Damascus, VA – Virginia Creeper Trail (Intersection 58 / 91)

We didn’t get to complete the entire walk that we wanted to today. We got hit by multiple rain showers, so we just eventually turned around and headed back to the car. Just wasn’t having fun anymore. When it’s hot and humid, and you’re wearing rain gear, it’s just not comfortable.

But, our parking area today was in a gravel parking area near the intersection of Hwy 58 and 91. As your are leaving  Damascus, when you come to the intersection, take a left onto Hwy 58. Soon after you hit 58, you will find a large gravel parking area on your right. The trail down to the creeper trail is over to the right as you are facing the trail. It’s a little harder to find during the warmer months when it’s all grown up.

We walked down to the trail and headed to the left. Our plan was to walk in a couple of miles, and then back to the car, for a total of 4 miles. Walking 2 miles in is about 1/2 way between parking areas. Like I said, after so long we just turned around because of the multiple rain storms. I tossed around was I going to post any pictures from today since we didn’t complete our walk. But, decided to go ahead and do so even though we will go back and complete this walk. When we do go back and complete it, I won’t have any rhododendron or mountain laurel photos. So, there will be some differences in photos.

Here are a few photos from our short, rain drenched walk. And, we got to see the twins today, so added a couple of photos of them.

Directions: I normally type the directions down here, but already provided them up above.

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2014-06-29-Virginia Creeper Trail-Damascus Parking Area-Sony Cybershot HX200V06

2014-06-29-Virginia Creeper Trail-Damascus Parking Area-Sony Cybershot HX200V43

 

 

Blowing Rock, NC – Bass Lake

Today we needed a walk as usual, but something quick while we were over in North Carolina. We decided to take a walk around Bass Lake. This is part of Moses Cone Memorial Park.

This is a very easy loop around the lake. It’s easy enough for strollers and wheelchairs. The trail is crushed rock and very wide. I’ve seen some postings that it’s 8/10 of a mile. I’ve seen other state it’s a mile. We made it a little longer by not parking by the lake. We parked out on Hwy 221 in a gravel parking area.

We entered the open gate and immediately took a trail to the right down the hill. This then brings you to a wide trail, which we took a right onto. It’s about 2/10 of a mile, and you come out into a clearing where you are now at the trail that goes around the lake. Once we arrived at the lake trail, we curved around and first walked across the dam. There’s not any water on the right side of the dam. There were some beautiful wildflowers though. At the bottom, there is a little creek that flows through. After you cross the dam, take a right and walk over to the little bridge. On your right, check out the waterfall. We then turned around and continued heading around the lake. As you’re nearing the back end of the lake, watch on your left for where the beavers have dammed the water. Then, to your right, you will come across stone walls with water in them, which is the Heart Pond.

On this walk, you’ll enjoy lots of waterfowl such as ducks, geese, and occasionally a swan or two. Another beautiful sight is the view that you have of the manor house up on the hill. You’ll pass by people fishing on the banks. Boats aren’t allowed.

Here are a few pictures from today. Run your cursor over each for a brief description.

Directions: From the 321 / 221 intersection in Blowing Rock, drive 1/2 mile and you will see a sign for Bass Lake on your right. You can either park in the gravel parking area out on 221, or you can turn right into the park and there is a large parking area. This place is popular. Alot of the times it’s hard to find parking, so we prefer to park out on 221 and take the path to the lake.

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2014-06-28-Bass Lake-Nikon D600136

2014-06-28-Bass Lake-Sony Cybershot HX200V83

 

 

Belmont, NC – Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

This was the day after we attended the LPGA US Women’s Open. We decided before heading home to head over and check out this botanical garden.

This is a 380 acre botanical garden. It consists of the gardens, meadows, and natural trails outside of the gardens. There is one trail that you can take, that gives you a little bit of a view of Lake Wylie.

You start in the visitors pavilion which has a nice gift shop. If you live in the area, this is probably a great place to have your wedding or any type of event. They have a very nice room for receptions in the pavilion. One thing that I wish that they did have though was a map that you could carry with you. They only have one copy of a map which you can review when you pay.

Within the gardens you have of course the flowers, plants, fountains, and lots of sculptures. I’ve never been a big fan of sculptures, but I have to say that they had their sculptures very well placed and I really enjoyed the sculptures. In the gardens, they also have a small aviary with a few birds. Lastly, they also have an orchid conservatory that has of course orchids and tropical plants.

On the back end of the gardens, there is a meadow. They have mowed trails that take you through the meadow. There are a couple of trails off of the meadow trail. One trail we walked so far in, and turned around and came out. Due to not having a map or information, wasn’t sure how long we would be on the trail. We then took another trail, and it actually took you down near the lake. You are up above the lake, but it’s a little hard to see the lake through the trees. We then came back up to the meadow where we continued the loop. We ran across a guy that was picking blackberries. He said that for 4 weeks in a row, he comes there to pick blackberries. They were all over the place.

I normally tell you to run your cursor over each photo for a brief description. But, if you follow all of my posts, you know that I’m not an expert on flowers and plants. I’ll post a few descriptions, but as for the plants and flowers, just enjoy the photos.

Address for GPS: 6500 South New Hope Rd, Belmont, NC

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2014-06-22-Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens - Nikon D600342

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2014-06-22-Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens - Sony Cybershot HX200V442

 

Charlotte, NC – Freedom Park

This was our first day of our 3 day getaway. We went to Charlotte and spent the weekend. Stayed where we normally do, which is Residence Inn in the South Park area of Charlotte. The reason we spent the weekend in Charlotte was because Saturday, we drove a couple of hours over to Pinehurst and attended one day of the LPGA U.S. Women’s Open. It was fun. Walked a little over 9 miles around the course. And, got my self burnt up. This course didn’t have as much tree cover as other courses that we have gone to, so I was unprepared.

But, back to this little excursion on Friday in Charlotte. This is a very nice 98 acre park in the middle of Charlotte. It has 4 baseball fields, 12 tennis courts, 4 soccer fields, a basketball court, 2 volleyball courts, a 7 acre lake that has a nice sidewalk around it, a couple of very nice playgrounds, picnic tables / shelters, and a master gardener demonstration garden. It also connects with Little Sugar Creek Greenway, which we did walk a portion of after walking around Freedom Park.

We parked on the left just as you enter from East Blvd. At this point, you can head on into Freedom Park, or go to the left and enter the greenway. We headed into Freedom Park. We walked along the creek, which was a little hard to see through the brush. There are a couple of bridges though that you can cross to get good views of the creek. There are also paved trails on the other side of the creek. We then crossed the road when we saw the train that they have in the park. You can go in the train, but not really much to it. By the train, you have a couple of nice playgrounds. We then continued on and crossed the stream where they have a stream restoration project going on. This is where you’ll see quite a few picnic tables and shelters. After a short stint, you come to the demonstration gardens and the lake. There’s a beautiful stone bridge that takes you across to a pavilion. We continued on to the right and took the sidewalk around the lake. I’ve never seen this before, but near the pavilion, if you look off to the right, there is actually a bicycle station. You pay in a machine, and then get your bicycle. We continued around the lake. Ran across lots of pretty blooming bushes, ducks, and squirrels. At the other end of the lake, there is a fountain. As you continue around the other side of the lake, there is a bridge that crosses the creek, and takes you to a nature museum. If I recall correctly, it costs about $8 per person to get in. We continued on our walk and eventually arrived back at the car. This when we noticed the greenway. We walked a little ways on the greenway. It was getting late and was really hot, so at this point we were ready to pick up some dinner from Whole Foods and head back to our room.

As usual, here are some photos, and run your cursor over each for a brief description. I’ve also included a good map of the park.

Click to access freedom-1.pdf

Address for GPS: 1900 East Boulevard, Charlotte, NC

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Appalachia, VA – Lake Keokee Recreation Area

Lake Keokee Recreation Area is not in Appalachia. It’s about 10 miles outside of Appalachia. But, couldn’t locate anything on the internet stating what town this lake was in, so used the closest town.

This recreation area seems to be mostly used for fishing. There were several boats out on the lake with people fishing. Boats with gas motors aren’t allowed on the lake. Only canoes and boats with electric motors. If you take the trail on the left side of the lake from the parking area, you will pretty quickly arrive at a good sized wooden fishing deck. Along with fishing, there is a 3.7 mile loop trail that takes you around the lake. The trailheads aren’t marked. We didn’t start on the left hand side of the lake. We started on the trail on the right. The trailhead on the right is over the bank right after you enter the recreation area.

Unfortunately today was kind of a bust for us. As we were walking the trail, there were areas here and there where we would almost lose the trail. It was overgrown in spots. We even arrived at a spot on the trail where there was a huge tree in the trail. I’m not talking about this tree being across the trail. I mean from the trunk to the tip top of the tree, it was all on the trail. But, we took some time and climbed all through that tree because we really wanted to complete that loop. But, not long after we took all that time to climb through that tree, and right before we arrived at the dam, we completely lost the trail. We looked and looked for a continuation of the trail with no luck. At this point, we just had to turn around and head back to the car. From where we had fought our way through bushes and that tree, we were pretty itchy.

But, the lake was really pretty. I would go back and see how far we could make it from the trailhead on the left hand side of the lake.

Here are a few photos from today. Run your cursor over each for a brief description.

Directions from Appalachia, VA: Take Hwy 68W (Inman Rd) approximately 7 1/2 miles. Turn left onto SR 623 and take this road about 1/2 mile. Turn left onto SR 876. This road will take you right into the parking area.

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2014-06-14-Lake Keokee Recreation Area-Nikon D60078

2014-06-14-Lake Keokee Recreation Area-Sony Cybershot DSC-HX200V126

2014-06-14-Lake Keokee Recreation Area-Sony Cybershot DSC-HX200V128

 

Asheville, NC – Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary

Normally on Sundays, we stay closer to home. But, we got a wild hair today and decided to head to Asheville and walk around downtown. We enjoyed walking several blocks downtown and popping into shops and galleries. After walking around downtown, we made a stop at Trader Joe’s and Harris Teeter and picked up some groceries.

We had decided to take our cameras with us “just in case”. So, as we were heading down Merrimon Ave to go home, we decided to stop at the bird sanctuary. We had been here before when there were mostly dirt paths through the woods. But, you could always tell these days as you drove by, that there were lots of improvements made to this area. So, we headed in.

The sanctuary is an 10 acre wetland / bird sanctuary in north Asheville. In the past, there were mostly just little dirt walking trails through here. But, now they have built nice boardwalks throughout the sanctuary. I read that the boardwalk length is 3/8 of a mile. Seemed a little longer to me. The old dirt trails are still there. There are spots along the boardwallk where you can walk off and still take those old dirt trails. The boardwalk takes you through wetlands, and eventually out to Beaver Lake. Today you could just hear all of those happy chirping birds. But, with it being summer, they were hidden by the overgrown bushes and leaves on the trees. We did not get the first bird photo.

I did read too that there are guided bird walks on the first Saturday of each month. From October through March, the walks start at 9AM. From April through September, the walks start at 8AM.

If you want to walk more than 3/8 of a mile, take the gravel trail that takes you along Beaver Lake to the other end at the dam/spillway.

Attached are a few photos from today. Run your cursor over each for a brief description.

Directions: Couldn’t seem to find an actual address. But, here is a link that will provide you with directions and some more information about the sanctuary and lake walk. http://www.romanticasheville.com/beaver_lake.htm

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2014-06-08-Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary-FujiFilm X1074

 

Mouth of Wilson, VA – Grayson Highlands State Park

I had heard that this was a good weekend to head to Grayson Highlands for the blooming of rhododendron. We were in for an unexpected surprise. We had been here before, and we knew there were ponies. But, some of the ponies had just recently had babies. You could tell that there were still a couple of ponies that were just about ready to have their babies. Those bellies were huge.

Today we parked at the big Massie Gap parking area. We then headed up Rhododendron Trail. I’ve read that it’s only 1/2 mile to the top. And, I’ve read that it’s 8/10 of a mile to the top. Don’t let me saying “to the top” make you think that this is a difficult trail. It’s a pretty easy trek to the top.

After we had some fun photographing the ponies and babies, when we arrived at the split, we took off to the left. This is a horse trail that takes you to the state park boundary where the trail crosses over and you can continue on to Mount Rogers. From Rhododendron trail, it’s probably 1/2 mile or so to the boundary. We didn’t cross through and keep on going. We turned this into a loop walk by following the trail that says “to Massie Gap parking area”. This has you walking on the Appalachian Trail.

When we arrived back at the fork, instead of heading back down to the car, we kind of headed straight on this section of the Appalachian Trail. As stated previously, the rhododendron were blooming. It was really cool because as you were taking this section of the trail, there were all kinds of side trails and you could just walk through the rhododendrons and wildflowers.

When we got to the big rock that people are always climbing on, which was probably only about 3/10 of a mile or so from the fork, we took off to the right on a trail below the rocks. We have never climbed all the way to the top of the rocks. There are all kinds of little trails through here, and we’ve always found it a challenge trying to figure out how to get on top of the rocks. So, we just meander through the bushes below the rocks, and then end up on a trail that takes us back down to Rhododendron Trail.

As we were heading out on this trail, we ran across the ponies and their babies again. I had a little issue with one of the ponies. For some reason, it just kept on trying to eat my jeans. After I finally got away from that crazy little pony, we came upon a gal that was plopped down on the ground, and the little pony had it’s head in her lap. It was so cute.

After we finished hanging around here, we headed back to the car. As you’ll see in the photos, there are some pretty views as you are heading back down to the parking area.

I’m including a couple of links. Here is a good map of the park. http://www.graysonfriends.org/text/Grayson%20Highland%20guide.pdf

Then, here is my post from August of last year. On this day, it was cool, foggy, and we had another surprise. Along with the ponies, there were steer. https://rangerannette.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/mouth-of-wilson-va-grayson-highlands-state-park/

Here are our photos from today. Run your cursor over each for a brief description.

Address for GPS: Grayson Highland Lane, Mouth of Wilson, VA

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2014-06-07-Grayson Highlands State Park-Nikon D600369

 

Shady Valley, TN – Appalachian Trail (Osborne Farm)

Today family joined us on our walk. We chose to do something nearby, and chose Osborne Farm, which is part of the Cherokee National Forest, and it runs over a tiny portion of the Appalachian Trail. The parking area for the farm is at the Appalachian Trail parking area of Cross Mountain Trailhead. You then cross TN 91 to start the easy trek across the farm. If you just walk on the farm property, if I recall correctly, it’s only about 1 mile round trip.

On one side of Osborne Farm,  you have the Holston Mountain range. Then, the other side you have the Iron Mountain range. The drive to Osborne Farm is very scenic. It seems like there are only 4 ways into the Shady Valley area. From Bristol, TN, Hwy 421. From Elizabethton, TN, Hwy 91. From Damascus, VA, on TN 133, and from Mountain City, Hwy 421.

You know we like to picnic. But, no picnic tables at this parking area. We just pulled down the tailgate of our pickup and stood up and had lunch. We then crossed the road and took off.

You start out going through a meadow with pretty awesome views. You then come upon a barn / shed on the property. As you continue on, you come upon a bench that has been placed on the trail in a spot where you can really enjoy those views. Continue on the trail and you will have to then climb through a step-over fence to enter into the next field. This is where the cows were today. Steve and I have been here several times and most of the times we see the cows. They just may not be on the same part of the farm each time. Mom is afraid of cows, especially if there are bulls around. But, we told her things would be fine. The cows and bulls just let you walk right through them. Once we passed the cows, Teresa and I were telling her that we were proud that she had faced her fears. You then arrive at another step-over fence that will take you into the woods. We went a little ways into the woods, and you know us. There were really no photo opportunities, so we turned around and backtracked.

After taking our walk at Osborne Farm, family, and Steve and I headed our separate ways. Steve and I then headed for a quick stint through Backbone Rock Recreation Area. This area is known as the “shortest tunnel in the world”. We didn’t take the stairway to the top of the rock. We took some photos of the road that goes through the rock, and a few photos of people rock climbing.

Below are some photos from our walk today. And of course we visited the twins so had to include a photo of them from today too. Run your cursor over each for a brief description.

Directions to Osborne Farm: From Elizabethton, TN, take Hwy 91 through Stoney Creek approximately 18 1/2 miles to a gravel parking area on the right hand side of the road.

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2014-06-01-Appalachian Trail-Osborne Farm-Nikon D600123

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