for the balloon glow. So we came back at 8pm, only to find the highway exit backed up for miles! By the time we got back to the Pellissippi campus, all parking was full. In the end we parked across the street and walked on over.

The balloons lit up while music played. It was pretty neat.

My camera did an OK job of capturing things, though it probably would have done better if those streetlights weren't there.

When it was over we thought it would take forever to get through the traffic (like on the 4th of July), but by moving quickly we managed to beat the rush and were home in no time at all.

The next week was E's birthday, and her birthday party. Lots of little kids running around!

It was also K and my 5-year anniversary. This is the "wooden" anniversary so I got her a spurtle:

E's Aunt L came for a visit. On Saturday we went to a Fall festival at a local church (where we accumulated another pumpkin, I think we had at least 10 by Halloween); in the evening we went to a Greek festival held by the local Greek Orthodox church.

We got to watch some Greek dancers:

After that we ate a lot of Greek food.

On Sunday morning we went for a walk at the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum.

It's not very big, so we quickly walked around it:

We had a picnic lunch in the shadow of the sunsphere. There were an annoying amount of mosquitos.

Then we decided to go to the observation deck! It's on the 4th floor, with an unusually large gap between that and the third floor.

Here's the view toward the river, Neyland Stadium, and my office:

We next went to the fountain at the World's Fair park.

We decided to re-live our Germany trip by making some German food. Here we are making Spätzel; We made Currywurst and Brotchen as well.

One Saturday morning in mid-October we woke up early and went to help with the Knoxville Gem and Mineral Society's annual Rock and Gem show.

Sunday we woke up early and headed to the Smoky Mountains to hike. Despite leaving early and driving through a very foggy Sevierville, the park was already crowded by the time we got there.

We first took the Alum Cave trail. It started out following a stream which had lots of small waterfalls:

The trail eventually goes up to and through Arch Rock:

It felt freezing cold and the start of the hike, with temperatures in the 40s. By the time we got to the inspiration overlook we had to stop to take off hats and layers of clothing.

We hiked up to Alum Cave, which is really more of a rock shelter. It was mined for Epsom Salts and Alum back in the 1840s.

A view looking out at the foliage:

It was very dusty and E got completely dirty when we let her run around a bit.

The trail was 2.2 miles of an increasingly steep constant uphill. We could have gone 2.6 miles more and ended up on top of Mt. LeConte, but decided to turn back.

On the way back down we tried again to see the "eye of the needle" which is a hole in a rock formation. Here's the formation; we actually do have a picture of the hole here, but because the foliage beyond blends in so well you can't really see it unless you have a reference photo.

We've gotten out of practice for hiking, we were tired by the time we got back to the car. Here's a GPS track of where we went:

We got back on the road and kept driving until North Carolina. We went to Clingman's Dome, which is the highest point in Tennessee and the third highest east of the Mississippi at 6,643 feet.

You actually drive most of the way to the top. It was crowded, but K did an impressive job finding a spot and parallel parking. To get to the very top you have to walk the last very-steep (but paved) half mile. We pushed E in a stroller, and we were way more worn out by this than we should have been.

At the end is a tower with a ramp you climb up to overlook. This tower is right on the North Carolina/Tennessee border.

Here's a view from the tower, looking at Mount LeConte. You can see Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in the distance to the left. The dead trees in the foreground are Frasier Firs killed by the non-native woolly adelgid.

We then had a picnic lunch (not at a picnic table, as the National Park Service doesn't seem to believe in picnic areas) on the sidewalk overlooking the North Carolina mountains.

Here's our GPS track. The heavy dotted line is the NC/TN border. Note we had to push the stroller 330 feet uphill plus however high the tower was.

The week before Halloween we carved pumpkins. I let E design then; here's our final product. The one with the bulging eyes is supposed to be Elmo, not sure how well that turned out.

On Saturday morning I was feeling poorly due to a bad cold, but somehow K convinced me that I'd still be OK making a 6 mile hike 3000 feet up a mountain with a 30 pound baby on my back. That turned out about as well as you'd expect. K wasn't very happy, and she decided I was going too slow and requiring too many rests so we gave up and turned around. Not many pictures from that hike as you'd imagine.

It turns out that the CCC got to have all the fun:

Here's a track of our route. We were aiming for that lookout tower, so we were much closer than we thought. We should probably have pressed on.

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