Between NaNoWriMo and our Diocesan Convention, I stayed incredibly busy this week. I neither had time to read Transformation nor blog on it. So Faust has been deferred until next week. Meanwhile, I will leave you with this video narrated by Julia Roberts:
Did I say stillness would follow all the activity? Life is laughing at me. Instead of stillness, I’ve been inundated with editing, meetings, a youth event, keeping up with my daily blog, and that which takes the most time—battling nature.
A hot and extremely wet and humid summer had the plant life here attempting to change our zone to something a little more tropical. The woman who bought and fixed up this house (the previous couple had lived here for more than 30 years) just razed most of the overgrowth. And, now it is all trying to grow back—every tree stump has sprouted leaves; briars and various vines are valiantly trying to take over everything that is still standing—from azaleas to live oaks.
So, as the weather has gotten progressively cooler, we’ve been able to spend a little more time in the yard, slowly taming the wildness into something a little more pleasing to the eye. Battling the mosquitos and fire ants (my husband has dubbed me “Kali, the Destroyer of Fire Ants” because they die by the hundreds; I feel bad, but have you been bitten by them?). Vines and stumps are being uprooted.Gone are the boxwoods (I really don’t like those shrubs–they smell like cat urine), but the camellias, azaleas, hydrangeas, and palm trees remain, though now they are vine-free. The caladiums and ferns are beginning to thrive and there is just one tree left to remove as we prepare the back yard for a goldfish pond.
There is still a lot of work left to do—gutters and rain barrels for the house and detached garage, cross ventilation for the crawl space, which tends toward dampness, and then a raised rose bed alongside the house to further fight yard flooding.
And, in the spring, I hope to plant a small garden behind the garage, but that’s months away. Take it slowly by slowly, I remind myself–a phrase I picked up in Kathmandu–although then it referred to animal sacrifice (to Kali, by the way).
Fortunately, it hasn’t been all work—I am still taking the time to read and write, practicing my yoga and meditation, and watching good movies when I get a chance (just a month until the Savannah Film Festival).
And last night, we had a wonderful dinner with our daughter at her workplace–an iconic British pub downtown. All in all, life is good.
It has been both a magical and surreal as well as a long and exhausting day. I spent most of the day in my rain coat but not because it was raining. Rather, the temperatures dropped so much last night that the first half of the day was spent hiking in temperatures in the low 50s. In mid-July! Needless to say, my Raynaud’s Phenomenon wasn’t happy but I ignored it because the hikes on Roan Mountain and Round and Jane balds were so awesome that I just couldn’t be troubled.
More than a mile high, clouds skittering past us, magic and perfumed Balsam Fir forests and grassy balds lined with blueberries. Wildlife from the small–chipmunks and bunnies–to the large–deer and black bear–only added to the pleasure. And, having just finished “The Shining” by Stephen King, it was fun to visit the site of the former Cloudland Hotel high atop Roan Mountain which straddled the Tennessee-North Carolina border from the late 1800s until 1914 when it was dismantled. A shorter history than King’s “The Overlook,” but I had to wonder why they closed it down.
And a side note: the mountain is showing the effects of the reduction in acid rain. The old firs may be dying but the new ones are healthier and look much more ready to take over, as do the plants on the balds. See. We can change things for the better.
From high atop the mountain, in excess of 6,000 feet, we descended to Roan Mountain State Park. There we hiked a couple of trails, including the very strenuous Raven’s Rock Overlook, which led us more than 500 feet straight up a ridge for awesome views over the valley. A trail along the Doe River was hiked before we headed on to Davy Crockett Birthplace State Historic Area and hiked through its meadows and alongside Limestone Creek. And saw the cabin Crockett was born in, of course. And then we had spent more than 10 hours working/hiking and were ready for a rest.
Tomorrow some sections of the Cumberland Trail.
AKA: What goes up must come down. Okay, it started about 3 a.m. when I woke up because I thought I heard rain. But, it was 3 a.m., so I went back to sleep. Sure enough, when my alarm went off three hours later, it was, indeed, raining. But, we have only five days to hike eight parks, and the large umbrella purchased on the fly at Big Lots was going to have to suffice to keep my notebook dry while taking trail mileage and GPS points and other notes. Oh, and reason I call it the “trail less traveled” is because there were so many spider webs across the trail that Frank had to use the umbrella to fend them off–literally hundreds of spiders landed on the umbrella. Freaky.
So, back to Big Ridge State Park where we would hike the Big Valley Trail up to the Indian Rock Trail Loop on Big Ridge, itself. The climb up Pinnacle Ridge and down to Dark Hollow then up Big Ridge, despite being in the rain, wasn’t that bad and about what we expected. Then we entered hiker hell. The Indian Rock Trail was 2.6 miles of dodging overgrown trail–trail covered with blackberry brambles and poison ivy amongst other plants. And, of course, they were sopping. The rain stopped, but the plants were happy to soak our legs and boots. We descended through this hell all the way to the shores of Lake Norris before climbing back up to Big Ridge and the eponymous Indian Rock–at one point we went straight up hill for a quarter of a mile. And when I say straight up, I mean that it was so steep I was grabbing any hand hold I could find–sapling, rock or even a blade of grass. The bright side was that we had chosen to head left on the loop not right. I cannot imagine that I could have made it down that quarter of a mile without falling and sliding on my backside most of the way. When we reached the top, we faced more overgrown and rocky trail.
When we got back to the parking area more than six miles later, we were definitely worse for the wear–hot, tired, dehydrated. Frank had soaking boots, I had a nasty gash on my shin from crossing a blow down. A good lunch was called for before we started hiking in Norris Dam State Park. Bellies full and rehydrated, we discovered that most of the trails at Norris Dam were either horseback or biking trails. Bizarrely, the hiking trails were only accessible via each other. That meant we had to hike the Lakeside Loop to access the Christmas Fern Loop to reach the Tall Timbers Trail. It made for a convoluted hike, and at one point we had to climb 92 steps up a hillside, but compared to the morning, it was nothing. And only about 2 miles.
The next set of trails involved making a figure eight out of the Harmon Loop and Fitness Trails. They also featured more climbing than expected. We found ourselves joking along the fitness trail, sponsored by a local hospital (I am not making this up) because 1) it claimed to be for seniors but was hardly easily accessible, involved some elevation gain, and the bugs were extremely annoying; and 2) the rapidly deteriorating stations along it promised to send more seniors to the hospital than to help them physically. One station, a balance beam, was perched on the edge of steep drop off–guaranteed to send granny tumbling down the hill if she couldn’t maintain her balance. What were they thinking?
Bright spots in the day–two tortoises we saw on the Big Valley trail and two deer on the 3-trail loop, the lake was beautiful, and there were lots of lovely wild flowers and mushrooms. Plus, the sections of trail that weren’t too physically demanding were quite refreshing. All in all, a rewarding but physically demanding day. Tomorrow: Frozen Head.
Today may have ended early, but it was an exhausting day of elevation gains and losses on the first two trails followed by a couple of easier trails. We started the day in Panther Creek State Park, early, hiking the Point Lookout Trail. It was only 1.9 miles, but involved a nearly 500 foot elevation gain to the highest point in the park. Unfortunately, the promised stupendous view was blocked by trees–new growth trees which could have clearly been sacrificed for the view.
But, we were treated to a similar view when we started looking for the Ridge Crest Trail–a beautiful panorama of Lake Cherokee. The Ridge Crest Trail, though only 1.4 miles, was .7 miles rollercoastering along the top of a limestone slab promontory bordered by cedars and prickly pear cactus. The last quarter mile was a sharp drop down to the shore of Lake Cherokee. Then straight back up. Beautiful but exhausting.
That left one trail to hike in the park before we could move on to the next. I opted for the moderately easy Road to Recycling Trail–an nice ramble through the woods with very little elevation gain. From Panther Creek, we headed to Big Ridge Park where we discovered that we could either hike along the lakeshore or do some more strenuous climbing up to Big Ridge if I wanted to do a lengthier trail. Tired of hiking along lake shores, I decided to leave the strenuous climb for first thing in the morning, especially since the ubiquitous afternoon thunderheads were building once again. Instead, we hiked the Ghost House Trail because it was relatively easy and had a cool name. The loop trail led to the greatly eroded remains of an old house and then past a cemetery. As we hit, the road back to the parking area, it was beginning to rain. Time to find shelter for the night and begin again tomorrow.
I’m finally doing my penultimate round of hikes. Next month, I will finish them all off. But, today, I managed to complete three parks (because they had a limited number of trails). We started this morning, early (7:44 a.m.), at Booker T. Washington Park just outside of Chattanooga. It was both quiet and relatively cool (72º F) as we started the nearly 4-mile loop.
The next stop was Hiwassee-Ocoee Rivers park, another of Tennessee’s linear parks, created for folks to enjoy rafting and kayaking on these rivers. But, this is a hiking book and the park boasted one trail–Gee Creek Falls Trail–rocky and somewhat difficult, but the reward was a tenth of a mile of beautiful cascades and falls.
We ended the day at Fort Loudon State Park, the site of a British fort during the French-Indian Wars. The Cherokees and Brits got along during the war, but afterwards an unending series of retributions from both sides destroyed both the fort as well as the British who occupied it. Needless to say, a lot of Cherokee and their homes were demolished as well. Truly sad. The Meadow Loop/Lost Shoe Loop trails we hiked were quite lovely until we reached the meadow and realized that thunderstorms were flanking us from both the east and west. It was thundering ominously as I raced across the meadow trying to reach the shelter of the woods, and by the time we were hiking along the shores of Tellico Lake, the winds had whipped up the waves and a downpour seemed imminent.
But, we kept on hiking, resolved to a good soaking, and managed to return to the car, after a 4+ mile hike, dry and thankful. We were barely out of the park before the skies opened up and we were driving in blinding rain. But, we were dry. Lots of elevation gain and loss today, and I am bound to be feeling it tomorrow, but I will gladly sacrifice sore muscles for having avoided being struck by lightning and stuck in a downpour.