Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola, Pensacola, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo 

[From Craig]  Monday night we were sitting with our hosts/neighbors Karen and Al talking about things to do in Georgia.  We said we might want to go see Amicalola Falls, which someone told us was the tallest waterfall in Georgia.  Karen warned us that it involved many stairs.  That sat in our minds overnight, and Merikay and I both woke up in an adventurous mood Tuesday and decided we wanted to go there.

It was almost 50 miles from our camp south of Blairsville, and we got to the Amicalola Falls state park in the middle of the morning.  The Georgia Parks year pass that we bought a week ago got us in for free, and we stopped at the Visitor Center.  The ranger lady told Merikay that the trail along the falls included 604 stair-steps.  Karen had prepared us for this, and we decided to go for it.

They told us about the stairs, but didn't mention the rather steep 0.3 mile path leading to them.  Merikay didn't like the slope at all, and I didn't care for it much either.

We were about to return to the VC and ask for our money back, but remembered that we hadn't paid any.  Just about this time we got to the first of the stairs.

The nice part was that all the stairs were identical and all were the standard height (7 inches).  So there was nothing to do but start climbing.  We stopped at each conveniently-spaced lookout platform and went on only when we were both good and ready.

About waterfall comparisons and claims: Amicalola literature says it's the "highest waterfall east of the Mississippi".  Sites like Wikipedia and Infoplease use "highest" and "tallest" interchangeably, so we don't have to consider small waterfalls near the top of Mount Everest.  The facts about Amicalola are "729 feet in seven cascades".  That would be just high enough to make the Infoplease list, but Amicalola doesn't appear.  Probably they only count height in a single cascade...

Anyway, the cascading waterfall is off to the left as you ascend this first stair complex.  (Don't forget you can click on images to see them larger.)

At the end of the first 175 steps is a crossover bridge to the other side of the stream.  This offers the best view of the falls anywhere along the trail.

On the crossover bridge, a young lady asked if I would take a picture of her and her friend using her phone.  Of course I said yes, and then she insisted on returning the favor.  So here we are in front of the falls.

After crossing to the left side of the falls/stream, we came upon this friendly little sign.  Of course we expected it, but still...

I knew Merikay was concerned about getting up this stair, and I tried to say nothing but positive things.  Again, there were frequent rest platforms.  

The view of the falls was not as good in this upper portion as it had been in the lower.

Finally, we made it up the last flight of stairs.  Merikay was so happy, and I was so proud of her.  604 x 7 inches = 4228 inches = 352 feet = 35 floors!

Pat on the head

This is the view looking down from the top of the falls.  It's harder to see than the views from below, but it's still a nice bunch of bouncing water!  Someone tossed a red flower on the left side.  If they wanted it to go down, they didn't succeed.

We wandered around at the top for a while.  People who don't want to climb 35 floors of stairs can drive up to the top and then walk down.  We met several such folks.

Then came the climb down.

In this direction we offered advice and encouragement to travelers in both directions.  Success was so good for our spirit!

We made it down to the bottom and fetched our lunch from the Jeep.  After lunch we revisited the Visitor Center.  Merikay almost bought this but realized that the shirt would long outlast her feeling of achievement.

I may sneak back to this VC before we leave North Georgia and buy her this owl.  Feels pretty appropriate for a retired wildlife artist...

From Merikay: I asked Craig to write the post for this hike because I was a bit tired. I feel I am getting back into shape however. About the shirt and owl, I love looking at the things in the park gift shops, but exercise restraint. Otherwise our coach would be full of stuffed toys.  "Take nothing except pictures", just like the forest. Also it helps the budget numbers.

Due to operator error, this post was published about an hour after the previous one.  So please read on below...

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park Georgia

We seem to be falling into a nice rhythm of hiking every other day.

On Sunday we again went over to Vogel (the closest state park) and hiked the Bear Hair Gap Trail. 

Some hikes are too long, others are too short. This one was just right at about 4.7 miles. 

It was not the easiest hike, with a 480 foot rise in the first third, but the last part was all downhill.

Although there was no waterfall to be seen, we did have to cross a creek several times. This was one place where there was no bridge.

It seems it is acorn time. The path was littered with them, and we kept hearing plop, plop, plop as they fell to the forest floor. We don't know if these all fell into this rotted stump, or if a squirrel or perhaps even a human put them there, but because it was an extra wet place some of them were sprouting.

This stump along the path was surrounded and filled with rocks. Many were in totem stacks. I think they were left as tokens by the many hikers that came this way. Craig says he thinks the other trees had stoned this one because it had been adulterous.

Treasured or punished?

Monday was a no-hike day and it rained a little, so we went out to lunch with Karen and Al.

Life is so hard here in the Mountains of Georgia!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Nice Couple of Days

Ho Hum.  Nothing much to say except we have had a couple of very pleasant days.

We went for a dusk walk the other night. No pictures except for this one of somebody's sign:

We don't know them, but it's such a nice name!

On Saturday we went on a moderate hike recommended by our hosts Karen and Al.  They had just done and blogged about this hike two days ago, so we're in serious overlap with them.  The hike is High Shoals trail, which leads to two waterfalls.  

This stretch of level trail could have been in any of the last few states, but reminded us of the gardens at the Biltmore estate.  Just so perfect!

Here is the second waterfall at the end of the trail.

Karen and Al said they though we might enjoy the mile or so of rough gravel road into the trailhead. 

Whoopee! Our first real Jeep road! This is why we bought the Jeep to replace our little Hyundai Accent. Complete with a water crossing!

Saturday was a very low key, around-the-rig work day. I emptied my side of the closet and all of my drawers. I sorted out things that I didn't want to keep and filled a goodwill bag and a trash bag. After putting everything back, I found I have more room once again and I'm ready for our next round of travel.

Meanwhile, Craig asked if there was anything he could be doing to help, and I suggested scrubbing the vent and underside of the microwave. It really needed attention since it is above the stove. 

I must say, he did a wonderful job. Far better than I would have done. About half way into the project he went off and bought some TSP. That really helped remove the built up gorm. 

Showers and football may keep us at home on Sunday, but Craig suggested a walk in the morning.  

We'll see.

Life is good.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

River's Edge

Last winter, after I was sure our house sale would eventually close, I began making plans for this winter. Craig wanted to go to the Florida Keys if possible, so I used that as my destination goal. Our blogger friends Karen and Al have two lots in a park in the North Georgia Mountains, one of which they rent out. I asked her to save October for us.

As it turned out we arrived on Saturday, September 20. A little earlier than I had planned, but it worked for them because their last visitor had left a few days earlier. 

Their lots are in River's Edge, a lovely private park with large spaces, level concrete pads, full hook ups, and very nice people. It is about 10 miles from the town of Blairsville, which has both a high end supermarket and a Walmart.  What else do we need?

We will be here for a month, so I will have plenty of time to get some cleaning and sorting projects out of the way, and to rest after several months of travel. We spent much of our first day on the computer ordering things that we wanted from Amazon and other sites. Although we have a mail forwarding service, Amazon likes to have a street address for Fedex deliveries.  So if it wasn't needed right away, we kept saying "when we get to Georgia we will order this or that".

It feels like fall is here. The mornings have been cool, and the afternoons sunny but not hot.

There are many places to walk and hike in this area, so perhaps I will get some much-needed exercise. On Monday we went up to the observation tower on Brasstown Bald Mountain. The upper portion of the tower is not open to the public, but there is a large observation deck lower down that is.

Nottely Lake as seen from the observation tower at Brasstown Bald Mountain

We learned that the blue haze in the air over the mountains is not smoke. Its largest ingredient is isoprene gas released by decaying vegetation.

The 360 degree view was fantastic. I hope we can get back to this place the day before we leave so I can take a comparison picture. It seems the trees are just a tiny bit more colorful every day.

On Wednesday we went to Vogel State Park for a short walk. We now have an annual Georgia State Park pass, and hope to use it frequently.

As we drove in we were reminded what was important. 

The small lake which we walked around was very clear and smooth as glass.

Local resident. 

We took the side trail that leads to the Trahlyta falls.

We are looking forward to a wonderful month!

How will you celebrate autumn?

[From Craig]  There are two ways to photograph a waterfall.  You can use a really slow shutter speed, to get a "big fluffy white stream" look.  Or you can use a really fast shutter speed, to try for "each little droplet in its place".  I mostly use the latter approach.  The image above was shot at 1/2000th of a second.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Gaffney, Freightliner Service Center

The "Peachoid": Gaffney's water tower

The next stop on our travels was Gaffney South Carolina, for our annual chassis service. Oil change, lube, lots of checks and filter changes. Our Cat engine takes 19 quarts of oil, and it needs to be changed yearly to keep her purring. 

When we went to Camp Freightliner training last spring, our instructor praised the Freightliner home service center as one of the best, because most of their technicians started in the factory (building the chassis) before working there. 

Since we were heading that way, it was convenient to schedule our service there. One plus was that they have free electrical hook ups for customers, and we were able to go on a factory tour to see where and how our Alfa's chassis was built.

There is not much to see or do in Gaffney, so except for a short trip to see the Michael Gaffney cabin (pictured below), we just relaxed for a couple of days.

A very well restored cabin.

The interior was quite large and looked very livable. 

When we were sitting in the Freightliner custom waiting area, I struck up a conversation with one of the other women about blogging. She asked how to start a blog. I did better than tell her. She had her laptop with her, so it was easy to get her started. By the end of the afternoon she had her blog launched, and hopefully will be able to have some fun with it in the future.

Robyn's blog: Honeybear & Sugarbear's RV Travels

Please stop by, encourage her, and tell her Merikay sent you.

We were all first time bloggers at one time!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Biltmore Estate, Asheville North Carolina

We got up really early on Tuesday. After a quick shower and fresh-baked Trader Joe's Almond Croissants, we were out the door before 8 AM. I was disappointed when we weren't able to see all that we could have at the Ford Museum and Village, because we had gotten a late morning start. I felt the Biltmore tickets were pricey enough that we should make an effort to take full advantage of our day.

Note: To get the best price for seniors, plan your visit for a Tuesday or Wednesday. For non-seniors, the further ahead you book your tickets online, the bigger the discount. I believe I was told that online tickets purchased two or four weeks in advance are the same price as Senior tickets.  Also weekends tickets cost more. So if you every have the opportunity to go, plan ahead. Be sure to get the audio tour. It was chock full of interesting information and allowed you to go at your own pace. Also our early morning arrival was great because the house was far less crowded. We noticed how full it had become as we finished our house tour.

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville South Carolina is the largest single-family home in the United States. We learned so much about it, it is hard to summarize it all for a post. So here's what Wikipedia says:

Biltmore Estate is a large private estate and tourist attraction in AshevilleNorth Carolina. Biltmore House, the main house on the estate, is a Châteauesque-styled mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895 and is the largest privately owned house in the United States, at 178,926 square feet (16,622.8 m2)[2] of floor space (135,280 square feet (12,568 m2) of living area) and featuring 250 rooms. Still owned by one of Vanderbilt's descendants, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age, and of significant gardens in the jardin à la française and English Landscape garden styles in the United States. In 2007, it was ranked eighth in America's Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.

Photos of the inside of the house were not allowed. All I can say is it was amazing. I have been to Versailles and Windsor. The Biltmore Estate is on the same scale and level of luxury. 

Our next stop on the Estate were the gardens. September is an odd month. Far too late for spring Azaleas and Tulips, and a bit early for the Mums and other fall color, but the layout and variety of trees and bushes were outstanding. 

My favorite part of the gardens was the Conservatory Building. There were beautiful well-planned flower beds all around, and the Conservatory was bursting with exotic and native plants. Some in bloom, some just resting. Orchids to Cactus and many in between. 

We took many flower pictures. This was one of my favorites.

After enjoying the gardens we walked back to the house, boarded a shuttle bus to the parking area, and had a little lunch in the Jeep. There are several restaurants on the grounds, but making a take-along lunch is something I do to make our tourist dollars stretch a bit further.

We had been told to drive our own car to the village and farm on the estate. Originally the village was built to house the house construction crew, and the farm to grow food and raise dairy cows for use on the estate. After the house was finished the workers houses were removed, and it became a staff area. Much of the farm was destroyed by a big flood.

Now the village feels a bit "commercial quaint". There is a winery and we were going to partake in wine tasting (included in the ticket price) after looking around, but a busload of other guests had caught up with us and we decided it was too crowded for tasting.

There was a good collection of old farm equipment, and I found the signage well done and interesting.

One of the ongoing programs is a working blacksmith. We wandered over to watch and were delighted by the fact that the blacksmith was one of the guys we had enjoyed listening to at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial porch jam session a few days earlier. 

Doc Cudd
Doc Cudd is one of 5 people in the country that are considered masters of the playing the anvil as a musical instrument. After his blacksmith demonstration he played the anvil for us.  

I don't think he plays for everyone. After most of the other tourists had drifted away, we stayed and chatted for a few minutes about music. One of the others asked if he would play for us and he did. 

YouTube movie of Doc playing the anvil.

I know some of you don't watch videos in blog posts, but how else can I share this?

Fantastic.  I don't think we will ever have this experience again.  He is a treasure!

It was a long, full day, and when we returned to the Alfa we took a nap. We had leftover chicken stew and homemade bread for dinner.

Another plus of RV travel!  You don't have to find a restaurant for dinner when you're tired. I left the dishes for the morning.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Decisions Decisions!

Before I start this post about our travels, I have to express my dismay about the current situations in the world today. I'm afraid we are coming very close to a new World War. I am not in favor of war, but I know we as a nation cannot isolate ourselves from what is happening. As an American, I believe strongly in freedom of religion. But as a citizen of the earth, I wish we had freedom from religion and that all those making war in the name of their god would make peace with each other. 

In the current world we cannot turn the other cheek. 

That said, this is the post I started Saturday.

We had two choices for what to do with the day.

We could go for an afternoon of front porch, down home, bluegrass pickin' jam session at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville. It is a State Historic site and the house looked interesting. It is an old Victorian style boarding house, and was the model for Thomas Wolfe's novel "Look Homeward Angel".  There might also be some readings. There was nearby parking, and the setting is intimate. The front lawn is not large.
The Shining Rock Riverfest, with bluegrass music played by a series of "upcoming" bands. It lasted from 1:00 PM - 10:00 PM, and was up in the mountains at Camp Hope.  Parking was "limited". 

BBQ would be available. I love BBQ.

But, we had take out BBQ last night from a great little place called "12 bones", and I made some just a few days before at home.  We also enjoyed some in High Point last week ... 

The Riverfest sounded like fun, and quite a local event.

But storm clouds were gathering and the weather forecast was for possible showers.  We could take our rain ponchos and umbrella.  


So what did we do?

I choose the Thomas Wolfe Memorial. It was very close to starting to rain when we left the Alfa.  Black clouds hung over the mountains. Of course because we chose the city venue, it cleared up in town. However when we were driving back we did notice the clouds were still very low and gray over the mountains.

The image above was taken when we first arrived. Later the lawn was full and people were standing on the sidewalk and sitting on chairs on the grass between the walk and the road.

I am not sure if the music was "good", but it was authentic and fun. Take away the microphones, and they might have been a bunch of musical boarders having a front porch jam. 

After listening for a while we went to the Memorial building and saw a video about Thomas Wolfe in preparation for a tour of the house. 

It was quite interesting and well restored. Almost all of the furnishings were original to the house. As a boarding house it had 15 bedrooms and three bathrooms. At times there were over thirty guests. Most were middle class, working or vacationing people, musicians and circus performers, men and women. The cost was $1 per night and included two meals. There were often three to a room, and it was not unusual to wake up in bed with a stranger.

The small front parlor was quite elegant. There was also a large sun porch that the guests used for socializing and relaxing.

Although it was totally different, it reminded me of the big old Victorian house my great-aunt had on the east side of Milwaukee. It was big and dark. This house was big but full of light. My great-aunt also ran it as a boarding house up until the early 50s. I remember visiting her as a very small child and being fascinated by the fact that she had the skin of her favorite Dalmatian made into a throw cover for her piano bench. 

I met a couple of her boarders, and thought they were "smelly old men." No women lived with her.

Strange what you remember.

We have extended our stay here by one day. On Wednesday evening, when I was checking into things to do I looked up information about the tours at the Biltmore Estate. I was dismayed to read that we had missed the senior discount. It is available only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  We had planned to leave this Tuesday. Now we have tickets and will spend the day seeing how the ultra-rich lived in one of the largest homes of the day.

Yes, Karen, I signed up for the audio tours too.