It really snowed!

Yesterday I woke up to a real southern treat, SNOW! Significant snow by our standards,  an official 3″. With salt trucks running the roads on Friday and dire weather predictions all week, I was convinced the snow would turn north and miss us.  Afterall weather fronts often do funny things around our Great Smoky Mountains and as a result, the weather folks usually get it wrong. But they were dead on this time, yay for a good southern snow.

On the other hand, it is good not to be living in Blasdell, NY where 28″ of snow fell. According to the National Weather forecast, 65.4% of the country is currently covered in snow and ice. Brrrrrr!

I intended to be out running 1st thing Saturday morning, 4 miles was the plan.Over the past six weeks my running has really suffered; I went on two weekend trips, spent four snowy days in Quebec City (a later post) and family came in town for the holidays. However, a layer of ice lay below the snow and the temperature hovered around 18 degrees F, so I gave into the situation and took a 3.5 mile walk with my hubby. It was cold!!

Our destination was an out and back to  Ijams Nature Center , the 300 acre cornerstone to South Knoxville’s urban wilderness, a mecca for mountain bicyling, birders, hikers, canoers, SUP boarders, runners and photographers.  This amazing area is a quick 1.5 mile hike (or run) from the house!


We walked the short .5 mile through our neighborhood and jumped on the Will Skelton Greenway.  The greenway begins in our neighborhood park  on the banks of the Tennessee River and continues along an inlet that branches off the river (above).  Each summer I swear I am going to rent a kayak and paddle through the inlet. 2017 is going to be my year to “get it done”!


Bird houses were installed along the Will Skelton Greenway in 2016.  I think they are decorative only.  The boxes sit low enough for the curious to peak in on any given walk (not guilty yet).


The wind was strong Friday night and appears to have prevented the light, fluffy snow from settling on the branches in the trees.  We were not the 1st walkers (or bicyclists) on the greenway, but not many had come before us.


The water was lovely from the trail lookout in Ijams Nature Center. The inlet is is part of  the same inlet as the first photo, about a mile (probably less by water) east.  During the summer, the vegetation is heavy and the water is not as visible.


Snowy bridge in Ijams Nature Center


Winter wonderland


The ice covering this pond was very superficial.  Like others before us, we did not venture onto the boardwalk for fear of slipping. John had a little incident earlier on another bridge but shhhhh, I didn’t tell you that!

Stay safe!

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Roaming in the Roans…

Mountains are the beginning and end of all natural scenery.   John Ruskin

I think the balds of the Roan Highlands are about the most beautiful place I have ever hiked. Located in the Unaka Mountain Range in Upper East Tennessee, the balds make up the longest section (7 miles) of grassy balds in the Appalachian Mountains.  All but one of the balds is located on the Appalachian Trail (AT).


For the weekend hiker, the AT section of trail to Grassy Ridge Bald begins at Carvers Gap, just on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. For the AT thru hiker, the trail begins some 378 miles south at Springer Mtn, GA. There were a lot of day hikers and backpackers the weekend we hiked the balds.

Late on a Friday night in early October, after yet another week of sweltering temperatures in the valley, we decided to escape the city heat and head high into the high mountains for an overnight on Grassy Ridge Bald. We choose Grassy Ridge for several reasons:

  • The drive from Knoxville is only 2.5 hours so we could get some things done in the morning and leave in the early afternoon.
  • At 6189′, Grassy Ridge Bald is guarenteed to be cooler.  We figure about 2 degrees per 1000′ so the temperature differential between Knoxville and Grassy Ridge would be at least 10 degrees.  The bald is also free of heavy vegetation and with a likely breeze blowing up and over the bald, the temperature would be even cooler.
  • While demanding for short stretches, the 1.8 mile trail from the Gap to the Bald is moderate and would take significantly less time than the drive.
  • The views are amazing!!

The AT section leading to the Balds of the Roan Highlands, begins with 8 log steps which lead to an opening in the log fence, then an ascent through a small spruce forest and up to the top of the 1st bald, Round Bald.  The ascent is not too demanding and most of the trail surface is packed gravel. It is no surprise that many day hikers stop at Round Bald.


Grasses near the top of Round Bald


Dayhikers at the top of Round Bald.


John hiking down the backside of Round Bald, Jane Bald lies ahead of him. Notice the AT sign post on the left of the photo indicating we are headed north on the AT. On the backside of the sign is a southward marker. From Georgia to Maine, the AT is marked with a “white” blaze.   


Didn’t I say, the views are spectacular??


We are now looking back toward Round Bald, which is in the foreground with the AT winding up the bald in the left of the photo. Roan Mountain is the tallest mountain behind Round Bald with Carvers Gap in the center between the two. The photo is from Jane Bald.

Jane Bald is the 2nd of the 6 balds that make up the Roan Highlands. The trail (still on the AT) that climbs Jane is a little rougher and rockier than Round Bald.  At the top of Jane Bald, the AT splits to the left and continues over Yellow Mountain, Little Hump and Big Hump (each one equally beautiful) as it heads north toward Mt. Katahdin, Maine some 1810 miles away.

Since our destination was Grassy Ridge Bald, we forked to the right and followed an unmarked spur trail climbing up a rutted, rocky trail through rhododendren thickets.  The Roan Highlands are known for their spectacular display of rhododedren blooms around the 3rd week of June.


Hiker climbing to the top of Grassy Ridge Bald.  Jane Bald,  Round Bald and Roan Mountain are visible behind the hiker.  


A dense rhododendren forest arches over a secton of the trail near the top of Grassy Ridge Bald.


Up and over the top of Grassy Ridge Bald

Based on the number of cars in the parking lot at Carver’s Gap and foot traffic on the trail, we were not surprised to find the best tent sites on Grassy Ridge Bald taken.  We crossed over Grassy Ridge and dropped down into a gap (our usual camping spot) only to find a tent set up in the middle of the gap.  While technically there was still space for  a second tent, we continued up the other side to a rhododendren garden with rocky outcrops.


John begins the tent set up for what we though was the perfect campsite.  As it turns out, we bypassed testing on the ground cloth to see if the site was flat and later discovered that the middle of the tent was in a bit of “impression” in the ground.


Incredible view from our tent!


Our tent is nestled against a rhododendren thicket which provides protection from wind that often roars up the side of the mountain and across the balds.


We were treated to a spectacular sunset.


Both of us were happy to see the sunrise, it had been a restless night on the uneven ground.  Besides, we always look forward to coffee and the best cup is the one sipped in the great outdoors. 


We watched clouds gather in the valley as we sipped coffee on our rock outcropping some 6000′ above the valley floor.  It was a beautiful  morning.


Morning light in the mountains.  

After an hour or so of  cloud watching and packing, we hiked out the same way we came in. It had been a great 24 hours in one of our favorite areas and our 78th backpack was in the books.

The trailhead at Carver’s Gap and parking are located about 25 minutes from Elizabethon, Tennessee off Highway 19E. From 19E take  Hwy 143 to Carver’s Gap.  At the base of the mountains, on Hwy 143 is one of Tennessee’s 56 State Parks, Roan Mountain State Park .  A visitors center is located on the main road where maps and information can be obtained. Hiking and camping in the Roan Highlands is free.

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Do you believe in the paranormal…

Are you serious about the paranormal or a curious nonbeliever with a sense of adventure? On an October Saturday night just prior to Halloween, when downtown Knoxville was filled with 100’s of ghosts and zombies and a flash mob may or may not have broken out in the Thriller zombie dance, we joined 20 others on a Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tour to learn about the Knoxville paranormal scene.While John and I maybe curious non believers we were open, even hopeful to the possibility that the spirits of Halloween might play hide and seek with the legends in our city.

Our Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tour was led by J-Adam Smith, a bonifide paranormal investigator who has appeared on Paranormal Television and has participated in a number of investigations in Knoxville and other parts of the country. He is a gregarious, animated and quite knowledgable on the topic of the paranormal in Knoxville.  He is also passionate about his topic.


J-Adam’s briefcase filled with paranormal detection equipment

As per pre-arrival instructions, participants began to gather in the Market House Cafe on the northern corner of Knoxville’s famed Market Square around 7:15 PM.  J-Adam stood near a table with an open brief case filled with beeping and blinking gadgets, paranormal equipment we later learned.  He greeted each participant with a warm welcome and a Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tours lanyard. As we slipped the lanyards around our necks, we fell into the world of the paranormal for the next few hours.


Ghost Tour lanyard and free entry into Scruffy City Music Hall

J-Adam began the adventure promptly at 7:30 PM, leading us to the alley behind Urban Outfitters, which we learned was the original site of the 2nd Presbyterian Church and graveyard. Those who wanted to participate in the hunt for ghosts or spirits were equipped with paranormal tools including ghost meters, hand held flash lights, EMF meters (electromagnetic field) and a spirit box. J-Adam explained the nuances of each tool.  I liked the lights and bleeps of the ghost meter so I took one of these. John, ever practical, decided to be an observer.


Urban Outfitters Alley, the tour begins


Ghost Meter!!

We quickly discovered that about 1/3 of our group not only knew all  the answers to J-Adam’s questions but were dead serious about the paranormal. As we moved from site to site, this group worked with the equipment, talked to the spirits and kept those of us on the fringes totally engaged. We stopped at sites of long gone funeral homes and graveyards (currently known as back alleys and empty spaces), The Bijou Theater (Lamar House), Knoxville Historial Society (ex-post office-federal court house) and the the 1st Presbyterian Church cemetary.  The history was fascinating, the spirit hunting was entertaining and we thought J-Adam Smith was a super guide. The tour lasted for 3 hours,  a value for the ticket price of  $30/per person.


East Tennessee History Building once home to federal courts and post office.  According to J-Adam, it is also the site of possible ghost activity


Our guide,  J-Adam Smith (seated), explaining the details on flashlight use in ghost hunting


Tour participants on the hunt for spirits


An empty lot on the corner of Church Avenue and Gay Street which, back in the 1800’s, was the site of a funeral home.  Do ghosts from the funeral home haunt here?  Just ask J-Adam why such a valuable piece of property sits mostly empty with a only a sculpture to occupy the space


Looking for ghosts and spirits in the 1st Presbyterian Cemetery on State Street

So, did we see any ghosts or hear any spirits?  No, not unles you count a couple of fluttering flashlights and a possible “orb” on someone’s photo. But we learned something about history and the paranormal and we had a really great time and that was worth the time and money spent for the tour!


1st Presyterian Church Cemetery



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