Tuesday, August 31, 2010

To Heaven With The Hackers (Pisgah Forest, NC)

If you're keeping up, a few blogs ago we had "To Hell With The Hackers."  Well today was a little different!  We departed at 0830.  Our destination was Sam Knob.  We drove 4 miles up the mountain, then about ten miles down the Parkway.  It looked like it would be a pretty day.  Our hike was to be 4-5 miles.We hit the trail at 0930.  Now all I can do is GUSH!  The hike took us steadily to the top of the knob at 6200 feet.  There we watched a Hawk soar within the thermal currents as if he knew we were watching.

 The views were just beautiful.

  The sky was soooo blue. 

The weather was  the best.  High 70's, low 80's, no humidity and often a gentle breeze.  The wildflowers were abundant and spectacular.



The true photographers were having a full day. 

We headed down the mountain to have lunch at a stream. Not just any stream but the picture perfect mountain stream.  There we sat among the boulders soothed by the babbling brook. 


We pressed on to a pleasant waterfall. 

Then we encountered a butterfly whose purpose was to be photographed.  He flitted about and repeatedly posed on a branch.  Even I got pictures of him. 

The hike in was easy and rewarding.   We were on the trail about 5 hours.  We returned to the Cradle and then got together again for dinner.  We cruised down the mountain for some Mexican. A very nice day!!!  

Monday, August 30, 2010

Oh What A Beautiful Day! (Pisgah Forest, NC)

Sunday we worked.  After getting up this morning, we puttered around a bit and then decided to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) to Waynesville, NC. It's about 35 miles away.  As we were preparing to depart, there was a knock at the door.  Bo barked ferociously, that's his duty, and then I opened the door.  There stood our fashionable grandmother type, Sue.  Now Sue is always a welcomed sight, but today she out did herself.  Today she's standing there with a plate full of MASSIVE brownies.  These brownies are literally "to die for."  They're a couple inches thick covered with some sort of frosting, PEANUT BUTTER (Lord, I do still LOVE peanut butter), Rice Krispies and melted chocolate!!!!!

A Happy Duane!
I'm certain that when I do chow down on them I'll break into a sweat.  But first I must finish my blogging.  Now back to our destination.  Waynesville is a delightfully quaint, historic and picturesque town.  We've been there several times over the years and have always considered it a strong possibility for retirement.  It's still in the running for one day.  We're hiking tomorrow with Dave and Ardi so we wanted to have an easy day today.  But, the current weather is mid 70's, like no humidity and clear skies!  So we certainly wanted to be out in this great weather.  We didn't leave the camper until about 1:00pm.  Our first stop was the Pisgah Inn for lunch.  It's 4 miles up the mountain and 4 miles down the BRP.  The location is supreme.  It sits on a bluff overlooking a gorgeous view of mountains and valleys.  We stayed there years ago and had to make reservations 2 years in advance for a mid October room to be there for the Fall colors.  Today we only had lunch, but we were seated at a window seat with a spectacular view!  Lunch was good, our waitress quite nice and the company the best!!!!  In the gift shop there I saw a great hiking shirt.  It read, "Take a compass, eating your friend is so awkward."  Nice! Then we headed for Waynesville.  We stopped at most every scenic spot knowing we wouldn't get to Waynesville until after the stores were closed.  But we didn't care because the trip was all about the journey.  The drive was more beautiful than we expected.  I won't attempt to describe the scenery, I'll just let  Debbie's pictures "speak a thousand words."

We did finish off the event with a trip to the new Waynesville Walmart.  We needed a few provisions and other necessities of life.  We drove home highway 276, a winding, mountainous thriller. Tomorrow we hike.



Saturday, August 28, 2010

Medical Updates and A Hike with the Boys (Pisgah Forest, NC)

Today is Saturday.  Debbie drove her face into the gravel last Sunday.  Not surprisingly she is healing just fine.  She couldn't bring herself to go to work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Vanity is a powerful emotion!  We were off Thursday and Friday.  She returned to work today.  She looks MUCH better and everyone reassured her repeatedly.  Thank you folks.  Her vanity is still a little fragile but she is handling the challenge like a big girl.

On a smaller scale, my little finger is fine.  I removed my own stitches yesterday.  Debbie freaked some.  I recall some comments about sanitation?  I had an appointment back in Charleston but I didn't want to drive 5 hours each way for a 2 minute appointment.  Ardi, our retired RN friend, tells me the finger looks good.

So, we (I) worked Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  I spent the first half of Thursday cutting grass.  We are required to cut the grass around our campsite.  It's not a large area but once I got started I decided to cut everyone's space.  That took me a couple hours.  Then I spent the remainder of my day cleaning the outside of the camper.  It's a BIG box!  One of the great challenges of cleaning a camper is the dreaded black streaks.  As rainwater runs off the roof and down the sides it often leaves black streaks.  Their removal requires mega elbow grease.  The finish product looks good and I don't have to do it too often.  YEA!!

Friday we played.   We went to Chimney Rock State Park.  It was privately owned until the last couple of years.  The park is adjacent to Lake Lure.

View of Lake Lure from Chimney Rock
All this is just over an hour away.  Initially we were not going to take the" boys".  But as we prepared to go they "told" us that they really wanted to be a part of the outing.  They danced from foot to foot, smiled and pleaded.
How could we resist these faces?
From there on out all we had to say was "get in the truck."  They don't know it's a car but we're going to teach them the difference.  They travel like champs and they travel in style.  We also carry treats for them as well as a collapsible water bowl for hiking.

The primary focus of Chimney Rock is, act surprised, a LARGE rock.  The park also includes hiking trails a waterfall and impressive shear cliffs. 
Chimney Rock
Duane and the Boys on one of the Chimney Rock Trails
Hickory Nut Falls (mostly dry) 
We spent about five hours there hiking trails which included hundreds of steep wooden steps.  Lots of hazards for the dogs but they did great!  Not surprisingly, we speak of the boys as if they're our children.  So we often spoke of the fact that they will certainly sleep well on the way home.  They did. 
Bo and Laska in the backseat with their "blankies"
(they were asleep in minutes) 
As we headed for Brevard we picked up pizza, bread sticks and bruchetta, oh yea and brownies.  I can hear our arteries slamming shut.

Life is good!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

"To Hell With The Hackers" (Pisgah Forest, NC)

I've been "gone" for a while but now I'm back.  Debbie and I went "home" to SC Sunday-Wednesday for some medical appointments.  We drove the Highlander and took the dogs.  We had a couple of offers from friends to stay with them, dogs and all.  We didn't want to just dump our boys on anyone while we were at the hospital so we spent Sunday and Monday at a Best Western that permitted dogs.

Sunday night we had a fun dinner with our good friend Evelyn.  As we departed she made it clear that we are always welcome at her home.  It was kind of like "My Casa is Your Casa."  Thank you Evelyn, we love you!

We went to SC to have a cyst removed from my little finger.  We had started the process way before we left the area but it took forever to get appointments.  So to work within our health insurance we returned to complete the routine.   I didn't think the cyst amounted to much but my daughter described it as OMG.  My view may be more accurate.  Having said that, the event resembled a big deal.  It began with a hospital gown of the current fashion.  Then there was a crowd of medical personnel complete with a trip to la la land.  The next thing I recall with any clarity is a wheel chair ride out of the hospital.  The procedure was Monday afternoon.  That night we went back to the Best Western.

Tuesday morning Debbie had a doctor appointment.  After that we then went to see our realtor friends Jan and Tom.  They've helped us buy our last two houses and now they manage those houses for us as rental property.  One day they'll sell those houses for us.  We visited with Tom and Jan at their office.  If there had been a bouncer he would have thrown us out.  We had a roaring good time!  More love and we greatly appreciate their friendship.

We then went to see Linda and Glenn.  We took the dogs with us and spent the night.  We have traveled and camped many times with these friends They epitomize southern hospitality.  We would marry them both.  That may be a stretch but you get the picture.  Lots of love!

We drove home Wednesday afternoon and worked Thursday and Friday.

Friday was Aubree Elizabeth''s 26th birthday.  Aubree, I'm mighty proud of you and  I love you!

We had a hike planned with our volunteer friends Dave and Ardi Hacker for Saturday morning.  Our destination was Rainbow Falls at Gorges State Park.  This is something less than an hours drive away, near Lake Toxaway.  The morning began cloudy, maybe a little mist.  We didn't consider not going.  It was a nice drive and only misting at most when we arrived.  The hike was to be 4-5 miles round trip.  It was quite steep at times, rocky and rooty.  Much of the time the hike followed the wonderfully rocky, mountainous Horse Pasture River.  Our first stop was at a smallish, but pleasing waterfall.  No rain as yet. 

Dave and Ardi preparing to photograph small waterfall

Small Waterfall

We then moved on to our primary goal, Rainbow Falls.  About the time we arrived at the Falls it began to rain a little.  Dave, Ardi and Debbie, the photographers, broke out the cameras, tripods and umbrellas. 
Rainbow Falls
After the photo shoot we pressed on to another great area that included  a waterfall with a sliding rock.  There were lots of young folks sliding over the rock.  We don't have any pictures of this area or activity because  the pace of the rain had increased significantly.  More rain, much more.  We decided there was nothing to loose so we went on to a third falls location.  By now it's becoming a deluge!!  We stayed there a minute then returned to a rock overhang, dry enough to stand and eat a sandwich.  

Dave and Ardi were mostly prepared for the rain.  Debbie and I less prepared.  I had brought the umbrellas and 2 ponchos.  I paid $2 for 2 ponchos.  I knew they were a disposable type but I was misled.  They were nearly worthless.  OK, not worthless.  I'd value them at $.12 each.  They did help to trap our body heat but not keep us dry.  As we hiked in we made some effort to avoid mud and wet spots.  You know, lets keep those hiking shoes clean.  As we exited, we were merely slogging through the mud and water with total disregard as the skies poured upon us.  We had to watch our footing closely. We were drenched.  Debbie's greatest concern was keeping her new camera dry.  Dave and Ardi had invited us to hike with them so they were concerned that we held them responsible for the less than perfect conditions. We enjoyed several witty suggestions about how we would describe the hike in the blog.  We reassured them repeatedly but, at their suggestion,  we settled on "To Hell With The Hackers."  Today, a dry day later, we refer to it as a memorable hike.

We worked today.  The day ended with an unfortunate event.  Debbie and I were walking one of the Cradle trails with the dogs.  Somehow Debbie lost her footing and fell.  She'll be fine but she did take a face full of gravel.  There was lots of blood.  She cut her knees, hands and several cuts to the face.  A little understatement,  we were ALARMED so as soon as we got back to the camper I went to get Ardi.  She's a retired RN.  Ardi cleaned Debbie's cuts and put her at ease.  Thank you Ardi!!  I now refer to Debbie as Rocky.  Pretty funny, don't cha think?!  You know the gravel and all. 

Good to be back.
My finger is fine.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Loss of a Friend (Pisgah Forest, NC)

I know I am not the blogger, but I just couldn't let the recent death of my Beta Sigma Phi sorority sister Nancy Thames go unmentioned.   Although I had only known Nancy for about a year and a half, I knew her as a bright, fun, kind and caring person.  I enjoyed our conversations so much.  Nancy had been diagnosed with Leukemia only a month ago.  She passed away on Tues. August 10th.  Her death was sudden and unexpected and so very sad.  My deepest condolences to her family and friends.

Nancy at a sorority function in May 2010

Rest in peace sweet Nancy.


Random Thoughts

We "worked" Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  It was all quite pleasant.  Debbie reminded me that she has plenty of pictures of where we work.  So we'll show you some, along with pictures of our co-workers some of whom we've probably already introduced.
Entrance to Exhibit hall

Front Desk
Kids love the scavenger hunt they can do in the exhibit hall 
The wax figures are extremely life-like
Water Exhibit

Helicopter simulator

Dave in the Cafe

Dr. Charles (our team leader) and Mike at the Front Desk

Debbie (Mike's wife) working at the Giftshop

Sue (Dr. Charles' wife) loves Snickers!

Artie (Dave's wife) in the Cafe

Much to our disappointment, our new friends Debbie and Mike had to leave. Mike had to go home to address a multitude of health issues. Debbie's grandmother is 104, I believe, and her health is failing. Their vacant campsite is a daily reminder of their absence. Mike and Debbie, if you're reading this, please know we miss you terrifically! We will find a way to catch up with you somewhere.

I've had a cold all week so we haven't done much on our last two days off.  Thursday we went to Walmart to get more Sudafed etc.  I'm feeling much better as I Blog this evening.  Today we went to get haircuts.  When we were "home" we didn't have to give much thought to that subject.  But now that we're vagabonds, it will always be a shot in the dark.  So we, that means Debbie, selected a salon for us.  My hair is normally longer than Debbie's.  We sat down in our respective chairs at the same time. We finished at the same time.  Neither hair cut was particularly good.  Debbie''s hair cut cost exactly twice as much.  Why?

At the risk of being way too redundant, let me tell you more about our Hummingbirds.  We were having breakfast this morning.  We were having bacon, eggs and toast.  We were sitting together at our dining room table.  All of this so far is mighty unusual!  But now my point.  The Hummingbirds were swarming the feeder that's attached to our window.  They behave as if we're not present.  We're so close, with only a window between us, that we can see them with amazing detail.  We see their little bulging eyes, their tiny feet and every colorful little feathers.  Even more interesting, we can see their whole head throb as they suck (like crazy) the sweet nectar from the feeder.  It's pretty cool.




Now my last thought..... for the moment.  I've recently recognized that much of what we're doing and much of what I share, is not all that thrilling.  In fact, much of what we do is probably what lots of retirees do.  The surprising thing for Debbie and I is that WE ARE retired.  Over the years we've (me to excess) given work a high priority.  The result is that we've already enjoyed many great experiences.  Granted, we always enjoyed these great experiences on the run, but they were great none the less. But now it's like we're done.  We worked frantically right up to the day we left SC.  Now we get to cruise along at our own pace.  We get to make all these pleasant decisions about where to go next and just what shall we do.  The great decision for today was whether or not we should stop for ice cream.  We did. We currently have tentative travel/volunteer plans that will carry us through the winter of 2012.  But for now, it's great to just cruise! 

It''s an exhausted phrase, but we are truly blessed and we are grateful!!!

Let us all count our blessings!


Sunday, August 8, 2010

A "Blue Ridge" Day (Pisgah Forest, NC)

Friday we worked.

We were to be off Saturday and Sunday.  However, we were required to work a half day on Saturday because the Forest Service was having a big happening at the Cradle.  Saturday was a celebration of Smokey Bear's 66th birthday.  I heard that 800 people came through the gate to attend.  That number seems high to me but what do I know.  There were lots of activities for the children and Smokey made several appearances.  I monitored coolers of water and HI-C.  Debbie and the other Debbie were in charge of Smokey Bear Bingo.  My position was brainless, Debbie was on her feet the whole time "enjoying" the children.  Please note that I refer to Smokey Bear, not Smokey the Bear.  All my life I thought it was Smokey THE  Bear.  Not true.  It is Smokey Bear.  A learning moment compliments of the Forest Service.

Saturday evening we went to Brevard to have dinner with Mike and Debbie.  We asked Dick and Sue to come as well.  Sue is the charming, fashionable grandmother I've referred to before.  Dick, her husband, is a retired truck driver with slightly more than 4 million miles of driving.  They're in their mid 70's.  Quite delightful.  We went to an Irish pub.  I won't bore you with what everyone ate, except me.  I had Shepperd's pie.  Very Irish I think.  I'd never had Shepperd's pie and I enjoyed it greatly.  I should mention, because  this is important.  I also had a large order of onion rings on the side.  Debbie made me share them.

Sunday was another great day.  I guess I say that often, but the beauty is that it's true.  Our lifestyle comes with many great days.  We decided the "boys" needed an outing.  They spend a lot of time in the camper.  We walk them at least three times a day and often the walks are quite long.  Regardless, we wanted to take them to a dog park where they can run.  We're thinking maybe they miss their backyard.  So we headed for Asheville via the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP).  This is another one of those cool things about being here.  The BRP is 4 miles from the front gate of the Cradle.  The BRP is a primary vacation destination for lots of folks, especially in the Fall.  But here we are just down the road.  We've already been on it several times and I'm sure we will be on it countless more times.  In addition to the beautiful scenery, it also is the route to many wonderful trail heads and Asheville.

Blue Ridge Parkway View
Our first stop was the NC Arboretum right off the BRP.  There are great trails there and really nice gardens.  The trails are mostly short and easy. The gardens include formal settings, some of the best Bonsai I've ever seen, water features and lots of Appalachian flavor ie flagstone paths, rock walls and natural plantings. We were there about 3 hours.  The boys are now pooped and overheated.  Poor Mr. Bo is jet black, just right for soaking up all the heat.  His little legs go ninety miles an hour to lead the pack (alpha dog you know).  And he's built like a sissy.  We found a shaded area with a bench for me and large flagstone for the boys.  Bo immediately plopped down and hugged the cool stone to compose. Laska was happy to join him.

Bo resting
Laska happy
Debbie strolled a bit taking flower shots with her still new camera, the boys chilled (literally) and I napped a smidgen. 


Debbie was glad this bee never seemed to notice her!
We find interesting mushrooms everywhere we go 
Eventually we left and headed for the dog park.  We took a couple wrong turns but then found the park.  It was 91 degrees.  We decided the boys weren't too excited about any more heat so we headed home.  At the mountain top, our home, it was 73 degrees!
After we got settled I did the laundry.  While I waited I called Bro Rowe.  I didn't get him so I'll call later.  I did speak with Aubree Elizabeth.  She'll be 26 soon. 
We work the next 3 days.

Happy Trails