Memorial Day, 2014 at the Veterans Cemetery

I am a Retired United States Air Force SMSgt,  combat veteran, so Memorial Day means a lot to me.  Please indulge my one day to remember absent friends that never returned home with me.

I spent the day at the Veterans Cemetery in Black Mountain, NC and what a beautiful place.  I do believe that when I make my transition home, this is where I want to be laid to rest.

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Hike to Hickory Nut Falls at Chimney Rock State Park

This is one fine hike, especially with families.  The stickler is the small price of admission, but still well worth it.  Check out the website for Chimney Rock State Park and see all the activities and events.

Here are some photos to spur your interest:

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Enjoy, and have a great Memorial Day weekend.

A Happy Hiker….

Unnamed falls on Rockhouse Creek

Today after doing some packing for the upcoming move, I had to take a break and went to Pisgah National Forest and my favorite road FR475B.  I found an unnamed falls on Rockhouse Creek, about .5 miles north of Slick Rock Falls.  Roll down your windows and listen for the falls.  There is a campsite down on the creek with a very steep descent from 475B, but the view of the falls is well worth it.  Look for a very small pullover on the left side of the road.

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Enjoy the outdoors!

A Happy Hiker!

Setrock Creek Falls

Sorry for not posting for a little while, I have been preparing to move to a new apartment next month, and well, you know how it goes.

Anyway, went out today to Setrock Creek Falls on the South Toe River near Burnsville, NC

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This is probably one of the prettiest falls I have seen, and very, very uncrowded.  As most of you know, my two passions are hiking and wildflower photography, and this hike gave both to me.

Snowy Lady Slippers, I believe, which are very rare indeed:

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To get to Setrock Creek Falls from Asheville, I suggest going east on I-40 to the first exit at Old Fort, then follow US 70 east to NC 80.  Turn left onto NC 80 and head north up and over the Blue Ridge Parkway.  At 2.2 miles past the parkway take a left onto South Toe River Road and follow the signs to Black Mountain Campground (about 2.9 miles).  Park at the designated parking area on the left side and walk into the campgrounds.  Follow the sign for Mt. Mitchell Trail and Birch Bottom Bike Trail.  Stay on Birch Bottom Bike Trail, passing the fork for the Mt. Mitchell trail until you walk over a girder bridge.  At the end of the bridge you will see a “rest area” and the trail head for Setrock Creek Falls going to the right.  The trail in its entirety is about .5 miles, with some difficulty due to roots and some rocks.  You will have to wade the creek at the base of the falls to get some good shots.

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For a great return, go back the same way to the Blue Ridge Parkway and head west to Asheville.  Its about 40 miles, full of great scenery and curves.  

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So, have a happy day tomorrow!

A Happy Hiker!

An Ode to small towns

Went to a small town across the mountains to Tennessee today, and loved it.  There is something about small towns that revive the spirit in me.

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A small town is where neighbors wave to each other, shop at local shops and celebrate their common heritage

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Small towns are a lovely spot and very proud of where they have been and where they are going

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Love ya, Small towns!  Keep going!

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A Happy Hiker!

Complaining about the heat already?

I was in line at the local grocery store yesterday and heard some snowbirds (folks that live in the mountains during the summer then go back to Florida for the winter)complaining about how humid it was, and comparing it to Florida.  I smiled and thought about our winter:

The base of the falls frozen over from continuous freezing weather

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What it normally looks like:

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I will come back later and tell you about Looking Glass Falls, but thats all for now!

A Happy Hiker

Cataloochee Valley, Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Great place to take children to see authentic uncaged, unbridled wildlife, if you don’t mind a little driving on some “forest service roads” and about 90 minutes or so from Asheville.

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The valley is known for the wild elk, which were reintroduced back into nature in 2001.  Trust me, you will see plenty, unless the weather is atrocious.

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To get to Cataloochee Valley, from Asheville, take I-40 west past Waynesville to exit 20 (Maggie Valley).  As you exit the ramp, stay to the right onto US 276 about .20 miles, and taking a right (follow Cove Creek Road).  Then, prepare for a back country ride.  The road is decent but steep, with some pretty scary drop-offs (for back east) and tight curves.  Be constantly prepared for oncoming traffic.

The Smoky Mountain website has very clear instructions on getting here, so I refer you to them.

When you get to the actual valley, you have two choices (except for rutting season from mid September-end of October).  You can turn right and follow the river to the Palmer House area, where the male elk gather around sunrise and again at dusk, or

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you can stay on the main paved road and head towards the ranger station and the Caldwell house and barn where the female elk and young herd.  Either way, its a beautiful area with plenty to see and keep children well occupied trying to see the elk.

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You might even catch a vey young bull elk playing in the water, just like all kids do!

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A disclaimer, with an embarrassed grin, these pictures were some of my earliest attempts, so the quality is not the best, but you get the gist of Cataloochee Valley.

Enjoy,

A Happy Hiker!