A Walk In The Park

This past week I decided to have “A pamper me” day, so I went to the local nail shop. I was seated next to a young woman (probably 30ish) at the pedicure station. She struck up a conversation by asking me if I lived here and I answered in the affirmative. Then she told me she was here with her husband all week on business and were staying in Gatlinburg (nice, I thought, I love Gatlinburg).  She went on to explain that since he would be busy in meetings all day she decided to drive over to our side of the valley and visit the Tanger Outlet Mall (I’m nodding in understanding and agreement). Then she asked me if there was anything they needed to do while in our area. “Well, I said, “You have to go to the park.” “It is beyond beautiful”, I said, “and since it is early in the week she and her husband should go either this afternoon or Tuesday before the traffic gets bad.” I also told her about The Roaring Fork Motor Trail right off the parkway in Gatlinburg, which is another truly beautiful part of the park. She nodded and was silent for a few minutes and then said, (wait for it), “What kind of park is it?”

I truly pray the shock of her question didn’t show on my face, but I took a deep, slow breath, smiled and said, (in my sweetest southern accent) “Why, Darling, it is THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK!” I took another slow, deep breath and said, “It is the largest National Park east of the Mississippi River and it is probably the only one that is absolutely FREE.”

 “Really, she said, “I had no idea?!” (I already knew that). 

After a brief silence, I realized she had no intention of going, so I added, there is also The Island. The Island has a large eye-type Ferris wheel, like they have in London, a music-water show like they have in Vegas, a Margaritaville, Paula Dean’s restaurant and lots of shopping. She smiled real big at that news.

island

Oh Lord, help me! She sits on the edge of one of the most spectacular areas in this nation and she drove all this way to go SHOPPING.

 I came home, told sweet husband and he declared we would go to “The Park” on Wednesday, walk about and have us a picnic. And that is exactly what we did. Besides the Mountain Laurel are in full bloom and I have yet to see them (pictured below).

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 There are two trails near the Sugarland Visitor’s Center that are easy hikes. We chose these because I have some very temporary back/leg issues. We also picnicked at the Chimneys Picnic Area – a MUST SEE and Sweet Husband’s favorite part of the park.  There are plenty of other wonderful hikes, from easy to challenging.  There are actually 900 miles of hikes in this park alone…yes, 900 miles! 

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There is an area with a trail, just off the parkway in Sugarland where you can see the almost lost homesteads of two families.  All that is left are two chimneys and a long rock wall.  These were abandoned when the National Park Service purchased these farms in the 1930s (pictured above).

Below are a few other shots taken along our trail walk.  Tell me, if you can, why would you go shopping when you have this kind of beauty nearby?

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The Great Smoky Mountains

So much beauty, so much to see and do…every season.

RIPLEY’S AQURAIUM

DSC03229Ripley's Aquarium

DOLLYWOOD

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PARIOT MOUNTAIN

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CREEKS TO PLAY IN

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WATER FALLS

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FLOWERS

VIEWS IN EVERY SEASON

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THE ISLAND

TENNESSEE FOOTBALL

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CRITTERS

Cougar

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TITANIC MUSEUM

WONDER WORKS

WONDERWORKS

MUSIC

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CADES COVE

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GOLF

CAMPING

Spring … Actually Lasting longer than ONE week.

FEATURED IMAGE BY Doug McPherson Photography of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (TGSMNP).

I have lived in Mississippi and Louisiana most of my life.  Spring is always the nicest WEEK of the year.  In some places, (like way-south Louisiana) it is the nicest DAY of the year.  Winter is nice, but wet a third of the time, cold a third of the time and warm the last third of the time (honest)…with the occasional tornado mixed in.

Let me testify:  Spring in East Tennessee is heaven, TRULY.  Wild flowers, dogwoods, redbuds, multi-greens as the trees leaf out, rain, sweet breezes, fragrances, day temps under 75 degrees Fahrenheit (often way under), night temps 40s & 50s.  The world is new and fresh every morning . . . for more than a week (honest)!  Pollen is not as heavy (?).  Pine pollen in Mississippi is heavy and turns EVERYTHING green for a month.

Photos taken in the last several days of Knoxville (the dogwood and the cherry blooms were almost gone, but oooooh the Azaleas), TGSMNP, and an attraction (new to us) called Parrot Mountain and Gardens (web link below).

Ornamental Japanese Maple Every yard on the trail had at least one or at least one weeping maple.

Ornamental Japanese Maple
Every yard on the trail had at least one or at least one weeping maple.

Cherry blooms were mostly on the ground, pink pavement, oh my!

Cherry blooms were mostly on the ground, thick-pink pavement, oh my!

Oh how the English do their pomp and circumstance!

English Dogwood:  Oh how the English do their pomp and circumstance!

Stately Southern Dogwood Knoxville, TN

Stately Southern Dogwood
Knoxville, TN

Azalea Riot in the Knoxville Dogwood Festival Trails

Azalea Riot on the Knoxville Dogwood Festival Trails

Rhododendron (lavender)

Rhododendron (lavender)

Rhododendron (red)

Rhododendron (red)

We were greeted with bird, “hellos”, and had them eating out of our hands. . .climbing on our backs, arms, shoulders, heads and pulling on my earrings.  We had smiles the entire tour.

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http://www.parrotmountainandgardens.com/

Flora and Fauna (& topography): West of the Pacos

Blue Bonnet

On December 1st we left Baton Rouge for points west. We spent two nights in Houston, a week in TX hill country, two nights in Big Bend National Park, then drove up to NM to see Carlsbad Caverns and Santa Fe. We then headed to AZ, NV and finally CA. On January 19th we arrived back in Baton Rouge for a much needed rest from the road of several days.

Below are pictures of the topography, flora and fauna we encountered. Much of this I have never seen. I am very taken with our beautiful western states, especially Big Sur and north in California.

TEXAS

Mud bird nest in the cliff near the Rio Grande

Mud bird nest in the cliff near the Rio Grande

Mr. Spider:  As big as my hand

Mr. Spider: As big as my hand

Blooming desert

Blooming desert

Purple Cactus.  Who knew?

Purple Cactus. Who knew?

Road Runner.  Meep-Meep

Road Runner. Meep-Meep

The kind of cactus one sees in old movie

The kind of cactus one sees in old movies

Texas Long Horn Cattle, Spectacular and LARGE

Texas Long Horn Cattle, Spectacular and LARGE

TX Hill Country

TX Hill Country

Tiny Hill Country Deer, found in abundance

Tiny Hill Country Deer, found in abundance

Live Oak Trees do not get very large in TX

Live Oak Trees do not get very large in TX

Grieving Angel in Glenwood Garden, Houston

Grieving Angel in Glenwood Garden, Houston

Landscaping, TX Style

Landscaping, TX Style

Wild Horses on Rio Grande

Wild Horses on Rio Grande

Cactus growing from the rocks

Cactus growing from the rocks

Cactus and Sage Grass.  This looks and feels like an aquarium scape

Cactus and Sage Grass (& more). This looks and feels like an aquarium scape

Big Bend Beauty

Big Bend Beauty

Life will find a way

Life will find a way

NEW MEXICO

View from the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns, NM

View from the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns, NM

Carlsbad, too

Carlsbad, too

Carlsbad

Carlsbad

ARIZONA

Painted Desert National Park

Painted Desert National Park

Sedona, AZ

Sedona, AZ

Sedona, AZ

Sedona, AZ

Where the deer and the antelope play...

Where the deer and the antelope play…

Petrified Wood in the Painted Desert National Park

Petrified Wood in the Painted Desert National Park

Raven:  Never More

Raven: Never More

Tumbleweed

Tumbleweed

Blooming Cactus

Blooming Cactus

Petrified Wood

Petrified Wood

NEVADA

Who knew the NV desert has mountains?  We didn't expect it at all.

Who knew the NV desert has mountains? We didn’t expect it at all.

Las Vegas Topography (smile)

Las Vegas Topography (smile)

Blooming Ceiling:  Glass flowers at Bellagio

Blooming Ceiling: Glass flowers at Bellagio

Christmas Flowers

Christmas Flowers

Las Vegas has the rare, endangered golden Lion

Las Vegas is home of the rare, endangered, golden Lion

Hoover Lake.  It looks like the shoreline is painted, This is mineral deposits from the lowering water levels.

Hoover Lake. It looks like the shoreline is painted, This is mineral deposits from the lowering water levels.

CALIFORNIA

Panda:  San Diego ZOO

Panda: San Diego ZOO

Koala:  San Diego ZOO

Koala: San Diego ZOO

JP Getty Museum and Gardens

JP Getty Museum and Gardens

Succulent Tree (I do not know the name, they were all over California)

Succulent Tree (I do not know the name, they were all over California)

Monterey Cedar

Monterey Cedar

Agave

Agave

Sea Elephant

Sea Elephant

RAVEN:  This guy is following us from state to state

RAVEN: This guy is following us from state to state

Mexican Fan Palm at Hearst Castle

Mexican Fan Palm at Hearst Castle

Labra Tar Pits

Labra Tar Pits

Caladium:  Rose Parade Float

Caladium: Rose Parade Float

Life everywhere in California

Life everywhere in California

Big Sur in bloom in January

Big Sur in bloom in January

Whales at Big Sur

Whales at Big Sur

McWay Falls, Big Sur

McWay Falls, Big Sur

Eucalyptus groves (the fragrance was wonderful)

Eucalyptus groves (the fragrance was wonderful)

Seals and cubs

Seals and cubs

Red liken

Red liken

Elk:  Reintroduced to the CA National Seashore

Elk: Reintroduced to the CA National Seashore

California, home of fruits and nuts (smile)

California, home of fruits and nuts (smile)

Giant Redwood

Giant Redwood

Giant Redwood

Giant Redwood

El Capitan at Yosemite

El Capitan at Yosemite

Sequoia the Magnificent

Sequoia the Magnificent

Flora and Fauna: Ireland and Scotland

Sweet husband and I had the opportunity to visit a Christian mission in Scotland to explore the possibility of working with them.  We found a flight “deal” that included a week in Ireland with B&B accommodations and a rental car at the same price as flights from the US to Scotland, naturally we purchased that.  We had a week in Ireland and two weeks at the mission in Scotland.

I have (following) some beautiful shots of flora and fauna in both places.  A brief review of both is also offered.

Ireland:  The land of my forefathers.  If you fly into Dublin, I do not recommend a rental car for several reasons.  Join a tour group.  WHY?  I’m glad you asked.

(1)  The rental cars are mostly manual shift, which is not totally difficult except one has to do it with the right hand because one is driving on the wrong side of the road.  One can get automatic transmission, but there is an additional cost.  Driving on the wrong side of the road is a challenge.

(2)  The cities are very crowded.  They are old cities with 2 lane roads and THOUSANDS of bicycles and pedestrians [imagine NYC or LA with two lane cobblestone roads or just go to Boston and try driving on the wrong side of the road].

(3)  The country side is lovely [what you can see of it from the small car], but there are very high stone or hedge walls on either side of the narrow roads.  There is no room to pull over to try to see over the walls either.  The GPS the rental care company rented us didn’t work [our experience may have been slightly better had this not been the case].  All the Bed and Breakfast have no addresses like we are accustomed to in the US.  They are located by longitude and latitude coordinates.  Due to the kindness of the people we encountered each day, we found or were led to our accommodations.

(4) Once we started driving toward Galway, the walls disappeared.  Sheep roamed freely, we could see the beautiful countryside and this made our trip most enjoyable!  There is a National park past Galway called Connemara National Park.  If you go to Ireland, do not miss this.  Also don’t miss the Cliffs of Moher.

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher

Kitty Topiary at Belfast Castle Garden

Kitty Topiary at Belfast Castle Garden

Queen Eleizabet Rose in the Botanical Park in Belfast

Queen Elizabeth Rose in the Botanical Park in Belfast

Connemara National Park

Connemara National Park

Blackfaced Sheep

black-faced Sheep

????? Wild Flower at Blarney Castle

????? Wild Flower at Blarney Castle

Atlas Cedar:  Magnificant

Atlas Cedar: magnificent

All the Swans in the UK are owned by the Queen of England.  This one is in Ireland, so she is free.

All the Swans in the UK are owned by the Queen of England. This one is in Ireland, so she is free.

Scotland:  Exploring the possibility of mission work.  We spend two weeks in Dumbarton at the mission site with our hosts.  The mission site is located in a 150 year old, abandoned estate.  The missionaries have spent several years restoring it and getting it ready for the mission’s residents; a large place is needed.

Our hosts took us for a two day trip to the Isle of Skye.  This is a must see area of Scotland.  Sweet Husband and I took a day trip via train to Edinburgh.  This is another must see.

I was either allergic to something within the walls of the mission or I caught a head cold in route as I was sick the entire time we visited.

The former owners of this estate planted many exotic trees, one being a Sequoia.  It was at one time the country estate of a wealthy Scotsman.  It was hundreds of acres and enjoyed a beautiful Victorian Garden.  Only the magnificant trees have survived the years of neglect in the garden.

We left knowing we are not a good fit for this mission, but remain open to exploring the work God has for us the balance of this life.

The richness of the forest floor across from the mission/estate.

The richness of the forest floor across from the mission/estate.

Sequoia

Sequoia

Falls on the way to Skye

Falls on the way to Skye

Cliffs on the ocean

Cliffs on the ocean

Sheep sheltered from the wind on Skye

Sheep sheltered from the wind on Skye

View from the top of the mission overlooking the front garden

View from the top of the mission overlooking the front garden

Atlas Cedar on mission property

Atlas Cedar on mission property

Flora and Fauna: Maine

We had the great fortune to spend four months in Maine (July – October).   It is the most beautiful place.  Flowers galore, extraordinary coast lines, lake and mountain views to take your breath away.  We were told there were many animals we didn’t have the opportunity to see (Moose for example).  I will leave you with choice pictures rather than words, as both do not show justice to my wonderful Maine.  I stand in awe of God’s majestic creation.

Beach Rose (grows wild)

Beach Rose (grows wild)

Thousands of little islands covered in life

Thousands of little islands covered in life

Fuchsia and Friends

Fuchsia and Friends

Wildflower Garden Rockland

Wildflower Garden Rockland

Camden

Camden

Whales off shore from Bar Harbor

Whales off shore from Bar Harbor

Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park

Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park

Korean Dogwood Tree blooming in July in Maine

Korean Dogwood Tree blooming in July in Maine

Dahlia (Maine is overrun with beautiful gardens)

Dahlia (Maine is overrun with beautiful gardens)

??? Just another example for the wild flowers in abundance

??? Just another example for the wild flowers in abundance

West Quoddy head light (Eastern most point in the US)

West Quoddy head light (Eastern most point in the US)

Japanese Garden near Booth Bay

Japanese Garden near Booth Bay

Star Flowers

Star Flowers

Red Mushrooms

Red Mushrooms

Screw Auger Falls, North Oxford, ME

Screw Auger Falls, North Oxford, ME

Blueberry Barren Wild blueberries turn red in the fall)

Blueberry Barren Wild blueberries turn red in the fall)

Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangeas

Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea

Botanical Garden in Booth Bay

Botanical Garden in Booth Bay

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Who knew grass changes color in the autumn?

Who knew grass changes color in the autumn?

Sweet Rose of Sharon

Sweet Rose of Sharon

Monarch

Monarch

Katahdin Mountain Maine (where the Applacian Trail starts)

Katahdin Mountain Maine (where the Appalachian Trail starts)

Katahdin Mountain

Katahdin Mountain

Beach in Acadia National Park

Beach in Acadia National Park

Lobster in abundance - YUM!

Lobster in abundance – YUM!

Chip or Dale

Chip or Dale

Smoke Bush

Smoke Bush

Japanese Garden near Bar Harbor

Japanese Garden near Bar Harbor