The Smokies Day Two Continued

 The Smokes Day Two Continued continues where The Abrams Falls Hike left off

The next stop was the John C Cable Grist Mill.  Today the park operates the cable mill as an historical exhibit. 

Of course everyone was visiting the loop at the same time so I had to park a good distance away.  Took many photos of the mill at several different angles but there was one angle I could not capture because the placement of the sun.

tentBefore I left, I stopped in the store and picked up jars of both apple and pumpkin butter. I am going to enjoy those. My feet hurt too much to stop at the other stops on the loop so I headed back to the campground where I promptly changed into my sneakers.  One of the reasons my feet hurt so much was due to the constant pressing the clutch because traffic was so heavy. I took a few shots of my campsite. 

Around 4pm I headed out to Townsend to get dinner.  On the way I stopped at least 1/2 dozen overlooks where I climbed down to the edge of the river and took both long exposure and HDR photos.  I also was finally able to shoot the Great Smoky Mountain National Park sign.  I stopped and picked up some fudge (peanut butter chocolate and cinnamon apple pie) and then went in search of food.  I stopped at the first place I saw – Pizza Hut where I ordered a personal pepperoni pan pizza.  I had a text conversation with Tim while I waited for the pizza to be ready.

deer102016003After dinner I headed back into the park and stopped at a few more roadside parking areas and took more photos.  I also shot but sides of a small tunnel.  Stupidly, I headed back to the Cades Cove Loop hoping to get the one angle of the grist mill but unfortunately it was closed.  I probably could have gotten the photos but decided to come back in the morning.  The only good thing about this third time through the loop was that I got several shots of some bucks. 

I am now sitting at the picnic table at my campsite writing this blog post by flashlight.  It’s going to be another chilly night.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Photographs for Sale

Abrams Falls Hike

 Abrams Falls Hike continues where The Smokies Day Two left off. 

On the second time through the Cades Cove Loop, I turned off at the Abrams Falls trails.  The Park Ranger warned me that it was a mostly downhill on the hike to the falls and uphill on the hike back.  HIs definition of mostly downhill on the trip to the falls is somewhat different than mine.  I would say it was about even up/down in both directions though it might seem worse hiking back to the parking lot because of tired and sore legs which was true in my case.   The Abram Falls Hike is a 5 mile moderate round trip which takes 3-4 hours.

log-bridgeI almost turned back early into the hike due to my intense fear of heights.  It was not from the trails but when I came across the first log bridge that I needed to cross. As you can see in the photo on the left, it is a wide log with a railing only the railing on this particular bridge was leaning heavily away from the log.  The bridge isn’t particularly high over the mountain stream with rocks but it would hurt if you fall off and fears are not always rational.  Personally I think my fear of heights is incredibly rational. A nice gentlemen who I met on the trail carried my tripod while I carried his walking stick.  I made it across and continued on my way trying not to think that I would have to recross that damn thing.  The trail starts at 1,750 elevation, peaks at 1,900 (twice)  and the falls are between 1,500-1,600.

afle102016001I had to cross 3 or 4 more log bridges but with the railings straight, I did not have any trouble.  I will say that the hike was well worth it.  The falls are gorgeous.  I was quite surprised how much water was flowing since the Ranger I had talked to that morning told me that they had not gotten rain since May.  Myrtle Beach certainly could not say that.  I took both long exposure an HDR photography from multiple locations. 

I briefly rested before heading back.  I must admit I frequently needed to stop and rest on the multiple uphill parts of the hike. Surprising, I did not have any trouble crossing the log bridge but I was determined to finish the hike.  By the time I made it back to the parking lot, my feet were killing me.  I had not worn my hiking boots in a few years due to the soles detaching on one of the boots which I repaired and the fact that I left my thick hiking socks at home.  


Coming soon….The second half of the day which includes the first time to the John C Cable Grist Mill.


The Smokies Day Two

 The Smokies Day Two continues from The Smokies Day One.  This is my only full day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

cades-cove-map-1It has been 19 years (Yosemite Trip) since the last time I camped out.  I did not have a good night sleep, I kept waking up throughout the night.  I woke up for the last time at 6:30 am.  The temp was a balmy 47 degrees.  You have to love fall in the mountains. It was perfect hiking weather though.

The first item on the agenda was the Cades Cove Loop.  I only had about an hour and a half to go through because I had to be back at the Rangers Stations between 8am-9am to check in since I arrived too late the night before.  The first thing I ddi was make the 1/4 hike to the 3rd stop on the loop – the John Oliver Place.  Fortunately I was the only one there, unfortunately, I was not the only one on the loop.  I was also able to shoot Primitive Baptist Church (Stop 4), Methodist Church (Stop 5) and Missionary Baptist Church (Stop 7).  They all look very similar.  Unfortunately I was not able to shoot the Cable Grist Mill (Stop 11) which would come back and haunt me.  

jochd102016001I finished the loop and headed to the Ranger Station where I checked in.  While I was there, I picked up a few brochures include the Cades Cove Auto Tour booklet.  The map to the left is in the book.  I then headed to the campground store where I picked up a few souvenirs including a tee shirt not realizing it was an XL. I took it back later that afternoon and exchanged it for a medium.  That is what happens when you don’t have your reading glasses with you.  I had misplaced them and didn’t find them until later that day, they had fallen between the passenger seat and the door. Sucks getting old.

There were MANY more people the 2nd time through the loop, traffic was backed up. I hiked up to the John Oliver Cabin once again to take more photos but this time with different light, a much brighter light, than the first time around.  Same with the churches. 

Due to the length of this post, I’m dividing it into at least 2 different blog posts.  The next post will be my hike to Abrams Falls.

The Smokies Day One

The Smokies Day One was quite eventful.  It actually started the day before when Hurricane Matthew hit us.  My original plan was to leave at 4am on Sunday but a category one hurricane can change plans in a hurry.  Due to road closures because of flooding and debris, I was not able to leave until 11am.  I was making great time until right before I arrived at the Marion County line where traffic came to a stand still.  Marion county was hit hard by the storm and though there was not much flooding on Highway 501, there was a lot of debris.  Many trees were knocked down.  I was stuck in heavy traffic for over an hour.  As you can see in the photo on the right, there is a tree blocking the westbound lane so traffic was diverted to the eastbound lane.img_1727

gsm102016001Once I got west of Interstate 95 it was smooth sailing until I exited off Interstate 40. My Tomtom probably needs a software update, it took me on a very narrow backroads when it should have taken me by way of the Foothills Parkway. They are not kidding when they say October is a busy month in Gatlinburg, it reminded me of the 4th of July weekend at home.  Where Great Smoky Mountain National Park is always busy in October, this year was busier than usual because some of the people who had planned to vacation on the coast, had to change their plans due to Hurricane Matthew and they went to the park.

I had booked a site at the Cades Cove Campground site C08 for two nights because that was all they had available.  The sun had set by the time I made it to my campsite.  It was quite an adventure trying to set up in tent by flashlight and car headlights.  Luckily a nice gentlemen from the next site over took pity on me and helped me put up my tent or I probably would still be trying.  I sit here writing this blog post with a pen and legal pad by flashlight sitting in my tent.  I brought my iPad and iPhone but have no way to charge them so I have them both plus my Apple Watch on airplane mode to conserve battery power.  It will be very nice to get away from electronics for the next few days.  I have not gone unplugged in a very long time.  It is much chillier than home, you have to love fall in the mountains.  I plan to sleep in tee shirt, sweats, and a fleece pull over.

Coming Soon…The Smokies Day Two

Milwaukee portion

Milwaukee Portion continues my Springfield/Chicago trip with Tim Karas.  The earlier posts about the trip are Springfield Part OneSpringfield Part TwoChicago Day OneChicago Day Two, Brookfield Zoo and Chicago Day Three

MAMHD072016001This is the day I was dreading because it was my last day and the day I was heading home.  I checked out of the hotel and headed over to Tim’s apartment.  After breakfast we drove up to Milwaukee to have lunch with my brother.  Since Milwaukee is about 90 miles from Chicago, we didn’t have a lot of time before meeting Rick for lunch so we headed to the Milwaukee Art Museum.  The architecture of the building is itself art work.  The museum is one of the largest museums in the country.  Since we only had about 20 minutes, we took photos of the architecture and the shadows. 

We had lunch at Hooligan’s.  It was great seeing my brother and Tim had a front row seat to our relationship.  Rick and I have a very unique relationship, we are very sarcastic with each other.  It drives our parents nuts.

All to soon, we were heading back to Chicago.  Tim and I said goodbye and I headed on my way home around 3pm local time.  Not really looking forward to the long drive.  Nor surprisingly I hit heavy traffic leaving Chicago.  It took me over an hour to get out of the city. The drive went pretty smoothly after that until I hit Louisville and had to take a detour around the western part of the city.  I ended up stopping in Tennessee at Hampton Inn around 12:30 EDT. I didn’t set my alarm, deciding to let my body decide when to get up.

The next morning I was on the road a little after 8am.  I saw an exit for Great Smoky Mountains National Park so I decided to head there to get a stamp in my passport and maybe hike to a waterfall if it wasn’t too far.  After driving for 20 minutes and not seeing any more signs, I quickly brought it up on my phone GPS and was shocked to see that the entrance to the park was too far away so I turned around and headed back to Interstate 40.  I did stop by a roadside store and pick up some fudge before getting back on the interstate.

Drove into a thunderstorm in Columbia.  The weather cleared once I passed Columbia until I hit Conway. It was getting darker as I got closer to home and then as I passed the turn off to Highway 544, the skies opened up and torrential downpour.  Thanks for the welcome home Mother Nature.  It was a great trip but one I will not make again.  I will fly next time I take a vacation in Chicago.


Chicago Day Three

Chicago Day Three continues my Springfield/Chicago trip with Tim Karas.  The earlier posts about the trip are Springfield Part OneSpringfield Part TwoChicago Day OneChicago Day Two and part one of Chicago Day Three – Brookfield Zoo.  

CHICHD072016005After having a great time at the zoo, I will definitely have to go back there, Tim and I headed back downtown for a 1920s architectural tour of the city with Tim’s friend Wendy of Wendy City. The tour wasn’t until late afternoon so we headed to my favorite fast food restaurant Chick Fil A for lunch.  We ended up staying there for a few hours due to the first rain storm to hit during my trip.  Tim was not happy because the milkshake maker was not working. He thought nothing was more important and that they should have stopped everything and get it fixed, in his words "it was an affront to civilization."  Apparently he takes milkshakes very seriously, who knew! 

The tour started at the Hampton Inn which was the old Chicago Motor Club headquarters.  Inside the lobby is a large map of the United States with the some of the national parks on it.  The architecture in the buildings we went into was cool.  I really liked the intricate design on one of the elevators.  Wendy was quite knowledgeable about the city and the time period.  She even had a slide show on her iPad.  I would definitely recommend it.  Unfortunately we had to cut the tour short due to Mother Nature deciding it was a good time for a downpour.  We went back to the Hampton and had drinks and appetizers.

BF072016001The last thing we did was head to Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park to capture some long exposure shots.   Let me just say HUGE doesn’t begin to describe the size of it.  The fountain has a major display every hour where the center jet shoots up water to 150 feet. Its especially cool at night, not only do you get display but you also get music and light show to go along with it.  

After the light show on the fountain which ends at 11pm, we turned to get long exposure shots of the city. Clouds moved in while we were there so we got some cool cloud shots.

All in all, another great day with a lot of walking and great photo opportunities.


Story Continues in Milwaukee Portion


Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo continues my Springfield/Chicago trip with Tim Karas.  The earlier posts about the trip are Springfield Part OneSpringfield Part TwoChicago Day One and Chicago Day Two.   This is part of Chicago Day Three blog.

LION072016002Due to my trip being cut short due to not staying in Milwaukee, we had to reschedule some things including when we were going to the zoo. It was originally going to be Thursday morning but because of our lunch plans with my brother, we moved the zoo excursion to Wednesday morning.  Before the trip even started,  I told Tim the only requirements I had for the trip was Springfield (done), day and evening shots of downtown Chicago (done) and of course, a zoo.  I love animals and my favorite animal is tigers.  When we were at the DC National Zoo in April, the tigers had already been taken in for the evening so I wanted to make sure I saw some this trip.

We bought our tickets and headed into the zoo.  The first animal we came across was an amur leopard that was sleeping high in its enclosure.  As I was getting ready to take a photo I noticed that my battery was low, mainly because the long exposure shots for the evening before and the fact that I hadn’t changed my battery yet during the trip so we headed back to the car to get a replacement battery.   Before heading back, I stopped in the shop and picked up a small stuffed tiger and fox to add to my collection.  As I was replacing the battery, I decided to grab an extra memory card because I only had about 500 photos left. We then headed back into the zoo.

TIG072016001The next stop was the lions which had a male and female.  The lion enclosure had rock walls along three sides and on the left side is an alcove that has a window. You pass the window when heading to the main part. As we were taking photos of the two lions, the male lion got up, walked over to the alcove and roared several times.  The people at the window had a front row seat.  We, however, were at the main part of the enclosure so all we could see was his back end.  At one point, the lioness looked over at him with the "oh will you shut up" look on her face. 

Next up was the tiger enclosure. Good news there was an Amur Tiger (aka Siberian Tiger) in the enclosure.  The bad news, however, was he/she was sleeping the entire time we were standing there taking photos. That didn’t stop me from taking many photos though.

It was a good thing that I brought that extra memory card because sure enough after MANY photos of the gorillas (there were babies), my card ran out of space while shooting the grizzly and polar bears.  We also saw and got photos of snow leopards, rhinos, giraffes and kangaroos.  I felt sorry for the tiger, polar bear and snow leopards, it was very hot the day when we were there and they aren’t used to high temps, they are used to much colder climates.

Story Continues in Chicago Day Three


Chicago Day Two

Chicago Day Two continues my Springfield/Chicago trip with Tim Karas.  The first thing posts about the trip are Springfield Part One, Springfield Part Two and Chicago Day One.   

LotusTuesday found Tim and I heading to the Chicago Botanic Gardens after having breakfast at a diner around the corner from his apartment.  The gardens are beautiful, I did take a few photos of flowers but most of the flowers I saw I have already taken photos of at Brookgreen Gardens at home. I really enjoyed the Japanese Gardens and Bonsai Collection which we don’t have at home.  My favorite part of the gardens is the waterfall where Tim and I spent some time doing long exposure photographer with neutral density filters.  The hardest part was because it was the middle of the day and we didn’t bring our tripods with us so we were setting our cameras up on either walls (Tim) or on the wall, on top of my camera bag and filter envelope (me).  The bright sunny day also made shooting the flowers fun because of the harsh sunlight.  Luckily we were able to find some flowers in the shade. 

We stopped for lunch and had authentic Chicago hot dogs and fries. Tim did anyway, I had them hold the onions, tomato and mustard but still had the relish and pickle. Apparently it is blasphemous to add ketchup to the hot dog.  Tim was bound and determined to get me to eat something authentic Chicago (or Springfield in regards to the horseshoe) but he ran into my stubborn streak and picky eating habits. We had milkshakes for dessert. 

BT072016002After lunch we headed to the Ba’hai Temple to take more photos.  Be careful when using the phone GPS because it took us down a road that was a dead end.  Luckily the temple was nearby and we could see it so it wasn’t an issue.  This is the second religious place Tim has taken me to on our trips (the first was a catholic church in DC) so I’m beginning to see a pattern but since I’m not religious, I will happily take photographs of them but that is all.   I had brought my crystal ball with me on the trip and this was the first and only time we used it.  Tim learned the joys of carrying it on a sunny day. Not only is it heavy but if it is held at the wrong angle to the sun, it will burn you.

While we were at dinner, my brother who lives in Milwaukee, called me to tell me that he had forgotten that I was coming to town (I was planning on staying with him on Thursday night).  Because of renovations, we agreed just to have lunch on Thursday and then I would head home. More on that story on the next blog post.

We headed back to to temple to get long exposure shots and met up with Tim’s friend, Jeff.  At 10pm when the Temple closed we headed back to our cars.  Thinking I would see Jeff at the parking lot, I quickly headed to my car worried we were going to be locked in.  We were blocked in but because the gate consisted of a barricade and two orange cones which needless to say were very easy to move but unfortunately Jeff had parked in the street so I didn’t say goodbye.  

Story continues in Brookfield Zoo


Chicago Day One

Chicago Day One is day 3 of my trip to Springfield and Chicago. The first two days are Springfield Part One and Springfield Part Two.  

CHICHD072016003Monday morning I woke up at 6am thanks to the alarm on my watch that I forgot to turn off.  After picking up Tim’s friend Joe, the three of us headed to Downtown Chicago to spend the day.  Our first stop after eating breakfast was Millennium Park to shoot Cloud Gate aka the Bean.  It was rather warm but I still managed to take tons of photos from many different angles.  I was also told by a friend when I took a selfie of my reflection that I looked like a midget.  If you have a chance to visit Chicago, I definitely suggest you visit the Bean.

We then headed down to the James Thompson Center AKA the Atrium to take some photos of the lobby.  You come in on the 2nd floor, food court is on the ground floor. What I thought was odd was the security check point was not at the front doors but near the elevators on the 2nd floor. We ended up grabbing lunch at  Kentucky Fried Chicken. 


First we checked out the Clark Street Bridge (surprisingly it didn’t bother my fear of heights but it did make me a little nervous on how much the metal plates were shaking).  We then headed down to the Riverwalk.  We certainly got our exercise and took MANY photos which is par for the course with me when I travel some place I’ve never been to though I’ve been known to do that even when going someplace I have been to many times. (cough Surfside pier cough).  I LOVE taking photos.  We stopped along the Riverwalk for refreshments, the guys had beer and I had lemonade. We also took photos from the Lake Shore Drive bridge.  

We ate dinner at the world famous Billy Goat tavern before heading to the John Hancock building for the sunset and night shots of downtown Chicago.  What is cool about the building is the John Hancock Observatory which is on the 94th floor and has a 360 view of the city.   Tim and Joe also did the Tilt which tilt’s outward 1,000 feet over the magnificent mile which according to the website "offers visitors unique, downward facing views from 1,000 feet up".  There is not enough money on the planet to get me to do it but Tim and Joe had fun.

The story continues with Chicago Day Two







Springfield Part Two

This is continued from Springfield Part One

LH072016002After a great night’s sleep in a really comfortable bed, I was ready for Springfield Part Two.  My friend, Tim Karas drove down from Chicago to join me. On the agenda was tours of the Lincoln House, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, Old State House, the Train Station and the Lincoln Tomb.  Tim picked me up at the hotel and we headed to breakfast at Charlie Parker’s, a popular Springfield diner.  The food was great.  We then headed back to my hotel so I could check out and pick up my car.  We parked in the same lot that I parked in the night before.

Our first stop was the Lincoln Home.  After I grabbed my National Park Passport we headed to the visitor center so I could get a cancellation stamp for the passport and we could pick up the tickets to tour the house. Once that was done, we headed back to the car to grab our camera gear then we headed across the street from the house where the tour would start.  The Park Ranger gave us some background history on the house before we went inside.  One thing he did tell us that we would have all the time we would need to take photos.  Probably not something you want to tell photographers especially those who shoot HDR.  Tim and I took MANY photos and were hurried out of the rooms a few times so the tour could proceed.  We were in the backyard talking when apples kept falling off the apple tree and one almost hit me.  There was a squirrel in the tree who I think was throwing them at us but I had no proof. The first photo is Lincoln’s bedroom.  I stood in the doorway to Mary’s bedroom to take the photo.OCHD072015004

Our next stop was the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.  We only toured the museum, the library is across the street. As we weren’t sure if photography was allowed, it was, we left our camera equipment in our cars. It was nice not having to carry anything which I more than made up for by the time we left the gift shop.  We did have our photo taken with the Lincoln Family which when I texted it to her, my friend Maureen told me that we should add a tree and use it as a my Christmas card. My favorite souvenir from the trip was bought here – an Abraham Lincoln Bobblehead.  

We also toured (and took many photos) of the Old State Capitol building and the train station which had a exhibit from Steven Spielberg’s movie Lincoln starring Daniel Day Lewis and Sally Field.   The right photo is the staircase at the Old State Capitol building.

LT072016001Fitting end to my time in Springfield was Oak Ridge Cemetery where we saw not only monuments to the different wars but also Lincoln’s Tomb.   The last photo is the cenotaph above President Lincoln’s body.  Lincoln is buried in a concrete vault ten feet below the marble floor. Crypts in the chambers south wall hold the remains of his wife Mary, and three of their sons – Edward, Tad and Willie Lincoln.  Their oldest son Robert was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

We stopped for dinner at Dublin Pub and then headed to Chicago for the rest of my trip. 

The story of the trip continues with Chicago Day One

You can also read’s Tim’s blog of our trip here.