Early Spring 2011

For those of you wishing for warmer weather, I can taunt you with some more spring flowers. I personally would have preferred a bit more snow; our front yard is starting to look ready for a good mow. Anyway, here are some late February daffodils (forysthia is also blooming):

On Sunday we woke for church to find it snowing! This was surprising as it's been in the 60s for weeks now. It was still 40° out so the snow didn't stick, and the pictures I took don't really show the snow that well:

There was a big Tennessee-Kentucky basketball game today, which we found out about because a large percentage of the church congregation was wearing their Sunday Best Tennessee Orange outfits.

Our Sunday adventure started deep under the shadow of the Sunsphere:

(I hope the next place we live has a distinctive landmark as silly as the Sunsphere. I find it endlessly amusing).

We went to the Knoxville library booksale at the convention center. It isn't as big as the Ithaca one, but the best we can do here. Poor E was bored, as first we looked at "grown-up" books, and then we looked at children books which were in boxes on tables too high for her to see into. She came out ahead in the end, as we got 50 books and 48 of them were for her.

Well in the end it didn't rain this weekend, so we did go for a hike. On Saturday we woke in a (mostly) timely fashion and drove down to the Smokies. The towns down there are always crowded; possibly there is no "off" season.

We drove the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which had only opened for the season the day before (we tried to do this last year but it was under construction). With all the recent rain we figured it was a good time to see waterfalls.

We went to Grotto Falls, just over a mile up the mountain. The hike was made interesting by being above the snow line. We also had to ford 4 streams which were just barely managable without getting wet feet.

The path was a bit slick but we made it without incident. Here are the big icicles near the falls:

The weather was fairly warm and comfortabe; you wouldn't know it from all the snow. If you look carefully you can see K up by Grotto Falls here.

There are pictures in our guide book of llama trains taking supplies behind the falls on their way to the lodges on top of Mount Leconte. We didn't see any llamas, but here's K behind the falls:

Here's the view from behind the falls looking back, in case you were curious about what it was like:

There were some neat ice formations nearby:

We really liked the falls, but it was soon time to head back. Here's the GPS track. We got poor signal on the way up due to the mountains, and on the way back I had the GPS off because I needed both hands to ensure we didn't trip and slide the whole way back to our car (which was E's suggestion. "We need a sled!").

The Motor Nature Trail is one-way so we had to keep going around the loop to get out. The park was full of people from Mississippi for some reason, most of them driving slowly in front of us (and beeping horns in tunnels, both to K's annoyance).

There were a lot of old homesteads along the way; we didn't stop. Here's a picture of a mill-like structure we drove past:

Here's a waterfall you could see right from the car. It didn't get its own parking area, possibly because a more famous falls is nearby.

That more famous attraction is the "Place of 1000 Drips". K and I think they are off by an order of magniture here, but it was still worth visiting.

Spring time means wildflowers! Despite the snow I managed to find some Wood Anemone:

We continued along the rest of the motor trail and got dumped back into Gatlinburg, which was now bumper-to-bumper tourists. Oddly everyone was in town being touristy, the crowds thinned out considerably when we re-entered the park.

We drove into the park to the Chimney Bluffs Picnic area and had a picnic. Here's a GPS dot pinpointing exactly where it was that we ate:

We had one more easy hike left. We went to the Sugarlands Visitor Center and found the trail to Cataract Falls. E refused to walk, so she got the stroller. Our poor umbrella stroller has been on many off-road adventures that it's not really designed for. I ended up having to carry E, stroller and all, around various obstacles including bridges and flooded paths. We eventually had to temporarily abandon the stroller at a major river ford.

E got to ride on my shoulders after that; I didn't realize she was falling asleep and thus looked a bit dazed:

A GPS track showing the roundabout route they take you. You'll notice there are nice roads you could walk along instead.

After that we went to get our park passports stamped, as we hadn't done so at this visitor center yet (it's usually too crowded). We couldn't find the stampers and had to ask. It turns out they keep them locked up behind the info desk by request only and you have to stamp your passport with a park ranger staring you down.

Later in the week K's Mom group friends threw her a baby shower.

It's been so warm I took the storm windows out of the doors and put in the screens. The lawn really needs mowed, but I refuse to mow before the equinox.

On Saturday we went to the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge. The fact that the museum was free this weekend was an added bonus.

I liked the robots:
We had a particle accelerator accident and created a higgs boson as well as a mirror-universe E:

I thought that fake-particle accelerator room was actually pretty well done. It reminded me of the opening to the Out of this World video game, though I suspect no one reading this but me has ever played it.

Oak Ridge is where they secretly separated Uranium for the Manhattan Project, so there were a lot of exhibits on that.

E was like "What's this". Ummmm a nuclear bomb. "What's that for". Hmmmm. Blowing up cities? I guess it doesn't seem like one of mankind's greatest engineering achievements anymore when you have to explain it to a two-year old.

They had a room where you could make paper airplanes, and they had these cool machines with spinning wheels inside that would launch them across the room at high speeds. I'm amazed no one has lost an eye yet.

We went to a static electricity demonstration. The girl on stage has her hair sticking up due to a Van de Graaff generator. E is holding her hair down because she didn't want hers to stick up too.

After we were done at that museum, we went to the nearby Oak Ridge Children's Museum. You might remember that one from a previous update; it was the one with the monty python castle and the two-story doll house. It was also free this weekend due to some sort of corporate sponsorship.

We played on the playground outside, and had a picnic lunch. It's been in the high 70s here. I managed to get a mild sunburn despite the fact it's not even technically spring yet.

K's mom bought us a Kalanchoe flower when E was born. It bloomed for a while, but then never flowered again... until now. An interesting coincidence.

Uncle Kevin and his girlfriend Liz came to visit, they got here on Thursday night. E was really excited to see them.

They went to Anchor Park:

I met up with Kevin and Liz after work on Friday and showed them around Knoxville, which mostly meant showing them the Sunsphere.

We also saw the giant Rubik's cube left over from the 1982 World's Fair.

We had to park in a garage because the free parking was entirely taken up by a Policeman Promotion ceremony. This at least made it convenient to check out Market Square before it started raining and so we went home.

On Saturday we took E bowling; she was overwhelmed at first, because it turned out it was Rock-and-Bowl:

She did start enjoying it, though for the first game we had to hold her when helping her bowl her turn:

That's my score. Pretty good after not playing so long, until you realize they had the gutter bumpers up. I didn't do as well the second game.

Liz is from the South, so they were stocking up on Southern things like Cheerwine and Fried Okra. On that note, after bowling we went and got some BBQ.

We then went to the campus bookstore to get some Tennessee gear. They have a whole floor of orange merchandise; E wanted to know where the books were.

Baby X arrived on March 28th, in the narrow window between when Uncle Kevin left and Nona was coming down from Massachusetts. So we had to send E to a friend's house. X came quickly, before the doctor could make it to the delivery room, so he was delivered by nurses.

X's first view of the world. Not as scenic as the fall foliage and finger lakes from the Ithaca hospital (though you can see the Tennessee River if you look carefuly, and the office where I work can be seen behind the mist from the cooling towers).

They shuffled us off to a different room. The view from here was a bit better, you could see the Knoxville skyline and if you look closely you can see the Sunsphere.

Here I am holding the baby.

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