Freezing in Frozen Head, Spicewood Trail 2-7-2020

A week of warm weather and damaging rain ended in a drop in temperature and light snow. We had planned to backpack Friday night but the remembrance of a winter night years ago, spent in Frozen Head on the very coldest backpack we have ever experienced caused us to rethink our plan. Nope, the thought of overnighting in cold and dampness with dog who was guaranteed to be wet convinced us go with a day hike, a decision we did not regret.

Friday morning was a scramble preparing for the hike, well, I scrambled. John packed his gear in my car and left the house at his usual 6:00am. He had some work to do before the students arrived and an appointment to drop his car off for service. This left Katie and me to gather my hiking gear and find enough snacks for the trail and Katie wasn’t helping much. Anytime her harness comes out, she disappears!

The pup and I picked John up around 8:30am and started our drive to Frozen Head. We did the usual squabbling about my driving, you know, windshield wipers left on too long, how to drive, etc. But he missed the really big call out, I was driving in the opposite direction of Frozen Head. I suspect he was watching to see how long it would take me to figure it out, he says he didn’t want to get fussed at for telling me how to drive. Ha! Call me out, we could have ended up in North Carolina. I have always been told women have better navigational skills then men. This is not true, my husband’s instincts are rarely wrong while mine are rarely right. Luckily he knows and accepts this.

Frozen Head State Park is about an hour and fifteen minutes outside of Knoxville. Our drive took us through Oak Ridge, past Oliver Springs and toward Wartburg on Hwy 62. The further out of Oak Ridge we drove the colder and snowier it became. Nothing dangerous mind you, just interesting. We had called the park service earlier to find out about weather conditions. We were told that a section of the park was closed due to flooding but our trailhead was open.

John keeps asking, ” who are the old people are in this picture?” We do have a few wrinkles and woolen caps are not necessarily flattering….but they are warm!!

The trail we decided to hike this week was Spicewood Branch. It is located at the end of the Old Mac Connector Trail. North Old Mac Trail (hike 1-26-2020) is the first turnoff on the connector, South Old Mac Trail (hiked last summer) is the 2nd turnoff and Spicewood is at the end of the connector, .5 miles from the parking lot. That meant our out and back hike would be 6 miles with a 1370′ elevation gain and loss.

Beech trees and firs are a nice contrast in a winter forest.

The beginning of the trail was flat and soggy and meandered beside a creek heavy with water runoff from nearby mountains. At Spicewood Branch campsite, .5 miles from the connector, the trail took a sharp right and began steeply ascending. The trail was rocky, snowy and muddy. It was obviously once a drainage area but the water pouring down the side of the mountain had been diverted to two active drainage areas to the right of this one.

Lots of water moving.

Water was plentiful as we climbed, both in waterfalls and creeks running across the trail and in low spots and overflow areas on the trail. And it was snowing. The more elevation we gained the more snow we saw. We were protected from the wind and then we weren’t. Wind blew up the side of the mountain finding exposed skin and tiny openings in our clothing. It also brought icy precipitation. Brrrrr!

I wore my gaitors for warmth, I needed them for snow and water.

Finally we reached the trail end which connected to the Chimney Top Trail just below the ridgeline on Frozen Head Mountain. We were cold! We quickly acknowledged our halfway point and hiked back to a clump of downed trees to eat a snack before heading down. The hope was that the trees would offer some protection from the wind. They did, some.

John and Katie hurrying back on the Spicewood Branch Trail from the trail junction with Chimney Top Trail.
Downed trees offered a little, very little protection from the wind for a snack break.

Note the purple dot on the end of the log which is the color designating the Spicewood Branch Trail. It is an unusual color for a trail marking but stood out in the brown and white landscape.

Nothing I packed for lunch looked good. The peanut butter sandwiches were cold and a little frozen. Cheez-its were dry in our throat and protein bars were disgusting. John finally choked down 1/2 a peanut butter sandwich and I ate a peanut and chocolate chip bar. We closed our food bag and repacked it. It was time to head back to the car for real food, at least warm food.

The little puppy girl was well taken care of with food, dog cookies and mini milk bones for treats and she ate everything. She was not as picky as us. She runs possibly twice as much as we hike so we overpack her food so she doesn’t run out of energy.

Snow and icicles hang from the fur of the little puppy. We worried about her getting cold but she did not shiver. She seemed to be happy and having a good time.
Little red crayfish.

While crossing through one of the waterfalls running over the trail, a small red “lobster” caught my eye. It caught me by surprise because I have never seen a bright red creature sitting on a rock in the middle of the trail in the middle of winter, well ever. My first thought was a child’s toy had fallen out of someone’s pocket. It didn’t make sense because we had not seen anyone and the little “lobster” was not visible on our hike up the mountain.

I called to John who was hiking ahead and he came back for a look. The little creature had either not been there when he walked through the water or he just missed it. “Nope,” he said, “it’s not a toy, it’s a crayfish.” Oh!

When I returned home, I did a bit of googling on Emory River basin crayfish and came up with a list of two possibilities 1) Upland Burrowing crayfish which is red with a blueish tail or 2) Valley Flame crayfish which is all red. Since I saw no blue, I am going with the Valley Flame although the article said it was not often seen.

High wind gusts blew falling snow up mountain. Each tree had a bit of a skunk stripe along the trunk where the snow was blocked. .
Beautiful snowy view.

We hiked the trail round trip in under four hours. Even wearing long underwear, fleece and down, parts of us were still cold. I think the temperature was around 30 F at the trailhead and dropped as we climbed. Descending into the wind did not help so the car was a welcome sight. Seat warmers and car heater finally warmed us around Oak Ridge.

That night, as we sat at home eating hot crab and shrimp chowder from Shrimp Dock, we kept talking about how glad we were to be cozy and warm inside. The thought of cooking dinner over a backpacking stove with frozen fingers did not appeal. We are getting soft….

Posted in Frozen Head State Park, Hiking, Outside, Tennessee State Parks, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Easing Back into Hiking, North Old Mac Trail, 1-26-2020…

Last weekend as January was winding down, John, Katie and I headed to Frozen Head State Park to ease back into hiking.

Frozen Head is located in Morgan County between the towns of Petros and Wartburg. The land was purchased by the State of Tennessee in 1894 with the purpose of building a maximum security prison. You may be aware that Brushy Mountain Prison is most famous for the incarceration point of James Earl Ray, convicted assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The park was designated as a natural area by the state in 1988. It has 14 peaks over 3000′, 20 backcountry campsites, 50 miles of trails open only to hikers!!! Runners may also be aware that Frozen Head is the location of the Barkley Ultra Marathon. This is an ultra race that has been held since 1984. The challenge is to run 100 miles in under 60 hours. The course is unmarked and traverses rugged and brushy terrain. It is an “up the side of the mountain run”, not a trail run. As of 2017, only 15 competitors have ever finished the race. In 2019, 40 racers began the course, 0 finished. How is that for a challenge!?!

For John, Katie and me, our challenge was much less intense. We were hiking out and back on North Old Mac trail. North (and South) Old Mac begin “just down the road” from the ranger station in a parking lot with pleasant, HEATED restrooms that also have a shower for post hike/run use. The hike is 3.6 miles each direction, with a 1600′ climb out that dead ends at Panther Gap.

Katie and John on the Old Mac connector trail. Katie jumps on anything she can-walls, stumps, rocks, logs…signs. Thought it was nice that someone left their hiking stick for someone else.
A few 10’s of a mile on the Old Mac Connector and we arrived at our trailhead. This trail, as all the trails we have hiked in Frozen Head are well blazed and well maintained.

Aside from the beech trees that tend to hang onto their leaves till spring, we had an unobstructed view and what a view it was. The uphill climb started out steep but as it became more gradual, I has able to take in the my surroundings. The loudest sounds I could hear were my own breathing and the shuffle of my feet amongst the leaves.

Katie is ready to go. She often stops and looks back at us as if trying to say, “come on people, why are you so slow?”
My favorite views were the ones of mountains in the distance.

Not unlike other areas of the country, we had a lot of rain in January, too much really. Water was running off the mountain creating beautiful little waterfalls that could be heard well in advance of seeing them. None of the falls flowing across the trail caused a problem. Katie thought they were great fun.

Hiking was going well until we came upon this recently downed tree blocking the trail. It was too low to go under and even my 6’1″ husband’s feet could not touch the trail going over.

I walked down below the point that the trunk split into smaller branches. Slightly easier to cross but still challenging with two branch crossings on squishy ground. John watched me struggle through the mess and decided that over the main trunk worked better for him.

From my view with John looking on at my struggle. Yeah, maybe this was not the best idea.
Another small waterfall.

As we eased closer to the top, we became more aware of the chill. Traces of snow appeared around the base of trees and ice formations covered rock formations. Brrrrrr!

The trail ended at Panther Gap along a gravel forest service road. A turn to the right and quarter mile hike leads to South Old Mac Trail and a turn to the left leads to Lookout Tower Trail. John stopped for a snack while I walked down to the Panther Gap Rock House.

Panther Gap Rock House.
The openings at the base of the rock may have offered protection from the elements for the Cherokee who once used this area as a hunting ground.

The hike back to the parking lot was downhill. This view provided a chance to see just how many trees were down in the area. Most of these are not recent and the park rangers do a great job of keeping the trail clear.

You can see John on the trail. He is dwarfed by the trees.

We stopped at the North Old Mac backcountry campsite to look at the view and check out the campsite. The site is small, maybe 2 tents and is not level at the tent areas. The view makes up for it.

Fire pit at North Old Mac backcountry campsite. A tent would have to go to the left of the tree, behind the tree stump.
Beautiful view from the campsite.

We arrived back at the car and quickly turned on the heat and car seat heaters. We have gotten a little chilled on the way down. This 8.0 round trip hike (including Rock House detour and connector trail) with 1600′ elevation gain was a pleasant way to kick off our 2020 hiking season.

Posted in Hiking, Tennessee State Parks, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Strawberry Plains 10K Recap…

Whew, I finished! The 2020 Strawberry Plains 10k (and 1/2 marathon) is done.

Strawberry Plains 10k-1/2 is a favorite around this area. The timing falls just right to be a training race for participants in the late March Knoxville Covenant 1/2 and full marathon. For the rest of us, it is a great race to test our running stamina.

The course is held on 2 lane country roads in the little community of Strawberry Plains. Lots of open pastures, views of the Holston River and distant mountains. Today this scenic route was visible under a cover of grey and clouds. For most, the race was complete before the rain fell but some of the 1/2 marathon surely got drenched and cold. The temperature hovered around 41F.

My race prep began with bib and shirt pickup on Thursday before the race. It was a bit of a hassel for me to drive to Academy Sports, the pickup location but by the time I arrived at the race location in Strawberry Plains this morning, same day pickup lines were 50+ persons long. I was happy I had made the Thursday effort.

Me with my cute (and tough) personal trainer from the YMCA. My race bib is black for the 10k, Gina’s bib is white for the 1/2 marathon. She finished 2 minutes behind me. Ha!

Race day parking had also been rumored to be difficult, limited space and recent rains flooding grassy parking areas. John offered to drop me off and pick me up. I was glad he did so. I get very anxious when I race (one of the reasons I don’t do it too often) and struggling with parking would have been difficult for me. On the other hand, I was out in the chill dressed in tights and a running top because I had longingly left my down jacket in the front seat of the car. Obviously that jacket was not needed during the race but oh it would have felt good before!!

The 10k and 1/2 marathon were run concurrently, beginning at a 9:00 am start. Both distances were out and back. The 10k had 1 water stop that was located at 2.5 miles out and 3.8 miles back.

This is the only picture I took…from the back of the pack. I thought about taking others but knew that my energy would be limited so I didn’t. Not this time anyway.

I started near the back of the pack. The miles passed quickly, early on. I ran in a gap between people for a mile or so which was really nice. A lady who was walk/running caught up to me. She was wearing a watch with a very audible timer. Beep, beep, beeeeeep-time to start running, beep, beep, beep-time to walk. At first I thought the sound was coming from a vehicle until I realized it was coming from her. After a while, I began to anticipate and dread the unwelcome beeps. Nothing wrong with her method, just wish she had turned the volume down. Finally, in the last few miles, she didn’t start running when the beep cycled around. I was able to finish my race without the distraction.

The last mile was tough for me. I haven’t run 6 miles since mid December. I did pick it up for the last .2 miles. I was so pleased to run most of the miles almost a minute faster than my “round the neighborhood” time but it was still very slow.

The post race breakfast was massive-biscuits and gravy, bagels, muffins, pancakes and syrup, sausage and, of course oatmeal for those who still had space on their plate and in their stomach. I paid a little extra for a plate for John and we sat in the car enjoying our meal.

Serious hardware for this race. The barn piece in the center spins with something else on the back. I almost forgot to get the medal, I had forgotten that everyone gets one for running. l am glad one of the race volunteers stopped me and put it in my hand. This medal is really interesting.

I have been relaxing and snoozing this afternoon. At some point I got chilled and have had a hard time getting warm. That aside, I am pleased that I signed up and followed through with the run. I am thinking about signing up for an upcoming 5k next.

Posted in Racing, Running, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

January 2020-it's a wrap……

January is going out similar to the way it came in-chilly and dreary. It was a good month by all accounts though it fell a little short of what my active self would have liked. On the rare occasion I was up early enough to see this, but more often than not, sky watching was part of my evening routine.

It rained a lot in January and the temperature was all over the board-20’s to 70 F.

I got back into a swing with my art classes, something I struggled with in November/December. Unfortunately I did not devote as much, well any time to drawing outside of class, which did not improve my ability or my confidence. My January class will wrap up next week and I will not take another until March.

An unfinished drawing of rotten pears

John and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary on January 16th. We celebrated by going out for sushi at one of our favorite downtown restaurants, Nama’s. Pretty low key for two people who married late and can’t believe we have been together so long. Both pictures were taken in bad lighting but the sushi photo makes me hungry now. We have one more chance to make a bigger splash as we will be celebrating 20 years together in February.

My active goals for January were to be outside more than I was inside. I was successful at this but just barely, outside 17 days or 54.8% of the month (for someone who hated math, I love numbers!).

Running

I had no real goals here, I wanted to see what I ran without anything pushing me. I was out 13 days for a total of 44.29 miles. My uphill elevation gain was only 832.6′. Obviously I tried to keep it flat. Some days were good, some days were a struggle but I never regretted it once I closed the front door and headed to the street.

Cold, windy day. I was not looking too good.
Getting out for the last run of the month. Glad to be out!

Walking

John, Katie and I or just Katie and I got out for walks around the neighborhood or in area parks. Overall we were out a total of 8 days for 17.02 miles. Good thing the pup is in day care 1-2 days a week cause this is not nearly enough outside time for her.

Above and below pictures taken at High Grounds Park in Knoxville. It was really cold that day though Katie didn’t seem to mind too much!

Hiking

We started to ratchet up our hiking toward the end of the month. We were out for 2 hikes for a total of 11.22 miles. Our elevation gain on these two hikes was 2381.9′. The first hike was a 3 miler (short) at Norris State Park. The second hike was just over 8 miles at Frozen Head State Park. I am working on my post for this hike.

Beautiful wintery view from the North Old Mac Trail at Norris

February begins tomorrow and it is a reset for me. I will be paying attention to food consumption and outdoor activities, specifically hiking and running. We are currently on for an Alaska adventure in August (fingers crossed no dog issues) and training must begin now.

I have signed up for 10K race in the morning, my first in years and I am a little scared! I will be one of only a handful of female racers over 65. I know I will be slow but a 1/2 marathon will be going on concurrently with the 10K so I shouldn’t be the last person on the course.

I wish everyone a happy February and thanks for reading!

Posted in Art, Hiking, Life, Outside, Running, Walking | 2 Comments

Auberge Saint-Antoine, our Quebec City base…

Although Quebec City is one month in our rear view mirror, I want to wrap up writing about our short trip with a review of the lovely hotel Auberge Saint-Antoine https://www.saint-antoine.com/ , our base for several days.

Hotel entrance

As I mentioned in this post https://smithposts.com/2020/01/09/chilling-in-quebec-city/, this is our third winter trip to Quebec City. For the first two trips we booked the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, a lovely 5 star hotel. With 610 rooms and suites, this large hotel maintains impeccable service to all levels of guests. It is also within easy walking distances to the best shopping , restaurants and in December, the Christmas market.

On our first stay we booked a classic city view king room. Lovely room, great experience. For the second stay we got a great deal on the Fairmont Gold floor which included a delicious hot breakfast, late afternoon hors d’oeuvres, gold floor concierge service and additional luxuries not included with the classic rooms. This room exceeded all our expectations and set the bar extremely high for any additional stay at the Frontenac.

Ahhh Luxury! We have stayed in hotels from a one star where we slept in our sleeping bags on top of the bed spread (that’s a story!), to a two star where we have been woken at 2:00 am by a post barroom brawl in the courtyard, to four and five star luxury old hotels across Europe. We remember all but the luxury hotels linger fondly.

When we started looking at hotels for our December 2019 trip, we quickly determined that the Gold rate we booked in 2016 was not available. We also determined that we did not want to pay the current rate because eating dinner from the grocery store in our room (which we have done in the past) was not the getaway experience we were looking for. We couldn’t imagine stepping back to a classic room (that sounds a bit snooty) so we decided to shop around and find a new experience.

Out of the many reviews we read, locations we looked at and hotel websites we perused two strong contenders popped up, the Auberge Saint-Antione and Le Monastere des Augustines https://monastere.ca/en . The hotels are very different but both offered experiences we were interested in. In the end, we chose the Auberge Saint-Antione.

The Auberge Saint-Antione is located at 8 Rue Saint Antoine, a quiet street in Lower Town. We came into the city after dark and our cab driver stopped at the white flagged entrance and began unloading our bags. Immediately the hotel doorman popped out of another door, grabbed our luggage and ushered us to a similar looking entrance. “The white flag is the entrance to our restaurant, Chez Muffy,” he tells us, “the hotel entrance is here, under the blue flag.” We must have said something to him about having to retrieve us in the wind and bitter cold because I remember him responding, “not problem, it happens all the time.” I also remember trying to stay upright on the icy sidewalk, a sign of things to come.

Note to self: As many luxury hotels as we have stayed in, we really need to brush up on luxury hotel tipping!! I think I know and then I don’t.

The lobby was cozy and inviting after a long day flying and warm after coming in from the cold. We found the décor simple and sophisticated with just the right amount of Christmas. The desk staff checked us in quickly and efficiently and we were off to our room moments after arrival.

Fireplace at one end of the lobby
The lobby and desk area. Most times we were in the lobby, guests were sitting near the fireplace reading or on their computers.

One of the attractions to this hotel was it’s location in the Old Port near one of our favorite markets in the Old Port terminal. We discovered on this trip the market has moved to the suburbs and the building was in the process of being demolished. We were sad. The other attraction is that Auberge Saint-Antoine has quite a bit of history as described below from the hotel’s website:

Auberge Saint-Antoine encompasses a trio of sites in Quebec City’s Old Port, on Îlot Hunt, an area facing the majestic St. Lawrence River. In its early days, the Îlot Hunt property was used as a wharf, then a cannon battery, and later by British merchants when Quebec City was one of North America’s biggest and busiest ports. Each of the three buildings and structures still stand today as part of the Auberge Saint-Antoine story, and boast great historical significance.

During the construction of Auberge Saint-Antoine, a final large-scale archaeological dig was held that led to the discovery of several new artifacts, some of which date back to the 1600s. The objects discovered shed new light on a part of Quebec City’s history. These precious items were documented and restored by the conservation center and are now on display throughout the hotel. You can find these artifacts featured in the common areas and guest rooms as a tribute to more than three centuries of Quebec history.”

We were in room #408. I loved that the room numbers featured artifacts from the dig. Bedside tables also had artifacts built into the structure. The hotel had a number of framed artifacts gracing the walls with historical information included.

The bedroom was spacious, the colors, deep turquoise, brown, beige and green. We had a sofa (across from the foot of the bed) and a desk area. Critical things such as plugs and ports were plentiful.

The bed was comfortable with pillows of different thicknesses. We tend to like our pillows thin, we were comfortable with the selection.
Desk area. I found stationary at the desk. I miss the times I use to pen a note “back home” on hotel stationary.
The bathroom was done in dark turquoise and beige. Very nice with heated floors. Also a deep soaker tub/shower combination with double shower heads. I must say, these bathrobes looked like people on quick glance. Once John got sick, he spent a lot of time in the robe and slippers trying to stay warm.
The Saint Lawrence River was visible from the window. The Museum of Civilization is the building with the green roof and triangle windows on the left. I did not read about it before going to Quebec and I passed on the opportunity to visit the day John was sick. My loss.

The rooms also had a nice coffee/tea area with a lovely selection of both. I had not been sleeping well before our trip and enjoyed a cup of chamomile tea before bed.

Turn down service also included the weather forecast for the following day.

December 17th was the warmer of the two days we were in the city.

A new feature to us was the boot box with the bottom covered in stones to catch the snow and ice drippings. Some days I think these would be beneficial on rainy days in the south.

I loved breakfast at Chez Muffy’s. Two of the three days we (I) went to breakfast, I sat near the fire. We have found that food in Quebec City is not inexpensive, even with the favorable currency exchange. The breakfast was worth the expense, many selections, all delicious. I also ate dinner at the bar one night, food prepared at Chez Muffy. This too was very good.

In my previous Quebec post I mentioned that John came down with food poisoning or a stomach virus on our second day. This opened me up to trying something I have not done before, utilizing the hotel spa or “Health Club” as opposed to the “Le Gym”. The space was located in a winding hall off the front lobby but felt like it was in a totally different place with thick walls and dramatic lighting. Along the hall walls were pictures of the area from a different era.

I chose to have a pedicure. It was a relaxing, luxurious and I never felt rushed. As a matter of fact, I think I was in the spa over and hour and one half. Today, as I look at my still perfectly polished toenails, I realize what a great job the hotel esthetician did. This was an experience I would love to repeat on another trip but truth told, John and I are usually too caught up in being outside to spend so much time inside. Well, there was that massage we had with some friends while traveling in China. Yeah, that was not a 5 star luxury experience…..

Overall, our three night stay at the Auberge Saint-Antoine was excellent. The accommodations and food were memorable and staff friendly and helpful. While we will probably not be back to Quebec City for a few years, we would consider a stay at the Auberge Saint-Antoine again.

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seven Islands, TN's Newest and Best State Park…

Seven Islands State Birding Park is the newest gem in TN’s system of 56 parks. The park encompasses 423 acres along the French Broad River where grounds are managed as a grasslands and river habitat for 190 species of birds. The peninsula showcases rolling hills, some woodlands and more than 8 miles of trail frequented by hikers and birders. It is also used in research and education for area schools and other groups. A small canoe/kayak launch has been added in recent years. On my goal list is to participate in one of the group paddles offered weekends during the summer months.

This past Sunday we packed up the dog and headed to Seven Islands to do bit of walking and to explore the newly built pedestrian bridge that connects the Seven Islands mainland to Newman Island. While Seven Islands is beautiful anytime you choose to visit, we find the park particularly stunning in the winter. Tall grasses have turned golden, seed pods flutter in the breeze and leaves are off the tree so high point views are vast and beautiful. On a somewhat overcast sky, such as Sunday’s sky, photography is dramatic.

This rustic barn greets park visitors as they come in from the main parking lot. While it offers picnic tables and park literature, it also provides much needed shade during the summer months. Behind the barn, trails split in several directions depending on your destination. Ours was the pedestrian bridge.

As it turns out, the path to the bridge is handicap accessible so the grades were not steep and the entire trail was paved. Standing water from recent heavy rain was visible along the trail. The park was busy with hikers and lots of dogs but it never felt crowded.

As the pedestrian bridge came into view, it was bigger and more impressive than we expected. Large concrete pillars support a wide structure above what was a fast moving river on this day. The new trail and bridge are not only ADA approved but also large enough for bicyclists and hikers to share.

The view from the middle of the bridge was impressive. On one side the sky was cloudy and blue on the other side, cloudy and grey.

Once on the island, we discovered a natural surface loop trail. We hiked along with a puppy that was becoming increasingly impatient to get in the water. We were not anxious because of the steep drop-offs and fast moving water but we let her sniff it out, harness and leash on, hoping she would realize swimming was not a good idea. I know, I know, we are the adults here.

She headed right in. When she realized her big man paws would not touch bottom, she clung to the bank with all she had. You can see a wide paw stance, water swirling around her and John’s feet as he hurried to grab her harness and get her back on solid ground. She did not try to get in the water again.

Newman Island loop trail followed along the water’s edge (right) as it circled the island. Bare trees and winter grass were stark against the cloudy sky.

As we headed back to the car, we detoured to take a trail previously unknown to us. The trail is and out and back, .6 miles in one direction. It meanders up a hillside, through a forest to a ridge high above the park where the views are stunning. Below is a view of the pedestrian bridge we had just crossed.

Another ridge view of mountains, the river and the ridge top.

We returned home with a tired, muddy puppy and good memories of a Sunday morning spent at Seven Island State Birding Park.

Posted in Outside, Tennessee State Parks, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The first full week…

Life has been quiet this first full week of the New Year/New Decade. Lingering holiday leftovers have been swept from the house, wilted holiday flowers have been replaced with bright, sunny ones and art classes resume next week. A peaceful routine has returned to our lifes.

But I am restless. I drift from project to project thinking about 2020 plans that are yet to be defined. I like a good plan, a destination, a concrete challenge. We have missed our spring window for a longed for Portuguese walking trip and have moved on to fall. Maybe Alaska again, maybe somewhere else, Plan A, Plan B. I am working on options and we are having conversation so maybe it will all come together soon.

This yellow spider mum is so bright I almost need my sunglasses

Today we took Katie on a several mile walk to a local wilderness area a few miles from the house. IC King Park use to be known for it drug deals and other illicit activities, someplace you didn’t want to be. The park has been become part of the city’s growing park system. A much needed accessible 2nd entrance has been added along with trails for hiking and single trek. Also large, engaging dog parks, one for dogs up to 45 pounds, one for dogs over. We didn’t take Katie to the dog park, we took her on the trails.

John and Katie walking among the beech trees. They seem to hold their leaves tight till the new ones begin to push out in spring.
Pine cones make for lovely photography, even if it is a tiny bit out of focus.

We left the trail at some point and headed up a series of small rolling hills. In the ground far below us (I hope), high pressure gas lines were buried. Away from bicycles and hikers, we could release Katie from her leash and let her run till she wears herself out. Well, maybe wears herself down.

John and Katie running up hill
Winter seed pods against a dark sky. A storm is coming.
A small arm of the Tennessee River reaches into the park near the less accessible original entrance

Water levels on the Tennessee River are seriously down right now. Perfect for bird watchers, not so perfect for puppies that love water and discover that you have to slog through chest deep mud before reaching water. It was oh so hard for the puppy but oh what a joy when she got there!!

This girl is crazy for water!
Seed pods against the gold that is winter grass
Moss has found hospitable housing on this decaying log
So have these mushrooms

We have battened down the hatches as we prepare for an incoming storm, 50+ mph winds and rain. Anything that can become a projectile has been moved to the garage, bird feeders, windchimes and metal garden ornaments. Tonight we will ride out the storm with old friends and traveling companions (Israel and Italy) that we have not seen in several years.

Posted in Friends, Knoxville City Parks, Life, Uncategorized, Walking | Leave a comment