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Showing posts with label HIKING. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HIKING. Show all posts

Monday, October 27, 2014

ELK at Cataloochee Valley, North Carolina 10/23/14

This is the first Bull Elk we saw when getting to Cataloochee.
George and I took a vacation last week with our good friends,  NEAL and Patti.  This is the fourth year we have taken an Autumn Vacation together.  The four of us have so much fun together --and each trip seems to get better than the last one!!!!!  This year,  we spent several days in Maggie Valley,  North Carolina.

We were on the go-go-go each day from 7:15 in the morning until about 7:30 at night.  We did a lot of 'leaf peeking' ---searching for pretty Fall Colors.  We traveled the Blue Ridge Parkway stopping at most every overlook.  We traveled the back-roads ---especially on Scenic Highway 215 between Rosman and west of Waynesville.  We saw WATERFALLS and Cascades (Yeah)... We took a nice hike each day.  We ate some great meals... We stayed in a wonderful motel/inn. AND the fellowship with friends was AWESOME....

BUT---if you put all of that aside, 'my' very favorite part was seeing the ELK at Cataloochee Valley.  We got there at the right time (early in the morning) in order to hear one of them 'bugle' loudly.  This is rutting/mating season ---and the males really like to chase the females ---and each male keeps a group of several ladies by his side!!!!!

We've seen the elk before --but this time,  we saw them THREE different times and in three different places during our visit there.  SO---since I love the elk so much,  I decided to share some ELK pictures with you today... Be sure to click on the pictures for enlargements.  Hope you enjoy them!!!!


"Hmmm",  Says Mr. Elk..  "That's a good-looking lady over there!" 



The pretty lady got up ---and took off!!!!  I heard her say,  "I don't want anything to do with him!"



She was smiling as she got away from him!!!



So dejected (see that pitiful face????)!!!!  "Why does she not like me?"



This young male was near the road where we were traveling... He didn't pay much attention to the people around ---and just kept on eating the leaves around him...






Another Bull Elk in another location later in the morning;  Did you know that Bull Elks can weigh up to 700 pounds??.  Their antlers/rack as I call it  can weigh 40 pounds... (Imagine the headache I would have if I carried those things... Yipes!)

 We took a hike to the Woody Cabin that morning after seeing the first group of elks.  The hike was about 2 miles round-trip ---and when we got back,  we found this group of elves.


This is sweet... This little lady was not running from Mr. Elk.   I think he gave her a kiss!!!!! 



She did get up --but he didn't seem interested --although she acted as if she was!!!!!!  What did Mr. Elk do instead of giving that lady some attention????????????????????????



WELL----I guess Mr. Elk was just too hungry ---so he ATE instead of entertaining the lady! Mercy Me!!!!!!



Then I saw it!!!! Mr. and Mrs. Elk AND little one!!!!!  See him/her??????



Then,  Mr. Elk left them and headed OUR way... Of course,  we were safely in/around our cars.  Luckily,  he wasn't paying a bit of attention to us.  SO--that gave us time to get some awesome photos... Like it????




Since Mr. Elk went the other direction,  we enjoyed watching all of the females and their little ones.  A female elk can weigh as much as 500 pounds...



Later in the day,  we encountered some female and baby elks again (near the school house).  There were about 15-20 elks in this group.  We were able to get fairly close --and I was amazed at the sizes of some of those females. 



Here's a cute little baby elk (called a calf).  These babies are usually born in May/June and weigh about 35 pounds at birth.  They are fed by Mama's rich milk --and will gain about two pounds a day.  By winter,  these little guys weigh up to five times their birth weight.  This one is not extremely young since he has lost his spots.  YES--they do have spots just like fawns do!



We enjoyed watching this  group of about 15-20 elks crossing the creek.  I loved watching the little one in my previous photo---who was one of the last ones to cross...  When he finally decided to get in that COLD water,  he 'quickly' hurried to the other side!!!  
Well---I could show you about 50 more pictures of the elk --but this is enough for now!!!!  All four of us really enjoyed watching them --off and on the entire time we were there.  Before you ask,  I will say that we were all very careful --and did NOT get near them, especially the big Bull Elks.   We KNOW that they can be dangerous --especially during rutting season!!!!!

Hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.  OH--what fantastic memories!!!!   If you ever get a chance to see the elk at Cataloochee,  DO IT....

Hope you had a great week.   We certainly did!!!!!

Hugs,

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Heintooga Mountain Road Trip (Smoky Mountains National Park)

Us at Balsam Mountain (along the Flat Creek Trail) enjoying the view from about 5500 feet
On  September 5, 2014,  George and I took a LONG Day Trip to the Smoky Mountain National Park.  When I say long,  I am saying 15 hours and about 300 miles total!!!!  On this trip,  we took photos from the Gatlinburg Bypass and then traveled over the mountain (on Highway 441) to Cherokee, North Carolina.   We then got on the Blue Ridge Parkway and turned left at mile marker 458.2, heading up the  Balsam Mountain Road and back into the Smoky Mountain National Park.

We took a short hike on Flat Creek Trail near the picnic area on the top of Balsam Mountain (at an elevation of about 5500 feet).  Here is where  (thanks to friend Sharon) we found an awesome overlook complete with benches.  WOW--what a gorgeous overlook.  I could have sat there forever just admiring the beauty.  The picture above is one of us enjoying the view at that overlook --and also enjoying each other!!!!


NEXT---the 'fun' began!!!!!  We headed DEEP into the mountains on a muddy/gravel one-way road.   We drove around and around those mountains going from 5500 feet down to 2000 feet when we finished.  George and Mrs. P (our Prius) did GREAT (as usual) driving on that old road... I was snapping pictures all along the way... How wonderful to be that far into the mountains with nobody else around!!!!!!


Here is what the area and our road looked like!  Since the Smokies get quite a bit of rain this time of year,  everything was so lush and gorgeous.  (NOTE:  This would be a great road to take in the Fall --if you want to see the beautiful Fall colors without alot of people around!!!)


Look  what two 'waterfall lovers' saw along that curvy road...  There were cascades coming down the mountains --and they 'sounded' marvelous!!!!  I wanted to take a chair outside there and just sit and listen to that water and enjoy nature at its finest.


We encountered some rain along our way --and I loved seeing it clinging to all of the greenery in that dense area.  WOW--you just needed to be there!!!!


AHHHHH---another pretty little cascade flowing down the mountain!!  Do you think these cascades were there just for US??????  Hmmmmmmm. 


I don't know how many of you enjoy being back in the mountains like I do --but I think there is just something truly magical and marvelous about areas like this... I love seeing the mountains from overlooks,  but from 'inside' --this, to me,  is nature at its very best.


We continued on that one-way road for a long time --and there were no other people anywhere near!!!  The mountains belonged to US --just for those few hours!!!


When the sun came out--after the rain---the leaves on the trees just seemed to be saying,  "Thank You.. Thank You..Thank You.."


Once we got down to Straight Fork Road,  we followed a gorgeous creek (appropriately named Straight Fork Creek).  AND of course,  we saw some gorgeous rapids in this creek.   For you fishermen out there,  HERE  is a link talking about the fishing in this creek.  Apparently,  there are some great trout there waiting to be caught for dinner...


Oh how I love this area with its tall trees --and now with the creek nearby!!!!!


And --we saw even more cascades when we got down near the creek...


As you can tell,  I LOVED driving along this road checking out all of the woods around us... Again,  like I said in a previous photo,  I loved it when the sun beamed down onto all of the trees!!!!


Here's only one of the MANY rapids/cascades we saw along Straight Fork Creek.  As you know,  George loves using his special filters when taking water pictures.  SO--he will have many beautiful photos to share with you sometime along this creek I am sure!


While George was taking special pictures along the creek,  I was admiring everything else including the water.  In this photo ---I loved seeing all of the GREEN MOSS covering the rocks.  This area of the Smokies reminded me of another favorite area of ours,  the area above Elkmont,  where the water rushes by tons of huge boulders.    (Remember the blog I did from there a year or so ago when it rained cats and dogs and we were soaked????)


There's my Sweetheart ---taking pictures all along that creek...  You can see Mrs. P in the distance... Oh how we love that car since 'she' takes us to so many gorgeous places.


Finally,  the 'big boss' is hollering at hubby saying,  "Come On... Let's go.  I'm getting hungry for some dinner at the Texas Roadhouse"......

Hope you enjoyed our little trip back into the Smoky Mountains.  This makes the second Day Trip we have taken recently.  We went to Cataloochee --by way of the back roads--on 8/22...  We had been wanting to take these two back-road trips for quite some time --so we finally  took them.. If you want to read more about the Auto Tours throughout the Smokies,  click HERE.  There are some great ones ---and the last two we took are never terribly crowded even in peak tourist seasons,  which is what we LOVE.


I'll close with one more picture of two people who absolutely LOVE the Smoky Mountains...This was also taken on the top of Balsam Mountain --along the Flat Creek Trail.

Hugs,

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hiking up to the Craggy Pinnacle 8/3/14

On my Birthday Trip to North Carolina,  after our visit to the Biltmore House and Gardens on August 3, 2014, we then took the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville to Blowing Rock (where we were spending the night)... It was a gorgeous day --and when we got up to the Craggy Gardens area  (at 5500 feet in elevation) along the parkway,  the weather was CLEAR... (NOTE:  it is usually foggy when we have been in that area in the past!!!).. We were so happy --so we decided to finally take that hike (which we had never done before) to the Craggy Pinnacle. Click on the photos for enlargements.



I loved seeing the American Flag blowing in the breeze at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center.


Even though there is an elevation gain of almost 400 feet when hiking to the Pinnacle,  it is NOT a long hike (only 1.4 miles round trip)...   Once we got to the top,  there were two overlooks.  We took the higher one (so we ended up at 5892 feet in elevation with tons of great views).


The trail was in good shape and I would love to hike this one in June --when the Rhododendrons are blooming.  WOW!!!!   About halfway up the mountain there was a rock overlook.  I took this photo of George at this big rock.


I always look for wildflowers and interesting things along the trail.   I loved this interesting flower... I think it was a Queen Anne's Lace BEFORE the lace appeared!!!! HA



This  is one of many photos I took during that hike.... The sky/lighting looked different whichever direction you were facing.  Such beauty all around ---and another time one should visit this area is when the leaves change colors in Autumn.



George took this photo of me when we were at the TOP overlook at the Craggy Pinnacle (5892 feet)...  I felt like I was on TOP of the world.



Mountain range after mountain range could be viewed from that overlook... I love the pretty clouds also that day.



This is a view from the top of that mountain looking down on the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center along the Blue Ridge Parkway where my first photo above was taken. Many of you have probably been to the Visitor Center --but have you been to the Craggy Pinnacle?  (Now look back at the first photo at the beginning of this blog post... That photo was taken from the visitor center looking up that mountain... We were on the top of that mountain when this photo was taken looking the other way. Amazing, huh?)



I was on another of the viewing areas (there were about 3-4 different areas up there) when I took this picture of George.



Here's another view from the top of Craggy Pinnacle.  What fantastic views from there!!!  Wow!!!



From that large overlook (which even had benches to sit and relax)---one can see from various viewpoints all around the area.   I loved seeing the SUNBEAMS in this photo, and of course,  those interesting clouds. (Looks like a group of animals dancing in the sky!  See them???)



The water you see in the distance is the Burnett Reservoir  (where Asheville,  NC gets some of its water).  Wouldn't it be fantastic to be here at this overlook  to see either a sunrise or a sunset????  Fantastic!!!



Hiking on that trail,  I (of course) had to take some pictures of the FERNS in that area...



I loved seeing the wildflowers from this angle ---with the Blue Ridge Parkway in the distance.



Here is another photo showing the Burnett Reservoir and the wildflowers.   Don't miss seeing the beautiful clouds also.



Here is another photo of the Craggy Pinnacle  (see the overlook WAY up there on the tippy-top?)  as taken from the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center after our hike.



AND--here's one last photo  that George took of us (using his tripod) when we were on the top of that pinnacle at the overlook.  That hike was truly one of the highlights of our entire trip that week --although we always have fun no matter what we do!

If you ever get a chance to hike to the Craggy Pinnacle,  do it!!!!  That short hike is worth every bit of huffing-and-puffing you will do going UP that mountain!!!!! HA.... Seriously,  it's not a bad hike AT ALL....If you love mountain tops,  check this one out!

Hugs,