Blue Ridge Parkway – This is why the speed limit is 45mph and less!

Yikes!

Teri πŸ“·

blue ridge parkway
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Driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Big Witch Overlook

This is just one of the many pullover/overlook spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s at mile post 461.9 which is very close to Cherokee, North Carolina. MP 1 is at the north end of the parkway in Virginia. We drove south to north hitting a lot but not all of the parkway.

More about that later!

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina, Big Witch Overlook

The name, Big Witch Overlook, comes from one of the last of the great Cherokee medicine men. Some of the pullovers/overlooks are gorgeous – like this one – while others showed views of cities down in the valleys or the trees had overgrown the view so much that there was no view! But this one? It was a beautiful view.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina, mountains, autumn, October

It was time to pull out of this stop and up the parkway to the next one! Miles to go before we slept.

Teri πŸ“·

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Driving through the Smoky Mountains heading towards the Blue Ridge Parkway

We stayed in Gatlinburg, Tennessee which was very close to the Sugarlands visitor center and one of several entry points for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was also close to the main road that takes you from there to the end of the park, the Oconaluftee Vistors Center in Cherokee, North Carolina. The Oconaluftee Center is right around the corner from the start (or end depends on if you are driving north like us or south) of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It takes about an hour to drive from Gatlinburg to Cherokee on Newfound Gap Road (elevation 5046 feet) but that’s if you drive straight through. And who would want to do that with such amazing views!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, mountains, autumn, October

At this pullover, we were able to see the road we were going to be on once we drove down from our high position on the mountain. At this elevation it was cold and windy with snow flurries. Not what you’d expect from mid-October in Tennessee.

Newfound Gap Road, mountains, road trip, mountain views, tennessee

Finally after several pullovers to take in the stunning autumn views, we made it to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. There is more to see at this center than just maps, souvenirs, snacks and a bathroom before the long drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is a mountain farm museum where you can learn how families lived in the mountains 100 years ago.

farm museum, Oconaluftee Visitors Center, Cherokee North Carolina

While I wish I had taken time to explore the farm, I was much more interested in these animals that were out in an open field… and causing traffic jams as people driving past pulled over to take photos of them.

Elk, Oconaluftee Visitors Center

After this it was time for the long drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway!

Teri – with a very big tree outside of the visitors center.

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Happy Thanksgiving

It wasn’t until I visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that I saw a grey turkey. Turkeys were the one animal I saw more than any other on this trip but I won’t bring up the no show bears again… πŸ˜†

Anyway, after Googling it said that 1 in 100 wild turkeys is a smoke grey one. How interesting!

Hope your Thanksgiving is filled with good eats and comforting times no matter what is on your menu or how many or few you share it with. And if you are one that doesn’t celebrate this day, may your Thursday be a good one.

Teri πŸ¦ƒ

Smoke Grey Turkey, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Turkeys, Tennessee, GSMNP
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Roaring Fork Motor Trail

While the Cades Cove drive is THE most popular one of the park, there is another that is usually far less crowded, takes only a bit over an hour to drive (on a good day) and is very scenic as well. Bears are supposed to be in the area as well but – sigh – no luck for me.

According to the NPS webpage: An exuberant mountain stream gave this area its unusual name. Roaring Fork is one of the larger and faster flowing mountain streams in the park. The narrow, winding, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail invites you to slow down and enjoy the forest and historic buildings of the area. The 5.5-mile-long, one-way, loop road is a favorite side trip for many people who frequently visit the Smokies. It offers rushing mountain streams, glimpses of old-growth forest, and a number of well-preserved log cabins, gristmills, and other historic buildings.

And the road (one way) is a narrow winding but beautiful trip over small bridges and past a lot of big rocks and streams. There are places to park and go hike to view waterfalls and to just take in the tranquility of the forest.

The valley of Roaring Fork is very very isolated. When there are no other cars driving past you are engulfed by nature and just the sounds it makes; birds and the sound of rushing water. You will also notice how many large rocks there are everywhere – on land and in the water. It was in this isolated place that an Alfred Reagan lived, farmed (the main crop being corn) and had a tub grist mill. To read more about the area and the life of Alfred Reagan, click HERE

Next we drive through the mountains towards the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Now that’s a drive!

Teri πŸ“·

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Cades Cove

This national park is huge! To even get to a point you want to drive (you can drive a great deal of it) through or park and hike, you sometimes have to put some mileage in first. Cades Cove is one of the, if not THE, biggest attractions that draws in the visitors. To get to the loop drive of Cades Cove is 25 miles from the entry visitors center with top driving speed of 45mph – sometimes slower depending on how winding the road is.

Cades Cove is an isolated valley located in the Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; the park is located in parts of Tennessee and North Carolina. The valley was home to numerous settlers before the formation of the national park and some of their log cabins remain and you can go visit them.

Here is the one bedroom cabin of a Carter Shields; built around 1830. Like the other buildings in the area, it is open to the public. Unfortunately, some of the public take liberties with the properties and decide to leave their mark on them. You can get a hefty fine if caught doing that. It disgusts me that anyone does this to these or any historic place.

Carter Shields cabin, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove

Another one of the biggest attractions of the park, and here in Cades Cove no less, are the black bears and wouldn’t you know it, we did NOT see a single bear while there. We did not get up early enough nor out late enough. Plus, there was a cold snap during our visit and I guess the bears hunkered down. But the following week it warmed back into the 70’s and the bears came out in mass! So much so that one day they had to close one of the visitors center as all the bears decided the acorns around it were extra tasty.

I was so bummed! But it gives me a reason to go back.

We did see elk, deer, turkeys and other birds. And some horses but they weren’t wild, they were just grazing in the field being part of the Cades Cove Riding Stables.

The drive to the cove is beautiful with hiking trails, waterfalls and other historic homes and churches along the way. Once you get to the Cades Cove loop then things can slow down quite a bit as the road becomes one way and depending on what people see on the drive, there can be traffic jams or as the rangers call it – bear jams or deer jams. We only got caught up in one deer jam; would’ve loved a bear jam instead.

In this image you can see why they’re called the “Smoky” mountains.

Cades Cove

We planned to get here when the autumn leaves were at their best and they were indeed.

More road trip tales coming next week!

Teri πŸ“·

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I’ve been on a bit of a road trip…

We took a week to travel from Ohio, through Kentucky, to Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia before pointing our wheels back home. We visited three national parks (one I missed the sign for) and drove on some roads that if you ever get a chance to drive – do it!!!

I didn’t get to see the bears that one park is well known for but we did see more turkeys than I ever hope to see again, elk, deer, chickens, some other birds and we had to take a detour on one part of the drive because ten miles of it was closed due to snow and ice on the mountain.

Nothing like a winter wonderland in the middle of October!

So here we have me doing the classic tourist shots in front of all the signs. The one park sign I missed was the New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia. Zipped right past it – whoops! Will be sharing images from our road trip coming up. On a side note, my health is improving but still not where I want it to be just yet. Very thankful for health insurance even with the bills.

Teri πŸ“·

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Remembering the Balloons

It was six years ago today that I crossed off a major bucket list item – the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. I had so much fun! As I was on a media pass, I was able to do and see things other attendees didn’t, got to meet a fellow blogger (hi Tim) took flight in a pink elephant balloon, met so many of the pilots and more.

I also ended up losing my voice and getting a respiratory infection because I didn’t plan well for the temperatures out there but such is the learning curve.

It is something I highly recommend doing if you ever get the chance; attending the fiesta, riding in a pink elephant is another story entirely. Let’s take a walk down memory lane with some photos from the fiesta.

Teri πŸ“·

This is Nelly-B and I am in that basket along with pilot Peter Van Overwalle from Belgium and Albuquerque crew chief, Paige Stubbs. Nelly has been redesigned since I took this ride.

Elephant nose view of the other balloons taking off. Nelly was still ascending at this point!

Gordo the Monkey piloted by Kimberly Magee

Night glow with Lindy piloted by Scott Wooge who happens to be Kimberly’s father.

Airbelle the cow

Well, it is October! Didn’t get his name though

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The Sun is Setting on Summer

And autumn will be ushered in. Now will the temperatures adjust accordingly? I think it will yet again be one season on the calendar but another with the weather. But I am looking forward to sweatshirt weather.

This is another shot taken on Kemil Beach at the Indiana Dunes National Park in August. I love sunrises and sunsets at the beach; the tranquility just can’t be beat. The Chicago skyline is right under where the sun is. Will share that in the future….

TeriπŸ“·

kemil beach, beach, sunset, indiana, indiana dunes national park

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Exploring National Parks

The plan was to visit as many national parks as we could this year – that WAS the plan – but health issues and all that slowed our plans down quite a bit but we have visited two national parks so far. One was in our backyard basically (almost two hours away so we can say it was backyard-ish?) which was Cuyahoga Valley National Park here in Ohio.

We went for the sunrise at Beaver Marsh there as I had read it was a great spot for sunrise photography but there was no sunrise to be found. The fog was waiting for us and was not giving up it’s moment easily. Moody images for awhile instead.

Beaver Marsh, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

After the fog lifted and the sun was shining a Red-winged blackbird played hide and seek, or was it Marco Polo, in the lily pads.

Beaver Marsh, Red winged blackbird, lily pads

This is part of the Ledges Trail, a must do hike in the park. The rock formations here are amazing as is the overlook view that we did not make it to as we were dead tired after doing a very very long hike to one of the falls in the park that I think was about an 8 mile round trip. We took the shorter but still beautiful hike here instead.

Ledges Trail

We drove further (as in 4.5 hours) to the next national park, Indiana Dunes National Park, which was great for hikes and for being in the lake…and me getting chewed up by mosquitoes. My fault that! I brought the bug spray but I didn’t USE the bug spray until it was too late. Ugh!

This is the Michigan City, Indiana East Pierhead Lighthouse. While it’s not part of the Indiana Dunes National Park, it is on Lake Michigan and I had to go visit it.

Michigan City Indiana Lighthouse

I think we might know that lighthouse keeper.

Lighthouse

One of the smaller dunes (the largest one at the park is Mt. Baldy at 126 feet tall) at Portage Lakefront. Slogging through sand is a serious workout for the body especially if you are hiking up one of the dunes. Aerobic workout I tell you.

Indiana Dunes National Park

The final bits of a beautiful sunset at Kemil Beach at Indiana Dunes. When the skies are fairly clear, you can see the Chicago skyline from this side of Lake Michigan.

Kemil Beach, sunset, beach

I’m getting better at being able to sit at the computer longer and with getting around period but it still isn’t where I’d like for it to be. Eh! It is what it is and I’m working on it getting better because I want to go visit some more national parks when the leaves change color. Goals set.

Will share more from these parks in the future.

TeriπŸ“·

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