It was supposed to be raining when I woke up in Maggie Valley. When I’d decided to hunker down for the day, to sit-out the storm, I had visions of sleeping late, enjoying a long leisurely meal or two, and just, you know, hanging out.
So why is it that my first thought upon seeing dry pavement was, “I can ride today after all.” Maybe it’s a sickness.
Since I was close to Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), and I had yet to make it to Clingman’s Dome — highest point in GSMNP — I figured that would be a good destination. Once it did start raining, I told myself, I’d be close to shelter.
It didn’t take long at all — 20 minutes? — for me to reach the park entrance, which is near the southern terminus of the BRP. Unfortunately, when I did, I was greeted by a sign proclaiming US-441 to be closed. The Oconaluftee Visitors Center is just inside the park entrance, so I went in to find out exactly where the closure began, hoping I could reach the summit. But it was not to be.
“Actually,” one of the rangers manning the desk told me, “the Tennessee side of the park is currently being evacuated.” What?!?
The weather on the Tennessee side of the park was much worse. There were reports of trees down all over the place, falling on people and cars.
So I headed back toward Maggie Valley. I couldn’t resist stopping for some pics along the way, figuring I might as well make the most of my outing while the weather held. Here are some snapshots I judged to be worthy of sharing. Many are grainy because it was so overcast.
It was interesting to see the difference in the foliage at lower and higher elevations. I hadn’t expected to see so many bare trees. You’ll see the change as I move from lower points near the end of the Parkway, up and into the mountains.
If nothing else, I got to see some pretty cool clouds moving in. It was getting colder, too.
Temps were in the upper 40s by the time I decided to head back to my motel. So that was my morning.
Final note… this post has been in the works for a week. I caught a stupid head cold/upper respiratory think that’s had me coughing/hacking/gagging and blowing my nose for a week. As an extra bonus, each day ended with a pounding headache, too. Last night’s was so bad, I thought maybe I was dying. Needless to say, we didn’t do any riding over the long, holiday weekend. Maybe this coming weekend I’ll feel better.
Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the cool, crisp air, but I especially love seeing all of the colorful leaves.
This year, either I am too anxious to see color and it seems like it’s taking FOREVER, or the change is a bit later than usual. I think it’s the latter, but it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that I finally got to see some amazing color on Friday, but I had to work for it.
After being laid off from my job without warning (don’t worry, that’s old news), I suddenly felt like I had lots of free time on my hands. That’s not entirely true, because I had to find a new job, and that takes a lot of work. But working to find a new job didn’t prevent me from daydreaming about taking a motorcycle ride through the mountains. And since I typically work for contract research organizations, and there are several of those in North Carolina, I came up with a plot to schedule things carefully and line-up a bunch of interviews next week in NC.
Sounds like a great plan, right? I thought so. But then I was offered a job with a company in Charlottesville, Virginia. And I start on Monday. That’s tomorrow.
It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, even if it does mean I can’t go to North Carolina. So I planned a trip to West Virginia instead. I was going to go on Thursday and spend the night on the road, but the areas I wanted to see were forecasting rain, which would have been miserable, so I went on Friday. Just for the day.
I revisited the Dolly Sods, a place Hubby and I had gone to by car from the WV Place in 2010. The Dolly Sods is a wilderness area that sits at an elevation of about 4,000 feet atop the Allegheny Plateau. It is one of many areas of interest in the Monongahela National Forest. The Dolly Sods is significant because of its elevation and what that means to the flora and fauna.
Much of West Virginia is pretty mountainous, but the mountains aren’t very high (the highest peak is only 4,863 feet). It’s been said that many areas of the Dolly Sods are like high-alpine regions in Canada. The snowshoe hare can even be found there.
We’ve ridden our motorcycles near the Dolly Sods many, many times, but never ventured into the actual wilderness area because it is known for its rough, dirt and gravel roads. It is a wilderness, after all. Descriptions of the route into The Sods said something to the effect of “the road climbs the Allegheny Front.”
In 2010, we entered from the southern end. Yesterday, I entered from the north. The road goes up, and up, and up — five miles from the hard-surface road — before you finally reach the top of the Allegheny Plateau. Hubby’s GPS software plotted a graph showing our elevations at various points on the trip down and back, which clearly shows the extreme elevation change entering and leaving the Dolly Sods.
In all, it’s just over 18 miles of hard-packed dirt, gravel, and rock (as in boulders embedded in the ground) road. It’s full of some very large potholes, with washboard ruts in many places because it’s a very well-traveled road. The ride up was so bumpy, I bet I stood for about a third of the climb.
It was so worth it, though. Far too many pictures follow as proof.
If you come here mainly to read my words, you may want to stop scrolling now. 🙂
Remember, click on any image for a bigger view.
I DID warn you there were lots of pictures, right? I’m not done sharing yet. LOL.
It was darn pretty atop that plateau, but it was nice on the way down, too. The next pics were captured along the road at the south end.
That’s it for the Dolly Sods pics. But here’s one last capture from not far south along US-220/WV-28…
Even in West Virginia, the color is still spotty at lower elevations. But it’s slowly, but surely, getting more and more colorful closer to home.
I found a very interesting seashell at Virginia Beach last week. It was actually just a piece of a shell. Most of the shells I was seeing were completely pulverized.
I’ve been told shells get pulverized like that when there’s a dredging/beach replenishment effort in an area. I can’t say whether that’s the case in Virginia Beach or not, but I do know there were lots of rocks/stones and pulverized shells along the beach.
That’s okay, because even small things can be interesting, whether they are whole or not.
I though the wear pattern on this piece of shell was really cool. You’re looking at the inside of what was once a much-thicker shell. The other side just looks like the outside of any other unremarkable shell.
The pic is grainy because it’s an extreme close-up, taken with my phone while I was sitting on the beach. That piece is actually pretty little. I’d guesstimate bigger than a dime, but smaller than a nickel.
I did find one shell that looked to be pretty perfect.
But it was hard to tell without my close-up-vision glasses.
Did you think that perfect shell would be so small? 🙂
I have met some really cool people since moving to Virginia in 2011. It’s hard to believe it has already been five years! Well, not officially five until September 30/October 1, but that’s close enough. Sometimes it still feels so new…
But, back to me having met COOL people. One of the interesting localish ladies I’ve befriended is Connie Stevens Hilker. Some of you may remember her from this 2014 post of mine. According to the bio on Connie’s blog…
…I started Hartwood Roses, an educational rose garden in Virginia that specializes in rare and unusual antique roses. I know a lot about roses, old houses, carpentry and remodeling, and am an expert day dreamer. You will often find me working in the garden, planning a home project, building something, or hanging out in a cemetery …all of this has come in handy as my husband and I restore our historic home (built in 1848) renovate the outbuildings, and design the gardens.
She loves animals, too. She’s a supporter of dog rescue. She paints furniture. She’s just a really fun gal. And she’s married to a guy named, Steve, an artist who also seems like a cool chap. Here’s a recent pic of the two of them from Connie’s blog…
Aren’t they a cute couple? They’re grandparents, too.
Now for the point of this post… Connie and Steve hosted an open house/walking garden tour this past May. It’s an annual thing, I think. After seeing all of their preparations online, I thought it would be fun to go.
There was a map and everything. If you click on any of the images in this post, a larger version will open so you can see details.
I hadn’t told Connie I was coming. She was a little surprised to see me, but I think Steve was more surprised to see this granny pull into his yard on a motorcycle. I hadn’t met Steve before that day. Of course, I felt like I knew him to some degree through Connie and her social media posts.
It’s a big yard with a lot of different gardens and planting areas.
That’s an overview of the property. Isn’t it delightful?
Now for a bunch of pictures of their gorgeous roses.
Hubby and I drove out to Shenandoah National Park (SNP) last weekend. It’s been pretty hot here, so I haven’t been on my bike in weeks.
It was about 93 degrees and humid when we left the house on Sunday. The heat index — what it feels like with the humidity — was probably about 105. It was gross.
As is typical on hot, muggy days like that, there were thunderstorms forecast for the afternoon. I told Mike we’d probably see some pretty cool skies from Skyline Drive. He wasn’t excited.
It was about 75 degrees when we reached Skyline Drive. It was still humid, but it felt much better than the temps back down on the Piedmont.
Check out this awesome quilt that was on display at the Visitor’s Center.
The SNP Facebook page said…
Shenandoah National Park has a lot of exciting plans to celebrate the 100th year of the National Park Service! This past winter, Shenandoah staff and volunteers created a quilt representing Parks across the nation. The quilt is currently displayed at Byrd Visitor Center. Other quilt related events can also be found on our special events page. Visit our website to learn more about the hikes, programs and festivities at Shenandoah as we celebrate our 100th Birthday! https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/special_events.htm.
We were surprised to see a very large storm cloud approaching the lodge complex from the other side of the drive.
I did say we’d see some interesting skies, right?
A little while later, heading north, we saw a bear beside the road. I had to turn around and circle back for a better view. Buy then, he’d gone into the brush, so I didn’t get a decent picture.
You folks out West will probably laugh at me for sharing a picture of a Raven, but we don’t see them often. We have far more American Crows than Ravens. So, yes, I get excited when I see a Raven.
And that was our excitement last Sunday.
It’s supposed to be cooler this week. Here’s hoping the weather folks are right. I am really, really tired of being in the house.
Hi there! In case you haven’t visited in a while, this post is basically the second half of the pics I captured during a recent visit (April 20, 2016) to Victoria, BC, Canada. You’ll have to be sure to see the first installment if you haven’t already. There were so many pretty park pics to share, I decided they deserved a post of their own.
Anyhoo… I really didn’t have much of a plan beyond meeting up with Dar in the late afternoon. I knew Victoria was pretty, based on my previous, very quick visit and posts I’d vaguely remembered seeing on Dar’s blog and Brandy’s blog. I was excited to just have a few hours to myself to just roam, sightsee, and do whatever I felt like doing, or NOT doing as the case may be. I grabbed a Victoria map on the ferry and, upon seeing that Beacon Hill Park looked to be relatively close to the harbor, I decided to go there. (Here’s a link if you want to learn more about the 200-acre park.)
Remember, you can click on any image to see a larger version.
Since Richard asked, I had to check and see how far I actually walked that day. It appears to have been roughly six miles (9.5 km) give or take. I criss-crossed the park a lot, so it’s hard to tell for sure. I was walking slowly and stopping a lot for pics and also just to enjoy some peaceful spots in the shade.
It was a beautiful, sunny, warm Spring day. There were lots and lots of flowers in bloom. And a bunch of other interesting stuff to see. I could have gone to a museum and/or shopping, but it was such a pretty day and it was just so darn gorgeous that I sort of just ambled around the city all day.
Here are some of the many images I captured.
I didn’t enter the park through the main entrance pictured in that first shot. I’d just walked in the general direction of the park and entered on the first convenient path that I saw. And I didn’t have a map of the park, so I don’t remember what the various areas were called. Sorry. I was just ambling about.
I may or may not have squealed aloud when I rounded a corner on a wooded path and saw this…
I am a visual, nature-loving person, so I was completely and utterly in my element.
The view would be all green and serene, maybe with a pond or two. And ducks. Loads of ducks, geese and such. Then I’d round a corner and, BOOM, more color.
Not that I am complaining. Trust me, I was absolutely delighted.
Some of my pics are a bit washed out because the sun was so bright, which is a shame. But I think you get the idea just how lovely a place it was.
I was so overwhelmed by all the loveliness that I actually forgot ScooterBob was with me. DOH! I can be such a dunce sometimes. All oohing and aahing about the stunning natural beauty around me instead of snapping opportunistic photos of my little globe-trotting wooden friend.
I never did get an image of that meadow good enough to do it justice. It was a veritable sea of purple before me. There was just too much sun at that time of day.
Finally, my favorite nature scene of the day. A bunch of turtles on a floating log.
I actually stood there watching for a while. And laughing. While I have seen my share of turtles on logs, I’d never actually seen turtles on a floating log. It’s different, trust me. You’ll have to watch at least the first 45 seconds of the video I included below to see why.
That was my day at Beacon Hill Park. Yes, I’d go again in a heartbeat. Even if I had just one more day to spend in Victoria. Of course, I’d ask Dar to meet me there with a picnic meal, and perhaps an alcoholic beverage or two. 🙂