Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Our First Hike at Koomer Ridge

We had a run of unexpectedly warm weather.  One day, while looking in on the walk-in tent camping area, we started down the trail to Hidden Arch just to ‘check it out’. 

The trail that is. 

        With a start as beautiful and enticing as this,
                   how could you not take a walk?

We had no intention of doing the whole trail or making it to the arch.  It was more about wanting to know what the trail was like.  But we kept walking and a half mile later (yes, you can laugh now) we found ourselves at the edge.

      An amazing view of ‘Fire on the Mountain’ - referring to all of the fall red and orange.

As she headed toward the edge, Nicole peered right where a trail descended and said, “that looks a little hairy.”  So, we walked to the edge to admire the view and looked every which way finally confirming that Hidden was indeed a great name for this arch.

Then Darlene got the idea to look a little further to the right and discovered... stairs! 
A few downward steps later the arch revealed itself.  It was a cute little thing and we attempted our first self portrait in a good long while.


                 But you probably want to see the arch more than our mugs.

                                                Cute, isn’t it?!

Down at arch level (which isn’t the bottom by the way) there is a grove of Rhododendrons.  A huge grove!  We could only imagine what it would be like when they are in full bloom. 

Speaking of blooming.  Funny story.  Ever since finding out that The Red is home to a plant / flower that grows nowhere else in the world, Nicole has been psyched to get a glimpse of the soon to be dormant beauty.  She spots a neat little flower blooming in one of the small rock shelters and is instantly enthralled and excited.  She raves and raves and takes photo after photo excited to spot one of the last remaining flowers of the season.

     Certainly, this is the White Haired Goldenrod.  Look at those little white hairs!

Even on the hike out she continued to rave about how lucky we were to see this rare flower.  After her excitement wore down, reality set in as did the realization that Goldenrod, after all, is golden colored not pink. 

Ah well, at least it was a flower she hadn’t seen before, rare or not.

Speaking of rare... these are probably some of the last fall photos
we’ll share for a while.  As you can see, Mother Nature is nearly done
with the switch from full color to bare twigs and branches.

    A fungus seems to have overtaken this unfortunate moth we spotted on the trail.

Signs indicated that the Hidden Arch Trail was a ‘loop’.  So, rather than return the way we came, Darlene was inspired to ‘go full circle’.  Remember those stairs we came down that got us to arch level so quickly?  Well, there were no stairs on the second part of the loop.  But we still had to go up!  And, up.  And, up!  The ‘loop’ route also added another 3/4 of a mile. 


   All in all for these non-hiker chicks, it was quite the trip
considering we were just going to peek at the start of the trail.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Answer: Kentucky

The Question:  Where are you off to next?

The Answer is usually followed by a look of shocked realization with some hesitation.  Then an “Oh.” is uttered.  To round out the awkward silence a “Really?” is typically thrown in.  And then a little clarification, “Kentucky, huh?  ...  For the WINTER?”

Our Response:  Yes!  (BIG SMILE)

This is how it has gone.  We have had this conversation many times since choosing to spend winter 2015 in The Bluegrass State. 


To us it seemed perfect.  Although it is nice that our lifestyle caters to the idea, we have decided that don’t want to live our lives always avoiding the weather or the seasons.


They say we just missed the peak of color so we were excited to see that not all of the change had fallen to the ground prior to our arrival.


As the sun sets we get quite a nice bit of color out of our westward windows.


         Oh, but we haven’t told you where we are yet. 

The locals call it the Grand Canyon of the East.  Climbers claim it as one of the premiere rock climbing destinations in the world.  It is a National Natural Landmark, a geological wonder formed many millions of years ago, possessing over 100 natural bridges/arches and containing the largest concentration of rock shelter sites in Eastern North America. 


We call it... The Red.  Short for The Red River Gorge Geological Area.

No matter how you view it, no matter what it means to you, there is no denying that this place is beautiful.

And we will be living right in the center of it all for the next four months as Campground Hosts for the Daniel Boone National Forest at Koomer Ridge Campground.


We’re still getting oriented to the area.  Our first week was busier than expected and our first weekend we were filled to capacity and beyond. 

This coming weekend our campground is the location of the start, finish and basecamp for all festivities and suffering that is the Rough Trail Ultra Marathon.  The Rough Trail is quoted as being one of the roughest, toughest, and damn hardest trail races in the eastern United States.

After that, weather dependent, things may start to slow down... or not.  That’s o.k.  We enjoy campground hosting and figure we’ve only got about a month and a half of actually seeing people until true hibernation in this area begins.

Speaking of... back to Koomer and perhaps we’ll do one of the hikes that leads out of our campground and along the edge of the surrounding cliffs.

                                                   Until next time...

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Two months with family in FL followed by a month with family in GA... now what?

We’re moving on down the road!

                                               At our usual pace.

First stop:  Walmart.  No need for a photo.  You’ve seen them before.  Actually, the first stop was at Discount Tire for our regular rotation and balance but there happened to be a Walmart nearby and so we spent the night.


Next up:  Our first boondocking in a very long time.  It was a wonderful little spot in eastern TN with water on both sides. 


Although we only had two days in this beautiful location, we truly enjoyed it.


We were getting our first taste of fall ... some of it still on the trees!


                  A hint of the familiar eastern TN fall / winter gray was in the air.

IMG_9950a (14)

                                                There was no denying it...

IMG_9950a (25)

                                                    change was a coming.


                                             And, we like change!


                        Still, there were a few straggling signs of warmer days...

                     IMG_9950a (45)

                     doing their best to hold on to what was left of the sunshine!

IMG_9950a (69)

Nicole had a great bird surprise while we were there.  She was out snapping pictures of tiny shadows in the trees assuming she was seeing the usual sparrows.


Then she gets the photos back to her computer and realizes she had just captured her first
Golden-crowned Kinglet.  LIFER!

IMG_9950a (7)
                   Check out that crown!  This guy was flashing full colors.

Well, two days came and went and on one hand we are sad to be saying goodbye to the last of our boondocking for this year.

IMG_9950a (78)

On the other hand, we are full of the excitement that is the start of a new volunteering position.  Tomorrow is our first day, so we’ll say goodbye for now.