The Cleveland Way, Day 2, Sutton Bank to Osmotherley

Actual Hike: As billed
Expected Mileage: 11
Actual Mileage: 8.73 (+1 mile to town and back) = 9.73 miles
Times We Were Awed by the Scenery: All day long
Times I called Heather, Lavender in this post: 3

Accommodations: Braemar B&B
Rating: Lovely room and bath
Date: Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Dear Leslie,

Good day today!  The longer hike yesterday paid off, only 8.73 miles today to reach our B&B in Osmotherley.

Hiking was decidedly different today.  This morning our hosts from the Willow Tree drove us 1-1/2 mi uphill to the trailhead. Yesterday we walked the very steep hill down from the trail to the B&B and were happy not to tack it on to our hike today.

Notes: This was a total surprise as Diana’s husband cranked up his Mercedes wagon, grabbed our day packs and piled us and Janet into his car so we would not have walk back up the steep hill. None of us were “purists” so we did not feel the need to walk back to the barns to start where we ended. I think it was less than 1/2 mile but apparently that is something some hikers do choose to do. Our luggage was transported from B&B to B&B by a Cleveland Way transport service that can be hired via an outfitter such as Absolute Escapes or hired by an individual.

Our hike ‘walk’ started in the forest and quickly opened up to an old partially graveled road called the Hambleton Drove Road which was used to move sheep and cattle hundreds of years ago.  We walked this road most of the way to Osmotherley.  

Notes: This piece of the Way is a historic route by which Scottish cattle were driven on foot to English markets in the 18th and 19th centuries. The road is actually much older than this with ancient documents referring to it as early as medieval times. It is one of the oldest roads in England.

Once a road for moving sheep and cattle, now part of the Cleveland Way. Note the heather on both sides of the trail.

The road was lined on one side, by a stone wall that stood about 5′ tall (maintenance of the walls is ongoing and impressive). Since we were walking on top of the Moors, we could see for miles and  the wall seemed to go on forever ( it was replaced by wire fencing after 3 or so miles).  Looked a bit like the Great Wall of China, on a smaller scale. Sheep and little lambs were free range grazing.  They kept their distance.  

Free range sheep
These sheep are cute.

The most amazing thing about the hike today is that on both sides of the trail were fields of lavender (I sure did get this wrong, it was HEATHER!).  The Moors are covered in lavender (heather).  I can only image the fields when the lavender (heather) is in bloom. We have been told it is a spectacular sight and a very crowded time to be on the trail.

Today we hiked off and on with a lady named Janet who is from Ottawa, Canada.  I believe she is 67-68, a retired translator. Her trip was booked through the same company and staying at the same B&B’s till we get to Whitby where she will spend 2 nights.  She is pleasant company to hike with and is less directionally challenged. Btw, the trail was well marked today.

Notes: we stopped and ate lunch along the trail. Diana our host in Boltby fixed a sack lunch that was non memorable. We were glad to have it though because there was no where for us to get food along the trail. We also carried peanut butter crackers and other snacks from home.

Osmotherley is ahead!
Coming into town on the Cleveland Way.
The stone opening is called a sheep sneck. Best I can figure, this is a trail block to keep sheep in or out of town. The Cleveland Way continues around the stone wall onto the main street.

We got into Osmotherley around 1:00 pm,  found our B&B and knocked on the door (we could hear the lawn mower running in the back yard).  We tried a couple of times, no answer so we walked back to town. Since the b&b is about 1/2 mi from the main circle (in town) we added 1-1/2 miles to our day with this out- back-out adventure.  

This is our B&B. Several rooms upstairs had been converted to guest lodging. We stayed in the room to the left. I believe these folks had this guest house up for sale. He was an airline pilot and she, an inn keeper with small children.

We sat outside at the Queen Catherine Pub drinking pints of coca cola and eating ham sandwiches till a more proper time of 3:00 pm for b&b arrival. The door was opened promptly. The weather has been low 70’s, clear, breezy and sunny today. 

Picture of Queen Catherine Hotel and Pub from their website, not my files.
For our lunch we sat outside under one of the umbrellas, enjoying the sunshine and talking with Janet who showed up not long after we arrived.

Btw, these little English villages remind me of the British comedys.  I can now visualize where the stories come from.  I can also hear Mother and Daddy’s laughter when watching them on Saturday nights.  It makes me smile.

My picture of the town of Osmotherley. I was not energetic enough to walk up another hill to take the photo below.
A better photo of Osmotherley from the Queen Catherine Hotel and Pub website.

While our b&b is lovely, modern and well decorated, we are less comfortable here.  Our hosts are not as warm and friendly as the first 2 nights.  We feel like little prisoners in our beautiful room.  We skipped dinner because it is another mile walk and it started raining, hard.  While our host offered to drive us, it felt like a half hearted offer so peanut butter crackers in the room. I sound like a wussy about walking in the rain but once clean from the hike it is hard to think about pulling on rain jackets and pants or risk getting wet (not to mention another mile tacked on to the day when we have 11 hard miles to go the next day).  

Tomorrow is our hardest day of the trip.  Luckily a cool front is moving in and we are expecting only a few possible rain showers.

Hope you don’t mind my long emails, you are my travel journal this trip.


Posted in Cleveland Way, England, Hiking, Travel, Uncategorized, Walking | 2 Comments

The Cleveland Way, Day 1, Helmsley to Sutton Bank

Actual Hike: Helmsley to Boltby
Expected Mileage: 10
Actual Mileage From B&B to B&B: 14.5
Times We Got Separated From the Trail: 1 (for 4 miles)
When We Discovered Detailed Trail Description in our Hiking Materials:  End of Day

Accommodations:  Willow Tree B&B
Rating: Fabulous!!
Date: Monday, May 7, 2018

Dear Leslie,

We made it through our 1st day of hiking, 14.5 miles, about 4 miles longer than advertised.  We are more than a little exhausted.  It has been unseasonably warm here, the temperature rose to mid 70’s with a very clear, blue sky. We hiked mostly in the sun with few moments of cover. Although we applied sunscreen and both wore hats, we have splotches of sunburn.  We looked forward to cooler temps on Wednesday, meanwhile, Tuesday is a carbon of today.

Trail about a mile or so out from Helmsley

We started in Helmsley and the trail was easy to follow for the 1st 2.5 miles but somewhere we got off track and ended up walking the road for about 4 miles between Rievaulx Abbey and the village of Cold Kirby where we found the trail again.

Notes: the road forked at just after Rievaulx Abbey. We did not find an acorn marking so we took the left fork. We had been walking on the road for a few minutes when we were passed by a properly dressed horsewoman traveling on her trusty steed. We asked about the trail, she looked puzzled and said she thought there might be a trail somewhere in the woods along the right fork in the road. Hmmmm.

So we walked back, took the right fork and indeed she was correct, there was a trail but it was not ours. Luckily I had read enough to know that the trail went through Cold Kirby so we walked the road for miles till we arrived in Cold Kirby, found an acorn marker and the correct trail. Unfortunately we did not discover the detailed trail information in our Absolute Escapes package until that night. The left fork was the correct choice after all.

Reivaulx Abbey. The ruins looked like something I would really like to explore but they were a mile or so from the main road and would have added 2+ miles to our day. It was still early on the walk but we had begun to realize the demands of walking all day. This would not be the last time we bypassed something we would have loved to explore.

What is advertised as a well marked trail is misleading.  The roads are mostly ” single track” so cars have to pull off to let another by.  We had to step off the road for cars going in both directions.  Did I mention, Brits drive like bats out of hell?

Across from the gate is a pull off where cars can move off the road for on coming traffic. We just jumped in the grass.

The scenery is spectacular.  Lush green fields sectioned off by ancient stone walls. 

The walls are incredible.
Lush fields

Most of the fields have sheep and spring is baby lamb time so we see many baby lambs frolicking in the fields.  The mother sheep and her babies are numbered with the same number so they don’t get separated.  Sheep #29 comes to mind with her 2 babies marked 29.  Almost looks like they have been spray painted.

I didn’t get a good picture of the sheep on this day. We were a little stressed about loosing the trail, my picture taking suffered.

We have walked through several fields of cows, really big cows!  While the sheep bleet and scatter, the cows give you the stink eye and slowly start walking in your direction.  I don’t much like hanging out with the cows.

Today was a bank holiday and Helmsley was crowded last night.  Helmsley rolls up its sidewalk between 3:30 and 6:30 on Sunday evening so it was just by luck we were able to get take away fish and chips at around 6:15.  We ate on a bench in the square. Very greasy! (the fish, not the bench)

The accessible spots along the Way were crowded today, especially past Sutton Bank where the National Park headquarters is situated.  Otherwise not too much foot traffic….  lots of road traffic.

Notes: We stopped for ice cream at the National Park headquarters, which is located in Sutton Bank. We were hot, tired and ready to be at our B&B. Unfortunately we had another 2 miles to walk to Boltby. Most of it was on the Cleveland Way so we hiked a few of the following day’s miles.

We were looking for this clump of trees as a directional marker for our B&B.
The directions from Diana, our evening host said to “look for the clump of trees, take a left at the old barn and walk downhill in the field toward the road. “
John and I kept asking ourselves, “is this really the barn? Down THAT hill?” It’s the only barn we had seen for a while.
Photo taken from the road to Boltby. This is the hill, on the ridgeline is the clump of trees with the barn. Dang that was quite a downhill traverse. We weren’t looking forward to climbing it first thing in the morning to start our day’s hike.

Tonight we are in an amazing B&B overlooking the countryside.  We have a lovely suite with a balcony.  The french doors are thrown wide open and we have a refreshing breeze. 

We have been served lemon cake, homemade lemonade and are waiting to go downstairs for a quiche dinner. 

Notes: our host, Diana was absolutely the best. Instead of driving two old, exhausted travelers to town for dinner then returning to pick us up, she made dinner for us. Not only did she serve us in her family dining room but she pulled out the silver, china and crystal. We had the same dinner as her family (who ate in the kitchen), quiche, a fresh spinach salad and fresh strawberries. It was so good and we were so grateful that all we had to do was drag ourselves back to our room.

Also, we were hiking at the same time as a lady from Ottawa, Canada who was also hiking (solo) with an Absolute Escapes agenda. We spoke to her briefly at the Red Roofs B&B. She was also staying at Willow Tree but Diana told us she had declined her offer of dinner and stayed in her room.

Our host will pack our lunch tomorrow. The B&B is a bit of a farm with geese, chickens and a garden.

Speaking of tomorrow, I hope we only have 10 miles or so to hike ( but I am not counting on it).


Posted in Cleveland Way, England, Hiking, Travel, Uncategorized, Walking | Leave a comment

Helmsley-The Beginning of An Adventure

I don’t remember why, but we took a cab from York to Helmsley. John seems to remember the train took too long and neither of us wanted to take a bus. The travel was initially complicated by a traffic problem on the main highway but our friendly cab driver (female, naturally) drove to Helmsley on the backroads, pointing out notable sites, responding to our many questions and providing a history of the area. As it turned out, the traffic issues were in our favor. Somehow these little travel annoyances seem to turn out to be memorable parts of every trip.

It took us about 40 or so minutes of scenic country roads to get to Helmsley, views of the British countryside we would not have had from the main highway. As we arrived in town, we noticed Helmsley was dressed in yellow and blue, colors of the bicycle Tour de Yorkshire. Upon closer look, brightly painted bicycles hung from buildings, ribbons were tied to fences and signs announcing the Tour were strung all over town. Our cabbie explained that the Tour had been through Helmsley just the day before. I sighed with relief as I knew that with John’s love of bicycling, a future date could have been a temporary trip interrupter.

We unloaded our gear at Red Roofs B&B where we had reservations for the night. I know what you are thinking but the name Red Roofs comes from the red tiled roofs covering many of the buildings in Helmsley. Our B&B was situated in a proper British neighborhood with similar looking two story homes, small, neat lawns and, of course, red tiled roofs. Our hosts, Marco and Jane graciously accepted our luggage but sent us into town to explore till our room was ready.

An hour or so later we were settled in a comfortable second floor room, with a spacious en suite bathroom. Large windows overlooking a pretty garden filled one wall, sunlight warmed the room. A tea kettle and several cups had been set out for our enjoyment. Just the invitation we needed to rest our feet for a few moments. We don’t drink much tea at home and after several days of tea drinking I wondered why, such a civilized way to relax (note: I quit drinking tea again as soon as we returned home).

The bathroom (through the open door) was an addition to the room.
The room had a sitting area by the windows where one could curl up to read a book and enjoy a cup of tea or just think about the upcoming walk.

Marco gave us (John) instructions for finding the trailhead and we headed back to town in search of the beginning of our adventure. Along the way we stopped at the beautiful Church of All Saints, an Anglican parish church and walked the yard and cemetery. Just beyond the church, a street or so away, we spotted just what we were looking for, a stone marker with the symbol of the Cleveland Way path, the acorn.

And that’s it, the beginning. One just walks beyond the stone marker and the adventure begins.
The abbey that once served Helmsley Castle is Rievaulx, noted on the sign above. The ruins are an attraction for walkers on the Cleveland Way and are also accessible by car. Filey is the termination of the path.

Towering over the village of Helmsley and located near the entrance to the Cleveland Way are the ruins of Helmsley Castle. The castle has a lengthy history but the initial structure of wood was built around 1120 AD. Around 1186 AD, the process of converting it from wood to stone began. Somewhere along the line of life, death and inheritance, it became the property of Robert de Roos, Lord of Helmsley, who made significant improvements in the 1200’s. The market town of Helmsley grew up around the massive castle to serve the needs of the castle inhabitants.

The castle continued to be passed down among de Roos and was finally sold to the Duncombes, who did not really inhabit it. After decades of disrepair and decay, the castle, though still privately owned, is now cared for by the English Heritage.

The Helmsley Chapel wall from the main street in Helmsley
Part of the castle is still standing and enclosd
A few of rooms in the castle still stood and have been protected
Windows overlooking the gardens are magnificent
My imagination runs wild when I look at the skeleton of old buildings. Look at the fireplaces and windows filled with afternoon light. Day to day life happened here, children were raised, families loved and family members died.
The only standing wall of a chapel built on the castle property.
The red roofs of the village of Helmsley. The towers of the Church of All Saints are visible.
We had lunch at a lovely little café named the Cocoa Tree, fresh salad, coleslaw, a handful of chips and quiche.
We initially planned to dine outside but it was a little chilly so we moved in.

We spent most of the rest of the day in town poking through shops and watching other tourists.

The streets of Helmsley

Finally it was time to find something for dinner. We were in Helmsley on a Sunday and discovered many restaurants were closed and those that were open had a long waits. We ended up sitting on a bench in town eating fish and chips from a take away store. Most B&B’s have signs that say take away food, especially (greasy) fish and chips are not allowed in the room.

Fish and Chips Takeaway

After dinner we headed back to our room to prepare for our walk and get a good night’s rest. I was looking forward to what was to come, 10 days on the trail in a new B&B each night. So many exciting things to come…..

Posted in Cleveland Way, England, Hiking, Outside, Travel, Uncategorized, Walking | 2 Comments

Walking the Cleveland Way-The What, Why and How

Since we are not traveling at the moment, I thought I would dig into the archives and write about a walking trip that we took in May 2018. Looking back, I was not blogging in 2018 so this trip went undocumented except for the daily travel posts to my sister, Leslie. The posts started out as a quick email on our first evening in York to let her know we were ok and turned into a journal of our travels.

Regardless of my state of mind (or feet as you will read), I sat down every night to tell Leslie about our day. I learned, after a day or two, that she was reading the posts to her husband and they looked forward to each update. About midway through the trip, John realized what I was doing and we included his mother on the email list. I found I enjoyed telling the story to family interested in reading. Looking back, I am glad I did.

Before I get into the story, I want to provide a little explanation about the what, why and how of the Cleveland Way. The following posts will be my daily correspondence with some additional explanation where needed.

What is the Cleveland Way

The Cleveland Way is a national footpath in northern England, which runs for 109 miles. It begins in Helmsley and runs around North York Moors National Park until it reaches the coast at Saltburn-by-the-Sea, then the path heads south-east along the North Sea. The termination point is the old, slightly rundown sea town of Filey.

The path is one of the oldest and most popular in England. It was opened in 1969 shortly after the Pennine Way. The route has two distinct sections, 56.5 miles in the moors and 52 miles along the sea. A number of small British towns or villages are located along the path so a walker can lodge in a B&B each night. Another 48 miles can be added on at Filey to return the walker to Helmsley. We did not do this the Filey to Helmsley section.

Why the Cleveland Way

Europe has a number of interesting and historical walking paths. By the time I approached John about a walking vacation I had narrowed the options down to the above four trails and the Cleveland Way. Wainwright’s Coast to Coast across England was ruled out because of the length, 200 miles. We were both working and this was not a practical length for us. The Cotswold Way at 100 miles was ruled out because much of it is on paved roads and cobblestones.

As you can see from two books, we seriously considered the West Highland Way but as my ever practical husband said “you really don’t want to walk 17 miles in one day, do you? I know I don’t.” And Tour of Mont Blanc, well, I am still working on him to do that one. So the Cleveland Way it was.

How We Did the Cleveland Way

Early on we agreed to stay in B&B’s every night and to transport our luggage. While we are backpackers, we did not feel compelled to carry our belongings on our back everyday. Our goal for this trip was a relaxing (?) hike from one village to the next. I will confess that we totally overpacked our transport suitcases and learned a BIG packing lesson dragging those suitcases up and down steps everyday. And this was a lesson I thought we had already learned 😦 .

The next thing I did was research companies to book our accommodations, provide luggage transport and other information necessary along the way. Much of this information is available on-line but researching and vetting 11 B&B’s in 11 different villages was not something my working self wanted to do. So I vetted travel companies who specialized in UK walks (and other places) and selected Absolute Escapes , not the cheapest but a decision I never regretted.

So now it was time to travel…

We left Knoxville at 2:26 pm on Friday, May 4th and arrived at London Heathrow on Saturday, May 5th at 6:45 am. Ouch! Our final destination for the day was York so we grabbed a train at the King Crossing station and dozed off and on for the 2.5 hour ride.

On a previous visit to York in 2000, John and I stayed at a cute little B&B about 15 minutes walk from town but this trip I was glad we were booked at the Hilton York in town. After settling in (luckily a room was ready at our early arrival hour) we headed out to see a few of the sights we remembered from our previous trip. The York Minister Cathedral brought back lovely memories as did high tea at Bettys Café Tea Room.

High tea at Betty’s Café Tea Room. Very commercial but delightful and a fond memory!
The current scones were divine!

But this journal really isn’t about York so I will spare most of the photos. We were exhausted by bedtime and I paused to write a quick note to my sister:

Hey Leslie, we are in York.  It’s about 9:45 pm here and we are exhausted!  In bed shortly and hopefully better in the am!  Tomorrow we are on to Helmsley.

Love you-Beverly

In the morning I received this post from her , which I found quite interesting. Note these are her in-law’s from Italy:

It’s Sunday at 6:40.  I hope you all are are enjoying your trip so far.  We went to Morristown yesterday to meet some of Mike’s newly discovered family.  Larry is the son of Mike’s grandfather’s youngest brother. The grandfather and his 4 sibs were placed in an orphanage and they all went in different directions.  Larry didn’t know he had any cousins.  It would be like finding out Daddy’s had a half brother or sister.

Keep me posted on your trip when you can.

Love Leslie

We woke rested and ready to go and so it was on to Helmsley to begin our adventure.

Posted in Cleveland Way, England, Hiking, Travel, Uncategorized, Walking | 1 Comment

About Last Week 2/3-2/9/2020


The excitement started on Sunday with the receipt of the email below. For the past several years, I have randomly submitted requests to the lottery for a cabin at Phantom Ranch located in the Grand Canyon National Park. I never expect to get a slot but I keep doing it. Usually mid-month of the month following a request, a nice email arrives telling me that my request was not selected.

In January it occurred to me I had not submitted a request in months. So I did. John finds this process amusing and feels fairly secure in the fact that my name will not cycle to the top. Sunday, as I was scrolling through emails, an email with “Phantom Ranch” caught my eye. I commented to John that it was a little early for my rejection letter and opened it up. It was not a rejection but a “congratulations ” on the selection of my lottery submission for a cabin in 2021. Yay! It took John a little while to get to Yay!

Now all I had to do was select meals and times and pay for the whole thing. We discussed the hiking, food and times and came to no conclusion. I get antsy easily and I was afraid I would forget the “pay by date” therefore forfeiting the reservation. By mid-Monday, I made some decisions and submitted payment. John seems okay with the choices and I have found him looking at my Grand Canyon map this week. We still have a lot of planning to do surrounding both sides of the hike but are very excited to have this experience to look forward to.


While John and I share a love for hiking, his go to sport is bicycling, mine is running. Not that I mind bicycling but I just don’t, much. I know he would like to go on a multi-day bicycle trip, we talk about it a lot. I just don’t grab my bike and go for a ride, much. I have decided to get on my bike, weather permitting or spin bike at the Y if not. Not everyday, of course, but enough to build multi-day bicycling strength and stamina. Hey, maybe I can get a bicycle trip to Italy or France out of it 🙂

Today was my first spin class in quite a while. Getting on the bike was a win for me but holding the pace and intensity was a challenge that I did not achieve. A goal for another day!


It has been raining monstrous amounts here. Flooding, closed schools, kinda rain. Weather pretty much discourages me from getting outside but I am going to have to toughen up. Rain is in the forecast through next week.

Downtown Knoxville


Thursday was my last art class for this cycle. I have not put in enough time in these four classes to make much difference in my ability. My instructor says anyone can learn to draw. That maybe true but you have to put the effort in to get the results.

This class was all about “foreshortening”. I still have hours to put into this drawing before it looks okay. Right now it is pretty flat. I have had the weekend to think about it and have some ideas to make it look, well, not flat.

I enjoy art class. I started taking classes last fall and I find the process both stressful and fun. Unlike my father, I am not a “natural” artist but I am determined to get better.


Friday was hike day. John took the day off (excluding the two hours he worked before 8:00 am) and we went to Frozen Head. I wrote about our hike in the last post so I will not do so here.


The week’s rain turned into snow on Saturday morning. The local news reported that bridges and overpasses were slick and to stay home if possible. We had made plans for lunch with my sister and brother-in-law and decided to go for it! John and I saw several accidents on the way to their house.

I was uncomfortable driving in the conditions but the closer we got to Oak Ridge (our lunch destination), the less snow we saw until there was no snow at all. Apparently Oak Ridge was just on “right” side of the weather system and received no snow at all.

View from our bedroom window.
Our birdfeeder station with remained busy all day.

Big Ed’s Pizza was our lunch destination. Sometime over the last few weeks a news story ran about Big Ed’s 50th anniversary. Big Ed’s is located in Oak Ridge and is an institution to many folks around here. It has been more than 20 years since any of the four of us had been there and we wanted to have the experience again.We had forgotten just how good the pizza is!

We spent about two hours eating and lost in conversation. By the time we left, the snow had stopped in Knoxville and was beginning to melt. Big Ed’s has not changed a bit since the last time we were there and it was just as busy as ever.

Located in an almost vacant strip of store fronts near Jackson Square.
My and my honey. “We would like a medium pizza with onion, mushrooms, olives and Benton’s bacon.” Yum!
My sister, Leslie and her husband, Mike. Yes, we look a lot alike.
Bar and kitchen at Big Ed’s


Finally Sunday. The day started cool and foggy. By afternoon the sun was out and the temperature rose to the mid 50’s. We raked leaves and thoroughly enjoyed being outside, warm and dry.

Lenten Rose from the garden
Yes, that’s the sun!!
The crocus absolutely glowed in the sunshine.

Posted in About Last Week, Art, Family, Flowers, Outside, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

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!).


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!


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!


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 , our base for several days.

Hotel entrance

As I mentioned in this post, 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 . 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.

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