Fall in the Smokies Part 5

 Fall in the Smokies Part 5 is the second part of my last full day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

MPT102017001Early afternoon I headed to Tremont Road to try to make the 8.3 mile round trip hike to Indian Flat Falls. To get to the Falls, you hike the Middle Prong Trail which some considering the best hike in the Smokies.  It passes three major waterfalls (Lower Lynn Camp Falls, Lynn Camp Falls and Indian Flat Falls).

From the parking lot, you cross a metal footbridge over Lynn Camp Prong to the what appears to be an old gravel road but was a railroad bed.  The hike itself would not be bad if not for the fact that two days earlier I had already done 21k and equivalent of 112 floors plus the Grotto Falls hike that morning so my body was still a little sore. Not to mention carrying 2 cameras, 3 lenses and a tripod.

Just before the sharp bend in the trail I came to a bench that looked over Lower Lynn Camp Falls which is a 35 foot multi tiered waterfall.  Unfortunately as this was mid day, the sunlight was quite harsh on the top half of the falls.  I took several photos and then continued on my way.  

OC102017001The next waterfall I came too was the Lynn Camp Falls which is another multi tiered waterfalls.  

As I was hiking along the path, a nice gentlemen let me know that I was only about 100 yards from where an old Cadillac was left.  I found the small path and took several photos at different angles.  

By this time I was fighting both exhaustion/soreness and sunset.  I did not want to be on this path after the sun went down as it has a lot of rocks along it and I have enough trouble when I can see them.  I made it about 3.1 of the 4.3 miles before I decided to turn around. I took some photos of the cascades river before heading back.  I was so tired when I got to Lower Lynn Camp Falls that I didn’t even bother to take my camera out of my bag.  

It was too late to head to Newfound gap for sunset when I got back to my car so I headed back to the hotel.  I picked up Zaxby’s and took back to my hotel. 

I was originally planning on stopping at Mouse Creek Falls on my way home on Friday but as I had 27,208 steps, 13.5 miles and 34 floors, I decided to just head straight home.  The only problem with that was that home is due East so part of the drive, I was heading directly toward the sun.

My three day totals were 57,816 steps, 25.2 miles and 165 flights.  I got quite the workout.


Fall in the Smokies Part 4

 Fall in the Smokies Part 4 is my last full day in the Park.

Grotto102017004I was still riding high from all the bear photos that I had taken the day before.  I decided to head to Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and do the Grotto Falls hike.  Cool thing about this Falls is it is the only Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that you can go behind. It is a very popular hike so like Alum Cave Bluff, if you want to find a parking space, it is best to get there early.  Unfortunately Tim didn’t join me on this trip so I had to drive the Motor Trail.  Part of the road wreaks havoc with my intense fear of heights. The parking lot was almost full when I arrived just before sunrise.

I remembered to bring water on this hike but yet again I forgot to grab my sunglasses.  Thankfully this hike is not as steep or as long as the Alum Cave Bluffs hike. Grotto Falls is 2.6 miles round trip with an elevation gain of only 585 feet.  You can continue up the path to Mount Le Conte but I just did the Grotto Falls Hike. I lucked out as I arrived at the Falls, three people were getting ready to leave and there wasn’t any one else around.  I went over to the opposite side of the Falls and took quite a few photos and a time lapse with my cellphone.  

I took a few photos almost underneath the Falls.  As I was taking some photos back on the trail side, a couple of people arrived.  Amazingly enough, I was alone for all of my close up photos of the Falls.  It was awesome. I am so not a people person and its more work to take people out of the photos.  This was so much better.  

Grotto102017003I took a few photos on the hike back to the car.  Unfortunately the rivers were much lower than they were during my April visit.  Heading back to the park through downtown Gatlinburg is always fun during the height of peak season. I made a quick stop at Sugarlands Visitor center to pick up a few souvenirs including a tee shirt so now I have a shirt from each of my trips. 

Next stop was Cades Cove for lunch before heading to Tremont Road to try to hike to Indian Flat Falls.  Traffic into Cades Cove was worse than Gatlinburg. I stopped off at the campground store where I had a hot dog and chips for lunch.  I picked up a few more souvenirs and then was on my way to what turned out to be the last hike of my trip.  

Like the other two days, I will continue the adventure in the next blog post.  

Bears Bears and More Bears


Bears Bears and More Bears 

IMG_0881My second full day in Great Smoky Mountain National Park was the highlight of my visit because it was the day I finally saw bears.  And boy did I see them, I saw 8 different bears before the day was over. As my friend Tim can attest to, one of my goals when visiting the Smokies is to get a photo of a bear.  Tough to do when you don’t see any which was the case of my first two visits.  This trip more than made up for it.  

The first bear I saw was on my way into Cades Cove early Wednesday morning.  The male bear was on the side of the road foraging for food.  Unfortunately since it was before sunrise and still dark out, the photos that I took did not turn out too well.

The next bear I saw moved too fast so I wasn’t able to get any photos. 

I was on the Cades Cove Loop when I finally was able to get some bear photos that actually turned out which is the first photo on the slideshow.  I hung around him for about an hour taking photos.  He was too busy looking for berries and acorns to care about the 10-20 of us taking his photo.  I’m guessing the Smoky Mountain Bears are used to people shooting (with cameras) them.  

After shooting him, I started to head out of the park for an appointment when I heard about a mama and her two cubs. I parked the car and headed into the woods.  Since nothing is more dangerous than a mother protecting her cubs, I stayed further away from them then I did of the other bears I saw. Though in all fairness, I was still closer than the NPS recommended 50 yards.    The second photo in slideshow is mama up a tree and the fourth is one of her cubs.  

The next bear I saw was in about the same spot as the first bear but since I had an appointment, I didn’t stop to take photos.

After my side trip to Pigeon Forge, I headed back to Cades Cove where the last bear I saw was causing a traffic jam on the road to the Cove.  I must have spent an hour taking photos and of the about 800 photos I took that day, 400 of them are of him.  Third and and sixth photo is of that bear.  He was not far off the road and didn’t care that he was causing quite a stir among the park visitors.  He stayed in the area for at least an hour eating acorns.  He was still there when I left.  

As you can see in the photo, my souvenirs from this trip (and that is not even all of them) have a definite theme.  This trip was definitely Bears Bears and More Bears.  


Fall in the Smokies Part 3

 Fall in the Smokies Part 3 continues on Wednesday.  It follows Fall in the Smokies Part 1 and Fall in the Smokies Part 2

OMHD102017002The best part of this day will be the next blog post, this post is just an overview of the day.  The original plan was to meet up with my Facebook friend April Bryant in Cades Cove but a miscommunication prevented that.  Since we were scheduled to meet until 10am, I headed into the park early to get some photos of the John Cable Grist Mill hoping that it would be surrounded by fall colors. It was not, Cades Cove was still very green but I still took some photos.  

I then got delayed heading out of Cades Cove to head to the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge to meet April.  It turns out when she suggested meeting at the Old Mill, she meant the Cable Mill in Cades Cove and not the actual Old Mill.  I did take some photos of the Mill before heading back into the park.

My second time through Cades Cove was so I could turn up Rich Mountain Road to photograph the Cove from side of the mountain. You can see one of the Cove’s white churches from the pull off. I had hoped to get the Cove with rich fall colors but alas Mother Nature had to be her sadistic self and most of the valley was quite green.  The road is one way and drops you back out in Townsend.  Since traffic getting into Cades Cove had been so bad and the road was much longer than I expected, it was too late for me to head to Newfound Gap to take some sunset photos. 

I stopped at Fuddruckers for dinner and then headed back to the hotel to do a little bit of editing before heading to bed.  

Fall in the Smokies Part 2

 Fall in the Smokies Part 2 continues my first full day where Fall in the Smokies Part 1 left off.

SFF102017001I headed back into the park and after a brief stop at Sugarlands Visitor Center, I headed up Tremont road to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont to hike to Spruce Flat Falls. The somewhat little-known trail is only a 2.0 mile roundtrip but it is of moderate difficulty and includes some steep, rocky sections. You park at the Institute and then head up the trail.  The trail is very narrow, nonexistent in some places and not well maintained. Between this hike and the hike to Alum Cave Bluffs, my fear of heights was getting quite the workout.  The last part of the trail to the fall is a steep decent to the falls.  Two boys were sitting on the trail blocking the path. I finally made it to the falls, found a good spot but not before slipping on the rocks trying to get down to the spot. I set up my camera and then had to wait patiently for people to get out of the way.  You could hike up to the middle of the falls and cross over but after the hike that morning and knowing I still had to hike back, I decided against it. 

One particular young man decided to stand on a rock right in the middle of of the falls blocking my view. I was not happy because he stood there talking to what I assume is his girlfriend for at least 5 minutes with no consideration for the other people at the falls.  Finally the group of students from the Institute left and the guy and his girlfriend finally got out of the way so I was able to take my photos.  

I headed back to the car. I apparently did not turn where I was supposed to so instead of going on the narrowest part of the trail, I ended up hiking down some of the buildings at the Institute and walked up the road to where my car was.  I was originally going to head over to Newfound Gap for sunset photos but I was just too tired and sore.

I headed back to the hotel where I had to check in again. Monday night was a different reservation that I had made months after the initial Tuesday-Friday reservation and even though I booked the king size bed room for both reservations, I had a different room number.  While my photos were uploading in my computer, I walked over to the Diner next door for dinner. Since I had forgotten my reading glasses, I got an order of potato skins to go and headed back to the hotel.  I edited a few of the photos, wrote the first blog post and then got ready for bed.  

According to my pedometer, at the end of the day I had 22,443 steps, 8.6 miles and the equivalent of 112 flights of steps. All from two hikes.  Gotta love elevation hikes. No wonder I was so tired.  

Fall in the Smokies, Part 1

Fall in the Smokies, Part 1

GSM102017003I had planned to leave for my vacation straight from work but because the apartment office was closed at lunch when I went to pick it up the lens I rented from BorrowLenses.com, I had to wait until after work to pick it up.  I Finally headed to the Smokies for my vacation.  Yes, I came back from the third time in a year.  Traffic in Conway was fun like always.  I was hoping I would arrive when fall colors were at peak but unfortunately, lowest elevations are still quite green.

For my first full day in the Smokies I had originally decided to head to Newfound Gap overlook for sunrise then Alum Cave Bluffs but I was lazy this morning and decided just to head to the Bluffs.  Alum Cave Bluffs is a very popular hike off Newfound Gap so best to get their early to find a parking space. It was a balmy 33 degrees so I was wearing a fleece jacket over sweatshirt and long sleeve tee shirt. The Alum Cave Bluffs trail is 4.6 miles with an elevation difference of 1,145 feet. The good news is its uphill to the Bluff so downhill coming back.  On the trip up, I came across quite a few photo opportunities of raging water but as I started this hike before sunrise, I decided to wait until my trip back.  I am not as in good shape as I would like to be and had to take a few breaks.  Other than that, the hike was going well until I got to the Arch which is a series of steep, narrow steps going through mountain arch.  I was fine going up but was very nervous about the return trip. I do not handle heights well. The photo on the left is a bridge leading to the Arch.  I also stupidly didn’t bring two things I needed, water and my sunglasses.  A nice guy I met on the trail gave me a water and I had to deal with not having my sunglasses until I got back to my car. 

On the way back down the trail, I stopped at multiple spots to take photographs of little waterfalls in the river.  I started the hike around 7:30 and finished around 11:30.  My next stop was Sugarlands Visitor Center.  I think everyone decided at this time to stop there, the place was packed. 

I then headed into Pigeon Forge for lunch.  My first thought was the Old Mill (I want to get photos of it) but it was also packed (recurring theme in October in and near Great Smoky Mountains National Park). As I was driving, I saw Lil Black Bear Cafe.  Small little hole in the wall place but cheeseburger was very good.  As I was waiting for my burger, I edited a few of the photos from the hike to Alum and posted one to Facebook.

This blog post was longer than I expected so I will continue the day in the next blog.  


Cathie and Tim’s Excellent SC Adventure Part 3

 Cathie and Tim’s Excellent SC Adventure Part 3 is Tim’s last full day in Myrtle Beach.  

IMG_0567 2The first thing we did was head to Flapjack’s Pancake House for breakfast since we didn’t get to go to one while we were in the Smokies.  

Our next stop was Surfside Beach Pier so Tim could see the damage done to the pier from Hurricane Matthew last October.  The pier is now 50 ft shorter.  Surfside Beach Town Council voted this week to replace the pier with a concrete one.  Probably a good idea.  We both took photos.  Not surprising Tim took many more than I did and I apparently didn’t take any of the pier, just the machinery in the water so they could refurbish the sand on the beach..

Since we tied on Friday night, we decided on a rematch for mini golf.  I had a coupon for a free round at Treasure Island Golf so we headed there.  This is the first of many rounds and courses we will play.  Sunday really was Mini Golf Day.  We ended up playing two rounds (and might have played extra holes because the people in front of us were slow).  I beat Tim the first round 49-45 and apparently we didn’t keep score on the second round.

IMG_0578We headed to Sea Captain’s House for lunch.  We both had she crab soup and the appetizer crab cakes.  They have the best she crab soup.

It is hard to remember what order we played the different courses. I believe the next course was Jurassic Golf.  We then headed toward Springmaid Pier but ended up going to Shipwreck Island and playing both courses. Tim won both rounds 53-43 and 50-44. We both had a hole in one on the first course and I had hole in one on the first hole on the second course.

Our next stop was Springmaid pier which was almost totally destroyed by Hurricane Matthew.  I haven’t heard when the resort plans to rebuild it. 

I took him back to his hotel and I went back to my apartment so we could get ready for dinner at Rioz Brazilian Steakhouse.  It was a little more than I planned to spend and that was after 2 $25 gift certificates but the food was fantastic. 

After dinner we headed to yet another mini golf course, Spyglass Adventure Golf which was suggested to us by the guy at Treasure Island Golf because they are both owned by the same person.  I won this round 50-44 and had a hole in one.

And then on the way home, we stopped by Captain’s Hook’s Adventure Golf and played yet another round which I won 47-45.  I wasn’t kidding when I said we played many rounds.  Tim has all the scorecards and texted me the final scores so I thought I would include them in my blog post. 

It was fun having a day to play tourists.  The only problem was that I wore my flip flops almost the entire day so my feet were sore. It was a great day.

The two photos were taken with my iPhone.  The one on the left is Surfside and the one on the right is Springmaid.

Cathie and Tim’s SC Excellent Adventure Part 2

Cathie and Tim’s SC Excellent Adventure Part 2

DHHD082017003Cathie and Tim’s Excellent SC Adventure Part 2 starts with us getting breakfast at Eggs Up Grill in Myrtle Beach before heading to Charleston for the day.  On the way to Charleston, we stopped by the old haunted mansion to take some photos since Tim hadn’t been there before.  (it is directly across highway 17 from the road you turn on to go to Hampton Plantation).  Someone else was there and told us that the land had been sold. Hopefully they won’t tear down the old house, many photographers shoot that house.  

Our next two stops were stops so I could get stamps in my National Parks Passport, Charles Pinckney National Historic Site and Fort Moultrie (which is part of Fort Sumter National Monument).  At Fort Moultrie a park ranger told me that Charles Pinckney wasn’t a true national park which I pointed out that it had its own place in the passport unlike Fort Moultrie.  His response "I never said this was a true site and I normally work at Fort Sumter."

MILH082017001Our first photography stop was Drayton Hall. Before our tour of the house, we walked the grounds and took photos of the house.  Tim continued his fascination with oak trees and took some photos of the beautiful oak trees on the grounds. I normally just incorporate them into my shots like the photo above where the house is framed with the branch from the tree.

After stopping for lunch, we headed to Edisto Beach State Park so I could get a stamp in my SC State Parks book (6 down, 39 to go). I am not keeping track of the National Parks because there are 417, I doubt I will be able to get them all but I will certainly try. 

We then headed to Folly Beach to take photos of the Morris Island Light House.  The waves were huge and it was very windy, found out once we left it was because there was a storm in the Atlantic making its way to our coast.  

We stopped at Smoky Oak Taproom for dinner and then headed back home. Unfortunately it was on this trip that I somehow managed to shatter the LCD screen on the D300s which is going to cost $250 to fix. 


Cathie and Tim’s Excellent SC Adventures Part 1

Cathie and Tim’s Excellent SC Adventures Part 1.

SSB082017003On Friday morning I headed to Raleigh to pick Tim up at Raleigh Durham International Airport. After picking him up, we headed to Firebirds at Streets of Southpoint Mall to have lunch with my friend Beth Linthicum who I used to work with when I worked at WellPath. It was great seeing Beth.

We then headed to Myrtle Beach to start our next adventure. After Tim checked in at his hotel, we headed to my apartment so he could meet the newest member of my family, the little monster, I mean kitten Brady. Unlike my other cat, Tux, Brady isn’t afraid of people so Tim actually got to see one of my cats. Tux was hiding under the bed.

Our next stop was the Socastee Swing bridge to shoot sunset with Dan and Carolyn Thompkins.   While we were shooting a boat came through so the bridge was opened.  The bells are quite loud when they are preparing to lower the gates.  Right before it opened back up to traffic, a firetruck appeared with the lights and sirens blaring.  It was great finally meeting Dan and Carolyn.

We headed to Chick Fil A for a quick dinner before our last adventure for the night which was playing miniature golf. Myrtle Beach has MANY miniature golf courses.  Tim had told me when were planning the trip that he wanted to play miniature golf while he was here.  I enjoy playing but I was a little skeptical as we are both quite competitive and I was thinking it could get interesting.  

The hardest thing about playing is which course to pick. I had heard very good things about Mt. Atlanticus Minotaur Golf so we headed there.  They have an awesome locals discount (all the miniature golf courses have locals discounts).  Tim and I grabbed golf clubs and picked which color ball we wanted to use.  I chose purple and Tim chose orange so we were either FEDEX colors or Clemson.  I got a hole in one of the first hole and Tim’s reaction was priceless, I wish I had caught it on video. He was convinced that I spent the weeks leading up to his visit practicing on the course.  I didn’t, that was actually the first time I ever played that course.   He was pouting until we got to the third hole where he got a hole in one.  It was quite funny. Tim and I were tied at the end of the round.

I dropped him off at his hotel and then headed home. I edited a couple of photos and posted one before heading to bed.  It was a great start to our weekend together. 


Solar Eclipse

 Solar Eclipse

Eclipse082017001It’s finally August 21, 2017, Solar Eclipse Day.  I decided to head to Hampton Plantation in McClellanville because it was almost ground zero.  The first thing I did when I woke up was check out the weather in McClellanville, Columbia, Pawleys Island and Georgetown.  It had 50% chance of scattered showers in Georgetown, Pawleys Island and McClellanville.  I also checked weather for Gatlinburg but there was no way I was going to drive 6 hours one way plus they were expecting record number of people.  Columbia had cloud cover but given this was Mother Nature, I decided to take a chance and head to McClellanville and left at 7:30am since I knew traffic would get heavier as the day progressed.

52502067126__F47502E8-77FA-485B-9A9D-FF0E96124A85Luckily traffic was light and I made it there around 8:30am. I found my spot and prepared for the eclipse. I was amazed on how much room was available for people to watch it but the parking lots filled quickly.  It was a beautiful day though it was very hot.  There were a few clouds in the sky both luckily no storms. I checked the weather again and it changed from scattered thunderstorms to just cloudy. I spent the morning getting to know the people around me. 

The eclipse finally started.  We had a few clouds block a little bit of it but the first half of the eclipse went well as you can see in the photo.  

Unfortunately as the eclipse progressed, a storm cloud was heading our way from the opposite direction.  It was a race to see if totality would happen before the storm cloud moved in. Unfortunately Mother Nature had to be her sadistic self and the storm cloud took over a minute before totality so I missed the best part of the eclipse but it was cool to see how dark it got.  

I packed up my car and headed home.  What was normally an hour drive turned into four hours because everyone and their brothers, sisters, uncles and parents were on the road at the same time.  Traffic was stop and go pretty much from the Georgetown County line to Murrells Inlet. Heavy traffic is so much fun when you drive a manual transmission.  

I uploaded the eclipse photos into my computer, picked the best one from each phase and merged them into one photo.  What took me the longest besides uploading 260 raw photos into my computer was deciding how I wanted them to go across the screen and spacing them.  If I would have been able to shoot the entire eclipse, I would not have used as many phases.  

It was an amazing experience watching and shooting the solar eclipse, I just wish I would have been able to see the totality.  That was the part I was most looking forward to shooting. Oh well, I guess I will have to head to Texas in 2024.