Posts Tagged With: Fall leaf colors

2015 Trip Six, The Great Smoky Mountains, October 12-13

Gatlinburg, TN October 13

View from Newfound Gap Road

View from Newfound Gap Road

Beauty and tragedy were intermingled themes for the last two days. We continued our hiking in numerous areas of the park. We even managed to include two hikes that were primarily flat-quite an accomplishment.

Walking in the woods

Walking in the woods

Walking in the woods

Walking in the woods

Beauty first. The last two days have been clear with temperatures reaching the mid-70s, although elevation, wind and shade provide for an ever-changing temperature. One of our hikes took us to the top of Clingmans Dome where the park volunteer offered that the vista we saw is only this clear about 25% of the time.

creek side ramble

creek side ramble

The park that we view, there are hundreds of thousands of acres that are remote and beyond our hiking skills, will have creeks and streams running at a fast pace. The geology is rocky (I will spare the details) so stream beds are dense with rapids and cascades as the water rushes over and around the rocks. The sound of rushing water is pleasant and near constant on hikes. Depending on the elevation, one is hiking in some combination of fir/deciduous trees. Pine smell, rustle of fallen leaves, mixed green/yellow and some red colors mingle among the pathways.

A restful lunch-of PBJ sandwiches

A restful lunch-of PBJ sandwiches

Best preserved stone wall still in the park

Best preserved stone wall still in the park

One of our destinations took us to the site of the best preserved stone fences remaining in the park. Lunch today was along the west prong of the Little Pigeon River. We stopped at the Newfound Gap Road overlook twice. Today’s stop at the overlook provided better pictures. At this overlook, you are on the Tennessee-North Carolina state line at just over 5,000 feet above sea level. (Gatlinburg is at about 1500 feet above sea level.) Several of the hikes took us to more waterfalls, pleasant but none of them overwhelming.

Clingmans Dome observation tower

Clingmans Dome observation tower

Clingmans Dome is the highest peak in Great Smoky National Park at 6,643 feet above sea level. It is the third highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Due to the boundary of the two states crossing the top of Clingmans Dome, it has the joint status of being the highest peak in Tennessee and the third highest in North Carolina. To reach the peak, one drives seven miles up past the Newfound Gap overlook. The last portion is walking one half mile which gains 330 feet in that short distance. Benches are provided for taking a break periodically. At the very top is a circular dome, reached via an inclined, spiral walkway to provide one with a view above the tree tops. You are also warned not to get your expectations too high for a great view as mist, fog, clouds, and rain are present more often than not.

View from Clingmans Dome

View from Clingmans Dome

Chris at Clingmans Dome

Chris at Clingmans Dome

Today the 360 degree view was spectacular. Vistas in all directions. Some cumulus clouds in the distance. Fall colors visible in certain valleys. Also visible was the damage caused by the balsam woolly adelgid, an aphid like insect from Europe that is killing vast numbers of Fraser firs, one of the predominant trees at this elevation. The park is one of the few areas in the world where the Fraser fir trees grow wild.

Monday, we drove over the mountains completely to Cherokee NC. This entailed driving the Newfound Gap Road twice, usually at 35 mph. This is a 30 mile journey up and over the mountains but while curvy, most of the turns can be handled at 35 mph. The town of Cherokee is the home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, and brought us into the tragedy portion of our two days.

The Cherokee Indians were one of five tribes (Choctaw, Cherokee, Cree, Seminole, and Chickasaw) that were forcibly relocated from the southeastern portion of the US to what is now Oklahoma. This forced relocation is called the “Trail of Tears” due to the number of Indians that died along the way and to the loss of their traditional homeland. (Previously mentioned by us on our Nov. 1, 2013 blog post at Fort Smith Arkansas, near the end of the Trail of Tears.)

Elk near Cherokee TN

Elk near Cherokee TN

Some of the Cherokee managed to hide out here, some snuck back, and a few stayed after renouncing their tribal citizenship before the Trail of Tears took place in 1838. Over time, the US government began to recognize their rights and as they bought back land, a Cherokee reservation was borne in the East.

We stopped at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, a well-done presentation that covers topics like Indian creation stories, life prior to the arrival of European immigrants, the Trail of Tears, and the development of the current reservation. One panel discussed the role of Indian schools that forcibly removed young boys and girls from their families and educated them to white civilization standards while forbidding Indian language and traditions from being practiced. This continued until the 1920s and 30s. This was a topic we have come across before, as well as understanding from having lived in Carlisle PA for 25 years, home to one of those Indian schools.

The Cherokees were divided among themselves as to the wisdom of accepting the move to Oklahoma. Many did not wish to leave, many others saw no chance to avoid being forced out, and some ended up signing away Cherokee rights even though under tribal custom they did not possess the authority to do so. This led to decades of conflict among the transplanted Indians living in Oklahoma. (Other Cherokee had moved across the Mississippi earlier in the 1800s.) A sad tale but unfortunately only one of many such tales in America relating to the treatment of Native Americans.

Ed and Chris 10 PM

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2014 Trip Six, Sept. 24, Fall in Canada and Deb and Rebecca’s Wedding

Kingston, ON Wednesday Sept 24

Beautiful time in Quebec province and we still have 5 nights in Montreal to look forward to. Everyone was nice and we had no problems in making ourselves understood in Quebec Province. But we have to say, it is nice walking in to a restaurant or hotel and speaking English right off the bat. I am sure this is a self-inflicted problem, but so be it. We are who we are.

View from top of Mont Tremblant mountain

View from top of Mont Tremblant mountain

Our decision yesterday to hold off on the gondola ride was justified by today’s weather. It has been gorgeous and we began the morning by riding the gondola to the top of Mont-Tremblant mountain. The gondolas ride was smooth and the gondola moves quickly. However, it is enclosed with windows of a plastic type material that is cloudy and scratched, making for poor pictures. A small window might open to give you limited picture-taking opportunities. The gondola in Banff gave great pictures, I can not remember now if Banff was open or just great glass but the images from there are vastly superior.

Gondola window shot Mont Tremblant Lake

Gondola window shot Mont Tremblant Lake

Luckily we planned to hike the upper level also. We climbed a lookout tower and shot the video below. The noise in the background of the video is the wind.

Next was the 360 trail which winds around the mountain top. It starts on a gravel road and then alternates between the grassy fields of the winter ski slopes with trails that again are muddy, rocky, and with tree roots. The mountain has ski trails going downhill in all directions. Today’s path came with the extra feature of rain run-off using the trail as its route to lower ground. Nevertheless, the hike was good exercise and provided sunny views for a change.

The 360 trail on Mont Tremblant

The 360 trail on Mont Tremblant

This trail, and the ones the last few days, were ranked as easy. We have come to understand that Canadian and American park trail definitions differ. An easy trail in an American park would be a paved, level, handicap accessible trail. Not so here.

Views from the top

Views from the top

Views from the top

Views from the top

Views from the top

Views from the top

Montebello was our mid-day destination. You may recall we stopped here for chocolate on our drive to Quebec City. A different target today, though. We ate lunch at Aux-Chantignoles, the restaurant at the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello. A waiter in Quebec City had said we should go back and eat here.

Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello

Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello

This place is something else. It was built in the 1930s as a private business and political leaders retreat, which it remained for 40 years. World leaders have met here. It reminded us of the great US National Park lodges at Glacier, Mt. Rainier, Yosemite, etc.

Ottawa River from Fairmont Montebello

Ottawa River from Fairmont Montebello

A Wikipedia note about its construction states that the crews worked around the clock to accomplish the work in 4 months. Since working on the Sabbath was frowned upon, the local cure’ received an all expense paid trip to Rome for two months. The place is frequently described as the world’s largest log cabin since 10,000 red cedar logs from British Columbia comprise the building’s structure. The logs are painted black on the exterior but are natural inside.

Lobby  of Fairmont Chateau Le Montebello

Lobby of Fairmont Chateau Le Montebello

We had the lunch buffet (one hot and one cold buffet) which pretty much used up our meal budget for the day. The dessert selection made up for the cost. We each had two helpings of several desserts each time. After lunch we walked around the grounds which are situated on the banks of the Ottawa River.

Then it was on to Kingston, situated at the eastern end of Lake Ontario and the beginning of the St. Lawrence River and Thousand Islands area. First we had to cross the Ottawa River which took some doing. We knew (kinda) that there was a bridge at Grenville. We drove the slow route to Grenville, it was not supposed to be that far but our understanding of Canada town structure is lacking. It seemed that we passed through at least three city (well, maybe village) centers named Grenville before finally coming to the bridge.

As we crossed over the Ottawa River we returned to more level land, primarily agricultural with small towns and our usual two lane roads. For the last 120 miles, we drove a four lane, 100 kph road heavy with truck traffic as we entered a more urban area of Ontario. The rocky ground replaced at least a portion of the agricultural land.

Fall colors are less plentiful since the Ottawa River area, but not non-existent. Shrubs, in particular, are showing bright colors. Pockets of brilliant red trees show up.

Ed and Chris 9/25 5 AM

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2013 Trip Eight, Oct. 30, The Ozarks

Wednesday, Oct 30, Bella Vista, Arkansas

Fall colors were at the peak we have seen so far from Minnesota to Arkansas. But the day was foggy, misty, sprinkling and pouring rain so the good pix are few and far between. The weather also changed our plans a bit.

Driving through Arkansas Ozarks

Driving through Arkansas Ozarks

We drove from Mountain View to Bella Vista via Eureka Springs. We had planned to spend some time exploring Eureka Springs; instead we only had lunch there, saw a video of the town’s history, and researched the availability of going on a van tour next week. We figure we will have time to spare in Branson and Eureka Springs is only an hour’s drive from Branson.

Driving through Arkansas Ozarks

Driving through Arkansas Ozarks

The drive from Mountain View took us back through Searcy County, home of Leslie-which was mentioned in a prior blog. A brochure we had picked up revealed that Searcy County, per the 2010 census, had 8200 people. It also had 39 churches, none of them Jewish, Catholic, Mormon, or Muslim. That is about 200 people per church.

A bright tree along the highway in Arkansas

A bright tree along the highway in Arkansas

When we were at the Folk Art Center, the cooperage shop had an article about Leslie and how it was home in the early 1900s to the largest barrel making factory in America. When we went through the town, we did see a stave making factory. The population of Leslie went from about 1500 people in 1910 to 450 souls now.

So too Eureka Springs. It grew dramatically due to the springs found there and the claim that the springs had medicinal value. In 1879, the town grew from almost nothing to 10,000 people in less than 12 months. It became the fourth largest city in Arkansas at the time. Now the population is just over 2,100 and focuses on tourists. The rise and change of many small towns has been an interesting aspect of our trips.

There was a Road Scholar tour group of about 70 people from Houston staying at Mountain View also. They are probably learning more details than we did since there were seminars held for them. We have received their literature frequently. For now, we plan to continue on our own, setting our own pace and picking our own locations to stop.

The road to Bella Vista continued our pattern of hilly,curvy, two lane roads. Travel takes a while longer but with the fall colors it was enjoyable, even with the rain. After Eureka Springs we stopped at the Pea Ridge National
Military Park.

Driving through Pea Ridge National Battlefield

Driving through Pea Ridge National Battlefield

Pea Ridge was the crucial Civil War battle that kept Missouri in the Union. As we learned at the Missouri State Capital, Missouri was a very divided state. It was a slave state that did not secede but was riven by fierce and divided loyalties with many battles and skirmishes during the Civil War.

Pea Ridge Battlefield

Pea Ridge Battlefield

10,000 Union troops were chasing 16,000 Confederate troops-which included two regiments of Cherokee Indians. The Union troops included the largest percentage in any battle of non-English speaking soldiers, new immigrants to Missouri from Germany. When we were in Hermannn, MO, the tours there discussed how the Germans came here for the opportunity of freedom and were fierce defenders of the Union cause.

Pea Ridge Battlefield

Pea Ridge Battlefield

Several factors turned the battle for the Union. Early on, the two Confederate generals leading one arm of the Confederates were killed and the leaderless soldiers were without direction and did not participate in the battle. The Confederate primary general made a bold move to out flank the Union. Unfortunately his men had to march for three days to the desired location. They ended up arriving late and tired to the battle and ran low on ammunition because the supplies trailed too far behind the main column. The Union victory helped open the Mississippi River and allowed the Union to split the Confederacy in two. Most of the troops here moved onto battles east of the Mississippi for the duration of the war.

Given the weather, we did not walk the trails, but observed the exhibits, saw the movie, and drove around the battlefields.

We spent the night in Bella Vista with family of friends in the Twin Cities. Bella Vista is a town of 25,000 that has mushroomed in the last 20 years as a suburb of Bentonville. Previously more of a retirement community, it is experiencing the arrival of families and younger couples. We had dinner with our hosts at a long time restaurant in Rogers (a near by town), the Monte Ne Inn, with a great family style chicken dinner.

Ed Heimel and Chris Klejbuk Oct. 31 7 pm

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