On being flexible

Because it has been hovering around freezing in the mornings and much warmer in the afternoon, I changed up my usual meander schedule. Instead of driving where I want to explore with fresh eyes and energy in the morning, I have decided to stop mid-afternoon and enjoy myself while the sun is high and the air is still warm,  leaving those freezing temps for drive time.

img_7110-qprI was really glad that I did, because after a lovely drive over the mountains anticipating lunch at my favorite rest area on Nickajack Lake and finding it closed (bummer) I had the opportunity to camp at Cloudland Canyon, a beautiful state park in North Georgia near Chattanooga (of choo-choo fame.) On travels this way in the past I have always wanted to at least go for a mid-trip hike but it has always been too windy, wet, or cold (seeing that I have always made this trip in the winter not spring.)

 

Despite it suddenly being an hour later (I am now on Eastern Daylight Time) there was enough time to select a campsite and take a hike. The Waterfalls Trail dropped 350 vertical feet from my campsite into the canyon below. It does this in a a little less than a mile; I think the ranger said something about over 900 manmade steps and that does not count the non-manmade ones!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The going down was not too bad as I kept stopping to take photos along the way. Yet, there is no getting around that basic rule of the universe — what goes down, must come back up. Now that was a hike to be remembered!

It was late and the sun was no longer shining in the bottom of the canyon but the waterfalls were spectacular. Well worth the effort. I already plan to do it again on the way home, weather permitting of course.

img_7100-qprFor the first time, the night was warm enough to sit outside after dark so I built a campfire, took the last of what I have been snacking on the last few days — grilled chicken, tomato, cheese, and pineapple — threw it all in a pan and feasted on a nice, hot, home cooked meal. Funny how the same foods can taste so different when you add a little ambiance.

I was hoping the morning sun would offer an opportunity to go back to the first of the falls and photograph it again. Though the day broke cold but with a promise of a sunny day, I took my time getting out of my sleeping bag. I started out for a gentle warm up along the rim of the canyon to the observation area. Was I glad I hiked the trail last night because a front came through that dropped the temperature drastically, accompanied with high winds, and even a few snowflakes. Time to hit the road.

 

Go that way young bear, that way!

Lewis & Clark tribute, Paducah, KY

After a lovely meander yesterday, ending at Cloudland Canyon State Park in Northern Georgia, a hiked to two spectacular waterfalls, and weather conducive to cooking out, a cold front came whipping in this morning that told me it was time to hit the road running.

Since I traveled from one end of Georgia to the other, I would not call that a meander. It is more like making time. But as Kenny Rogers is known to have sung, “You have to know when to hold ’em and you have to know when to fold ’em.” Today was a fold ’em kind of day.

Will send photos and a description soon.

Meandering

Curvy RoadWhen I travel, unless inclement weather, my goal is not to go the fastest or the farthest in the shortest amount of time, it is to enjoy the journey. Today was a perfect example of that philosophy — no deadlines, no particular place to go or be, no final destination to make by the end of the day. That leaves one free to explore the day and the area, step by step, mile by mile, moment by moment, stopping or moseying at will.

The roads are narrower, the towns smaller, and the pace slower — takes me back to an era when you really could “see the USA in your Chevrolet” rather than just flying down the Interstate.

Here are a few things I discovered along the way…

 Paducah, KY — It was a cold Sunday morning and outside the tourist season, with no paddle-wheelers expected, so it was pretty quiet downtown. Driving through the Lowertown Artists District and into downtown, checking out the  old steam train (should I be the conductor or the engineeer?)  and seeing the brightly painted flood wall reminded me of previous trips on a warmer day. Here are a few that might entice you to visit the arts district some summer weekend or maybe the end of April for the International Quilt Show.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Land Between the LakesLand Between the LakesWhen I head South and East, I always go a little out of my way to drive my favorite byway in these parts — The Trace, a rustic and very , scenic road that runs along a ridge of land called Land Between the Lakes (a National Recreation Area) between Kentucky and Barkley Lakes (formerly and still under there somewhere the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers).

I feel a little guilty enjoying this beautiful natural area filled with trees, water, and wildlife because of the way the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and US government, in the name of progress and the greater good, went about acquiring the land by forced condemnation. Families were forced to leave to make way for the damming of the river and thus flooding of their ancestral farms, homes, and businesses. The thing is that between 1960 and the late 60s, some families were forced to move, not once, not twice but in some cases three times, eventually having to leave their land between the rivers altogether to create the “park” itself.

Between sightings of wood ducks, hawks, and a majestic eagle soaring over my head, cement steps leading to nowhere, seas of daffodils in now empty clearings, the occasional dilapidated barn or shed, and the cemeteries are all that is left of these town.

I ended the day at Montgomery Bell State Park, West of Nashville, TN. The park is 4000 acres, the former lands of a young man who came here from Pennsylvania seeking (and gaining) his fortune mining and smelting iron ore until The Civil War put an end to the industry. If you are in these parts, stop by for a visit. A creek babbles along the edge of the campground (or for you city slickers you can get a room at the lodge/conference center), miles of hiking trails will give you a work out, several lakes, some accessible only by foot, provide beautiful reflections — the whole place is just serene (at least in the off-season.

 

On the Road Again

Old Willie just could not “wait to get on the road again” and a few hundred miles into this trip I know the feeling — the joy of discovery today and the anticipation of what tomorrow might bring.

I hate straight Interstate driving so I usually meander a little to see the sites a bit off the beaten path. Since it was cold and overcast, and on a long trip it feels good to get some significant miles under ones belt the first day, I drove down I-39 a lesser used Interstate and made a slight detour to St. Louis, where every chance I get, I  stop at Forest Park, the site of the 1903 (I think) World’s Fair, now a fabulous park with three museums, a zoo, a botanical conservatory, fountains, gardens, trails, gazebos, a golf course, a few ponds, waterfalls, and more. It is a wonderful treasure for the city and much better than the usual rest area.

After a short hike and a picnic lunch, I was off to Paducah to take one of my favorite side trips, “The Trace” on the Land Between the Lakes. But that will  have to wait for tomorrow because sunset comes early this time of year.

For tonight I am in Metropolis, IL, feeling SUPER!

Super Blue Bear, Metropolis, IL

Superman & Blue Bear, Metropolis, IL