Late Summer 2010

Mid-July means it is time for my Grandmother's annual crab-feast. We ended up leaving at 3am because K couldn't sleep, and we managed to get to McSherrystown by 11am after making only a brief stop in Emmitsburg (the MD map we had lied about rest areas on US 15).

The crab feast was fun, as usual. We complicated things by inviting K's sister L and her boyfriend along too. It was hot out, but it was good to be with family.

It was hot and more humid than Tennessee. We were tired so we left a bit early.

The next day we hung out with E's grandparents, then ate lunch at Aunt Valerie's Applebees. Then we went to a party in Pennsylvania thrown by the family of Susanne, one of K's high school friends.

The people at the party were mostly old people, though there were a handful of K's high school friends around. Until they showed up we poked around the pond, scaring frogs. We tried to catch some frogs but it was harder than it looked, despite the fact that the frogs really didn't try that hard to escape. I did catch one in the end:

Susanne has lived in Africa, though apparently that's not where she picked up her Tarzan-like swinging skills:

The women present told me they'd be impressed if I could swing too. I think they were secretly hoping I'd fall in the pond.

It was getting late; after that we headed home. We stopped first to see one of K's former teachers who lives nearby. We had been trying to reach her all day with little luck; we stopped by in person and managed to catch her there. E was an enthusiastic visitor, though she was falling asleep on the floor by the end.

We spent the morning in J-towne, but soon it was time to go. We packed up the car and started our trip home. We hit some rain and traffic near Berryville WV that woke E from her nap and made K sad. Other than that the drive was uneventful, though full of trucks on I-81.

We stopped for the night with friends of K's family who live near VMI in Lexington VA.

Near their house is Boxerwood Nature Center which has a really nice children's area. We took E there before supper.

They have a Hobbit Hole:

We had a nice time with the family friends. They made us a nice supper and they spoiled E. They had an amazing backyard; you can't really see but the blue ridge mountains are out there on the horizon:

We snuck out at 5am the next morning so we could take advantage of less traffic and cooler temperatures. We made it back to Knoxville by 9:30 and I wasn't even that late for work. I knew I was home when the sunsphere loomed out from behind the trees:

Our garden survived our absence. Our sad little rose is even blooming, and after years of trying I finally have a cantaloupe growing:

The next Saturday we went and picked blueberries. Conditions have improved since the last time we went, and we picked over 2 gallons worth.

On the way home we stopped to hike at I.C. King park, which is full of shared hiking/mountain bike trails. (It also is rumored to be the home of other questionable activities, but it was early in the morning on a hot summer day so not many people were there).

The trails follow the edge of the dammed up Tennessee River. K found it boring; it's true there wasn't that much that stood out about it unless you are a poison ivy enthusiast. (Though we did see a turtle, a snake, and lots of mushrooms).

Peer pressure from this tree made us take the steep trail over a big hill rather than the easy bypass:

After hiking almost 4 miles we ended up at an overlook where we could see our car:

We could have taken a short cut back along the narrow shoulder of a busy highway, but in the end we walked another 3 miles back the way we came. This made K very sad. We kept getting to places where we could see our car, but then giant inlets appeared that we had to go around.

Here's our GPS track:

The following Saturday we went for a hike in Concord park, a small park not far from our house. The official website for the park doesn't list any trails of note, so instead we have to get trail info from the local mountain bike clubs which know where all the real trails are.

We got there pretty early in the morning, and it was packed with cars. Turned out it was trail-maintanence day. We felt bad for not helping.

We were spoiled by Ithaca, where every trail has a waterfall at the end. This trail was typical for the Knoxville-area: humid dammed-up river and forested with poison ivy and a few rocky ledges. We did see a turtle though:

Near the end of our hike we were nearly run off the road by a guy mountain uni-cycling with his two dogs. That's not something you see every day.

Here's a gps track of where we walked:

We then went nearby to a different part of the park, where there's a playground and a swimming area. Not long after this it started raining and thundering so we had to rush back to the car. It didn't let up so we went home. The only good thing about the rain was it cooled things down... it was only 70° at noon; I feel as though we haven't seen temperatures that cool since April (it's been a long summer here).
The next weekend my parents came down from Maryland to stay at a timeshare in Crossville, which is about an hour west of us. We went out to spend a few days there.

The place where they stayed is right on the water; the back porch goes immediately onto a dock on Holiday Lake.

There was a beach there, but unfortunately the geese made a mess of it every night. We built sand castles and swam a bit anyway; here's K swmming out to the raft.

They had free minigolf; the course was very difficult, mainly due to it being on a hill. A lot of the holes were of the "hit the ball just right up a steep slope, otherwise it rolls right back" variety. The course did have an impressively large water hazzard (and when a boat went by the wake would cause waves to break over this hole):

We then went temporarily back to Knoxville for a few days, but Tuesday night we came back to crossville. We built some sand castles in the twilight among the bats before going to bed.

On Wednesday morning we woke early and went to Burgess Falls. It was about 45 minutes further down US 70.

Here's the upper falls at the park:

It was super-humid along the river. We had worried the water might be too low, and while the side falls were dried up the main channel was running strong. Here's the middle falls:

The "Big" falls was neat, but more impressive were the giant cliffs surrounding it:

You could climb down closer to the falls:

There was a covered set of steps taking you down to the base of the falls. It looks like something out of a Myst level:

In front of the falls:

On the way back up we saw a baby ring necked snake:

Right at the top E dropped her favorite blue pacifier. Here you can see it at the base of the support for the overlook, at least 20 feet down a sheer cliff. Needless to say she's never seeing that pacifier again:

We waked back along the ridge trail. Along the path we saw both partridge peas (yellow) and butterfly peas (purple):

Here's a track of our route:

The park has a nice playground. Here's a Red Spotted Purple butterfly (that's the official name, not just a description) that was hanging around:

And then it was time to head back to Crossville. Along the way we stopped and bought some golden delicious apples from a road-side stand run by a surly teenager. We bought them despite having trouble trying to convert 1/2 a peck into useful measurements for price comparison purposes. Apparently apples are in season here already, which is a bit shocking.

Finally we had a fancy dinner followed by excessive treats. Watermelons, ice cream, and S'mores (did you know the 10th was national s'more day?). Visiting grandparents is always fun. We had to drive home that night though, as I had to leave early Thursday for a work "retreat" down in the Smokies. Here's a map showing the location of the vacation house:

On Saturday we got up early and picked blueberries; we picked 10 pounds. After that we went to the pool in Alcoa. Despite the temperatures continuing in the 90s for the forseeable future, all of the pools closed this weekend because school is starting. The pool has a cool slide (Believe it or not I went down a few times myself)

After almost 5 years of trying, I finally managed to grow a cantaloupe As you can see it's not as big as the ones you get in stores:

We ate it at breakfast this morning.

Anyway that's the end of boring you with produce, though we do have one (small) watermelon left in the garden....

The next Saturday we got up and braved the rain and went to a consignment sale at the rec center across the street. Then we went to the nearby town of Farragut which had a Fun With Farragut's Fleet event where they let kids explore their various trucks.

This event was at the town hall, so Admiral Farragut himself was watching over the whole event:

We next went to the nearby park by the Farragut library. Randomly the Izaak Walton league was doing some sort of stream conservation demonstration for some girl scouts. Here they are kicking up sediment so they can catch some stream-life in a net.

Finally we went to downtown Knoxville, to Market Square and the Farmer's Market there. We enjoyed ourself, bought some corn and some fresh baked goods, and E got to play a bit in the fountains thre:

On Thursday after work there was a lot of excitement as a whole fleet of KUB trucks pulled in front of our house. "We're going to shut your power off in 5 minutes, is that OK?" Hmmm.

After supper we went out to watch some more. The neighbors were out too, so I got to talk to them a bit. Turns out while mowing the lawn they noticed the one power pole was in bad shape. They called the utility, who decided this was a major problem and came out to replace it that night. It's true that once they pulled out the old pole it snapped off right at the base. Here's E pointing out the man working in a cherry picker (who is lost in the glare):

On Saturday we went to Big Ridge State Park. It is located on Norris Lake, but has its own smaller dam to make an additional smaller lake.

Here's the small dam:

This is what Norris Lake looked like from our trail. The water was very green, the camera didn't really capture it well:

We then took the Dark Hollow trail which followed a stream in between Pinnacle Ridge and Big Ridge. The spiders had been busy; we broke through so many webs that we took to waving a stick in front of us in an attempt to stop getting webbing all over our face.

Here's a cardinal flower growing along the path:

We climbed over Pinnacle Ridge and then followed a somewhat questionable trail (that appeared to be more of a dry washed-out stream bed) back to the main road. Then we took the Chestnut Ridge trail back to our car. This trail was not as exciting as advertised (they promised sinkholes) and the uphill climb was one hill too many with E on my back. Plus K hurt her knee trying to avoid a downed branch. We did finally make it to civilization again.

Here's our GPS track, up until the point the batteries ran out:

There was a nice playground, and a swimming area. Unfortunately the water was a bit scummy, even though they had a pump circulating the water. After playing in the sand a bit it was time to head home. The day turned out to be very hot, we had been spoiled by some moderate temperatures (meaning it actually got down into the 60s at night) earlier in the week.

We stopped at a U-pick apple place on the way home, but we managed to come in the narrow window after honeycrisps but before golden delicious. We picked some anyway.
The Friday before Labor Day I left work a bit early and rushed home. Or tried to, as traffic was unusually heavy and the normal 20 minute trip took 45 minutes. Then we threw our things in the car and rushed off. Why? We were going camping in Central TN. The park there is first-come-first-serve with no reservations. So despite gaining an hour due to timezones we wanted to try to get one of the 10 or so tent spots. Plus we encountered heavy rain showers after weeks of no rain (though no rain fell in the park watershed unfortunately).

Needless to say, we didn't make it. All they had left were expensive full-amenity RV spots. We probably wouldn't have got a spot even if we came earlier. What to do? Well right outside the park (Fall Creek Falls State Resort Park) we passed a sketchy lot with a sign "Tent camping $10".

So we went to the Indian Crafts Shop connected to a rock quarry and obtained a camping site from a somewhat mysterious Native American man. Then we set up camp.

I had trouble getting the camp fire started (K had to take over). So while waiting for the embers to settle down we ended up making s'mores first. It always takes days to get E totally clean after she eats a marshmallow. We had no grill for the campfire; we eventually just wrapped the burgers and bread dough in foil and flung in the flames (which worked out surprisingly well).

We made the mistake of picking a site with empty spots on either side. One group moved in around 11pm after we went to sleep, the other much more noisily at 3AM (note, times are approximate because I proved incapable of keeping the time zone straight). Then the roosters started crowing at 5am. Then someone started chipping at stones in the rock quarry at 7am. At least E managed to sleep through all of this, even if I didn't. For the first time in maybe 5 months it was chilly in Tennessee. Great weather for hiking; a bit chilly at night for camping.

We packed up quickly and drove to the park. We had made the decision to go see waterfalls in a dry time of year, in a dry weather spell, in an unusually dry part of the state. The results are about what you expect, but I took lots of pictures anyway.

Those of you in Ithaca who always had to say Taughannock was the tallest plunge falls in the North-east, what follows is the reason why. Here's Fall Creek Falls, at 256ft the tallest plunge falls East of the Mississippi:

This falls had water despite dry conditions, possibly because they've dammed up a lake upstream to ensure a steady flow of water.

After overlooking Fall Creek Falls we took the trail to the right. This eventually took you to an overlook of Cane Creek Falls; no surprise it was mostly dry. Later on we'll walk down to the edge of this falls.

We then hiked back up to the overlook and then went the other way on the trail, down to the base of Fall Creek Falls. The hike had many impressive rock features along the way.

This is looking almost straight up at the overhanging cliff:

When we got to the bottom some other people were there. They declared that I was "hardcore" for dragging E down there in the backpack carrier and asked if they could take my picture with her.

Here I am at the base of the falls:

After that we hiked back up, and drove to the other edge of the park, past the lake that has the resort elements.

Here's the view at the Millikan overlook. It is named that because this is where Glenn Millikan met his untimely end while rock climbing, right in front of his wife's eyes. He was the son of the famous Nobel-Prize physicist Robert Millikan, and he was the son-in-law of George Mallory (of "climb Everest Because it's there" fame). His poor wife had both her father and husband die in climbing accidents. In any case, the scenery was typical for TN plateau: distant sandstone cliffs.

We then hiked down to see Piney Creek Falls; you can't see much because of course it was mostly dry:

The park has four swinging suspension bridges. Here I am on one of them:

We then went to the nature center (which was unexciting) and then to see the Cane Creek Cascades behind it. They were dry of course:

Here I am looking down the brink of Cane Creek Falls which we overlooked before:

After that we ate lunch by the George Hole swimming area:

And then we felt as though we had checked off this park. Here's a somewhat confused GPS map showing our travels:

We left the Fall Creek Falls area and drove to Savage Gulf. We found it OK and checked in at the ranger station. After some minor waffling we decded that in fact we would camp there for the night. There are many camping areas in the park (all free), but we stayed at the one right by the station. It's the first time we've camped out of sight of our car, even if we were only a few hundred feet away.

We next went for a hike. We had to sign in; they are very paranoid here about knowing where people are and not letting anyone hike at night. This is somewhat understandable considering all of the giant cliffs in this park.

We encoutntered another swing bridge:

We took the Savage Day Loop Trail. Halfway around we stoped at the Rattlesnake Point Overlook. You'll probably start realizing that most of the scenic overlooks on the Tennessee Plateau look very similar:

We next took a spur to overlook Savage Falls. Dry, of course:

We made it back to the start by 4:30 or so (well, 3:30 since we were in Central Time) and K thought we should do at least one more thing. In the end we didn't, as I was hiked out for the day. Here's our track:

Instead of hiking more we just rested at the nice grassy picnic area near the entrance to the park. There was an indifferent dog roaming around, as well as lots of butterflies. Here's a picture of a Common Buckeye:

We thought it would be more peaceful sleeping here than our last campground, but there was a lot of noisy wildlife. First was a bunch of animals that sounded like a cross between a moose and a cow. Then lots of dogs (I guess they were dogs) howling and barking. Our location wasn't that much in the wild, as there were lots of roosters crowing at 5 in the morning.

The next morning we then decided we'd try driving away from home in order to see one last thing in the other side of the park. You had to leave the park and drive way around, because the park contains a huge canyon with no roads that cross it.

Along the way we drove through a lot of tiny towns, including one with the unlikely name of Gruetli-Laager.

Here we are at the Stone Door section of the park. Here's the requisite overlook with distant sandstone bluffs:

The "Stone Door" is the attraction here. It's a narrow gap in the rock cliff that lets you climb own into the gorge. We weren't sure what to expect as the descriptions in the trail guides were really flowery and hard to visualize.

Here it is, the famous stone door:

From the bottom you could see the steep cliff and understand why Indians and early settlers appreciated the gap in the rocks:

We thought E would enjoy it so we poked her awake, though you can see she was groggy and not really that excited:

We climbed back up and I sat down to rest, accidentally sitting into a montain laurel bush. The bush succeded in poking E awake (where we had failed). So we took her back down to check it out.

We took a short side-trail to an old mill site and Laurel Falls. Laurel Falls was only a trickle:

Here's where we had been:

And here's a zoomed out view of both Savage Gulf hikes to show how big the gulf is:

We were out of town for the first UTK football game (probably a good thing) but even 3 hours away from campus in the middle of nowhere you come across people who are big fans:

The drive home was a bit long, mainly because there are no direct routes here due to the Plateau and various valleys (they do make for some dramatic scenery). Our plan was to stop in one of the small towns, hoping they'd have a park for a picnic. Despite going through lots of small towns, there were no parks.

We also needed gas, and these towns often had at best a tiny general store with old-fashioned gas pumps with the gas costing $.30 more than the going rate back home. We got stuck at one of these places on the way in, and then we did again on the way back.

We tried stopping at a dairy we always saw signs for on the highway, but it turns out it is closed Sunday (they should mention that on the sign, lots of people were driving up, finding it closed [despite the "open" light in the window] and having to turn around). By this point we gave up on finding a park and ate lunch in our car.

We started driving again and immediately found both a town park and cheap gas in the next town (Loudon).

Home! We spent much of the day unpacking. That night was "Boomsday" in Knoxville. They have a more impressive fireworks display on Labor Day than they do for the 4th. It didn't start until late though and we really didn't feel like going out again, so we made some popcorn and watched it on TV.

Back to pictures page