Well, we're more or less settled into our place in Tennessee. The
weather has finally moved on from unusually cold to pleasant spring, so
we are getting out a bit more to explore the area.
We have been disappointed by the lack of parks close in to the city; we
were spoiled by Ithaca. We're gradually finding some nicer places
We went to the
local book sale which
was big, but ended up not getting many books.
In an unexpected turn, we bought a new (at least to us) car.
One Friday night the doorbell rang, and we got a suprise delivery
of 12 pounds of theses
(no jokes about what that sounds like). It's nearly 400 pages (though it's
printed on one side
of the paper). Here it is with a swiss army knife for scale:
Here's a closeup of the cover:
Yard sale season starts early here; we went to one in
Farragut which is the next town to the west. The further west
you go here, the fancier the houses get.
Farragut is named after
Admiral Farragut (of "Damn the Torpedoes" fame); he was born nearby.
On the way back we stopped at Concord Park. We were spoiled by the parks
in Ithaca; the ones
here are tiny and not very interesting. One of them is mostly a "trail" that
runs wedged between
I-40 and a shopping mall. This park was a little better, it had a
playground, a beach, and a short trail (the park was built by the TVA).
Later we made another attempt at finding a decent park for a walk. We tried
Lakeshore Park, the biggest park that is near us. This particular park
has a 2 mile trail that, no joke, is on the grounds of a working mental
hospital. It also has a stretch next to a sewage treatment plant, and most
of the trail is inside of a barbed wire fence.
It was a nice sunny day though, and lots of people were out walking there.
If you frame the picture right, you can't tell what an odd park it is.
Here's a view of the River/Lake, you can see the Smoky Mountains in the
And here's a GPS track of our walk. The baby actually walked at least 1/4 of
it all by herslef (albeit slowly).
One Saturday it was supposed to rain, so we decided to
get our walk in early. We went to
(named for the person who
was born near there, and not for the tree).
For the first part we actually walked the Sequoyah Greenway. It's a gravel
trail in the median of the really wide Cherokee Boulevard. It
ended up being a pretty walk; it's in an expensive neighborhood
with fancy homes. We were apparently there during prime jogging time.
I was pushing the umbrella stroller, which was only barely
up to the task, especially on the uphills. The baby impressively
slept for part of the trip, despite it being a very bumpy ride.
The trail went over an ancient Indian burial mound:
On the way back we dodged into the park, which runs along the river:
Here's a GPS track of our trip. I forgot to turn it on at first, and
then I forgot to turn it off when we got in the car to drive away, so
you have to use your imagination a bit:
Moving south has definitely turned us into weather wimps.
We are ready for Spring, or at least for non-cloudy days. There's hope;
the daffodils are finally blooming:
On Saturday we drove north to Kentucky to look for geodes with
Gems and Mineral Society. This was the first time I'd been to
Kentucky; now I've been to
states. We left at sunrise and got home at sunset, since it was
the Vernal equinox this meant we were gone exactly half the day.
It was a 2 1/2 hour drive to the location, which is just south of Stanford
There were geodes everywhere; pretty much any roundish rock in the
streambed had a
being one. The guy who organized the trip could tell if it was a
likely geode by how heavy it was; I wasn't that skilled. There was an
easier method; if the rock rattled when you shook it that usually
indicated it was a good one. Then came the fun part, smashing it open with a
Here is a poorly arranged representation of our findings:
Here's a gps plot of the first two sites we were at;
the GPS's batteries ran out after that:
On the way home, we took a side-trip to the
Big South Fork National Recreation Area. Our goal was to find
a natural arch, as this part of Kentucky and Tennessee has lots
of these scattered around. After getting through the endless shopping
strip that is Somerset KY and then taking progressivey smaller back roads
(eventually stopping some guy on horseback for directions) we came
to Split Bow Arch.
Here's the view from under the arch:
And the arch from the front:
You could climb back under and see the small waterfall responsible
for all of this:
Back at the parking area there was a sign saying that it was 0.3mi to the
Creek Overlook. Would it be worth it? Until now there was not a soul
but some people who looked like locals wondered up, and they said the
view was pretty. So we went, and we're glad we did:
And looking the other way, with some cool cliffs:
Here's a gps track. I had to switch out batteries with the camera so it's
not complete. Green is our hike to the arch, red is the hike to the overlook
and back to the car:
We planned a hike at House Mountain, a natural area north-east of
Knoxville. When we woke up it was barely above freezing, but we
decided to trust the weather forecast
and go anyway.
It was a steep hike to the top of the mountain. There were some cool
looking rock formations along the way:
The baby was asleep by the time we got to the top, but
woke when a whole pack of cub scouts hiked by. Here's an attempt
of a panorama, looking West toward Knoxville. To the far left the
tall mountains are the Smokies (hard to make out due to haze).
is in the center behind the trees, to the far right is the Cumberland
Part of the mountain is private property, though they allow hikers.
We walked along the ridge to the other edge of the mountain. Here's
a panorama looking East:
We then walked back and came down the mountain. Going down
is almost harder than going up, especially with a baby on your
This wouldn't be a spring hike if I didn't bore you with wildflower
Here are some
We passed a spring with water gushing out:
And after 5 miles and lots of elevation changes, we made it back to the
car (where we narrowly avoided someone trying to give away free
Here is our GPS track:
On the way home we stopped at
Park to have a picnic lunch, and more importantly, so the baby could
the playground. As unlikely as it might sound, there was a wedding
going on at the park while we were there.
Not only are flowers blooming here in Knoxville (Forsythia, Grape
now) but our grass is growing too. At first it was just wild onions,
but the rest of the lawn started to catch up. So for the subset of
who enjoy the idea of me doing yard work, here are some pictures.
Our yard seems to much bigger when you have to push the mower all over
Now it's easter time. We've confused the baby by having her help
decorate eggs and make toothling pasta.
I had off work on Friday, so we took an adventure to
Frozen Head State Park (no, as far as I know, there was never
a cryogenic facility here).
The park is about an hour from where we live, to the north-west, past
Oak Ridge. We tried to get an early start as the weather was
supposed to be summer-like. We made it there in good time (even after
stuck behind slow traffic), and managed to plan a reasonable-length hike
despite the not-very-helpful employees at the visitor center.
This was a Spring hike, so beware, I will post wildflower pictures!
(This park is the site of the annual Frozen Head Wildflower Pilgrimage;
it happens next weekend).
Here is some Halberd-Leaf Yellow Violet, followed by some Bloodroot:
We started on the North Old Mac Trail, which gained altitude at a
steady pace. Each bend in the trail
had a tiny waterfall.
Here is some hepatica and some carolina spring beauty:
We opted to stop climbing when we met up with the Panther Branch
Trail (we could have continued up to a fire tower), and started
downhill along the scenic Panther Branch.
We then took the trail to Emory Gap Falls. I was about ready to rest at
point, the baby is pretty heavy. The trail to the waterfall was half a
back up the mountain and I wasn't sure if I'd make it. We did though.
Here's a panorama at Emory Gap Falls:
We then continued back down the trail to DeBord Falls:
We had a nice picnic lunch, then let the baby swing
on the swingset indefinitely. She also liked wading
and throwing stones into the freezing cold water.
Here's a different kind of Hepatica, and then we found the only
blooming trout lily in the whole park by the playground:
Here's a GPS track of our trip:
And here's our altitude over time:
It turns out the head of our team at work has some land near the park,
and he invited us to stop by.
Our car survived his steep "driveway" (it was even more exciting going
on the way home). He owns
his own personal waterfall:
They also have river access there, giving the baby one last chance
to sit in some water and require a diaper change.
By now we were totally exhausted, so we went home for some well-earned
We had an enjoyable Easter. The baby was surprisingly good at finding
We next had a continuing set of visitors. First Marie visisted, which
A few days later my parents visited. We obtained a pinball machine
which K took in a surprisingly good-natured fashion.
On Saturday we went to
Norris Dam State Park. Norris Dam was the first dam built
by the TVA back in the 30s. Here's a panorama of
the dam site, K likes the hills to the far right.
We first hiked a steep trail along the lake. We then had a picnic
lunch at a playground. Then we overlooked the Dam before moving on
to a different part of the park where K and I hiked and my parents
watched the baby.
There were a lot of trails here,
but only three parking spaces! Luckily not many people were there.
One of the trails supposedly went around a sinkhole, though it wasn't
really clear where the sinkhole was. The other loop took us down
to the level of the lake:
Here's a GPS map of our hikes; before lunch is to the lower
right, K and my hike to the upper left.
After my parents left we went to the
Ijams Nature Center.
They have a boardwalk that goes right along the river:
We then walked through the park and then across to Mead's Quarry which
is an old marble quarry maintained by the park. There's apparently
a semi-large system of caves in the area, but they are all fenced
off to keep people out.
There were wildflowers out, but I'll spare you any pictures. We thought
the trillium wasn't blooming yet, but it turns out we were seeing mostly
yellow trillium (which doesn't grow north of Kentucky) so in fact it was
just blooming in a way we didn't expect.
We took one last trail to walk around a pond. The redbud was blooming,
which made for a pretty picture. The baby kept wanting to climb
into the water.
Here's a GPS track of where we went:
Later in the week, Katrina briefly visited, taking a break on
her tour of the South. It was nice having another adult around
to play board games with.
We were supposed to head to Germany for a week, but the Volcano
in Iceland spoiled our plans.
On Saturday we went to the
near Oak Ridge.
They had a bald cypress tree there, which I thought looked cool,
especially with the "knees" poking up through the water:
Here's our route:
Elena's Aunt Laura was semi-nearby for the 2010 Day of Rememberance
at Virginia Tech, so she came down and visited for a day.
On Sunday we decided to go back to Frozen Head State Park. We
took the same route we did two weeks ago, but it was a very
different hike due to the leaves being out on the trees.
Despite being only two weeks later, the wildflowers were very different.
Here's some yellow star grass:
We took a side trail and overlooked the valley:
Various kinds of Trillium were blooming (purple, white, yellow,
There were also a lot of butterflies around. Here's a tiger
Here we are at Emory Gap falls again. I'm there up above, Elena
is cavorting down below:
Here's some Yellow Lady's Slipper:
And here was our route. The GPS cut out at different places
than it did last time:
Our Germany trip was delayed a week, but we did get to go in the end.
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